Alienware m5750 with Core 2 Duo Processor Review
The Alienware m5750 is a 17" desktop replacement style gaming notebook that is available exclusively via Alienware.com. Following are the specs of the m5750 as reviewed:
These models currently start at $1,499 and have a $100 instant rebate along with free shipping (which has a value of $99).
Reason for Buying:
My last computer was a four year old Inspiron 8200 that was falling apart at the seams -- literally. I'm an average user, who uses office applications, surfs the web heavily, with some light programming and occasional gaming.
The m5750 setup! (view large image)
I was looking for a computer that could definitely carry me through Windows Vista -- because I needed a computer now. I needed a computer with a decent if not great dedicated graphics card. I wanted a dual-core processor and I wanted it to be 64-bit because this seems to be the direction of future chips. The Core 2 Duos were released in laptops at the end of August so it was time to buy.
Before settling on the Alienware I did have my eye on a few other cheaper machines. I was close to buying the very reasonably priced HP dv9000t. I finally decided to go with the Alienware because I had the option of a higher processor speed, higher resolution, better video card, and of course the out of this world case design. Of Course, this came with a premium of something close to $300, but I'm thrilled with my choice.
Where and How Purchased:
Fresh out of the box (view large image)
The only way to purchase an Alienware is online. It was pricey at $2,607, but was well worth it. I must confess that it felt like quite a risk not knowing what the machine feels like or really looks like in person, and also it is very hard waiting for the machine to be built and shipped. It is very easy to get sucked into buying a computer right from a retail store -- but having finally received the m5750, I can say that this is a laptop that is truly special and not just any old model you can pick up at a Best Buy.
Build and Design:
There is a lot to be said for how nice the machine looks. It has a beautiful paint job with a one of a kind lid, a rarely seen translucent black keyboard with number pad, interesting speaker and on/off button design, scrolling touchpad and nice feeling mouse buttons. There is plenty to love about the design of this machine. While there are some things that are a little bizarre regarding the design, overall the design is beautiful.
One slightly bizarre thing for instance is the method for turning on the machine and how difficult it is to figure out initially. The buttons above the keyboard are not as sensitive to the touch as they suggest just by looking at them. They are actually regular spring based buttons but they are so flushed with the rest of the keyboard that it is difficult to push depress them. It takes a little practice using the nail on your finger to push them down. By far the worst design feature is the keyboard, which I will get into in a later section.
As for the build quality, I was quite concerned before the machine arrived. I hadn't seen many Alienware laptops out in the wild before, and if you look for 2 minutes online you can find half a dozen sites bashing Alienware's customer service and quality control. When the machine arrived it was built to specifications and functions 100%. It is built to near perfection. There is one small flaw on the bottom of the machine where a seam is not lined up perfectly and a screw was jammed in instead of being flush and tight as it should be. I did test the machine the moment I got it out of the box, and everything was working fine. I did have a moment of terror when I thought the sound may not be working. But I had forgotton to turn it up by the outsanding volume knob located on the left hand side of the machine -- another wonderful design not found on most other machines.
A flaw in the design -- screw is not flushed with the case (view large image)
The screen is magnificent. I decided to go with the WUXGA display which is the higher resolution option at 1920 x 1200. The screen is evenly lit with the same consitency of brightness and color. When viewing it from the side, it turns a little darker and the colors start to become olive, but it still very visible. Overall, if you are sitting in front of the machine you should have no complaints.
There is something strange in that I notice an odd shimmer to the screen. It is very hard to notice, but if you look it's there. It isn't on the surface of the screen but instead the images displayed on the screen are slightly twinkly. It is especially noticeable in a game like Half-Life 2: Episode One when entering a room where the screen is not quite black but dark -- the shimmer still appears. In most regular applications this shimmer is not noticeable though.
I did expect the speakers to sound better than they turned out. On the Alienware website they show pictures of the sub-woofer on the bottom so I anticipated a dream. Well, the speakers are very good, but not incredible. In fact, when listening to certain songs through iTunes I did hear some tinniness in the speakers a couple of times. As for the sub-woofer, I'm not really sure that I can feel it, but I do sense that the machine has some bass tones. I would not think of buying external speakers or of buying headphones, but I'm not an audiophile.
