Alienware M18x R2 Gaming Laptop: Dual GPUs Attack

Design & Layout

The Alienware M18x comes in two color options, including "Space Black" and "Nebula Red." Black is selected by default, though there's no charge to switch to red if that's your preference. Your color choice affects the top panel and the two side bezels.

At right around 12 pounds, the M18x R2 feels as solid as a Mack Truck, and would probably hurt just as much if you were to run into this thing at full speed. The construction is solid and the beautiful 18.4-inch panel is super sturdy and not the least bit flimsy. There's no flex like you'll find on some Ultrabooks that weigh a fraction of the amount, and though Alienware's not pitching this system as a "rugged" notebook, we have no doubt it can take a beating, and certainly withstand the daily grind of hardcore gamers.

The top panel has a slab of anodized aluminum that covers the display, which gives way to a rubberized coating along the top edge. That same rubber treatment extends to the wrist rest and wraps around the LED-backlit keyboard. It's very comfortable, and while not totally immune to fingerprints, it doesn't attract them nearly as much as a glossy finish would.

There are a couple of intake vents on the front, both of which glow whichever color you have configured. We like the aggressive molding and overall curves of the notebook, all of which come together to form a futuristic theme. The other thing that's visibly evident from the moment you unbox the M18x is its thickness. It's slightly tapered, measuring 2.15 inches high in the rear and 2.09 inches high in the front.

In keeping with the futuristic theme, the keycaps all have tapered edges that slant downwards, almost bumping into each other. It's a bit of a modified chiclet design, and a little more space in between keys would go a long way towards increasing the comfort level when hammering out lengthy breakup letters, angry emails to your boss, or whatever else you may need to type to get rid of whatever it is that interferes with your game time. Gaming, after all, is what the M18x R2 is all about. That's not to say the keyboard is uncomfortable to type on, it just doesn't rank as our favorite mobile plank. Otherwise, it offers decent key travel and is relatively quiet, so you can game into the wee hours of the morning without waking everyone up.

Underneath the keyboard and sitting slightly to the left is a sizable touchpad that supports multi-touch gestures (you have to enable it in the Synaptics software) like pinch-to-zoom and both horizontal and vertical scrolling (this also must be enabled). For any type of real gaming, you're obviously going to want to invest in a mouse, but for navigating Windows and general use scenarios, the touchpad is up to the task.

LED backlighting is applied liberally throughout the M18x, including the entire keyboard and around the touchpad. If you're not into the whole light show theme, you can disable the LEDs altogether.

Unfortunately, the sound emitted from the 2.1 speakers doesn't have the same flair as the overall aesthetics. The speakers get loud enough to fill a room, but the audio being pumped out is a bit hollow and suffers from a serious bass deficiency. You're much better off pairing the M18x with a quality headset or outputting sound to external speakers.

On the left side of the M18x, from left to right you'll find a Kinsington Lock, RJ-45 GbE port, VGA port, HDMI 1.4 output, mini-DisplayPort, two USB 3.0 ports, and four audio ports (S/PDIF, microphone, and two audio outputs). Note that the USB ports are not color coded blue, but they do in fact operate at the SuperSpeed USB 3.0 specification.

Flipping over to the opposite side, there's a slot-load Blu-ray reader / DVD burner combo drive sitting beneath an ExpressCard slot, 9-in-1 memory card reader, two more USB 3.0 ports (for a total of four), eSATA / USB 2.0 combo port, and HDMI 1.3 input.

Kudos to Alienware to sticking all the connectivity ports on the sides of the M18x rather than utilizing the rear of the chassis where it's not as convenient. All you'll find on the back is the power connector for the included 330W AC adapter and several exhaust vents. You'll hear the fans on the inside ramp up when putting the system under a heavy load, especially GPU intensive chores, but it's not a high-pitched sound or overly obnoxious.

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