Alienware MJ-12 M7700a Mobile Workstation Review (pics, specs)

by Reads (47,720)

The Alienware MJ-12 m7700a is a 17″ screen mobile workstation, backed by dual-core AMD Opteron and Athlon 64 FX-60 processors, it is designed to effortlessly handle today’challenging applications, whether that be CAD or gaming, while you’re on the go. With dual-core power, the MJ-12 m7700a features two processing cores on one chip to significantly improve system efficiency when operating multiple applications at once.  The MJ-12 m7700a also comes with a range of Nvidia Quatro PCI Express graphics cards, including the Nvidia FX 2500M that has 512MB of graphics memory.


The MJ-12 system under review has the following very impressive specs:

  • Processor: AMD Athlon 64 FX-60 with HyperTransport and Dual Core Technology
  • Operating System: Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2
  • Warranty: 3-Year AlienCare Toll-Free 24/7 Phone Support w/ Onsite Service / AlienAutopsy / Respawn
  • Display: 17″ WideUXGA 1920 x 1200 LCD with Built-in Camera
  • Color: Conspiracy Blue
  • Motherboard: VIA K8T890 + VT8237A Chipset
  • Memory: 2GB Dual Channel DDR SO-DIMM at 400MHz – 2 x 1024MB
  • Graphics Card: 512MB NVIDIA Quadro FX 2500M
  • Hard Drive: High Performance with Data Security (RAID 1) – 200GB (100GB x 2) Serial ATA 1.5Gb/s 7,200 RPM w/ NCQ & 8MB Cache
  • Primary CD ROM/DVD ROM: 8X Dual Layer DVD+/-RW & 24X CD-RW Burner
  • Secondary CD ROM/DVD ROM: 8X Dual Layer DVD+/-RW / 24X CD-RW Combo
  • Primary Battery: Alienware m7700 12-cell Lithium-Ion Smart Battery Pack
  • Additional Battery: Additional Battery – Alienware m7700 12-cell Lithium-Ion Battery
  • Notebook Cooler included: Xbrand 360 Adjustable Stand with USB 2.0 Hub
  • Communications: Integrated 10/1000Mb Gigabit Ethernet & 56K V.92 Modem
  • Wireless Network Card: Internal 802.11b/g WiFi Card
  • Speakers: Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 200-Watt THX Speakers
  • Digital Audio Hardware: Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS PCMCIA
  • Mobile Bags: Alienware Odyssey Briefcase and Alienware Odyssey Backpack
  • USB Floppy Drive
  • Belkin AC Anywhere 300W Vehicle Outlet Adapter
  • Linksys WRT54GS 802.11g Router
  • Razer Copperhead High Precision Gaming Mouse – Tempest Blue
  • Alienware AlienArmor 17″ Black Aluminum Notebook Case

SubTotal: $5,780.99 + $161.32 Shipping + $415.96 tax = $6,358.27 Total


The complete setup of the Alienware MJ-12 and what’s in the box (view large image)

Reasons for Buying

First off, this notebook was bought and is going to be used primarily for my business. I am a pool designer in Orlando, Florida for one of the biggest builders in Central Florida(www.atcoymanpools.com).  We do work for Disney, Universal Studios, Sea World, Vistana and private clients. So, with that being said, this is nothing more than an investment — as well as a business expense and tax write off!


Alienware MJ-12 m7700a notebook (view large image)

My clients are all different.  Every pool I design, build or renovate is different. So I decided to get a notebook that was different as well. I use a very high end CAD-like, custom 3D software program for designing, modeling, rendering and animating. I use it for 2D prints as well.  So why not just get a powerful desktop for doing this?  Well, I also needed to be able to take a computer to the job site. Sitting down with management or a homeowner with their dream pool or deck virtually animated in front of them makes their jaw drop. Now with this Alienware notebook their jaw drops even more.


(view large image)

With the 2500m Quadro graphics card, my graphics rendering provides for pure eye candy and amazing levels of detail. I could perform microscopic laser surgery if I wanted to, but I think I’ll stick to pool design.

Build and Looks

This notebook is not light, but “desktop replacement” style and top power-level notebooks shouldn’t be. It weighs in at a little over 16 pounds.  Needless to say, I am not sitting it in my lap, so no complaints with the weight here.

The display rests very sturdy when open, the hinges are nice and tight.  When you push in on the back of the notebook lid you won’t get any ripples or wobble appearing in the screen — in other words, the lid is very strong and durable.


