Review of the Alienware M17X R2

Reviewed by WiredSolaris | 24 August 2010
Genre: | Publisher: Alienware | Developer: Alienware
TOG Score
Members (av.)
The Good
  • Processor Options
  • Asthetics
  • Overall Flexability
  • Excellent Graphics Support
The Bad
  • Weight
  • Touch Pad can be hard to get used to
  • A few sharp edges where you rest your hands
  • Screen is highly reflective

WiredSolaris Reviews the Alienware M17X R2

I moved from a desktop to a gaming laptop for mainly one reason. To spend more time with my wife. While she doesn’t mind me playing games, she likes for me to be in the same room as she is. So I thought a gaming laptop was the answer. At first I went with a pretty nice Toshiba x205 SLI6, which worked well for the majority of titles that I play, but my gut always told me to grab one of these puppies.

Now let’s not mince words, this beast is absolutely gorgeous. This laptop offers everything you’d expect from Alienware. It’s a big, fat, gaming machine and I love it! The M17x R2 weighs about the same as a dog, but it’s proud of that fact.

It’s hard to call this computer a laptop, because nobody in their right mind would use it as such. The M17x R2 for all intents and purposes is a desktop replacement – a portable gaming pc. Don’t get me wrong because this is undoubtedly a good thing.

Overall, Alienware gets a 4.5 out of 5 for the M17x R2

My System Specs
OS: Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate 64bit
Processor: Intel Extreme Core i7 CPU X 920 @ 2.00GHz, 1996 Mhz, 4 Core(s), 8 Logical Processor(s)
Memory: 8GB Dual Channel DDR3 1333MHz
Graphics: Dual 1GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4870 in CrossfireX
Display: 17-inch WideUXGA 1920 x 1200 RGB LED (1200p)
Sound: ATI High Definition Audio
Storage: One 128GB Solid State Drive and one 256GB Solid State Drive with no Raid
Optical Drive: Slot-Load Dual Layer DVD Burner (DVD+-RW, CD-RW)
Wireless: Intel Ultimate N WiFi Link 6300 a/g/n 3x3 MIMO
Bluetooth: Internal Wireless Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR
Features:
4 Hi-speed USB 2.0 ports
1 eSATA/USB 2.0 Combo (2-in-1 port) with PowerShare
8-in-1 Media Card Reader
IEEE 1394a (4-pin) port
ExpressCard Slot
DisplayPort, HDMITM , VGA - Video Output
Front Speakers Audio Out Connector / Headphone Jack
Center Speaker and Subwoofer Audio Out Connector / Headphone Jack
Rear Surround Audio Out Connector
Audio In / Microphone Jack
Two Built-In Front Speakers
Center Speaker and Subwoofer Audio Out Connector / Headphone Jack
Rear Surround Audio Out Connector
Audio In / Microphone Jack
Two Built-In Front Speakers

Price: $3500 US

Aesthetics

Weight
The first thing that you notice when you pull the M17x R2 out of the box is its weight. Yah, it is heavy at 11.68lbs but I purchased it to replace a Toshiba Satellite x205 Sli6, which in turn was purchased to replace a desktop. The M17x R2 is way more of a desktop replacement than the x205 was. So being as such, I was not surprised or scared of the weight.

The Shell
Alienware is known for their radical appearance and this one is no exception. The external shell is probably one of the best on the market at this time. It has a very high end, clean look to it and because it is made of aluminum it is very stable. Excluding the screen itself, it is very resistant to fingerprints since it is matte black. The only complaint that I have of case is that some parts have sharp edges. The worse being near where your wrists may rest when typing. Other than that, this has to be the most chic and sweet shell I have owned. You can choose from black, red or silver. I went with the silver shell and its nice clean look. Besides, most alien spaceships are silver aren’t they?

Illumination

The extensive illumination is further on a big highlight, and is divided into several, independent of each other areas and can be easily be adjusted with the pre-installed software. You can create a monochrome or even a totally color-crazed pattern depending on your taste.

