Alienware M17x First Look

by Reads (41,729)

by Jerry Jackson

Now that the full details about Alienware’s new M17x “All Powerful” gaming notebook have been leaked early, we have a special treat for our readers. We recently spent some hands-on time with a pre-production unit of the Alienware M17x to find out if this is indeed the “Most Powerful Laptop in the Universe.” Let’s take a closer look at this gaming Goliath.

Key Features and Specs:

  • Processor: Up to Intel Core 2 Extreme Quadcore with 12MB Cache
  • Graphics: Up to Dual 1GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280M – SLI Technology
  • Memory: Up to 8GB DDR3 1333MHz
  • Hard Drive: Single or Dual Drives (RAID 0) up to 1TB 7200RPM
  • Optical Drive: Slot-loading Dual layer Blu-ray/DVD Combo

Dimensions & Weight:

  • Width: 15.98″
  • Depth: 12.65″
  • Height: 2.02″ -2.11″ (Front -Back)
  • Weight: 11.68lbs (starting weight)

The new Alienware M17x will have a starting price of $1,799 with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a single Nvidia GeForce GTX 260M GPU. As part of Alienware’s integration with Dell, upon the release of the new M17x the old Alienware Area-51 M17x and the Dell XPS M1730 gaming notebooks will be discontinued.

The available processor configurations start with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor and top out at an optional Intel Core 2 Extreme Quad with two overclocking options for the best possible HD video and audio editing, 3D animation and high-end PC gaming. Storage capacity options include up to dual 500GB 7200rpm hard drives in a RAID 0 or RAID 1 configuration … giving you up to a full 1TB of storage for a library of games, full-length movies or songs.

Build and Design:

The new Alienware M17x features an all-new anodized aluminum chassis available in a black or silver finish. The entire design looks more industrial and aggressive than the rounded “alien head” shape of previous Alienware notebooks. The lid design in particular will probably earn a mixed reception among current Alienware owners. The alien head logo is still there but the alien head shape that looked like something out of HR Giger’s sketch book is no more.

Despite some obvious surface-level design changes, much of what gives the Alienware notebooks a unique look is still here in the new M17x. The Alienware Command Center is an exclusive software package that provides access to Alienware-created programs such as the “AlienFX” lighting controls that let you change the color of the lights on the notebook, or the new “AlienSense” Facial Recognition software that will automatically log on/off the user when they step in front of the notebook’s built-in webcam. The AlienFX lights in the pre-production M17x that we spent time with had incomplete lighting features, but the production-level notebooks will ship with AlienFX lights that completely illuminate the front air vents.

The 17-inch high-definition widescreen UXGA (1920 x 1200) LCD should provide a rich and detailed view of the latest games, movies, or other entertainment you’re interested in watching. The screen is glossy, so reflections might be problematic under bright light, but we’re eager to see a production-level system to see how this display really performs.

The full-sized keyboard with dedicated number pad and the large touchpad both feature the AlienFX lighting zones for enhanced visibility in a dark room. The keyboard on the pre-production unit felt pretty firm but we’re hoping that the backlighting on the final keyboard is brighter and more even across the entire surface.


Providing proper cooling for two 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 280M graphics cards isn’t easy. That’s why the team at Alienware takes great pride in the design of the bottom of the M17x … which allows for improved air flow and better cooling than any previous Alienware notebook. The bottom of the M17x chassis features a screwless design that gives the base of the notebook a clean look despite the numerous air vents. The only visible screws on the bottom of the notebook are the four screws used to mount the custom metal name plate listing the name of the M17x’s owner in both English and in the Alienware alien language.

Ports and Expansion:

There isn’t much use to a massive 17-inch gaming notebook if you don’t use that massive chassis for lots of ports. The M17x doesn’t disappoint with FireWire, four standard Hi-speed USB 2.0 ports, and a single eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port (capable of PowerShare to supply power to accessories even if the notebook is turned off). As if that isn’t enough, there are three video output ports (VGA, HDMI, and DisplayPort) as well as a standard ExpressCard/54 expansion slot and more audio ports than you’ll know what to do with. The back of the notebook chassis mostly consists of exhaust vents for the notebook’s cooling system, but there is a single power jack located in the rear.

The complete list of ports includes:

  • FireWire IEEE 1394a (4-pin) port
  • 4 Hi-speed USB 2.0 ports
  • 1 eSATA/USB 2.0 Combo (2-in-1 port) with PowerShare
  • DisplayPort, HDMI, VGA -Video Output
  • 8-in-1 Media Card Reader
  • ExpressCard Slot
  • Front Speakers Audio Out Connector / Headphone Jack
  • Center Speaker and Subwoofer Audio Out Connector / Headphone Jack Rear Surround Audio Out Connector
  • Audio In / Microphone Jack
  • Two Built-In Front Speakers

Optional Extras:

The engineers and designers at Alienware have gone to extreme lengths to make the experience of using an Alienware PC as unique as possible. To that end, Alienware will offer a new range of customized accessories designed specifically to accent your new Alienware notebook. Not only will the new keyboard and gaming mouse feature the Alienware logo, but all accessories are fully compatible with the “AlienFX” lighting controls so you can make the lights coming from your keyboard and mouse match the color of the lighting zones on the M17x. Of course, you can also purchase an Alienware-branded external display in case the 17″ notebook display isn’t big enough for you. 

Of course, the biggest news in terms of accessories has to be the new 42.8-inch curved monitor that was first shown back in January of 2008. Alienware and Dell spent quite a lot of time perfecting the technology and design in this gaming display, and it shows. In person, this curved screen is simply gorgeous. Please note: The images below do NOT do justice to the quality of the display. When viewed with human eyes (rather than through the eye of a camera lens) there is no visible separation between the four matching display panels used to create the 42.8-inch curved display surface. Colors look amazingly accurate and I suspect this will be the most lust-worthy desktop display for 2009. Pricing is unavailable at the time of this writing.

More Coming Soon:

We will have some exclusive hands-on video coverage of the new Alienware M17x at the E3 show from NotebookReview.com contributor Charles P. Jefferies (Chaz) … so keep an eye open for that video coverage later this week.

The team at NotebookReview.com will have a full review of this massive gaming notebook, so be sure to come back soon for all the exciting details!

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