Alienware M17x R4: Performance

September 5, 2012 by Charles P. Jefferies Reads (100,224)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Software & Support
    • 6
    • Upgrade Capabilities
    • 8
    • Usability
    • 8
    • Design
    • 8
    • Performance
    • 9
    • Features
    • 9
    • Price/Value Rating
    • 8
    • Total Score:
    • 8.00
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Performance and Benchmarks

Our Alienware M17x R4 review unit has the following configuration:

  • 17.3-inch glossy 1080p display (1920×1080 resolution)
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • Intel Core i7-3720QM quad-core processor (2.6GHz, up to 3.6GHz Turbo Boost, 6MB cache, 45W TDP)
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 680M w/ 2GB GDDR5 dedicated memory
  • Graphics automatically switchable to integrated Intel HD via Nvidia Optimus
  • 8GB DDR3-1600 RAM (2x 4GB; 32GB max. – 4x 8GB)
  • 750GB 7200RPM Hitachi hard drive (7K750) w/ 32GB SSD cache
  • Intel Centrino Wireless-N 2230 wireless LAN
  • Integrated Bluetooth v4.0
  • Integrated HD webcam
  • Slot-load Blu-ray reader/DVD burner
  • 9-cell li-ion battery (90Wh)
  • Weight: 9.39 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 16.14 x 11.97 x 1.75 inches
  • Starting Price: $1,499
  • Price as Configured: $2,649

The base M17x is already well equipped, but our review unit has some options that bring up the price (and performance) considerably. At the top of the list is the Nvidia GeForce GTX 680M (+$550 over the standard GTX 660M), Intel Core i7-3720QM processor (+$150 over the i7-3610QM) and Blu-ray reader (+$100). The system has a couple of other options too including the beautiful 1080p display (+$150), 8GB of RAM (+$75) and the 750GB 7200RPM hard drive with 32GB SSD cache (+$125). The SSD cache is interesting; it’s configured in RAID with the hard drive and provides a good boost in performance. A variety of storage options are available including up to 512GB SSDs.

wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):

PCMark 7 is a newer benchmark and measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):

3DMark 11 is a newer benchmark and measures overall graphics card performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):

3DMark Vantage measures overall graphics card performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):

3DMark06 measures overall graphics card performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):

CrystalDiskMark storage drive performance test:

Gaming Performance

We ran two modern 3D games on the M17x R4: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Bioware’s Mass Effect 3. Both games were run at maximum settings at the display’s native 1920×1080 resolution. The performance is nothing short of “wow” – the GTX 680M has the numbers to prove it is a top-shelf card. It’s a safe assumption that there is no modern game the M17x R4 cannot play on maximum settings with this card. The M17x R4 comes standard with an Nvidia GTX 660M and is available with an AMD Radeon HD 7970M and Nvidia GTX 675M, which are a few hundred cheaper. The GTX 680M is the fastest of course, but there’s an extra high premium for the privilege.

It’s worth noting that the M17x R4 is available with a 120Hz 3D display option in conjunction with an Nvidia graphics card.

Mass Effect 3:

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3:

Heat and Noise

The M17x’s powerful internal components produce a significant amount of heat. Fortunately, the chassis is large and thick enough to accommodate an appropriate cooling solution. There are two large vents situated at either end of the notebook facing out the back. The fans at idle are, for all intents and purposes, silent. Under load, however, they spool up fast and can be heard from just about anywhere in a living room or classroom; the right fan which cools the graphics card is the loudest. There is a slight whine too, which increases with RPM. While the cooling system is somewhat noisy, it certainly gets the job done and keeps the M17x running cool; the top and bottom of the chassis didn’t warm up to a significant degree even during extended gaming and benchmarking sessions.

Battery Life

I measured four hours and 45 minutes of battery life during our standard battery run-down test (Windows 7 Balanced power profile, 70% screen brightness, wireless active and refreshing a web page every 60 seconds). This is an excellent time for a powerful 17.3-inch gaming notebook. Nvidia Optimus takes a lot of the credit; it automatically switches the dedicated GTX 680M graphics card off and uses the integrated Intel HD, which greatly reduces power consumption. The SSD and third-gen Intel Core i7 processor are also good on power.

Battery life test results (higher scores mean better battery life):


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