(view large image)

The “Conspiracy Blue” color really sets the MJ-12 apart, as well as the high tempered hard plastic case and black rubber grips. Of course, it wouldn’t be an Alienware if it weren’t for the glowing Alien head and the logo on the backside of the screen, a true sign that the alien has landed!

Screen

An impressive screen always says a lot without saying anything, and this screen says a lot — it is superb.  There is absolutely no uneven backlighting and with a wide 17″ WUXGA, it just doesn’t get any better than that.  The color is very pristine and the display provides for crisp images with zero color drop out.


Alienware MJ-12 in the dark (view large image)

Audio

So what’s the point of looking at a great screen if you can’t hear what’s happening on the screen?  The speakers in the MJ are perfect!  Of course, I did upgrade my audio with a SoundBlaster card but all of the low’s/mid’s & highs are all sonically present. I can literally hear a 60db drop to a 12k tone in this bad boy.  Having a built-in subwoofer helps the audio a lot too.  If it’s good enough to qualify to be a sonor operator on a submarine, than that’s good enough for me. Enough said.

Processor and Performance

I can definitely say that patience is the virtue that forgot about me. Maybe that’s why I chose the fastest processor available and 2 100GB hard drives spinning at 7200RPM.  This is about as fast as I need right now.  Granted, I’m sure this speed freak will ramp it up when the time comes, but it certainly won’t be anytime soon because there is nothing I can upgrade.  No sire, I don’t think I have ever logged onto Windows or checked my email this fast.  In fact, it seems my mail deletes before I even hit the button.  I’m sure my 2GB Dual Channel DDR SO-DIMM RAM at 400MHz – 2 x 1024MB helps with speed a bit too.  I clocked logging onto windows in a little under 30 seconds!

I do play games on this notebook in my spare time and, let me tell you, it is configured for CAD, but it CAN game.  The 2500M Nvidia graphics card is amazing — hands down. It may fall shortly behind the Nvidia 7900GTX in terms of benchmarks, but I cannot stress the “shortly behind.”

To ensure that this baby can game, I ran three game tests using DirectX 9 features extensively as well as a multiprocessor CPU test focused on CPU intensive tasks in 3D games.  My 3DMark05 score was 8,426 followed by a CPU score of 6,567. My max FPS was 400!  My other computer would probably melt if it ran so fast.

3DMark05 Comparison Results:

Notebook

3D Mark 05 Results

Alienware MJ-12 M7700a (Athlon 64 FX-60, NVIDIA Quadro FX 2500M 512MB)

8,426

Dell XPS M1210 (2.16GHz Core Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7400 256MB)

2,090

Alienware Area 51 m5550 (2.33GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7600 256MB)

3,542

ASUS A8Ja (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 512MB)

3,850

Dell Inspiron E1505 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo, ATI Mobility Radeon X1400 256MB)

1,958

Dell XPS M1710 (2.16GHz Core Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7900 GTX 512MB)

8,524

Lenovo T60 (1.83GHz Core Duo, ATI Mobility Radeon X1300 64MB)

1,045

Lenovo Z61t (2.00GHz Core Duo, Intel GMA950 Integrated)

582

Toshiba Satellite P100-222 (2.16GHz Core Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7900 GS 512MB)

6,214


Heat and Noise

Configuring the MJ-12 with this much power and speed definitely heats things up.  I highly recommend not using it as a literal “laptop.”  It is a “desktop replacement”, unless you like toasty or crispy legs!  Using it off the lap and on a desk with proper venting and cooling helps a lot in terms of keeping temperature down.  Please note that I am also running multiple applications at the same time, one of which being a very huge 3D CAD & VR program, I am definitely surprised as to how consistently cool this notebook runs so long as it’s on a desk. It never overheats, the temps remain just right, and the palm rests remain a pleasant room temperature.

Being so massive I figured the MJ-12 would be very loud due to the power. I was completely surprised, it is super quiet. Yes, you can hear the fans kick on, but it’s a very subtle noise, and one that definitely would not bother anyone in a library for that matter.

Keyboard and Touchpad

Keyboarding on the MJ-12 is very quiet as well. The keys are nice and smooth and easy to the touch. Alienware pretty much thought of everything when they built this machine button-wise. It has a wonderful media control on the front and your normal volume controls up top as well.  It’s very user friendly.  The screen dimmer function as well as the mute and Internet buttons on the top of the keyboard are very handy to have as hardware buttons as well. The mouse pad is probably the best I have ever felt — it’s not too rough and not too smooth, just perfect.

