The M18x is a very attractively designed laptop, which is unlike many of the larger machines available on the market today. The sculpted corners and angular panels really enhance the overall appearance, giving it a slightly futuristic dynamic. It is crafted from aluminum and rubberised plastics.
There is no catch or locking mechanism on the lid however it does seal with a reassuring weight. At the top of the panel is a 3.0 Megapixel HD Video and Picture Camera with dual digital microphones. The camera is reasonably good, although not the best we have used.
The 18.4 inch screen is a beautiful 16:9 1080p implementation which is glossy, but delivers crystal clear, razor sharp images. For Bluray media and gaming it is a perfect partner. There is plenty of brightness available, meaning the screen is usable in all but direct sunlight. Viewing angles are superb and two or three people can sit in front of the screen and see the images perfectly. This is as good a laptop screen as we have seen and superior to anything we have reviewed this year.
The M18x keyboard is beautifully finished and like other models in the series it uses the futuristic ‘Star Trek’ style font on the lettering. It is the same size as the model on the M17x and has a full numpad on the right.
The keyboard is very good, and although there is a little flex it was easy enough to reach close to optimum typing speeds. We are glad to see Dell using a double height return key. It falls a little short of the one used on the ThinkPad X1 for heavy duty typing demands (recently reviewed over here) but it is significantly above average.
Top right is a row of stylish function buttons which allow for volume and media adjustment as well as for ejection of optical discs and wireless connectivity. The last button on the right gives direct access to the AlienFX software. This is also backlit and custom controllable.
We have looked at the AlienFX software before, but in action it is easily the leading implementation on the market. You can control various sections of the board to vary the colours, and with the advanced settings even have areas pulsing.
The trackpad is excellent and offers full support for gestures. Along the side of the board is a row of 5 function keys which can be split into 3 sets offering 15 customisable functions within games.
Power saving settings are extremely detailed, covering all aspects of performance. Dell have it set up fairly well for both battery and mains power.
The lighting is very effective and beautifully designed. It is evenly lit, thanks to the sections of LED sources underneath.
The 96Wh battery slots into the middle of the M18x. There is a readout, via a button on the back of the chassis which indicates a portion of battery life left. The M18x can handle an SLI configuration (and AMD cards if you desire), and this particular system build contains two Nvidia 560m graphics solutions. You can equip the machine with two Nvidia 580m discrete cards, but you will add almost £900 to the price. Bottom right in the image above, you can see the Samsung 256GB Solid State drive however you can get Dell to configure the system with two. There are also mechanical drive options available, up to 2 x 750GB in Raid 0.