With the Alienware M11x, Dell proves that underweight doesn’t have to mean underpowered. Supercharged graphical performance and an overclocked processor amount to peerless gaming prowess for laptops of this size – but at what price? Read on for our full Alienware M11x review to find out.
Alienware’s systems have always been about the power user: balls to the wall performance and aggressive styling that reinforces the product image that here is a laptop for serious gamers. And although the Alienware M11x is certainly smaller than its larger siblings, the M15x and M17x, the baby of the family retains all the hallmarks of an Alienware system.
A chunky, angular body is available in “Cosmic Black” or “Lunar Shadow”, and colour-customisable LED-lit areas adorn the Alienware M11x chassis everywhere, from saucer-folk logos to the illuminated keyboard. It’s essentially a slimmed-down replica of the standard Alienware design for a smaller system, in this case an ultraportable. Weighing in at just 2kg, the Alienware M11x is no featherweight, but it’s certainly very totable.
Running up the sides of the Alienware M11x are three USB ports, Ethernet, VGA, Firewire, a DisplayPort (rather than the more HDTV friendly HDMI-out), a 3-in-1 media slot and the standard audio jacks. Noticeably absent is an optical drive, but its omission is of course essential to the Alienware M11x’ small size. To be honest, we rarely find outselves using optical media these days, and we found Steam more than adequate on the digital game delivery front. The standard 160GB (5,400 rpm) hard drive is upgradeable to 500GB (7,200 rpm) or 256GB solid state drives if you’re prepared to shell out extra for the privilege, so there’s plenty of room to store all your games once they’re downloaded.
Gaming on the Alienware M11x is a revelatory experience. We’d grown accustomed to sticking to lowly console emulators on netbooks, but this souped up machine beams up conventions and abducts them. In the base model, you’ll find a 1.3 GHz Intel SU4100 Processor (our review system was equipped with the higher-end Core 2 Duo overclocked to 1.73GHz), and coupled with a 1GB GeForce GT 335M graphics card, it delivers frame rates unheard of for laptop of this size, pushing pixels around Crysis (Yes, Crysis) and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 with ease.
Alienware’s Binary GFX feature further boosts the Alienware M11x’ performance by enabling live switching between the discrete GeForce GT graphics card and the integrated Intel graphics chipset, effectively trading performance for battery life. You’ll get about six and half hours runtime with the integrated chipset and lightweight usage, but a hot-blooded gaming session will see battery life shorten to just two and a half hours.
While that might sound brief, the Alienware M11x delivers a gaming experience that was previously unavailable at the lightweight end of the laptop market – and hey, it’s still a London to Manchester train trip, or European flight. Gamers missing the genuine, Triple-A title experience from their travels will relish those two and a half hours, in spite of the £749 price tag.