Performance and Benchmarks
How do you fit a high-performance processor from a bulky gaming notebook into an 11-inch laptop? The secret is low-voltage processors. The new second-generation Intel Core i5 and Core i7 low voltage processors provide performance similar to last year's standard-voltage notebook processors but with lower power consumption and less heat. At the time of this writing the M11x R2 with the older Core i3 330UM processor is still available on the Dell website for $699, but a few hundred dollars extra gets you the newer, faster CPU options.
Our review sample of the M11x R3 came with the 1.40GHz Intel Core i5-2537M processor. This is the entry-level CPU option for the M11x R3 and comes with 3MB cache and automatically overclocks up to 2.3GHz thanks to Intel turbo frequency technology.
Speaking of automatic features, the M11x R3 also includes the new and improved Nvidia GeForce GT 540M discrete graphics card which is a significant step up from the GT 335M graphics found in the original M11x and M11x R2. The Core i5 version of the M11x R3 includes GT 540M graphics with 1GB of dedicated GDDR3 memory while the Core i7 option comes with 2GB of dedicated GDDR3. Both configurations of Nvidia graphics also include automatic switchable graphics thanks to the Intel HD integrated graphics and Nvidia Optimus technology. For those who don't know what Optimus is, it's basically a technology that allows the computer to automatically use discrete graphics when you need them (like when you're playing a game) and switch to integrated graphics when you don't need extreme graphics performance and just want maximum battery life.
In terms of day-to-day activities the new Core i5 processor feels "snappier" than either the overclocked SU4100 processor in my personal M11x or the older Core i7 processor in last year's M11x R2. In fact, in average applications like Microsoft Office or Internet Explorer you won't notice much difference between the Core i5 in the entry-level configuration of the M11x R3 and the Core i7 configuration that costs an extra $200. That optional Core i7 processor will provide a speed boost when playing some CPU-intense games, but that's the only time the difference will be obvious to most potential buyers.
We'll get to our in-game tests later in the review, in the meantime, here are a few synthetic benchmark tests to see how the M11x compares to other ultraportable notebooks as well as the earlier M11x models. We've also included benchmarks from the ASUS G53SW-A1, a 15-inch gaming notebook that is only a few hundred dollars more than the 11-inch M11x R3. As you can see from the charts below, the Alienware M11x R3 offers better performance than any 11-inch notebook we've reviewed to date.
wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):
PCMark Vantage measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):
PCMark 7 is the latest synthetic benchamrk measuring overall system performance in Windows 7 (higher scores mean better performance):
3DMark06 measures overall graphics performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):
3DMark Vantage measures overall graphics performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):
3DMark 11 measures overall graphics performance for DirectX 11 games (higher scores mean better performance):
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