Unlike our typical review situation where we are evaluating a readily available product that is polished and finalized, we find ourselves evaluating a stable Engineering Sample of the Aurora m9700. At first glance, the system easily passes for a production quality notebook as it features the unique aesthetic Alienware notebooks are famous for. However, upon closer inspection, we find some blatant clues that this notebook is not quite as refined as a system you'd be purchasing yourself.
Referencing the images above, we can clearly see that the Alienware ID is alive and well on this Engineering Sample. Here, the rubberized grips and distinctive Alienware badge complete with illuminated eyes give us the first clue that we aren't dealing with final retail product. Unlike Alienware's typical final product, the Aurora m9700 sample you see here featured some very rough edges around the rubber grips and a alien head badge complete with eyes that were anything but symmetric. Turning the system over, we find a blatant disclaimer in the way of a label signifying the fact that this is in fact an Engineering Sample and not a unit destined for retail.
Opening the system, we are presented with a clean overall layout and aesthetic. Here, the silver metallic finish of the exterior is also found on the base panel surrounding the keyboard. The touchpad for the system is oversized and is accompanied by a single button which has two distinct switches beneath it. Although somewhat unique, the fact that the touchpad features the same finish, color, and texture as the chassis makes blindly finding the touchpad somewhat difficult to say the least as there is only a slight relief which can be felt around the touchpad's edges. Directly above the keyboard, we find an array of multimedia controls as well as a series of blue LED indicators.
Closing the lid and looking at the system as a whole, we soon realize that this notebook is loaded with an impressive collection of ports and inputs. Starting on the right side of the system, we find a vast array of audio connections including the standard set of analog inputs and outputs as well as an SPDIF optical output and a single USB port. Moving to the front of the system, we find two stereo speakers as well as the optical drive. Carrying our attention towards the left side of the notebook, we find no less than two USB ports, a Firewire port, an Ethernet port, and a 4-in-1 memory card reader.
Taking a glimpse at the back of the system, we are further impressed by the collection of ports. Here, we have audio in, digital coax, S-Video out, a modem port, power port, USB port, S-Video input, and both DVI and VGA outputs. Specifically, we were pleased to have the power connector on the backside of the system as those notebooks which typically have the power cable attached to either the left or right side often have issues with the power cable being in the way as there is no easy way to orient or route the cable in some situations.
Turning the system over, we find a relatively barren landscape below. Somewhat surprisingly, there is far less ventilation than we expected, especially given the fact that there are two high end graphics cards needing to be cooled. Regardless, heat did not prove to be an issue throughout testing so it appears as though there is ample ventilation. Removing the battery from the bay, we see it is a lithium-ion model rated for 6450mAh. In terms of the provided power supply, we find a rather robust unit rated for 150W.
One of the more unique aspects of the Aurora m9700's aesthetic is the implementation of a 1.3MP camera above the LCD panel. Featuring the same black finish as the panel's bezel, the camera's presence is subtle and does not stick out like a sore thumb. Those who are keen on videoconferencing now have the added convenience of having a built-in camera and do not require the use of an external discrete model.