Alienware 15.6" (320 GB, Core i7, 1.6 GHz, 4 GB) Notebook Reviews
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Alienware 15.6" (320 GB, Core i7, 1.6 GHz, 4 GB) Notebook

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Alienware M15X: The coolest gaming laptop in the Universe

Nov 8, 2009 (Updated Aug 19, 2010)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

  • Ease of Use:
  • Quality of Tech Support:

Pros:Good graphics card (GTX 260M), fast processor (Intel Core i7 720QM), practical, extremely cool.

Cons:Battery life length, not the fastest gaming laptop in the Universe.

The Bottom Line: Micro Center claims this is the fastest 15 inch gaming laptop in the Universe. I claim Micro Center is the biggest liar in the Universe.


Before I continue I need to point out that with "Micro Center is the biggest liar in the Universe" I don't mean that this gaming laptop is slow, on the contrary it is quite fast. However, you can buy even faster 15 inch Alienware gaming laptops with 2GHz Intel Core i7 920XM processors on a planet called earth. I do believe that the Intel Core i7 920XM might be the fastest mobile CPU on earth at this point but this laptop has the somewhat slower Intel Core i7 720QM, and that makes Micro Center liars. I should also say that they cannot possible know about the speed of all processors on all planets in the entire Universe.
I also need to point out that the M15X laptop I am reviewing is an upgrade of the laptop in this listing. The laptop I am reviewing has a NVDIA GeForce GTX 260M graphics card while the laptop in this listing has a 240M graphics card. There is a place on epinions for the GTX 260M version as well, but it is something wrong with that location so it was suggested that I move it here.
 
I bought this gaming laptop for my son for $1,849.00 on Halloween which means we have not had it for very long. Therefore this review will not say anything about durability. You get a lot more for the money if you buy a desktop; however, we needed the computer to be portable, lightweight, and practical as well as a good and fast gaming computer.

The plan was that we were going to go from store to store and look at what they had and then go home, read reviews, look up benchmarks, and then make a decision. Before we left I printed a list of benchmarks for different laptops and for different CPU's. I wanted a laptop with an Intel Core i7 QM 940 processor (fastest) or an Intel Core i7 920QX. However, I was told there were no laptops with an Intel Core i7 QM 940 processor and that most likely I would not find a laptop with an Intel Core i7 920QX in a store. However, we found gaming desktops with Intel Core i7 QM 940 processors.

Anyway, my son is a fan of Alienware and he was really set on getting Alienware. It has a good graphics card for a laptop, NVDIA GeForce GTX 260M, and a decent Processor Intel Core i7 QM 720. This processor was not on my list so I was reluctant to get it without first going home and checking it out as we had decided. However, my son loves Alienware and he is partial to NVDIA graphics cards and he had heard good things about GeForce GTX 260M as well. With all the various miscellaneous discounts the manager offered me on the spot we made a decision without going home first to check benchmarks. I don't regret buying the computer but I found the benchmarks somewhat disappointing when I started comparing with the fastest and greatest.

The CPU was fairly fast but far from the latest and fastest. The graphics card was pretty decent for a laptop and the memory and disk access was fast. The 2D graphics score was not very good but I blame that on Windows 7. Windows 7 does bad things to a computers 2D graphics score (compared to Vista and XP). As a side note that does not mean that I think Windows 7 is a bad operating system.


Overview of the Alienware Cosmic Black M15X

Alienware which is a Dell brand is a very popular gaming laptop brand. This is essentially the same laptop as the Alienware M15X that has been sold since more then a year ago but it has been enhanced with a better graphics card. Micro Center markets it as the fastest 15 inch gaming laptop in the Universe, a claim which we know is not true.

The laptop is not heavy and it is much lighter then my sons old Toshiba Satellite X205 SLI5. This makes the laptop quite easy to travel with which is something that is convenient for him. The battery life is not very long, about one and a half hours; however, the battery is a substantial part of the weight so we take that. The performance is much better than my son's Toshiba and also better compared with many contemporary laptops. He could barely play a game called Crisis on the Toshiba but he could do the most demanding things with Crisis on this laptop and it was always flying.

The air flow comes out in the back, slightly to the sides, and all ports and buttons are located on each side of the laptop. This makes the laptop quite practical and it runs cool. The CD/DVD reader/writer is quite interesting. Instead of a tray coming out you stick the CD into the slit and it is sucked in. It has touch panel of LED lights right above the keyboard which corresponds to the typical buttons on a DVD player. So in a sense this laptop is also an ultra modern DVD player. I should add that one of the LED touch buttons is the wireless off/on button and it is easy to accidentally turn off.

The laptop has an Intel Core i7-720QM Processor (1.60GHz), 4GB RAM, 320GB hard drive, and a 15.6 inch wide screen HD display (1600X900). The Video Card is NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260M with 1GB of Video Ram. The laptop came with Microsoft Windows 7 Home premium (64-bit) pre-installed. It should be noted that 1.60GHz does not sound much for an allegedly fast CPU, however, the frequency does not mean very much for modern processors. It is still fast but not as fast as Intel Core i7 940QM.

