Alienware M17x R4 (2012), Ivy Bridge and Kepler Refresh
The only trouble is with the storage setup; the 500GB (7200 RPM) hard drive, even bolstered by the mSATA SSD cache drive, is somewhat pokey in comparison to some other mobile systems we've tested.
It’s not hard to throw together a system with every top-of-the-line component possible and call it the best. All you have to do is ignore budget issues and the sky’s the limit for what you can build. What is far more difficult is building a high-performing rig that deftly balances performance and a reasonable cost, and that is mostly what Dell has done with this configuration of the Alienware M17x.
Obviously, Dell didn’t skimp on graphics, rolling with the highest-end NVIDIA mobile GPU available; on the other hand, they didn’t bother with a second GPU in an SLI configuration, which would add a lot to the price tag. On the CPU side, though, opting for the excellent Core i7-3720QM instead of the slightly higher-spec’d Core i7-3820QM saves nearly $200 on the build, and the although the configuration we tested could have had more memory on board, looking at the benchmarks, it wasn’t really necessary.
However, pairing an HDD with a 32GB mSATA caching drive, while facilitating significant cost savings, was a misstep with a machine of this caliber. We’d prefer to drop a little more cash to upgrade to larger SSD, which is indeed an option when you’re configuring an M17x.
One thing that Dell did absolutely right, though, is include the Alien Command Center and other themed software. Those programs feel mature and it’s pleasing to be able to customize a notebook so much without digging around through Windows menus. The lighting scheme is just right, and the front intakes are (still) a very cool feature, although we weren’t big fans of the palm/forearm rests.
In the end, the Alienware M17x is a phenomenal gaming rig that outstrips most of the stiffest competition at a relatively reasonable price. Sure, $2,469 is steep, but the system could easily have cost hundreds of dollars more, and looking around at the competition, that price is probably just about where it should be for what you’re getting. Aside from a few minor complaints concerning ergonomics and storage, the Alienware M17x is a killer refresh of the line that any gamer would be glad to show off.