I should note that the machine does come with some very interesting sound jacks that work in association with the sound drivers that come with the machine. When I plugged in my ear phones for the first time a window came up asking what kind of output I desired, "line-out", "headphone", "external speakers". I am no an audiophile, but it seems like a better than average setup, especially for a laptop.
Processor and Performance:
Here is what counts. I would say that I finally have a system that can run things the way that they were supposed to be run. I was able to install my programs, transfer all my data, surf the internet, play music, all without a hiccup. Setting up the computer was a breeze. Running programs takes an instant when it used to take me seconds. It takes approximately 30 seconds for Windows to turn on, and 45 seconds for it to really be done loading.
Traditionally, I run msconfig, remove all the startup items and all of the unnecessary services. This time I've decided to let the computer run everything it wants to the way it was intended. It is still running well, but it is important to note that the computer has slowed down as all systems would due to programs I've installed. Here is a list of installed programs:
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Now with all these programs installed Windows loads within a minute, and all of the startup programs immediately loading after the welcome screen passes takes another minute. Giving a total of 2 minutes to load Windows completely. Afterwhich, I'd say the the computer moves at lightning speed -- especially because all of the programs are pre-loaded in the quicklaunch and probably in my 2GB of RAM.
As for gaming power: I've played through Half-Life 2: Episode One since the machine arrived. It works extremely well on the suggested settings which is the highest settings except for resolution and anti-aliasing which it turns off. On these settings it has an incredible frame rate and the worlds and action look gorgeous. I have for brief amounts of time run the game on it's highest settings -- including my native resoultion. The game still works and really looks outstanding, but I admit that the fluidity of motion suffers a little. It would be playable under these conditons, but still it is not perfect. But it can do it!
HL2 running at recommended settings (view large image)
HL2 at highest settings (view large image)
As for the other functions of the laptop: the optical drive is sufficient. It is an 8x DVD writer, and I already have a 16X external drive. I think that the drive in the Alienware is a little too slow for practical day to day use -- but it is the only thing available. If it became necessary to use while traveling -- it will be very useful.
* Below Benchmarks were run after loading only a few programs (just after opening machine)
These benchmarks were taken after I tried to close as many processes as possible. Trying to really grasp the power of the processor.
Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits
Alienware Area 51 m5750 (2.16GHz Core 2 Duo)
Dell XPS M1210 (2.16GHz Core Duo T2600)
Dell XPS M1210 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo T7200)
ASUS A8Ja (1.66GHz Core Duo T2300)
Dell Inspiron E1505 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo T7200)
HP Pavilion dv6000z (1.8GHz Turion X2 TL-56)
Lenovo T60 (1.83GHz Core Duo T2400)
Lenovo Z61t (2.00GHz Core Duo T2500)
** Below Benchmarks after loading all programs (a week after opening machine)
These benchmarks were taken after I tried to close as many processes as possible. Trying to really grasp the power of the processor after loading all my programs and trying to shut down as many as possible. (If I was to run Super PI with all programs running it would calculate to 2 million digits in around 2 minutes!)
Heat and Noise:
Compared to my 4 year old inspiron 8200, this Alienware is extremely quiet. In an absolutely silent room I can hear the soft whisper of the fan. I can hear it turn on faster when I start playing games, but it is hardly loud. The other thing I noticed is that it does get warm. My wrists are are sweating as I write this and right now it's just warm. When games are running, the machine does run hot. Under my left wrist is the hard drive and the right wrist is the graphics card. Both get very warm when running the machine at its highest setting. Not unbearable, but not exactly comfortable.
The CD/DVD-RW drive is a noisy as any other. I never get the sense it is spinning out of control like some drives. It has a quiet refined spin.