It has a left and right speaker and a left and right microphone and and a 2MB webcam. This makes it perfect for on-line chat and Skype.  It has an infrared port, two USB ports, an 8-in-1 media card reader, a network connector (ethernet), a display port connector, an IEEE 1394 A connector (FireWire), a VGA connector, an Expreess card slot, 3 Audio connectors, an USB/eSATA combo connector, and a bluetooth receiver.  It also has a security cable slot for theft protection, high definition sound and something call stealth mode. Stealth mode allows you to easily switch in and out of power on/off to save power.

These are the screen resolutions supported by the Alienware M15X

1600X900
 
1280X720
 
1088X612
 
800X600


To read more about the Alienware M15X with a GTX 260M graphics card look here.

http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml?product_id=0320538



The coolest computer in the Universe

The Alienware M15X with a GTX 260M graphics card may not be the fastest gaming laptop in the world, but it is the coolest gaming laptop in the world. Unfortunately I don't know of any "coolness" benchmark. Perhaps there is no viable coolness metric available.

The color is an attractive mysterious black (Cosmic Black) and the edges are rounded and easy to grasp. The shape of the laptop is not rectangular but more shaped like the hood of a race car, or maybe a UFO. The front side of the laptop looks a little bit like the front of a sports car with the speakers and the microphones forming a backlit grid on each side of the front end. This makes the laptop look like an alien sports car with mysterious red glowing head lights. Well, perhaps it is really supposed to be a UFO. There is a glowing alien face on the top of the laptop and the start button is looks like a glowing alien face (in a different color). The default back ground is also an alien face and the included Alienware software is visually appealing (the graphics) and has coolness written all over it. The instruction manual bound in leather (it seems) and has a metallic alien face on it.

The coolest feature is the backlit keyboard. Under each key there is a LED that shines in different colors depending on, for example, the status of the battery. You can set the colors of the keyboard yourself. I should say that it is not only the keys that shine but also the lining around, for example, the mouse pad. At night this looks quite cool. An advantage of the backlit keyboard is that it makes it easy to do work on the laptop (or games) in middle of the night without turning the lights on. This is very useful for my son who is at a boarding school and shares a room.


Space Alien technology that sucks power out of thin air

My son told me that the Alienware M15X is able to extract power from the air while running. This is apparently based on what the people in the Alienware fan community is saying. In my opinion the battery should last longer than one and a half hour if this was really true, but I am not going to argue. If anyone has any information about this magical Alien Technology please leave a comment.


Included Software

The included software is a Norton Anti-Virus 30 Day trial addition, Adobe Reader 9, Cyberlink PowerDVD, Nero, and the Alienware command center. The Alienware command center you use to configure your computer (including all the backlit lights), and to access support, upgrades and Alienware web sites. I should say that the Alienware command center software has some quite impressive graphics which also makes this laptop even cooler. As mentioned it comes Windows 7 Home Premium pre installed.


Wireless

I did not do any benchmarking of the network card or the wireless reception, however, I noticed that it was good compared to some of the other laptops we have. When you walk far away from our router for example to the corner of the master bedroom the connection slows down so much that it is almost impossible to browse internet or watch internet movies using my Thinkpad T60 or my Dell Latitude D820. However, my daughter's new HP Pavilion laptop and the Alienware M15X still have a fast connection in the bad spots of our house. My son was watching internet TV at a spot where I can barely get a typical web site to show on my Thinkpad T60 or my Latitude D820.


Benchmark Tests

I wanted to use the FutureMark benchmark score called 3DMark to benchmark this computer. This is really the best benchmark for a gaming laptop. However, 3DMark will only work with a 1280X1024 screen resolution which this laptop does not support. So I used the "passmark" benchmark instead. The passmark benchmark is a general benchmark that is good for any kind of computer not just gaming computers. I have used passmark to benchmark eight computers at home and you can look up the scores for scores of other computers on line (no pun intended).

The passmark performance test (benchmark test) measures the performance of many aspects of a computer, for example, the CPU speed, 3D and 2D graphics performance, the disk and the memory, etc. It also measures the different sub-aspects, for example, the CPU performance test includes statistics for integer math, floating point math, finding prime numbers, compression, encryption, SSE, Physics and string sorting. The scores are weighed and adjusted to represent how the average user uses the computer. This is why the 3DMark score would have been better in this case because a gaming laptop is not used the way the average user uses a laptop.

I should say that if you want a really high performing gaming computer you should buy a good desktop and upgrade the graphics card to the latest and greatest. You will get a lot more for the money that way. However, if you want your computer to be portable you have to settle for less. As you can see from the benchmark data below my 12-year olds Dell SMT 116B enhanced with a NVIDIA GeForce 260 GTX 896MB have better benchmark scores than this laptop even though it cost much less ($799). However, the Dell SMT 116B is a desk top. The graphics card we installed on his desktop was heavy and power hungry.

