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Alienware M18x Laptop Review (with i7-2960XM Extreme Edition)

Over the years Alienware have earned a reputation for creating some of the finest gaming laptops available to the enthusiast user. With such a wealth of configuration options, the M18x reinforces the brand name and cements their position, right at the top of the ‘no compromises’ pile.

Of course, this machine will be tailored for a small audience. People with a high amount of disposable budget, and those who want a desktop replacement without having to compromise on performance. With our chosen configuration, the M18x accepts no compromises and it just blasted through all our testing. The Intel Core i7-2960XM Extreme Edition is an absolutely incredible mobile processor and with it at the heart of a system full time duties as a rendering and video encoding station are easily feasible. The only problem is that it adds £850 to the asking price.

The Nvidia mobile 560m graphics cards are very impressive, and in an SLI configuration they can maintain solid frame rates at 1080p with all game engines available today. It is worth mentioning that we didn’t test solely with old Direct X 9 titles today either, we included intensive Direct X 11 titles such as Total War Shogun 2 and the excellent F1 2011. If you want even more power then Nvidia 580m SLI is an option, but be prepared to add another £840 to the final price.

The overall build quality is superb and it is hard to find fault. The system backlighting options are phenomenal and really add to the overall appearance. That said, we do wish that Dell would reinforce the keyboard a little to remove the minimal amount of flex. This really should not be noticeable on a machine at this price point. Internal build quality was faultless and the engineer who assembled the machine clearly took his time.

We were extremely impressed with the WLED 1080p screen. Backlighting was consistent across the full width of the panel, and it offered enough brightness to be used in daylight. For high definition media playback and gaming it excelled and is easily as good as the best screens we have seen used on the high end Apple Macbook Pro laptops.

Noise levels are reasonably good, the M18x will remain quiet until tasked hard with 100% CPU load, or when powering a Direct X game at high settings. As an insanely specified desktop replacement we can accept a certain amount of noise.

We did find out that Dell are using Sata 3Gbps Solid State drives, which is slightly disappointing, especially as our testing highlighted that a Sandforce SF-2281 powered drive was capable of maintaining 450 MB/s+ sequential transfer speeds (rather than 250 MB/s+). The motherboard has SATA 6Gbps capability, so why not use it?

The machine we reviewed today was custom specified to £3,568 inc vat and is it without a doubt the most powerful laptop we have reviewed to date. Nothing has even came close.

Specify your own over here.

Pros:

  • Overall performance is staggering.
  • As powerful as a high end Core i7 2600k desktop gaming system.
  • Build quality is exceptional.
  • Onboard lighting system is a lesson in how it should be done.
  • Can power the latest Direct X 11 games.
  • Fantastic 1080p panel.
  • Strong upgrade options.
  • Is supplied with three pre-overclocked bios settings.
  • Can be overclocked even further in the right hands.
  • Klipsch onboard speaker system is impressive.

Cons:

  • Heavy.
  • Expensive.
  • 3GBps SATA drive used.
  • Some keyboard flex.
  • Cooling system can be heard when taxed hard.

Kitguru says: The most powerful laptop we have reviewed to date. Nothing comes close.

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Rating: 9.0.

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