The new Alienware M11x is the latest gaming laptop from Dell's Alienware team and might be the best thing to happen to PC gaming this year. This impressive little box is the first ultraportable gaming notebook with an 11-inch screen and a weight of less than five pounds. If that's not enough to get you interested, you might like to know that it costs $799 ... almost the same price as less-powerful 11-inch notebooks with the newest Intel low-voltage processors.
The Alienware Has Landed
I rarely find myself awestruck by the announcement of a new notebook, but the Alienware M11x left me amazed and virtually speechless from day one. Never before has any laptop manufacturer delivered an ultraportable notebook that can play most modern PC games. We're not talking about Minesweeper or Solitaire here, we're talking about cutting-edge games like Mass Effect 2 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The Alienware M11x allows you to enjoy these recent 3D games at perfectly playable frame rates ... with a laptop that's small enough to fit on a tiny airline tray table and still leave enough room for a beverage and a bag of peanuts.
The arrival of the M11x is something akin to the buildup of a "perfect storm" in the world of laptops. Alienware engineers admit that they've secretly been working on developing an affordable ultraportable gaming notebook for more than four years, but it's taken all that time for the technology to catch up with the imaginations of the team at Alienware. Laptop screens needed to be small enough yet offer a high resolution at a low price point. Multi-core processors needed to be cheaper, smaller, consume less wattage, and be powerful enough to handle most games. Discrete graphics cards needed to become small enough to fit inside an ultraportable notebook chassis and still deliver the performance needed for creating modern 3D models at playable frame rates while running on battery power.
Although I've personally criticized Alienware in the past for creating over-priced, over-designed, overly-heavy and overall over-the-top gaming notebooks, the team at Alienware deserves a great deal of credit for creating an attractive ultraportable gaming notebook that no other company saw coming. When Dell announced the release of the new Alienware M11x at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January there wasn't a single competitor who was prepared for that announcement. Representatives from every other notebook manufacturer said things to me like:
"Dell did WHAT?"
"They made a gaming notebook how small?"
"An 11-inch gaming notebook that can play new games at 30FPS for less than $1,000? That can't be right ... right?"
The Alienware M11x is truly the first in its class, but don't expect this to be the only kid on the block for very long. If you take a look at the Alienware section of our discussion forums you'll see that a large number of people are talking about the M11x. We not only saw record traffic on the discussion forums after the release of the M11x, but we even had to take special steps to regulate that traffic in order to prevent the large numbers of new visitors and regular forum members from bringing the site down. If all that traffic is any indication of consumer interest, you better believe other companies will be announcing ultraportable gaming notebooks very soon.
Say Hello To My Little Friend
Sure, gaming laptops are cool for high school kids or adults who like to pass the time with a bloody first person shooter, but why is there so much interest in this little laptop? A big part of the excitement relates to what I said earlier: Until now, the Alienware brand has been synonymous with expensive, heavy gaming PCs. At the same time, however, Alienware managed to develop awareness of their brand as "luxury" custom notebooks for gamers (or their parents) who can afford these computers. The new M11x combines the features and personalization of Alienware with the low price you expect from Dell.
A starting price of $799 might seem expensive compared to a typical 15-inch notebook that starts at $500 or a netbook that sells for less than $300, but compared to the typical starting price for a gaming notebook ($1,200 or more) the M11x is a bargain. Add to that all of the small personal touches that Alienware adds -- such as laser-etched customized name plates here in the US, or the AlienFX software that allows you to change the color of the LED backlit keyboard -- and you've got a "personalized luxury item" that costs roughly the same price as a regular 11-inch ultraportable notebook.
Enough with the introduction ... let's jump into the review.
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