The 3D Graphics benchmark for complex graphics for this laptop was impressive; however, the other 3D graphics benchmarks were not as strong yielding an overall score of 761.4. The 2D Graphics score was not impressive, however, it seems like Windows 7 lowers the 2D graphics passmark score to about half compared to Vista and XP in with that in mind the 2D graphics score is actually good.


Alienware M15X Cosmic Black GTX 260M
Overall---------: 1143.6 (Decent score for a new laptop, but not the fastest in the Universe)
CPU -Mark---: 3641.7 (This is a good score but it is far from the fastest CPU and I paid nearly $2,000)
2D-Graphics--: 226.2 (Not good but I believe Windows 7 slows this down)
3D-Graphics--: 761.4 (Good for a laptop)
Memory-Mark: 943.6 (This is a good score)
Disk-Mark----: 454.4 (This is a good score)
CD-Mark------: 376.6 (not spectacular)

Dell Studio SMT 116B with better graphics card (I bought this computer for my then 11-years old son last year and upgraded the graphics card to NVIDIA GeForce 260 GTX 896MB)
Overall---------: 1304.4
CPU -Mark---: 3850.8
2D-Graphics--:  395.3
3D-Graphics--: 1606.7
Memory-Mark: 920.1
Disk-Mark----: 335.6
CD-Mark------: 923.7

HP Pavilion P6130Y (desktop I bought four and a half months ago)
Overall---------: 823.5
CPU -Mark---: 3046.5
2D-Graphics--:  403.7
3D-Graphics--: 93.2
Memory-Mark: 747.7
Disk-Mark----: 641.7
CD-Mark------: 432.2

HP Pavilion Laptop (my daughter's brand new laptop)
Overall---------: 770.9
CPU -Mark---: 1750.5
2D-Graphics--:  373.3
3D-Graphics--: test failed because it did not support 4x anti-aliasing
Memory-Mark: 685.2
Disk-Mark----: 226.3
CD-Mark------: 426.2

I should add that I also compared the Windows benchmark on a few computers that I have. It may not be as exact but it is a second opinion. According to the Windows benchmark the Alienware M15X does better then the Dell Studio SMT 116-B. So the Windows benchmark and the Passmark benchmark seem to contradict each other.

Windows benchmark Alienware M15X Cosmic Black GTX 260M
Processor, Calculation per Second: 7.1
RAM, Memory operations per second: 7.3
Desktop performance for Windows Aero: 6.8
Gaming Graphics: 6.8
Primary hard disk: 5.9

Windows benchmark for Dell Studio SMT 116B
Processor, Calculation per Second: 5.9
RAM, Memory operations per second: 5.9
Desktop performance for Windows Aero: 5.9
Gaming Graphics: 5.9
Primary hard disk: 5.9

HP Pavilion P6130Y (desktop I bought four and a half months ago)
Processor, Calculation per Second: 5.9
RAM, Memory operations per second: 5.9
Desktop performance for Windows Aero: 4.4
Gaming Graphics: 4.6
Primary hard disk: 5.9

HP Pavilion Laptop (my daughter's brand new laptop)
Processor, Calculation per Second: 5.0
RAM, Memory operations per second: 4.9
Desktop performance for Windows Aero: 4.1
Gaming Graphics: 3.8
Primary hard disk: 5.5


Final recommendation

This is a fast and extremely cool looking gaming laptop. It is also well equipped, practical and light weight. However, you can get an Alienware gaming laptop with a Intel Core i7 920QX by buying it on-line. Unless it is a lot more expensive (I don't know the price) you should try to get that one first. However, overall I am happy with my sons gaming laptop.

Since Dell has their head quarters in Texas I am entering this review into my Texas+Sweden write off.

Since we bought this Alienware and mysterious looking laptop with its lit Alien faces and backlit keyboard on Halloween I think this is a Halloweenish laptop. So I also hope to enter it into msbunnylicious Wicked Hallows Write Off.

Finally I would like to say thank you to William Ford (gr8ful) for adding the worlds coolest laptop to the epinions data base.


In addition I would like to recommend reading these computer and monitor reviews

Asus Eee Seashell 1201N-PU17-BK Netbook

HP Pavilion dv6-1245dx laptop

Hewlett Packard p6130y desktop

Dell Studio SMT-116B desktop

Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi5 gaming laptop



Monitor reviews

Samsung B2330H 23 inch


Hewlett Packard W2338H LCD Monitor


Dell UltraSharp 2408WFP 24 inch monitor


Samsung 226BW 22 inch monitor


Recommend this product? Yes


Amount Paid (US$): 1849
Operating System: Windows
Processor: Other
Processor speed: over 1000
Screen Size: 15 inches
RAM: More than 256
Internal Storage: CD-RW and DVD
Hard Drive (GB): Over 50

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