The sexy shell is complemented by the crazy lighting system. I call it crazy, because the configuration is like nothing you’ve seen before – only Alienware would think to offer this amount of customization. Not only can you adjust the colors of the badges on the back & front, the mouse track pad, the ‘headlights’ (front fans), you can also set the keyboard to display up to 4 colors at once.

Alienware gets an 5 for the M17x R2’s Aesthetics.

Processor
The M17X R2 can be outfitted with a multitude of processors. I had to go with the Core i7 x920 Extreme 2.0GHz with 3.2GHz Turbo Mode. What can I say besides FAST!

The M17x can be built with either Inter Core 2 processors or the newer i5 and i7 CPUs. For Core 2’s, the included processor is a substantial Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 running at 2.4GHz, 3MB Cache and 1066MhzFSB but there are lots of upgrade options. There are two faster Core 2 Duo processors available with the T9600 running at 2.8GHz clock speed and 6MB Cache or the T9800 that kicks the speed up to 2.93GHz with the same Cache. A couple of different Intel Core 2 Quad processors are also options. The first is the Q9800 with the four cores running at 2.0GHz or, for ultimate performance, the Intel Core 2 Quad QX9300 with four 2.53GHZ cores, 12MB Cache and 1066 MHz FSB.

Alienware gets an 5 for the M17x R2’s Processor Options.

Ports and Features
You can expect a premium configuration at this premium price. Alienware supplies this and exceeds other manufacturers by lengths.

A security slot and three display ports, as VGA, HDMI and display port, wait on the left side of the system. They are followed by a RJ-45 gigabit LAN, two upright USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA/USB 2.0 combo and a Firewire port. In return, the right accommodates the slotted optical drive (DVD or Blue-Ray), above which an 8-in-1 card reader and a 54mm Expresscard slot has been placed, whereas the latter may very well obstruct the drive when its occupied. This is complimented by two further USB 2.0 ports (so that’s a total of five USB ports) and four audio sockets, which are even able to send a full-fledged surround signal to external sound systems. Finally, the M17x R2 also has a WLAN and Bluetooth module, as well as an integrated webcam.

Available optical drives include a DVD/CD burner, a drive that will also play Blu-ray discs and a final upgrade to one that includes a Blu-ray burner.

I like the right port distribution a lot. However, I found the left as unfortunate for lefties as they will face a cable pile up when a mouse and many connected cables are connected. The DC-in positioned on the rear’s center, deep set and is sort of hard to locate unless you are looking for it.

Alienware gets an 4 for the M17x R2’s ports and features.

Graphics
When talking about extreme gaming computers, it’s always the graphics card setup the gets most of the attention. That’s certainly the case here. At the time or purchase, I obtained two 1GB ATI Mobility RADEAON 4870 video cards. I chose ATI over the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260M, primarily due to system reviews and my personal experience with both NVIDIA and ATI. Each has their strengths and weaknesses and at the time for a mobile system, ATI had the best package.

So that is up to 2GB of dedicated video memory, which will support outrageous gaming requirements or amazing multitasking.

The viewing angle stability can be called sufficient in the horizontal as well as the vertical aspect ratio. However, you have to worry about the possibility of reflections and mirroring, also in interiors. Due to my back facing a dark wall (yes I painted it dark for a reason) this is not an issue and I do not have any Windows in close enough peripheral vision to be noticed.

The base display is a 17-inch WideXGA+ which displays 1440 x 900 pixels (900p). That can be enhanced by adding the 17-inch WideUXGA screen displaying 1920 x 1200 pixel resolution (1200p).

Alienware gets an 4 for the M17x R2’s graphics and display.

