Forget the cataclysmic events forecast for 2012 -- the world's already imploded. Both Ferrari and Porsche have made hybrids, somebody's invented a jetpack you can actually buy, and Alienware has made a netbook.
It's no ordinary netbook, either. Alienware says the 11.6-inch M11x will deliver the sort of gaming and graphics performance you'd normally expect from 15- or even 17-inch laptops, while still offering a relatively compact body. The M11x starts at about £750, although our review sample, which sits near the top of the range, retails for around £1,185.
Floats like a butterfly
The M11x is noticeably larger than your average netbook. Its chassis measures 286 by 33 by 233mm, and weighs 2kg, so it has more in common with a small ultra-portable laptop than an Eee PC.
That's not to say it's particularly hefty, though. Both the M11x and its power supply will slot into a medium-sized man-bag with ease, and it's light enough to carry pretty much anywhere you go. Given its gaming credentials, which we'll explore later, it's the perfect machine to take to a LAN party.
The M11x may be highly portable, but it's not something we can see our mums using in public. In typical Alienware fashion, its styling is aggressive, and there are enough flashing lights to put your local disco to shame.
The power button, the keyboard, the left and right front corners of the chassis, and the status lights above the keyboard can all be assigned their own independent colour from a palette of 19, or told to cycle between a pair of colours. Consequently, there's no need for your M11x to look the same as anyone else's.
Connect the slots
One upshot of the M11x's extra girth is its awesome connectivity. The right side of the machine is home to a mic jack, two USB ports and two headphone jacks -- so multiple users can listen to headphones in relative privacy.
On the opposite site, portmageddon has broken loose. There are three video output ports (D-Sub, HDMI and DisplayPort), a third USB socket, an Ethernet port, a 4-pin FireWire port, and a memory-card reader. There's also a SIM-card slot into which users can connect their own 3G SIM card for true go-anywhere Internet access. Unfortunately, Alienware has yet to install a 3G modem in UK-spec M11x machines, but the company will add this as an optional extra 'in a few months'.
High-speed components are what really sets the M11x apart from its rivals. The basic model uses an ultra-low-voltage, dual-core, 1.3GHz Intel Pentium SU4100 processor with 2MB of L2 cache. If this doesn't quite meet your performance needs, Alienware will chuck in an Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 for an extra £55. This chip has much in common with the SU4100, but is marginally quicker, thanks to its 3MB of L2 cache.