Friday, June 17, 2011

Alienware m15x Full

The M15x is Alienware's latest gaming notebook, featuring an Intel Core i7 processor, 15.6-inch screen, and Nvidia GTX 260M graphics. Is this monster worth its asking price? Read our review to find out. The M15x starts at $1,499 as of writing; it is available in three colors: Cosmic Black, Nebula Red, and Lunar Shadow (silver). Our test unit's price is sky-high mainly due to the Core i7 920XM Extreme processor, which commands a $900 premium over the base Core i7 720QM processor.

Our Alienware M15x has the following specifications:

* Cosmic Black color
* 15.6-inch 1080p (1920x1080) display with LED backlighting
* Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
* Intel Core i7 920XM processor (2.0GHz/3.2GHz Turbo Mode, 8MB L3 cache)
* Nvidia GeForce GTX 260M 1GB graphics card
* 4GB DDR3-1333 RAM (2x 2GB)
* 500GB 7200RPM hard drive (Seagate Momentus 7200.4/ST9500420AS)
* Intel Wireless WiFi Link 5300AGN
* Slot-loading Blu-ray Reader/DVD burner drive
* One-year limited warranty w/ in-home service
* 9-cell Li-ion battery (85Wh)
* Weight: 9 lbs
* Dimensions: 14.88” (W) x 12.15” (D) x 1.92” (H)
* MSRP: $3,274

Build and Design
Alienware is known for its out-of-this-world designs and the M15x is no exception. Following the flagship Alienware M17x, this is the second notebook to use their new “Stealth” look. The M15x has a one-of-a-kind look and feel.

The M15x is unusually large for a 15.6-inch notebook, measuring almost two inches thick and weighing over nine pounds! The front of the M15x is striking; it is slightly pointed outward towards the user and is flanked by two menacing speaker grilles. 

The front of the M15x is not vertical but angled downward as well. The lid has a unique look; it is very tall and angled at the top to match the chassis front when closed. I like how there is a dedicated area for grabbing the lid at the top.

The M15x is a very well-built notebook. It has a strong internal frame and takes significant force to flex. The lid is impressively strong; it resists twisting noticeably better than other 15.6” notebooks thanks to is one-piece wraparound backing. The lid is firmly secured to the chassis by a strong hinge. Generally speaking this notebook is extremely solid.

Build materials consist of magnesium alloy and thick plastic. The palmrest and keyboard surrounds are textured plastic and have a matte surface, which is welcome since it does not show dust and fingerprints easily. 

The only truly glossy surfaces on this notebook are the speaker housings, the media button strip above the keyboard, and the display surface itself. The base of the chassis and the back of the lid are magnesium alloy, which feels strong. The only weak point in the build quality part is the bottom; the plastic covering the vents is rather thin and cheap feeling.

While the build quality of the M15s is impressive, it does not feel quite as solid as its bigger brother, the M17x. The M17x uses anodized aluminum for the chassis and lid back which is heavier than the M15x's magnesium alloy but feels more solid. The M15x has class-leading build quality, but aluminum would make it better.

One feature that deserves special mention is the AlienFX customizable lighting system. There are several different lighting zones; users can choose many different colors for various zones on the notebook, including the four parts of the keyboard, touchpad, media buttons, power button, Alienware logo below the lid, and alien head on the back. The colors can be changed from the Command Center application:

The lighting can be turned off at any time by pressing [Fn] and [F11]. AlienFX is truly unique and adds aesthetic value.

Screen and Speakers

The M15x has a 15.6” LED-backlit screen available in two resolutions: 1600x900 and 1920x1080; our test unit has the latter. This display is positively gorgeous; it is extremely vivid and has excellent contrast and brightness. 

Backlighting is impressively even and viewing angles are well above average; this display has near-perfect horizontal viewing and a generous vertical range. The display's surface is covered with a single piece of “edge-to-edge” glass, which means a lot of reflections but a seamless look.

The speakers are above average with ample volume. Sound quality is not especially high however is acceptable for gaming and Internet videos. The M15x has two headphone jacks; take advantage of them for a better audio experience.
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