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05 December 2009

Dell Alienware M15x



The Dell Alienware M15x is a massive laptop with potential for serious gaming.

As soon as you finish unpacking and place the Alienware M15x on your desk, you realise that this is a monster designed for just one purpose: Heavy-duty gaming.

More than twice the size and almost thrice the weight of a conventional laptop, it lights up a dark room with keyboard and front grille lights. It is certainly a head turner, especially if you are in a public place with it.

Once you turn it on, Alienware gives you the option of letting your face be your password. The facial recognition software uses the built-in webcam and is pretty neat.

It is easy to set up, you do not have to “remember” your face and it is arguably more secure than a password.

Strangely, the biometric connection to the webcam is not always functional. Sometimes when you turn it on it says the facial ­recognition is not available and you have to log in via regular password.

From the exterior, I was happy that this unit came with thee USB ports (one eSATA combo port) as I am not fond of using USB adaptors.




ALIEN TECH: The Alien head is the power button and its eyes blink to hard disk usage.



However, the touchpad has some serious bugs. Right off the bat, you can see the lag and unresponsiveness of it. It is not a vital component of any laptop, much less a gaming laptop, but you still expect it to work.

Game on

This model must have been one of the last to come with Windows Vista. Sure enough, it came with a coupon for a free upgrade to Windows 7. However, I figured I may as well try on Vista since it came standard with it. Before installing any games, I decided to update Vista and install Service Pack 2.

This did not seem to speed up the start-up process which I found to be unusually long for a device that is built for speed. Good riddance, Windows Vista.

The first game I installed was Far Cry 2 and it ran fantastically well even on the highest resolution and graphics detail.

There was a little distortion if I had a browser open when I loaded the game but nothing overly distracting or catastrophic.

To be fair, that could be attributed to Vista as I could only minimise the game and surf about one out of three tries (by using Alt + Tab) without the game crashing. Some of us like to surf a little in-between levels!

If the current rave about Windows 7 is true, this could all have been fixed with the Windows 7 upgrade.

Red Alert 3 worked a little better. It crashed less on minimising, perhaps half the time.

Considering RA3 is a real-time strategy game it is more static than Far Cry 2 which is an open environment first-person shooter. That is probably why it crashed less.

The graphics, again, was handled superbly on high and ultra-high settings.

You can tell by the rapid gameplay that the graphics card can hold its own, especially when you turn up the RA3 game speed and watch ultra-high resolution armies fight to the death.

Wanna play outside?

Besides for gaming, taking this massive thing outside to play will make you think twice at best.

It is more than 4kg in weight and the 6-cell battery will last about 1.5 hours while gaming without an external power source.

Effectively you are lugging around a small child and constantly searching for a place where it can feed.

Even though gaming is generally done indoors, this is still a laptop and one of the reasons you pay more for it is because it is mobile. It is not the most practical thing to carry around by anyone’s imagination.

If you do take it out anyway, it is certainly a head turner. Its sheer size, beaming colours and extra-terrestrial design is pretty ­awe-inspiring. It is quite literally the (alien) elephant in the room.

Accessories

The review for this model included Alienware TactX headphones and TactX mouse with the Alienware command centre.

Now it should be remembered that these are not included in the RM5,999 price tag, with the headphones priced at RM276 and the mouse at RM365.

With the TactX mouse you are given a command centre CD which is a utility program that allows you to customise the buttons on it, amongst other things.

It was a better gaming experience being able to hear gunfire from the exact direction it’s coming from with the headphones and the customised ergonomic mouse can ruin other mice for you.

The price for the M15X seems reasonable in comparison with its counterparts. For those who were expecting to spend more on a gaming unit may consider indulging on the extras.

Conclusion

It is hard to gauge whether Windows 7 could have cured the distortion and minimisation issues but it’s likely it would have helped in some way.

Besides for that, the Alienware M15X lives up to its promise of top class gaming even for their laptop models but it may be too ­strenuous to carry around.

The faulty touchpad is also a major concern but overall the M15X is intense both in style and substance.

It is relatively cheap and is can be a highly useful while waiting for friends at a coffee shop, assuming it was practical to haul it over there.

Pros: Great for gaming; cool design; decently priced.

Cons: Heavy; buggy touchpad; minor OS issues.



Alienware M15x

(Dell)

Gaming laptop

Processor: Intel Core i7-720QM (1.6GHz) mobile processor

Memory: 4GB DDR3 RAM

Graphics: 1GB nVidia GeForce GTX 260M

Display: 15.6in widescreen with LED backlight (1,920 x 1,080-pixels)

Storage: 500GB SATA hard drive

Connectivity: WiFi 802.11b/g/, Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth

I/O Ports: IEEE 1394a, 2 Audio out connectors, VGA out

Operating system: Windows Vista Home Premium

Other features: Facial recognition software

Battery: 6-cell lithium-ion

Dimensions (w x d x h): 378 x 308 x 48.7mm

Weight: 4.08kg

Price: RM5,999

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