Alienware M9700 Review

by big_greasy_taco Reads (71,532)

by Daniel Senechal

The Alienware Aurora M9700 is a desktop replacement style laptop with a 17" widescreen LCD. Almost every facet of this laptop is customizable from the paint to the components, through Alienware during configuration, or aftermarket depending on what kind of a machine you need. With the capability of configuring dual Nvidia graphics cards, it is capable of handling a lot. With a base price of $1599, the 9700 is comparably priced to many of its competitors, though the price hits the ceiling at around $5000!

Overview

First and foremost, Alienware makes a very attractive computer. From the glowing alien head to the high gloss paint, you know you have a beast on your hands. As I said, almost every component is upgradable. Here is the configuration I opted for, the total including tax and shipping came up to just shy of $2400. Although I must say charging $100 for shipping is just ridiculous.

  • Processor: AMD Turion 64 Mobile ML40 2.2GHz 800MHz FSB 1MB L2 Cache
  • Operating System (Office software not included): Genuine Windows Vista Home Premium – Without Remote Control or TV Tuner
  • Chassis: 17" WideUXGA 1920 x 1200 LCD with Clearview Technology – Conspiracy Blue
  • Motherboard: Alienware NVIDIA Mobile SLi Chipset
  • Memory: 1GB Dual Channel DDR SO-DIMM at 400MHz – 2 x 512MB
  • System Drive: Single Drive Configuration – 80GB Serial ATA 1.5Gb/s 5,400 RPM w/ NCQ & 8MB Cache
  • Optical Drive: 8x Dual Layer CD-RW/DVD+-RW w/ Nero Software
  • Video/Graphics Card: Dual 256MB NVidia GeForce™ Go 7900 GS – SLI Enabled
  • Sound Card: High-Definition Audio with surround sound
  • Wireless Network Card: Internal 802.11b/g WiFi Card
  • Communications: Integrated 10/1000Mb Gigabit Ethernet & 56K V.92 Modem
  • Bluetooth: Integrated Bluetooth Device
  • Primary Battery: Alienware m9700 12-cell Lithium-Ion Smart Battery Pack
  • Warranty: 1-Year AlienCare Toll-Free 24/7 Phone Support w/ Onsite Service
  • AlienRespawn: Alienware Respawn Recovery Kit
  • Alienware Extras: Alienware Mousepad
  • Alienware Extras: AlienInspection – Exclusive Integration and Inspection – $100 Value – FREE!
  • Free Alienware T-Shirt: Free Alienware T-Shirt – Black

Reasons for Buying

I am going to be a freshman in college this coming fall, and I was in need of a new laptop. I had always wanted to get an Alienware, and I figured this was the best time to get one. I have always been a gamer, so naturally I wanted to get a gaming laptop. Alienware’s brand name has always been associated with gaming, and it looks really cool!

Build and Design


Alienware M9700 in Conspiracy Blue (view large image)

As I said, the 9700 is a desktop replacement, so plan on being tethered to a power-cord. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but portability is an issue at just over 13 lbs. The build quality on this laptop is top notch. It feels very solid all around, but especially on the keyboard. There is absolutely no flex, and the keys have a very nice feel. The screen is held up nice and tightly, with absolutely no droop.


Lid view with the iconic Alien head (view large image)

The design of the 9700 is stunning. The glossy paint resembles that of a car, and might even need some wax in the future! I love the glowing alien head, it lets everybody know what you’re packing. The accent rubber grips are also very sporty looking, giving a nice contrast to the conspiracy blue color. All in all, I would say Alienware hit a homerun with the design of this laptop.


Notice the glossy black finish around the screen (view large image)

When you open up the bottom of this laptop, you are greeted with an impressive view of all the components. That is the beauty that defines Alienware from other manufacturers, you can actually access everything easily to upgrade yourself.


A look at the internals of the M9700 (view large image)

Processor and Performance

One disappointment is that the 9700 has no option for the Turion X2. Dual cores allow much better multitasking capability. Since I don’t do much multitasking, that was not a concern in my decision, but it might be for others. With dual Nvidia 256MB graphics cards, the processor is going to be the bottleneck in this system.

In my use thus far, I have encountered no problems with speed or bottlenecking while running multiple programs.

For those of you interested in gaming performance, below are some benchmarks of how the M9700 performed in running Doom 3, F.E.A.R and Quake 3:

Keyboard and Touchpad

One of my few complaints on the 9700 is the touchpad. It is painted the same glossy color as the chassis, therefore making tracking more difficult than I would like. For just Internet surfing and other easy tasks it is fine, but gaming is impossible. I have a Logitech G5 gaming mouse that I use, so the touchpad will only be used on the go for me.


View of the keyboard and touchpad (view large image)

Being a desktop replacement, the keyboard boasts a full numeric pad, a nice feature for gaming. It is very comfortable to use, and the chassis underneath your hands remains cool, a tribute to the excellent cooling system employed in this laptop. There are buttons at the top of the keyboard for use with media (play, stop, skip, pause, etc…) a handy feature.

Screen / Resolution

Like I said, I am somewhat of a pixel junkie, so the higher the resolution the better. Alienware delivers with one of the best looking screens I have seen. With a native resolution of 1920 x 1200, there is certainly a lot of real estate to be had. I was originally woried about a dead pixel or two in this massive screen, but there is not one to be found. Alienware does have an excellent dead pixel policy though. The high gloss can be difficult to see in direct sunlight, but anywhere else it is just stunning.

Input and Output Ports

On the left side of the laptop, there are two USB 2.0 ports, a 4 pin firewire port, the 10/1000 ethernet port, the 4 in 1 Media card reader (SD/MS/MSPRO/MMC), and the Express Card Slot (54mm). The right side has the headphone jack, mic jack, volume control knob, surround sound ports, optical port and a single USB 2.0 port. The backside has the VGA out port, DVI out port, S-Video out port, a single USB 2.0 port, power-in port, the 56K modem, S-Video in, the last the coaxial port.


Left side of the Alienware M9700 (view large image)


Right side of the Alienware M9700 (view large image)


Back side of Alienware M9700 (view large image)

Battery Life

The battery life on this computer is about what I expected for such a big, high performance gaming laptop. The 9700 drains the battery like a fat kid eats ho-ho’s. I got 1 hour 25 minutes on performance mode, and 1 hour 45 minutes on battery saver mode. As I said before, expect to be tethered to a power outlet! If you are looking for something portable, look else where.

Heat and Noise

The cooling system on the 9700 works very well. I can feel no heat on my hands while typing, a very nice characteristic. However, you could roast a weenie behind the exhaust port of this laptop. It gets quite warm, which is to be expected from a high performance machine.

Noise is kept to a minimum, while running games, the fans are certainly audible, but not annoyingly so. At idle, it is almost silent. There is certainly nothing to complain about.

Conclusion

The Alienware M9700 is a full featured, high performance gaming notebook. It has handled every program I have thrown at it with ease, with only one GPU enabled mind you (Windows Vista does not support SLI graphics yet, a driver will be along shortly). Alienware showed us once again how a gaming notebook should be built through their design and performance. I am going to be a freshman in college come fall, and the 9700 just really seemed like a good choice for me. I have always wanted an Alienware, and the 9700 has not disappointed.

Pros:

  • Gorgeous design
  • Sli technology
  • Stunning screen and resolution
  • The Alienware brand name

Cons:

  • Price
  • Shipping costs
  • Touchpad
  • Battery life on the short side
  • Single core processor


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