Keyboard and Touchpad:
Keyboard and touchpad view (view large image)
This is perhaps one of my biggest problems with the computer. And because I was never able to test out this machine in the store, I'm a little aggravated. The keyboard keys are crammed together. The qwerty keys themselves are smaller then most, but the real issue comes when I'm trying to use the left bottom CTRL key or the right SHIFT key. The CTRL key is flip-flopped with the normal position of the function key -- a minor annoyance which I will get used to. The biggest problem, and one that ,will be a large problem for anyone is that the right SHIFT key is extremely small and crammed in along with the ".", the "/" and the pointer arrows. This is a really a large problem and almost inexcusable. There are also other annoyances. For example, there is no END key. Instead you must hold the function key and hit the PgDn key. Pleas see the picture of the keyboard -- it is worth a thousand words.
Top buttons (view large image)
The keyboard is made of a semi-transparent black plastic. This is a nice touch and gives the keyboard that little extra design quality the matches the rest of the cool Alienware design. The keyboard itself doesn't feel cheap until you start using the number pad (which is large). The number pad, unlike the qwerty keyboard, doesn't feel as strong. The numbers make a more hollow clicking sound then the nice dull thud of the keyboard.
Inbut and Output Ports:
Left side view of m5750 (view large image)
Right side view of m5750 (view large image)
Front side view of m5750 (view large image)
Underside view of Alienware m5750 (view large image)
The wireless works very well. It comes with Intel's driver and utitilty program that you may turn off, but I'm using. On wireless G it gets a speed of 54 Mbps and always a strong signal with my wireless Linksys router in the next room. I was a little dissapointed that there was no built-in bluetooth option available.
I've run only one test on the battery, because that is really not what I'm interested in. This is a fairly large desktop replacement laptop. I can't imagine many people requiring the battery that often. My test consisted of writing this article, while playing music in iTunes, surfed the internet, adjusted a couple photos in Picasa2. I played a couple minutes of Half-Life 2: Episode One for 15 minutes, to really stress the system, and then continued to write the article. It lasted a total of: 1 hour 45 mins. Not exactly impressive. But Half-Life 2 ate up 25% of the battery!
Operating System and Software:
With this system you have the option of buying Windows HomeXP sp2, Windows Media Center, or Windows Professional. Because Vista will be coming out within a year from now (hopefully), I'm saving my money for that and bought XP Home sp2 (which comes standard). I would suggest anyone to do the same unless you do not plan on upgrading to Vista for a while -- which I also advise until the bugs are out of it.
Alienware systems come with no bloat-ware. Another beautiful thing. My first experience turning on the computer was just as impeccable as pulling the laptop out of the box. I was able to start installing my programs without worrying about what other crap was installed and needed to be removed. It really made a nice difference.
I have called costumer service a lot. I haven't needed them to fix my machine yet, but I was constantly checking up on my machine to see why it was taking so long. It shipped a week and a half later than it was projected. I also called them about my "jammed screw" on the bottom of the machine which I knew it was unreasonable for them to really do anything about besides take it back and fix it. Basically, if my computer goes bad, I do have a sneaking suspicion that it will be a very difficult process getting it fixed. None of them speak English well, and it does appear that they are as bad as the online blogs suggest they are. They are always telling me that a supervisor is not available, re-routing me, or just trying to get me off the phone.
The standard warranty is for one year. Sad, because this is such an expensive machine. To get two years added is $200 -- I think -- their website is a little difficult to really understand in regards to warranty offers. Fortunately, it seems, that I am able to buy the warranty for extra years at the end of this current warranty. So if I see any problems with the system in the next year, I will have the option to buy more warranty time.
I would recommend this computer to anyone that is the above average serious computer enthusiast. It is not the top-shelf computer at Alienware; it is one of their mid-range laptop. It suits my needs very well. It doesn't come feature heavy like other laptops coming out today (there is no camera and no bluetooth for instance), but it does come complete with better basic materials: an above average screen resolution, great video card, great sound, and of course the best processor on the market today. I'm very happy with my purchase. I would say that it is a little more money than other machines, but I can't find a mainstream manufacturer with similar specs to really do a fair comparison. I'm confident that this machine will last. The case design and components are just what I was looking for and should keep me with a grin on my face for many years to come.
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