PAX East 2011: Alienware’s M17x Notebook Steals the Show

by Reads (14,870)

Alienware has a reputation to uphold. It’s been known for years for creating some of the most powerful gaming PCs on the planet, so it made sure to come out guns blazing at PAX East this year with an impressive display of their notebooks. One machine, however, stood out in particular.

The M11x, which we reviewed (and loved), was on display, as was the mid-range M15x, which balances portability with performance. But the real star of the show was Alienware’s latest and greatest notebook offering, the M17x.

The 17.3-inch M17x is powered by the new Intel Sandy Bridge Core i7 processor, clocking in 2 GHz on the base model (higher end models run at 2.2 GHz and 2.3 GHz). Memory options range from 4GB to a staggering 16GB of DDR3 RAM, while storage options include a 1500GB hard drive or 512GB solid state drive.

Other features include two USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI 1.4 and 1.3 outs, and Alienware’s token rubberized, illuminated keyboard.

It’s also worth noting that the M17x is the first Alienware laptop that’s 3D-ready. The video card options vary throughout the three different models, however, with the base model coming with a 1024MB AMD HD6870M Radeon, the middle with a 1536MB Nvidia GTX 460M GeForce, and the high-end with a 2048MB AMD HD6970M Radeon.

Impressively powerful specs aside, the real draw of the M17x is its unprecedented wireless HD capabilities. The technology, designed by a third-party company called SiBEAM, allows users to transport the display of their M17x in full HD to an external source without the use of any wires or cables. With a functioning range of up to 10 meters, players can game through their laptops and display it on their HD TVs at a comfortable distance.

There are certain televisions that have receivers built in that work with the wireless HD found in the M17x. But users can also pick up a retail kit that makes any HDTV compatible with the technology, priced “around $100,” according to an Alienware representative.

In this case, Alienware chose to show off the wireless HD connection by running the Crysis 2 demo on the M17x and streaming it to an HD TV. Anybody who knows anything about the Crysis series knows that it’s probably best known for its incredibly demanding specs, so the fact that a notebook could run this at all (and look great doing it) was impressive. But the fact that this great looking game was, in turn, being displayed in full HD on a big screen TV was unbelievable.

Despite the crisp graphics, intense firefights, and various visual effects there was surprisingly never any lag between my commands and what was produced on the TV. Everything seemed very smooth and 1:1 even though commands were put into a controller, which went to the notebook, and then finally the TV, which was a true testament to the quality of the wireless HD. Without any sort of delay, the wireless HD technology basically opens the door for PC gamers to experience the benefit of gaming on large screens like console gamers, only with better hardware running the game.

On that note, explosions, fire effects, and gun models all looked brilliant and never once were there any dips in framerate, which is a more impressive performance than most PCs (and even consoles, as I’ve seen this demo played on the Xbox 360) can produce when running a game like this.

The amount of heat that the M17x put out while doing this wasn’t even that bad. Do I recommend playing with it on your lap? Not if you want to have children some day. But the thing isn’t about to melt the paint off tabletops either, which used to be a big concern with heavy-duty gaming on laptops. Slowly but surely, it seems that Alienware is erasing the line between laptop and desktop gaming.

Demonstration of the M17x’s Wireless HD

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