The M11x has 2GB of DDR3, 1,066MHz RAM as standard -- upgradeable to 4GB or 8GB -- and a choice of hard drives. The basic system comes with a 320GB, 7,200rpm unit, although users can upgrade to a 500GB, 7,200rpm drive for an extra £30, or a 256GB solid-state drive for £300 more. Sadly, the M11x lacks an
optical drive, which means gamers will have to resort to digital download services such as Steam.
All versions of the M11x come with an 11.6-inch, 1,366x768-pixel display, and not one but two graphics cards. The first is an Intel integrated graphics processor unit designed for basic everyday tasks like browsing the Web. Hit the Fn button plus F6, however, and the M11x switches to high-performance mode, kicking the Intel CPU to the kerb in favour of an HD-chucking, polygon-flinging Nvidia GeForce GT 335M.
In high-performance mode, the M11x wipes the floor with everything else in its size and weight class. It achieved a very impressive score of 5,654 in the PCMark05 benchmark test -- more than three times what you can expect from an ordinary netbook. This tally is also greater than the 5,190 achieved by 17-inch Samsung R720, which uses a 2.1GHz Core 2 Duo T4300.
Incredibly, it's also capable of running almost any game thrown at it, including graphics-intensive titles such as Crysis. With the medium graphics settings applied and at a resolution of 1,024x768 pixels, the M11x ran Crysis at an average of 36 frames per second, which is unheard of for a machine of this size, and relatively rare even with larger laptops. Its 3DMark06 score of 5,968 reinforces its gaming credentials further, eclipsing the 3,340 scored by the Samsung R720.
Run, Forrest! Run!
One could easily be forgiven for thinking this sort of performance would affect the battery life, and it does, but Alienware has a solution. While using the Intel integrated GPU, the M11x can last as long, and often longer, than many of its similarly sized rivals.
In Battery Eater's Classic test, which simulates a worst-case scenario for battery life by running the CPU at full pelt until the battery dies, the M11x lasted an impressive 3 hours and 44 minutes. That's well shy of Alienware's claimed 8 hours and 39 minutes, but, with more frugal use, there's every chance the machine could achieve something close to that time.
The Alienware M11x is a stunning piece of kit. It's bigger, thicker and more expensive than your average netbook, but it blows everything else out of the water with its astonishing performance. If you want a machine that's comfortable to use, highly portable and brutally quick, there simply is no alternative. Miss it at your peril.
Edited by Charles Kloet