Gaming Laptop Roundup

by Jarred Walton on August 29, 2008 5:00 AM EST

Alienware m15x - Overview

We'll start with the Alienware m15x, which is certainly the most unique laptop we're looking at today. Alienware is one of the heavy hitters among the boutique computer vendors, and as a wholly owned subsidiary of Dell to have more resources than many of their competitors. In the past, some of Alienware's laptops were simply ODM designs with a customized shell on top. To the best of our knowledge, the m15x is a unique design that's only available from Alienware.

Alienware computers - both laptops and desktops - have always tended to look at users either love or hate. The m15x has tone things down a bit, and that users are able to choose between one of two chassis designs. Besides the usual "Skullcap" design, which we've seen on most of their laptops (including the m7950), Alienware now offers a "Ripley" design. Both options use a shiny silver plastic that likes to collect fingerprints (although they're not as visible as they would be on a shiny black exterior), but the Ripley design doesn't have the extra ridges and tends to be a bit more understated in appearance.

We're not quite sure how understated a glowing alien face can be, not to mention the lighting highlights around the borders of the case and on the keyboard, but there you have it. The m15x has six different zones for the AlienFX lighting: the alien head and power button (with two different states depending on whether you're plugged in or using battery), the light pipe around the border of the LCD, the Alienware logo at the bottom of the LCD, the quick touch controls, the touchpad, and the keyboard - note that the keyboard lighting is an optional upgrade. You can set each of these areas independently to one of 12 colors (counting white and black/off as colors). It's kind of gimmicky, but not all gimmicks are bad - certainly my teenage nephew was duly impressed by the lighting.

In the above gallery, you can see pictures of the m15x laptop on our operating table being dissected. Sometimes this is easy, and sometimes it can be extremely frustrating trying to determine what screw you might have missed. Even worse are the laptops that have plastic clips that hold the case together, which frequently break no matter how careful you are when you take things apart.

In the case of the Alienware m15x, getting at all of the important internal components is extremely simple - one large cover provides access to everything from the memory slots and hard drive to the CPU and GPU. While this might make doing things like swapping hard drives or replacing/upgrading memory a bit more tedious than if they had separate compartments, the easy access to the CPU and GPU is definitely appreciated. Now all we need is the ability to upgrade MXM modules, which is unfortunately not something offered or supported just yet.

While getting at the major components was easy, after an hour of trying to remove the keyboard and look at some of the other parts without success, we decided to call it quits before we broke something. Besides, how often is it that you need to replace your motherboard or keyboard on a laptop?

Index Alienware M15x – Features and Specifications
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • NotebookGamer - Monday, October 20, 2008 - link

    I've been wanting to see a gaming laptops showdown between the Clevo matched up against the m1730.

    I got my NP9262 from Factor Gaming.

  • cg0def - Monday, September 15, 2008 - link

    Say it ain so! I still remember when Alienware laptops used to look good. What happened guys? Oh, nm dell bough them ... well tough luck ...
  • jfdmit - Saturday, September 13, 2008 - link

    I exchanged my crashing 7811 for another one today, and so far it's working perfectly. No lockups, no webcam crashes, just speed and stability. I can finally see the real potential of this great gaming machine. It really does seem to be luck of draw whether you get a good one or a dud.
  • jfdmit - Thursday, September 11, 2008 - link

    As I noted in the comment I added to your first review of this machine, I've had a pretty bad time with stability. It doesn't matter whether I use the stock 176, or the patched 177.92 or 177.98 drivers, my 7811 is still totally unstable when playing games that even moderately tax the graphics subsystem. Spore locks the machine hard after an hour. Crysis gets about 30 minutes. Thereafter, the locks happen more and more frequently, interspersed with occasional BSODs.

    I suspect the problem is heat. The increasing frequency of the lockups when gaming, coupled with the fact that the machine works fine for non-gaming tasks, makes me think that the machine's cooling system just can't handle the load. I've ensured that there is plenty of room underneath the machine and even set it on a laptop cooling pad, but none of this has made any difference.

    Unfortunately, as it stands, I cannot recomment the 7811 as a gaming PC.
  • Ben - Sunday, August 31, 2008 - link

    Thanks for the article, but I expected more than 3 laptops when I read the title, "roundup".
  • Ben - Sunday, August 31, 2008 - link

    OK, you have 3 models listed on the index, you say 4 in the test setup, and then there's 5 benchmarks.

    I guess 5 is enough for a "roundup" though. :)
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, August 31, 2008 - link

    Four "new" models, and one returning model. This was originally going to be a seven laptop roundup, but the text was already too long. The next three are midrange options.
  • ikjadoon - Sunday, August 31, 2008 - link

    What gives? Overdrive PC overclocks their laptops and Velocity Micro has some fine systems, too..

    Great review, however. :)
  • rvikul - Sunday, August 31, 2008 - link

    I went to BestBuy today to take a look at the Gateway model. thought i'd add a few observations.

    I was surprised by how large the laptop was. The optical drive kept popping out and would not close properly, but that could be due to customer abuse on the display model.

    I am not too thrilled about the form factor - it looks kinda ugly but thats subjective. Ethernet port is on the side which is weird since i would like it hidden behind the laptop. For a gaming laptop I dont see the need for a full keyboard. The arrow keys are really cramped together.

  • nycromes - Tuesday, September 2, 2008 - link

    I actually purchased the P7811fx from BB this weekend. For those interested it is $200 off (at least in my area) and you get a free PC game up to $50 value.

    It does have a large form factor, in fact it wont fit most 17' carrying cases. Sitting on my lap, it feels like a table because it is so large. I don't mind though, I wanted the 17 in screen as well as a full keyboard. Many people want a keypad for uses in things like MMOs, that is a big selling point for me.

    As for the optical drive... it opens easily. Mine will stay closed unless I push on the button (which as indicated in this roundup, is very easy to do just picking it up).

    From what I have read, the lockups on these machines are only affecting some laptops. Many people have exchanged in the 14 day window to get one and their problems have been fixed.

    Oh, the wireless button feels kinda cheap... I will have to see how long it lasts. I look forward to being able to upgrade it in the future (hopefully) and keep this laptop for a long time. Its a good machine, the colors aren't fabulous, but they don't really bother me. Its a great time to get one if you are looking at it since it is discounted right now.

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now