Input & Output Ports

The ports on the MJ-12 are as follows:

  • DVI Port – For the occasions when you want to output your work to a projector or larger monitor for presentations or easier viewing. The digital DVI output ensures the highest quality image will be seen.
  • Parallel Port – Non-USB printers can still be utilized thanks to the inclusion of a parallel port.
  • Ethernet Port – The included RJ-45 port allows you to utilize the standard Ethernet controller to connect to the Internet or a local network.
  • Modem Port – The included RJ-11 port allows you to utilize the standard modem to connect to the Internet.
  • AC Adaptor Plug-In – Keeping the battery charged and ready, the AC adaptor ensures the MJ-12 m7700a is able to provide potent performance wherever you might be.
  • 4 USB Ports – More than enough ports to keep you digitally connected with your other electronic devices.
  • IEEE 1394 FireWire Port (4-pin) – A popular connection for digital camcorders, this port ensures that the MJ-12 m7700a can connect with almost any digital device.
  • Audio Ports – In addition to the standard mic port, the MJ-12 m7700a features a S/PDIF port to allow the use of digital 5.1 surround speakers. Whether you’re using headphones or full-size speakers to edit digital content, the MJ-12 m7700a is equipped to deliver.
  • 10-in-1 Memory Card Reader – With support for the most popular flash types such as SD, MS, and MMC flash memory information from nearly any digital device including Smart Phones and PDA’s can be transferred to the MJ-12 m7700a with ease.
  • S-Video Port – The included S-Video port allows you to utilize both TV and HDTV signals.
  • PCMCIA Slot – The included PCMCIA slot accepts any Type I/II card.


Left side view of MJ-12 (view large image)


Right side view of MJ-12 (view large image)


A look at the dual optical bay drives on the MJ-12 (view large image)

Dual Optical Bays

The MJ-12 m7700a features dual optical drive bays to provide the most flexibility possible. Having two drives provides the ability to directly copy a CD or DVD to easily backup your information.

Wireless

I configured the MJ-12 with an internal 802.11 b/g wireless card as well as an infrared port due to lack of additional PCMCIA slots, and yes it has the ability to output to a TV with a video connector.

Battery

On to the Battery, or rather, what battery? Battery life is a joke with this machine, and Alienware has the nerve to call it a “smart cell battery”, ha ha!  I think the battery lasts about an hour —  maybe, if the stars and moons are aligned right. They could probably work on this feature in the future, but at the same time, I did not purchase this to be ultra-portable.  I’m usually plugged in.  I’ll take power and speed over battery life any day of the week. That’s why we have Edison outlets and a power bill to accompany them.  Nevertheless, if you are looking for battery life, look elsewhere because it isn’t here.

Customer Support

So far I have not had to call tech support for anything (knock on wood) so I guess that’s a good sign. Alienware reps were very courteous and informative during the purchasing process. I could not have asked more.

Conclusion


This mobile workstation has me glowing and flying through space. It is everything I ever wanted and more. Most importantly, it is built right, fast and is very powerful!  Here are the quick pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Very Attractive/Eye Catching
  • Very, Very Fast & Powerful
  • Great Screen Quality
  • Built solidly
  • Graphics & Audio Is Superb
  • Smooth Keys & Mousepad
  • Easy To Use, very user friendly with dedicated buttons for many functions
  • Not too heavy or as hot as you’d think

Cons:

  • Not very portable
  • Virtually no battery life
  • Alienware forgot my mousepad that was supposed to be included

Overall, my impression of the MJ-12 M7700a is that of a super computer, because that’s exactly what it is.  Alienware uses nothing but top shelf materials and design applications, and it is reflected in the final crafting of the MJ-12.  From 3D VR to CAD programs, this machine dominates. It was designed for this. If you are an animator, CAD programmer, microscopic laser surgery doctor, musician or even just a business man running a business and you like having the best, this is the tool for you.  And let’s not forget one very important application of this machine — FUN! The MJ-12 can run any game out there with ease. Whether if it’s a 7900GTX graphics card or a 2500m Quadro graphics accelerator running your graphics, you are bound to enjoy endless fun.  I do not regret my purchase one bit and will encourage consumers fitting this profile to look very seriously at Alienware’s MJ-12 M7700a, for there really is nothing better out there right now. It is the best and once again, Alienware has set the bar!


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