Alienware M11x Ultra-Light Gaming Notebook Review - HotHardware

Alienware M11x Ultra-Light Gaming Notebook Review

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First up, we ran a Futuremark’s latest system performance metric, PCMark Vantage. PCMark Vantage runs through a host of different usage scenarios to simulate different types of workloads including High Definition TV and movie playback and manipulation, gaming, image editing and manipulation, music compression, communications, and productivity.  Most of the tests are multi-threaded as well, so the tests can exploit the additional resources offered by a multi-core CPU.

Futuremark PCMark Vantage
Simulated Application Performance

The Alienware M11x performed very well in 3DMark Vantage, relatively speaking of course. Its performance falls somewhere in between the Core i3 based Asus U30Jc and UL80vt, but the M11x has a marked advantage in the gaming test due to its GeForce GT 335M discrete GPU.

Futuremark 3DMark06 and Vantage
Simulated Gaming Performance

The Futuremark 3DMark06 CPU benchmark consists of tests that use the CPU to render 3D scenes, rather than the GPU. It runs several threads simultaneously and is designed to utilize multiple processor cores.

Despite its factory overclock, 3DMark06's CPU performance module had the Alienware M11x performing just behind the Asus UL80Vt. The Alienware M11x's full 3DMark06 score, along with a 3DMark Vantage score using the "Performance" preset are avaialble below.



Please note, these 3DMark runs were performed using an external monitor. The Alienware M11'x built-in 11.6" LCD doesn't support the 1280x1024 resolution necessary to complete these tests.

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I think the battery life for this laptop is pretty amazing. For it to be able to switch to the Intel graphics and getting that long of a battery life is very good in my opinion. This seems like a quality mix of performance and duration of use.

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RyuGTX:

I think the battery life for this laptop is pretty amazing.

Yeah, that's one of the main items I found surprising too.  It sounds like it has way better battery life than my Lenovo, and that's running a very poor Intel video chipset.

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The really bad thing is the lack of Optimus on it.  Having to go into your BIOS every time you want to switch from gaming to normal GPU might have been ok in '08/'09, but now'a'days almost every machine will switch between them based on need.

 

Which leads into another problem.  The GPU drivers will *NOT* be updated in a reasonable timeframe (if ever).  This is using old tech that Nvidia is not supporting.  Though I didn't see it mentioned in the article, I'm betting the video drivers are 6 months or more old (with no newer ones out there).  You can not just pull the newest driver from Nvidia, you need ones specificly made for this.

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@InfinityZ - You don't have to go into the BIOS to switch GPUs. You simply have to click on a tray icon and or hit a Fn key combo to make the switch. As for drivers, it's true that NVIDIA won't be posting updates as regularly, but that doesn't mean and enthusiast can't easily mod a set of new drivers to work. I've been doing that for ages.

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Marco C:

@InfinityZ - You don't have to go into the BIOS to switch GPUs. You simply have to click on a tray icon and or hit a Fn key combo to make the switch. As for drivers, it's true that NVIDIA won't be posting updates as regularly, but that doesn't mean and enthusiast can't easily mod a set of new drivers to work. I've been doing that for ages.

 

Thanks for confirming. That would have been a horrible move if switching GPUs had to be done in the BIOS. I assumed it was via the tray tools like on my friend's HP (i3 and some AMD gpu). I didn't think to look further into it and see what options it had, but when I opened the lid to bring the computer from sleep mode, it prompted me if I wanted to switch graphics. Almost felt like the program was measuring the load and wanted to confirm if I wanted to make the switch. Not sure because I was only using it to look up a few things really quick.

Is there anything like that on the Alienware M11x as an option? Or is it purely manual?

 

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It's purely manual.  It's just a matter of hitting a key-combo to switch though and doesn't require a restart.

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WOW - I'm actually surprised.  At that price I expected it to be a bit less.

When I saw the keyboard I was sure that was going to be the Achilles heal / dealbreaker.  But, if a fellow "keyboard snob" likes it, I guess I won't knock it without trying it.

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Very respectable numbers put up by this Alienware infused DNA notebook. I was surprised how much better the battery life was against the U30Jc espically on the Integrated side of things. I am however puzzled by the screen quality or lack there of as Dell uses some of the best quality grade A panels in their high end displays all the way back to the Dell Ultra Sharp using the SPVA panel instead of the standard TN panel. I like the look of this Alienware, but if I was buying a laptop today I would stick with the Asus U30Jc reviewed right here at HotHardware on April 5th If you have not checked it out do so as this is the one to get IMO.

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It looks like Alienware if falling behind the curve in terms of laptop processors. I would like to see Dual Cores in laptops to slowly be phased out, but I can see here that this M11X is giving up processing computing and replacing that with GPU strength, and it also keeps the cost down. This is actually a very affordable machine for it being an Alienware.

The design of the M11X is really simple, but it's functional, and I like that. The notebook itself somewhat resembles a sports/luxury vehicle especially when you consider the light customization options for the keyboard and logo. Are there laptops that come with DVI ports, I really only see VGA, or is there a hardware issue I'm not aware of?

I was a little disappointed that this version didn't have auto correcting discrete graphics, but it will had a discrete GPU which is still impressive. The screen, as you mentioned, could have used some work. Usually people associate a glossy screen with really rich and vibrant colors. I know that you were using a camera to try and capture color across two mediums, so maybe the added film grain and lighting conditions added to what we saw on the desktop.

Overall the computer had a really good rating, it was just that dual core that was bottlenecking it's potential. Like I said, it's understandable, games aren't optimized for quad cores yet, and the cost effectiveness will probably influence more potential buyers.

Great Review Marco!

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Great review. The M11x is a great system and the discrete GPU is nice and its small and portable so its a great gaming rig. Heck it might even be better then my current desktop... lol

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