Published on November 29th, 2010 | by Bryant Kazmerzak, Contributor
Hardware Review: Alienware M11XR2
First off, I want to go on the record of saying that writing this review is as alien to me as the hardware’s namesake. I am familiar with the process of reviewing a videogame – You play it, you talk about what you liked and/or disliked. But where it comes to hardware, the process is a bit different. You have to own it, make it yours, before you do anything else. You have to do with it what you aren’t afraid to do with your own computers. You have to overheat it, push it to the limits, do everything you can to break it without actually physically breaking it.
Where it comes to computers, I am an expert. I have been tinkering with computers since I was 8. I’ve taught myself how to break passwords in Windows XP, how to strip a computer clean and blow out the dust in the time it takes to get through a Jack In The Box drive-thru at midnight (Note: About 30-45 minutes depending on how stoned the fry cook is), and how to tweak even a crappy computer to be able to play good games at decent framerates.
So, when my contact at Alienware emailed me and said that I would be reviewing an M11X, I was excited. Please understand, I had never touched an Alienware computer before PAX 2010, when the Enforcer known as “Joost” let me use his to check my email one day. Joost had an M11X, too, but his was an R1, which was released before Alienware started stuffing iSeries processors into them. However, his Core 2 Duo was able to run Mass Effect 2 on all high settings at framerates comparable to most mid-level gaming PC’s, which impressed the living heck out of me.
First and foremost, the laptop itself is beautiful. The model I received, a matte-black variant, almost brought a tear to my eye. Clean of fingerprints, gunk, smudges and dirt, it was like looking at your newborn baby for the first time. I felt like I should be proud of it, and, indeed, I was. There were fully customizable trim lights, and Alienware had chosen red as the default. Believe me, it was a sight to behold. I’m not a fan of the recent influx of near-fetishistic unboxing videos on YouTube, or I’d have made one myself.
After all, how many people can say they have an Alienware laptop?!
- Mobile Intel QS57 Express Chipset
- Intel Core i7 640UM (4M Cache, 1.2 GHz with 2.266 Ghz Max Turbo Frequency
- 1GB DDR3 nVidia GeForce Gt 335M
- Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (5-Series)
- Dynamically switchable with nVidia Optimus Technology
- 4GB DDR3 – 800 Mhz
- 500GB – 7200 RPM
- None (External available via Dell (Wasn’t included in the kit (Would’ve been nice, have you tried downloading World Of Warcraft on DSL speeds recently?)))
- Internal High-Definition 5.1 Surround Sound Audio
- Intel a/b/g/n 2×2 MIMO
- Internal WWAN Mobile Broadband (Not tested)
- Internal Wireless Bluetooth 2.1
- 8 Cell Prismatic (64 whr) – Primary
- IEEE 1394a (4-pin)
- Integrated RJ-45 Ethernet (100 Mb/s)
- 3 High-speed USB 2.0 ports
- DisplayPort / HDMI – Video Output
- 3-in-1 Media Card Reader
- 2 Audio Out Connectors
- Audio In / Microphone Jack (5.1 audio support)
- Two Built-In Front Speakers
- Height: 1.29″
- Width: 11.25″
- Depth: 9.19″
- Weight: 4.4 lbs (Starting weight, 8-cell battery)
- AlienFX Illuminated Keyboard/Speaker Lights
- Laser-Engraved Nameplate
- Soft-Touch “Stealth Black” Casing
- 11.6″ WideHD 1366×768 (720p) LCD Display
- Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
I’ve already previously stated how beastly the laptop is, and for every unit of beast, there is an equal measurement of beauty. It’s like”Snooki” from the Jersey Shore, though not retarded and with a few less viruses; Kind of cute, fun, fierce, stylish, and all contained in a package small enough to make it legally a “little person“. Other laptops (And some desktops) dress up as the M11X for Halloween.
I love the keyboard, and though my fat fingers had some difficulty at first, after an hour or two I was able to type as fast as I am normally accustomed to, if not faster. The trackpad is responsive and easily adjusted, with two solid left- and right-click buttons, as one would expect, with the added feature of automatically shutting off when it detects a USB or Bluetooth mouse.