Heat and Noise

A good cooling system is the foundation of a high performance notebook. The M17x R2 manages heat extremely well. It has three fans that draw air in primarily from the bottom but also the sides and top and send it straight out the back. It has one main fan for CPU heat dissipation and one fan placed for cooling each graphics card. Half of the bottom of the M17x R2 is essentially a giant intake vent. This proved to be an excellent setup for me. The internal components remain well under their rated temperatures and the temperatures of the surface and bottom of the notebook were overall cool.

The fans can get loud but there is no whine; while gaming the noise is not noticeable. At idle, the M17x R2 is almost silent.

Alienware gets an 5 for the M17x R2’s cooling system.

Input Devices

The keyboard unit has been kept in the normal Alienware design. Nothing has been changed in the lettering or in the keyboard’s look. The backlit keyboard unit and touchpad are once again part of the package, which provide for an imposing light show in dimmed surroundings. The colors of the single LEDs can be changed as you like with the tried and tested Alien FX tool and the notebook can be fitted to individual preferences.

In view of the typing feel, the keyboard can be described as being soft with a slightly indistinct pressure point. The keyboard can be deflected to a part, which leads to a coiling of the keys. The layout can be called generous and is therefore also gaming-suitable at any rate. This applies to the standard keys as well as the slightly offset arrow keys and the additionally provided numerical block, too.
The base unit’s form also turned out good in regards to this in the first test. Due to the beveled front edge, the keyboard can be used quite comfortably.

The touchpad didn’t really impress me at first. The structured surface does show good gliding traits, but the response has to be described as very needy. The touchpad keys don’t help much either by being somewhat stiff. The positive side is that as soon as an external mouse is connected to the notebook, the touchpad can automatically deactivated.

Alienware gets an 4 for the M17x R2’s input system.

Battery
Go Dark grants you one click access to power saving features. While the M17x R2’s lighting is nice to look at, it does draw power. Going Dark provides a boost to power conservation by disabling all lighting features of the system. It does indeed go dark when you are used to looking at brilliant colors.

The M17x R2 has a feature called Stealth Mode which underclocks the CPUs and ATI 4870 graphics cards and disables CrossFire mode.
When combining both Go Dark and Stealth Mode I was able to use the M17x R2 for around 2 hours in Stealth Mode with the display at one-third brightness. That is a respectable number for a gaming notebook.

Alienware gets an 4 for the M17x R2’s power consumption.

Issues encountered at purchase:
I noticed when enabling CrossfireX the screen would scroll like an old television. The issue was one DOA ATI RADEON 4870 graphics card. A quick call to my work’s Dell Rep and Dell delivered a replacement to me overnight and I was in ready to game mode.

The only lingering issue is that when the system is in sleep mode, it will sometimes display a black screen and the only item visible is the mouse pointer. I have confirmed this to be an issue with the ATI driver and not the laptop itself.

Conclusion
I am not a teraflops kind of guy, and there are many places where you can find performance data so I am not going to bother posting that information. Let’s just say I was more than satisfied.

You can probably find numerous gaming houses that can pile in the fastest parts known to man, but their generic boxes, with a fresh coat of paint, will all eventually look the same and tired after a while. The Alienware M17x is the complete package, as its looks can stand in the spotlight with its parts. The Core i7 x920 Extreme processor is the fastest on the mobile side. Meanwhile, the ATI 4876 graphics cards, arranged in CrossfireX, are the cream of the crop. And if this configuration is too steep for your pockets, Alienware’s Web site will let you add and remove parts until you get to a desired price point.

In all honesty, the weight of the M17x is the only aspect keeping me from giving it straight 5’s. This is by far the best laptop I’ve ever used, never mind gamed on. If you’re into LAN parties this could be especially useful, due to the portability. If your computer never leaves home though, you may consider getting an actual desktop PC. However, if you’re looking for a new computer, and you appreciate portability… The Alienware M17X R2 is a perfect fit.

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Post a review below!

