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Alienware M11x Ultra-Light Gaming Notebook Review
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Date: Apr 13, 2010
Section:Mobile
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications

At the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show, back in early January of this year, we showcased a myriad of upcoming products in our coverage of the event and the announcements being made.  Of the literally thousands of items we saw at CES, however, we'd consider only a handful of them to be truly stand-out products. One of those geek-lust worthy products, at least in our opinion, was the slick Alienware M11x.

We gave you somewhat more than a glimpse of the M11x in our
close-up look at the machine  on display at Dell's suite at the show, but we have since gotten one in house and have been able to put it through its paces on our home turf for a full evaluation. Our video review of the Alienware M11x utlra-portable gaming notebook follows here, along with an image gallery and a full run of benchmarks.

A full suite of benchmarks and more details are on the pages ahead...

Alienware M11x Ultra-Portable Gaming Notebook
Specifications and Features (as tested)

  • Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 @ 1.73GHz
  • 4GB of DDR3 RAM (800MHz)
  • 11.6" LCD (1366x768), LED Backlit
  • Intel GMA4500M HD (IGP)
  • NVIDA GeForce GT 335M (Discrete)
  • 500GB (7200RPM) Seagate Hard Drive
  • 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • No Optical Drive
  • 1.3 megapixel webcam
  • VGA output
  • HDMI Output
  • DisplayPort Output
  • USB 2.0 x 3

 

  • Mini 1394a FireWire
  • RJ-45 (Ethernet 10/100)
  • Headphone x 2 / Mic Input Jack
  • SD / MMC / SDHC Multimedia Card Reader
  • SIM Card Slot
  • Stereo Speakers
  • 4.5 Pounds (with battery) 
  • Removable 8-Cell Li-ion Battery
  • 11.25" x 9.19" x 1.29" (Dimensions)
  • Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
  • 1-Year Standard Warranty
  • Price (starting): $799.99
  • Price (as tested): $1099.99

 



 

 

The Alienware M11x is a notebook with a bit of on identity crisis. The machine's form factor is that of an ultra-portable, but its features an internal components are comparable to a full-sized, mid-range gaming notebook. The unit we tested was equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 processor overclocked to 1.73GHz, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, a 7200 RPM SATA II hard drive, and a hybrid graphics solution consisting of integrated an Intel GMA4500M HD (IGP) and an NVIDIA GeForce GT 335M (Discrete).

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Overall Design and Layout

Our initial thoughts on the final production model of the Alienware M11x is that it is even better than the engineering sample shown at the show. 

  
Alienware M11x: Top and Bottom Views

The metal casing of the machine is as sturdy and rigid as any we have seen on an ultra portable notebook, the backlit keyboard is excellent, with minimal flex, the touchpad is large and responsive, and the screen is top notch.

 
Alienware M11x: Right and Left Sides Views
 

 
Alienware M11x: Front and Back Views

The particular sample we'll be evaluating sports an 11.6" WideHD display, with a native resolution of 1366x768, a 1GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 335M GPU, an Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 1.3GHz CPU, 4GB of Dual Channel DDR3 RAM, a 500GB SATAII, 7200RPM hard drive, HD audio, and an integrated 1.3MP Web Cam.

  
Alienware M11x: Opened Up and Keyboard Views

In the shots above, you can see all of the various connectors, vents and lighting on the Alienware M11x. The lid is adorned with a lighted / pulsating Alien head, while the underside is home only to a few decals and perforations for the cooling system and front-mounted speakers. The nose of the machine also has some perforations for speakers and lighting, while the back houses only the power connector and an air-vent. The right-side of the M11x features two USB ports, two headphone outputs and a microphone input. And the left side has one more USB port, VGA, HDMI, and DisplayPort outputs, an RJ45 LAN jack, a mini-Firewire port, and an integrated flash card reader.
 

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PCMark and 3DMark Tests

First up, we ran a Futuremark‚Äôs 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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Gaming and Battery Life

Next, we ran a trio of games on the Alienware M11x, using the system's native resolution of 1366x768 with all in-game quality options set to their maximum values. Anti-Aliasing (4x) was enabled in all three games, and in L4D2 and ET:QW 16x anisotropic filtering was enabled as well.

 Performance with L4D2, H.A.W.X., and ET:QW
Gaming Performance

In all three games, the M11x put up perfectly playable framerates. Lowering the anti-aliasing or in-game options would have resulted in even higher performance, but the GeForce GT 335M seems perfectly capable of maintaining playable framerate's at the M11x's native resolution with high quality options enabeld.

 Battery Life
Power Performance

The Alienware M11x offers excellent battery life, considering its relatively powerful internal components. Using the Intel IGP, we tested battery life at over 5 hours and with the discrete NVIDIA GPU we got over 3 hours. These tests were run using Battery Eater Pro's "Real World" option. We should also point out, however, that in actual use, we were able to get just a shade over 2 hours gaming on the M11x (on-line play with L4D2) and using it daily for just browsing the web, doing e-mail, etc. resulted in much longer than 5 hours, though it's tough to quantify and actual usage vs. idle time.

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Summary and Conclusion


Performance Summary: The Alienware M11x performed well in our testing. CULV-based notebooks don't offer the same kind of performance of more powerful, larger notebooks, but they make up for it with better mobility and longer battery life. In our benchmarks, the Alienware M11x performed somewhere in between the Asus UL80vt, which is based on the same Core 2 Duo SU7300 processor, and the Asus U30Jc, which is equipped with the more powerful Core i3-350M. The M11x, however, excels in the gaming tests, where its NVIDIA GeForce GT 335M comes into play.

We really like the Alienware M11x. While it doesn't excel in any one category versus true ultra-portable or dedicated gaming notebooks, it's combination of an ultra-portable form factor and gaming-class components make the M11x appealing on a number of different levels. It's not the fastest notebook, nor does it offer the best battery life, but it is good enough in so many categories that the M11x can almost be considered a jack-of-all-trades type machine.

We particularly like the M11x's form factor, and fit and finish. It's relatively powerful GeForce GT 335M GPU is also plus, and battery life is very good for a machine with this much power. The M11x's screen wasn't the best we have seen, but it is perfectly acceptable and shouldn't deter anyone from using the system. If it had an optical drive, a higher-quality LCD and employed NVIDIA's Optimus technology, the M11x would be darn near perfect in our opinion (though we hear Optimus should be coming to the M11x soon). As it stands now, the Alienware M11x is still a great product, and we would have no problem recommending it to anyone in the market for a truly mobile gaming machine, that can easily double as an ultra-portable workhorse.

 

  • Strong Performance
  • Great Form Factor
  • Good Battery Life
  • Eye-Catching Features
  • Hybrid Graphics
  • Mid-Range LCD
  • No Optical Drive
  • No NVIDIA Optimus Technology



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