Alienware M18x Gaming Notebook: Tale of Two GPUs

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Big, bad and unapologetic. These three words accurately describe the Alienware M18x. Unapologetic about its size, this is a desktop replacement notebook that almost defies the entire category of portable machines. Sure, it's portable, in the sense that you can move it from room to room or perhaps pack it up for a LAN, but you're not tossing this bad boy into a dainty backpack or laptop tote. No, the Alienware M18x steps into the ring weighing in at nearly 12lbs (11.935) and thumbs its nose at would-be competitors. Though mobile components are humming along inside its rugged metal frame, Dell's Alienware division gives gamers and performance enthusiasts the choice to configure a machine with fastest technologies money can buy currently in notebooks.

To that end, in our efforts to evaluate Alienware's new gaming Goliath, the company decided to send us two machines.  We hemmed and hawed; with all that gaming prowess at our fingertips, how would we get any real work done?  Such is the perilous line we walk some days in the lab.  Regardless, the dynamic M18x duo we received for testing were both configured with identical base builds, an Intel Core i7-2630QM quad-core at the helm, but with different graphics subsystems. One M18x came strapped with a pair of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580M GPUs in SLI, ready to throw down.  The other machine came packing heat with dual AMD Radeon HD 6990M GPUs in CrossFire, just as angry and twitching to do battle.

Want to watch the benchmark sparks fly?  We did too.  Follow along and stay close.  This is going to get a bit dicey.  First let's fire up a video preview for you to relax with...

Alienware M18x Gaming Notebook
Specifications & Features
2nd Generation Intel Core i7-2630QM Processor 2.0-2.8 GHz, 6MB Cache
Operating System
Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit
18.4" Glossy Display 1920x1080
Intel HM67
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 x 2, AMD Radeon HD 6990 x 2
Internal High-Definition 5.1 Performance Audio with WavesMAXX Audio (Standard)
2.1 Speaker configuration audio Powered by Klipsch®
6GB DDR3-1333 (as tested, non-standard configuration)
7500GB SATA 7200RPM Seagate HDD
Optical Drive
8x SuperMulti DVD±R/RW Slot Load Optical Drive
10/100/1000 Mbps Gigabit Ethernet
Built-in 802.11b/g/n WLAN Card
Card Reader
9-in-1 Media Card Reader
3.0 Megapixel HD Video and Picture Camera with dual digital microphones
USB 2.0 Port with PowerShare Technology, USB 2.0 x 2, USB3.0 x 2
Bluetooth Option
Internal Bluetooth 3.0
Video Port
VGA (15-pin, D-Sub), HDMI 1.4, Mini-DisplayPort
Audio Port
(2x) Audio Out 1/8" Ports, (1x) Audio In / Microphone 1/8" Port (retaskable for 5.1 audio)
4-Zone, multi-color RGB, 82 key keyboard with AlienFX lighting controls
Battery Pack
12 Cell Lithium Ion 97whr
12.68”(Depth) x 17.17”(Width) x 2.13”(Height)
11.935lbs (starting)
Manufacturer Warranty
1 Year Limited Warranty (Optional up to 4 yrs.)
Price *
$2599 - $3299 As Tested w/ 4GB DDR3-1600, $2799 - $3499 w/ 8GB DDR3-1600
  * Dell offers a $200 price promotions from time to time on this configuration

It's almost ominous, isn't it?  Our test systems came loaded for bear, complete with Intel Sandy Bridge Core i7 2630QM processors, 6GB of RAM, 750GB Seagate hard drives, USB 3.0 connectivity and of course, the fastest mobile graphics processors on the planet currently.

This notebook is the quintessential desktop replacement machine. It's big, built like a tank and powerful. Let's dive in for a closer look.

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fat78 3 years ago

wow that is one powerful laptop. Makes my desktop look sad.

However some one is going to have to be a huge gamer to need a portable laptop this powerful.

OptimusPrimeTime 3 years ago

"I'm not a fan the the Desktop Alienware machines, but on the mobile side, The M18X is a pieces of art and craftsmanship that I would be willing to pay a premium for. One downer is the fact that Optimus is no available on the single GTX 580M configuration, but your'e not buying this to stray away much from the desk, good to know though. "

"I dont like glossy screens but the ones on the Alienware are beautiful, seen it in person. To my linking, I would go for Nvidia's offering, its more powerful. '

CDeeter 3 years ago

Absolutely spectacular and beautiful machine. Great job on the video too.

AKwyn 3 years ago

Great review Dave. I haven't seen one of those screens up close so I don't know if it's true or not but the other specs look good, the laptop looks like a piece of art and it's even got a decent warranty/customer service.

Although I would go with the ATI due to it being more reasonable then NVIDIA's setup. I mean sure, you're getting better single GPU performance but those things take up power, run hot and don't offer much of a benefit over competing cards. (except for PhysX and CUDA but I doubt anybody would really need it.)

DBona 3 years ago

ATI cards in laptops (and in general) are really terrible. I bought an Asus with 5870M in it and it would green-screen, blue screen and get terrible FPS in many games. Even after 2x RMAs, a ton of OS wipes and 50 beta / legacy / new driver trials, all with same problems.  Turns out it's just ATI's sub-standard driver support that causes problems.

Switched to an Nvidia gaming laptops, and all games run great.

As for the power use on nvidia cards. It's a non-factor. No gaming laptop can game for more then a couple minutes unplugged, and when not gaming, both have decent battery life (ati and nvidia) so it's a nonfactor when picking a GAMING laptop. I owned an Asus, SAGER and an alienware laptop, if you think you're going to play on battery power, you got another thing coming to you LOL.

Gaming laptops are for traveling gamers / LAN partiers. They need to be plugged in to game, but it's a LOT easier carrying a gaming laptop around then it is a monitor, desktop case, and keyboard/mouse.

realneil 3 years ago

Good review,....I'll take one of each please.

LBowen 3 years ago

Nice Benchmarks with Metro 2033 still requiring a beastly setup. Still definitely playable on those resolutions and better frame rates than what I have seen on other laptops.

omegadraco 3 years ago

Thanks for the review Dave loved the through video. I too would be tempted to go with the CF setup simply because the price difference is so huge for a small difference. I really like the lighting touches that they put into these systems with the speaker grills and around the touch pad.

rapid1 3 years ago

Very nice looking laptop and great review. The AMD Nvidia GPU split is interesting, and either one looks very nice to me!

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