The battery life is phenominal for a gaming laptop as well. Some people are used to netbooks with their 8+ hour battery lives, but you have to realize that even though this is a relatively small form factor, it is made for some of the most demanding applications and games. 3-3.5 hours of heavy use on a single charge is damn good, considering I was able to watch Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and an episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead before I was told to plug it in. I was able to stretch it out to 6 hours just writing and revising this article. I was even able to DJ lady’s night at my dad’s bar for a short while, much to the admiration of all the inebriated females in attendance that night. Ladies love the pink LED’s.
By the way, never bring shiny, expensive electronics (Especially ones you dont own) out around drunkards… You never know when your heart is going to spontaneously fall out your ass after hearing “Bro, that’s a sick looking laptop! Does it play COD4?!“, followed by a loud crash.
That didn’t happen to me, I’m just sayin’!
However, despite all the praises, I do have some complaints.
For one, the trackpad is set just a little too far off center for my taste; If it was maybe an inch, even an inch and a half to the right it would be absolutely perfect. As it stands, when I am gaming, I cannot use the track pad because the lower portion of my left thumb keeps grazing the pad as I am mousing around with it, which results in all kinds of mouse jerks. Which brings me to my first real complaint – All of this time spent making a very solid mobile gaming laptop, and they couldn’t put a multi-touch trackpad on it? Apple’s laptops are made of tofu and recycled turtlenecks, and yet their trackpads are some of the best on the market. Alienware/Dell should seriously look into that.
Second, the “AlienSense” software that they have on here just flat out bugs the living daylights out of me. Now, I am all about computer security – I can appreciate a well thought-out password or three. Thumbprint readers would be choice, but they can be just as easily spoofed as facial recognition and passwords. However, it can also piss you the hell off faster and more efficiently than a mis-pressed Caps Lock key or a dirty finger. Case in point: I calibrated the recognition software at night, with my kitchen lights illuminating me. When I went to log in in the morning, with sunlight streaming in through the blinds, the software was tripping over itself like a monkey trying to do a math problem. I finally had to enter my password after about a dozen and a half failed recog attempts. Lighting, 5-o’clock-shadow, messy/neat hair… It all confuses the camera. I do like how you can set it to continually check to see if you’re in front of the computer, and if it detects you’re not it will automatically lock itself. It’s great – In theory, but when actually applied it’s downright infuriating because it keeps locking itself when it doesn’t recognize the person who just calibrated the friggin’ thing ten minutes before.
My last gripe is a minor one, but I have to bring it up because it did kind of peeve me a bit. And, before I catch flak from Alienware for saying so, I do understand that it was a necessary omission to allow for the laptop to have such a great battery life and to allow for the hardware to fit in such a small form factor… But I cannot help but rage a bit when I need to install World of Warcraft, a 30+ gigabyte videogame, and I have to resort to downloading the files (On DSL, no less) instead of installing off a DVD-ROM. I get it, they make and sell external DVD/CD/Blu-Ray readers/writers, but I am both poor and without a job at the moment – I cannot afford such luxury.
All in all, the laptop was wonderful. The thing is whisper quiet, even when handling massive CPU/GPU loads; The speakers are great, I can actually feel the bass to some of my songs as it vibrates the tabletop; The display is bright, vivid, and shows video and game alike in great detail; The design and lighting of the whole package gives it the feeling of having a riced-out Honda Civic on your lap; And, lastly, the machine never ever got too hot for me to have on my lap, not even when running a defrag, a virus scan, a thorough CCleaner session, and while playing music in WinAmp with the visualizer turned on full-screen. Take that, MacBook!
If Alienware would ditch the facial recognition in favor of an integrated fingerprint reader, and swapped the existing trackpad with a multi-touch variant, it would be perfect. But, after all is said and done, the package that I recieved from Alienware, if purchased directly from the site, would run you about $1,250 USD before tax and S&H. Which, in this gamer’s honest opinion, is well worth the price when you take into account that if you take good care of it, treat it with respect, and properly maintain it, it could last you for years without needing an upgrade. I reccommend this laptop to any gamer out there with the extra money to spend and the hankering for some on-the-go, rock solid gaming.