The Aurora mALX is arguably the most audacious gaming laptop in Alienware's line-up. Not only is it airbrushed to give it a 'gamer's' aesthetic, but it's also the first laptop to use 1GB of dedicated graphics memory -- giving it arguably the greatest graphics performance seen outside of a high-end gaming rig.
The Alienware Aurora mALX uses a familiar Clevo M590K chassis -- a case we've seen used by countless other laptop vendors. It's not the most stylish chassis we've seen, but credit where it's due: this model has a glossy black coating that gives it a certain menace.
The lid of the laptop has a custom paint job. Alienware has airbrushed an image of what we can only describe as the feet of a six-toed mutant ninja onto either side of the lid. This comes across better than the moulded plastic 'ribs' that can be found on the rest of the high-end Alienware laptop range. The lid also has the familiar Alienware head and a painted section that changes from blue to purple depending on the angle it's viewed from.
The laptop has a large keyboard with a dedicated numerical keypad. As with many laptops that use the Clevo M590K chassis, there are some build-quality issues. The keyboard on our Aurora mALX was coming away from the chassis at the top-left edge and although it doesn't hinder the usability of the laptop, this sort of thing is likely to get worse over time.
Above the keyboard is a pair of upwards-facing speakers, and between them a set of circular shortcut keys and a power button with a blue LED. The shortcut keys control the activation of the laptop's integrated webcam at the top of the screen, the Bluetooth capability and the launch of your default Web browser.
The mouse touchpad is finished in a rather plain grey colour, which isn't very in-keeping with the dominant black and silver theme. But we were glad to see that far-right side of the touchpad has a vertical scroll section which makes it easier to read through long documents.
The mALX doesn't have any serial or parallel ports, but we were happy to see a total of five USB ports, which is a lot for a laptop. There's also a mini (4-pin) FireWire port and a 4-in-1 memory card reader that supports SD, MS, MSPRO and MMC cards.
Alienware uses both Intel and AMD components but the company tends to favour AMD chips for its ultra high-end machines. The Aurora mALX gets the dubious honour of using an AMD Turion 64 ML-44 CPU running at 2.41GHz. It's slightly surprising not to see a more modern chip, particularly given the laptop's high price.
By using this older technology, AMD has also had to stick with standard DDR PC3200 memory running at 400MHz. Although there's a healthy 2GB of the stuff, we'd have preferred it if Alienware supplied faster DDR2 memory as seen on AMD laptops with more modern foundations.
The mALX is extremely well equipped in the graphics department. It ships with a pair of Nvidia GeForce Go 7900 GTX graphics cards -- the fastest mobile graphics processing unit (GPU) available. Each has 512MB of dedicated memory. This gives the laptop phenomenal gaming power, but the processor acts as a slight system bottleneck, as we'll see when we investigate the laptop's overall performance below.
The mALX's 19-inch screen hinders its gaming performance slightly. Its comparatively limited resolution of 1,680x1,050 pixels doesn't allow it to take advantage of the SLI graphics configuration's ability to run at super-high resolutions (1,600x1,200 and beyond). Secondly, the display's widescreen aspect ratio can cause a couple of slight problems for gamers. Few games run in a widescreen aspect ratio, so many titles will simply run in a 4:3 box leaving borders at each side of the screen, or stretch the image to fit a 16:10 aspect ratio, blurring and distorting it slightly in the process.