Member reviews

Nice review - Xavien |
| 24 August 2010

love the review very informative. Nice specs to on the laptop, i always prefere to get the largest HDD i can though as i find that its soon used up these days as games need so much more space then they use to, although having the two drives is certainly a bonus especially if you have one for games and the other for apps. If you have always been use to Nvidia though and never uninstalled the drivers for them before installing new ones (like i use to) please be aware that you could get problems with ATI, ive had this system now for a couple of months, i have a 5970 and had problems when installing the new drivers without first removing the old ones. You cant deny that the alienware stuff looks awesome, although personally i take practicality over looks. After having terrible service from dell in the past puts me off ever having anything to do with them again. Its just a shame that alienware just isnt competitive enough here in the UK to ever justify spending the money on. Those are just minor gripes from my country though :)

My take on Alienware. - Justin Kace |
| 26 August 2010

Excellent review, glad to hear that you've had a positive Alienware experience. I did feel that I should contribute my less than satisfactory Alienware experience, however, just to help prospective customers make an informed decision. I bought an Alienware PC about 4 years ago, so things may have changed since then, but it was an absolute customer service nightmare. It took them 6 weeks from receiving my payment to get the machine from Australia to me in NZ. They shipped it with the wrong graphics card and then told me they could no longer provide the card I purchased the machine with and that I could get a lower spec one for $10 off, or get the next one up for an extra couple of hundred dollars. Every conversation I had with them (and there were a lot of conversations), phone or email, was a major test of my patience and goodwill and I'm not a person who is short on either of those qualities. They were simply the most difficult people I have ever dealt with in a customer service capacity. I cannot possibly convey the horrible experience I had in a quick post here so I'll just finish up with one more comment. Before buying Alienware, google "alienware customer service" and read a few results.

My Take on Alienware Support - WiredSolaris |
| 26 August 2010

I have seen a lot of reviews on Alienware Support. Since Dell's takeover of Alienware, they have moved most of their support back over to the US and have a dedicated team now to service, build and test only Alienware systems. When calling into Dell or if you use Dell's online support they will direct you to the new dedicated Alienware Support. I had a bad video card (only noticable when playing certain games in CrossFire mode) when I received mine as well as needed the adapter for the secondary hard drive. Alienware had each one was overnighted to me and everything straightened out. When purchasing my system, it was also stated that the turn around time of my system was longer than normal due to the configuration options that I made, but I wound up getting it faster than the original estimated 4 weeks. For me 4 weeks was not so bad since I know these are built as ordered and jus tnot sitting on the shelf. This was for issues in the US. I cannot speak for customer service in other countries. While support has to be a consideration in purchasing a system, the same can be said for a lot of systems and non technical related companies as well. For example, I have had nightmares customer service wise with HP, Sony, Lenovo, ASUS, American Express, Blizzard, Symantec, Visa etc... Overall today customer service can be a nightmare on any given day with any vendor or company due to outsourcing and the desire for low paid individuals instead of well paid quality individuals. It sucks that the customer service part has to be such a major factor now a days for everything that you buy, but the fact is that companies now a days don't care about customer satisfaction, they care about the bottom line. I do appreciate the good and bad of each review and am not bashing one or the other. Wanting to make sure that everyone can have a good or bad customer service experience and mine was excellent. I was making sure to review the system itself, but you are correct guys and I will admit it does pay off to know your system vendor well as well as have inside contacts. The system itself rocks though.

The Dell repair guy's opinion - Osdor |
| 27 August 2010

I have worked on a few of these babies, mainly replacing graphics cards like WiredSolaris had to do, but otherwise these are beautiful machines to work on. Having stripped down and rebuilt one or two, the design of the interior parts is second-to-none - much better than your average Dell effort. The amount of solid Aluminium alone is impressive. There are no snap-off panels like most modern laptops, everything is screwed in neatly and tightly - hard to believe they come from the same factory as other Dells! Make sure you leave a clear space underneath for the air intake! (Don't use it on a bed) One thing missing is a Logitech G15-style LCD panel, like some other Dell XPS models have - I've used the one on my G13 for Ventrilo for a long time (and my new G15 too) and couldn't live without one now. It would round it off perfectly.

