The good news is that an increasing number of games are being created with widescreen modes, and patches are being released to run existing 4:3 games in native widescreen.
The screen itself is of a good standard. It uses the same glossy coating as seen on many other laptops in order to help improve the contrast levels and make colours appear more vibrant. We found it great for watching DVD movies and viewing pictures on. Unfortunately the enhanced contrast and vibrancy meant it wasn't precise enough to use as a serious image editing machine unless the video signal was routed to an external monitor via the laptop's DVI port.
Most laptops rely on their integrated audio chips for audio processing, but the mALX comes with a high-end Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS PC Card. This delivers a very high signal to noise ratio of 104dB and is fully THX certified. If you want to make the most of this, we'd recommend you get some 7.1-channel speakers -- game soundtracks will sound really awesome through them.
Given the laptop's high price, we were surprised Alienware didn't include a two-disk RAID array. Instead, storage is provided by a single 100GB Seagate Momentus ST910021AS hard drive. This is ample storage for most users, as large games such as F.E.A.R. only occupy around 5GB of disk space. But prolific gamers will have to uninstall games to make room for new ones at some stage, particularly if they install a wealth of other multimedia content such as videos or music.
Alienware has opted for an NEC ND-6750A DVD rewriter drive that is compatible with DVD plus and minus formats at up to 8x. It's also dual-layer-compatible so it'll let you write up to 8.5GB of data at up to 4x. The drive is fine for most uses, but again, we'd love to see a more advanced drive, perhaps Blu-ray or HD DVD for this sort of money.
There's an integrated 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi adaptor so you can get on the Internet or network with other PCs without cables, but if you do use wires you can get network throughput at up to 1,000Mb/sec thanks to the Marvell Yukon 88e8053 Gigabit ethernet adaptor, provided the other PCs on the wired network also have a Gigabit Ethernet card.
There's little in the way of software. The mALX only comes with Windows XP Professional Edition, but there's some compensation in the number of accessories it ships with. There's an exclusive ALX backpack to help you carry the laptop around in, an ALX portfolio, name plate, mouse pad, polo shirt, keychain, pen and there's even a Razer Diamondback gaming mouse to help you get the edge over your 3D shooter rivals.Performance
The mALX wasn't quite as impressive as the 20-inch Dell XPS M2010 in its core processing ability, as indicated by its PCMark 2005 score of 3,877. The Dell machine's dual-core processor helped it achieve 4,122 by comparison. That said, the mALX wasn't far off, and absolutely obliterates the Dell machine when it comes to raw gaming power.
It racked up a huge 3DMark 2006 total of 5,905 at a resolution of 1,280x1,024 -- which is a lot when you compare it to the Dell's tally of 2,244. In real-world terms, this equates to a Doom 3 frame rate of 133fps at 1,024x768 with 4x anti-aliasing -- the fastest we've ever seen on any laptop. F.E.A.R. performance was also impressive at 86fps.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield