Alienware 17: AMD's R9 M290X Goes Mobile

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PCMark & 3DMark

Benchmark Update:
Some of you have been asking that we update our benchmarks to reflect more modern tests. The problem with doing this, of course, is that you inevitably leave behind certain other systems -- and laptops, unlike desktop graphics cards, typically come with limited-term loan agreements.

We have begun to transition to an updated laptop gaming suite, but since the Alienware 17 is the first system to do this, we had to borrow results from our gaming benchmarks over on the desktop side of things. Since the Alienware 17 is billed a desktop replacement and definitely contains desktop-class hardware, this isn't really a problem -- think of it as a demonstration of how much performance a laptop can offer compared to a midrange gaming desktop.

In some of our tests we'll refer to the AMD R9 270X and the GeForce GTX 750 Ti.The AMD R9 270X is the desktop equivalent to the R9 M290X, while the GTX 750 Ti is Nvidia's latest power-sipping Maxwell GPU.

First, we fired up some benchmarks by Futuremark. The company, which is based just outside of Helsinki, Finland, started publishing benchmarks in 1998. Since then, Futuremark has developed tests for evaluating standard PCs and mobile devices and continues to update its flagship 3DMark gaming benchmark suite, and PCMark as well.

Futuremark PCMark 7
Simulated Application Performance
Futuremark’s PCMark 7 benchmark includes a suite of tests designed to measure the way your computer would perform during typical tasks. It includes an Entertainment Suite, which offers gaming scenarios and tests its media playback capabilities. The benchmark also has a Creativity Suite, in which the system processes images and video. Other tools include the Computation Suite and the Storage Suite. The latter is capable of measure SSDs and hard drives, either individually, or as a whole.

The Alienware 18 wins out in this test by a narrow margin thanks to a slightly faster chip than the Alienware 17. Actual day-to-day system use differences are negligible, however.

Futuremark 3DMark Fire Strike
Simulated Gaming Benchmark
Fire Strike has two benchmark modes: Normal mode runs at 1920x1080, while Extreme mode targets 2560x1440. GPU target frame buffer utilization for normal mode is 1GB and the benchmark uses tessellation, ambient occlusion, volume illumination, and a medium-quality depth of field filter. The more taxing Extreme mode targets 1.5GB of frame buffer memory and increases detail levels across the board. Extreme mode is explicitly designed for CrossFire / SLI systems. GT 1 focuses on geometry and illumination, with over 100 shadow casting spot lights, 140 non-shadow casting point lights, and 3.9 million vertices calculated for tessellation per frame. And 80 million pixels are processed per frame. GT2 emphasizes particles and GPU simulations. Tessellation volume is reduced to 2.6 million vertices and the number of pixels processed per frame rises to 170 million.

Fire Strike shows a benefit for the desktop cards, but the Alienware 17 isn't far off at roughly 80% of the desktop system's performance.

Futuremark PCMark 8
Simulated Application Performance
Futuremark recently launched PCMark 8, which has several separate benchmarks. The Home test measures a system's ability to handle basic tasks: video chatting, web browsing, photo editing, an similar day-to-day activities. The test is designed to be run on just about any Windows 7 or 8 computer. The Creative test offers some of the same types of tasks, but puts more stress on the system and is meant for mid-range and higher-end PCs. The Work test simulates the workflow of a typical office user. And the Storage test - you guessed it - benchmark's your computer's data storage performance.

Interestingly, PCMark 8 v1.2 shows a win for the lower-end Alienware over the higher-end model, though the difference is quite small. It may come down to drivers -- AMD's OpenCL driver is typically more mature than its Nvidia counterpart.

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