- Osdor |
| 27 August 2010

Forgot to give it a rating!

My son has one of these... - hoppy |
| 1 September 2010

and it seriously rocks, whilst I would not give up my Alienware Aurora ALX for anything, this is a close second if I had to have a laptop. I used to own a Dell XPS 1700M (their gaming laptop range before they introduced the stupid XPS studio range) and the Alienware M17X is even better than that!! People complain about the cost, but for an overall experience and a cost of around $3000, its not too shabby at all.

It's still a DELL! - Pungan |
| 16 September 2010

I bought one of these to replace the laptop and desktop I had robbed from my house... Bought the highest everything so was a hefty $5k . Upon receiving I was so excited. After using it for about 6 months I'm seriously disappointed. It runs Battlefield Bad Company 2 maxed out single player so exquisitely it's hard to imagine... but multiplayer. on the lowest settings it's so slow and choppy that it's unplayable. Secondly, World of Warcraft, and just about any game without specific Catalyst support run like hot garbage unless you turn OFF catalyst, thus wasting the $ for 2 video cards, and even then say for example in a 25man raid on lowest settings you'd be lucky to get over 35FPS. Any tech support requires you to install a remote program so the techs can hijack your computer and play with whatever settings they want (i.e. update bios.) All in all Alienware has gone seriously down-hill since being bought out by Dell. All support is through Dell, and all parts are from Dell... So it's just an over priced Dell and runs the same as any other product. Save the $ and buy the HP, ASUS, or Toshiba gaming laptops... At least if it's not that great, you wern't expecting it to be.

I love mine - Hatha |
| 2 October 2010

I have a black one (with all the lights set to blue it looks amazing) and can't fault it. There is some tweaking you can do to make WoW run faster, I run with everything at max and can get upto 60fps! I love it to bits :)

Forgot as well - Hatha |
| 2 October 2010

like the guy further back, forgot to rate it!

Question - DaedalusAlpha |
| 11 October 2010

What is the refresh rate of the screen? If it's higher than 100 Hz and you use the nVidia cards it should be possible to run nVidia 3D Vision on it, and that I'd really like :)

Getting one now - Outburst |
| 10 November 2010

Mate, that was a great review, I've been umming and Ahhing about it, but your reasoning is the exact reason I want a desktop - Be with the wife, and every odd lan party per month. Hard thing in Aus is that it doesn't seem to come with all the features I see around (Wireless N600 450+ card etc.). Going to try the sales reps, and see if I can get it sorted, The review is exactly what I was looking for, as I'm not a teraflops kind of guy either.

Best support ever! - Keddle |
| 8 January 2011

I have one of these Alienware notebooks. While they cost a little more one of the HUGE differences I've found is n the quality of the Alienware support. They are separate from Dell regular support and go to great lengths to get things working perfectly. At one point I was having issues after upgrading to Windows 7, the support tech asked if I would mind him remotely working on my system and spent 3 hours getting it to where it was when I first bought the system and reconfiguring everything. He also gave me contact info in case I had more questions I could just go to him instead of going through the phone support all over. Recently I started having problems with crashing, I called tech support and again got a great tech. He ended up not being able to definitively pinpoint if it was a video or harddrive error so what he did was have 2 new video cards and 2 new SSD hard drives sent out to the local tech who came to my house and installed him. I mentioned to the tech that 1 USB connection wasn't working and the fans were noisy. He called them and now they're replacing my motherboard and the fans in the system. I should note that this is all covered under warranty and cost me absolutely NOTHING... true I had bought the extended warranty for approximately $200 at the time of purchase, however just in this last few weeks it's paid for itself. I can't say enough good about their tech support. This technician that I dealt with on the phone told me that for any further issues email him personally as well just like the first one and he'd deal with it sooner than going through the phone system.

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