Alienware Area-51 m15x review
Alienware's latest blends obscene power with surprising portability, but both come at a cost.
Review Date: 5 May 2008
Reviewed By: Sasha Muller
Price when reviewed: (£2,165 inc VAT)
With your average gaming desktop PC boasting a heat output which would rival that of your average space heater, the very idea of cramming hot, powerful components into the tiny confines of a laptop seems faintly ridiculous. But, that's exactly what Alienware has been successfully doing for years with their range of gaming-focussed notebooks.
Its newest model, the Area-51 m15x, goes one step further by cramming an assortment of top-of-the-range components into a relatively portable 15.4in chassis.
Sitting next to the gigantic Asus G70s, which we previewed a couple of days ago, the m15x looks impossibly compact for such a highly specified machine.
At 3.57kg it's still pretty weighty, though, and no smaller than your average 15.4 inch laptop. But considering the high-performance components inside it's impressive that it's anything less than huge and intimidatingly heavy.
The looks will divide opinion though. The silver chassis looks neat enough, but the lighting is less so. Strip lights surround the trackpad and glow along the display's edge, and the alien head and Alienware logo all light up with colours of your choosing.
The novelty is that this 'AlienFX' lighting, is customisable, but it's easy to abuse: select uncomplimentary shades - the previous reviewer seems to have favoured pink and green as his or her particular favourite - and you can make the m15x look strikingly horrid.
The lights aren't just there for decorative effect. They can do useful things, too, like flash a different colour when your inbox receives a new email, or change hue when the battery has fully recharged.
And, while our review model didn't seem to have it installed, Alienware also offer a backlit keyboard option - a £29 extra - which also illuminates in a range of different colours.
It's also possible to change the colour of the row of touch sensitive buttons above the keyboard but here it's certainly a case of form over function.
We often found ourselves prodding away repeatedly waiting for them to respond - it's a relatively minor issue, but when you're spending nearly £2,000 on a laptop, you'd expect every aspect to feel slick and assured.
And while we appreciate the clean lines of the silvery chassis, and even began to warm to the initially risible array of multi-coloured lighting, the build quality isn't quite so reassuring. Sitting flat on a desk the m15x's lid has a bit of give in it, not excessively so, but it is still noticeably pliant.
Flip up that lid though, and the average build quality seems much less forgiveable. Grip the display with both hands and even gentle twists to and fro elicit show through on the display accompanied by a slightly unnerving creaking noise.
Grappling with the base produces a similarly audible creak too - it's a far cry from the impressively sturdy Dell XPS M1530.
But, despite our reservations, it's clear that the custom-designed chassis is pretty special in many regards.
When it comes to gaming, it's all about the specifications and the m15x's are enough to satisfy even the most power-hungry of users.
The Intel Core 2 Duo Extreme X9000 partners a 2.8GHz clockspeed with 6MB of L2 cache and, with 2GB of system memory in tow, it produced the highest benchmark score we've ever seen from a laptop - an undeniably impressive 1.48.
With the prodigious heat output of the X9000 processor and 8800M GTX graphics chipset it's a wonder the m15x's chassis doesn't melt at the first sign of trouble, but it remains amazingly cool under pressure.
- New Windows 9 videos show off multi-desktops and notification centre
- BT and mobile networks warn of rising cost of Scotland split
- Phones 4u collapse puts iPhone 6 orders in doubt
- Chromebook owners get access to Android apps
- SanDisk lets you pop half-terabyte card in your camera
- Windows 9 video shows new Start menu
- iPhone 6 goes on sale... and retailer sites go down
- Intel's RealSense camera: seeing the world like a human
- Apple Watch release date, UK price and features
- How to try paid Android apps for free
- Tim Cook: this is how much TV has changed since the 70s
- Westminster wins the .London battle
- 20 years of PC Pro: from deep pan pizza to virtualisation
- Five reasons why the Apple Watch leaves me cold
- Apple Watch, iPhone 6 and 6 Plus: Tim Cook's Apple back with a bang?
- BT Home Hub 5: how to get maximum speed
- 20 years of PC Pro: one-star reviews (including "the worst tablet we've ever seen")
- 20 years of PC Pro: our best covers
- Why we've closed the PC Pro forums
- How to turn off Google Location Tracking
- The best smartwatches of 2014: what's the best smartwatch?
- Best of IDF: top tech and memorable moments from Intel's tech show
- How Apple Pay works and how to use it on your iPhone 6 or Apple Watch
- How to use remote-access software
- Tech support horror stories
- Become a tech support superhero
- Best of IFA 2014: what smartphones, tablets, smartwatches are expected to launch at IFA this year?
- How to uninstall a program on Windows: remove unwanted apps from your PC
- How to format a USB drive on a Mac or Windows
- What’s the best 4G network in the UK?
- How to sell more ebooks on Amazon
- 10 ways to make your business more secure
- Top five VoIP mistakes
- How to add in-app purchasing to an iPhone, Android or Windows app
- Remote-control ransomware: TeamViewer and software hardball
- Why laptops with serial ports matter to the Internet of Things
- Make your mobile battery last longer
- Small steps into handling Big Data
- Nexus 5: does it really run stock Android?
- How to get broadband to a garden office