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Dell Alienware M17x (2012) review

Chris Finnamore
29 May 2012
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
1,839
inc VAT

Amazing 2D and 3D power and a great screen make this an incredible desktop replacement laptop

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If you're after a showcase of what the most powerful mobile hardware can do, the new 2012 version of Dell's Alienware M17x is it. This is an almost old-school huge desktop replacement laptop with a brand-new quad-core Intel Ivy Bridge Core i7-3610QM processor, a top-of-the-range AMD Radeon HD 7970 graphics chip and a 17in 1,920 x 1,080 display.

The laptop is huge, and reminds us of models from six years ago that crammed desktop parts into a laptop chassis. It's 45mm thick when closed and weighs 4.3kg, so you're unlikely to take it out of the house very often. This is a desktop replacement laptop; it's best for those who don't have enough space for a desktop but don’t want to be short of processing and gaming power. It will just about fit in a rucksack, though, and is certainly more practical than a PC to take to a LAN party.

Dell Alienware M17x

All the laptop's connections are on the left and right of the base, and there are plenty of them. You get four USB3 ports, a combination USB/eSATA port and an SD and Memory Stick card reader. There are VGA, HDMI and DisplayPort outputs, and audio is similarly comprehensive. As well as microphone, headphone and S/PDIF outputs, there's a combination microphone and headphone port which works with mobile phone headsets. You even get an HDMI input so you can use the screen with other devices such as games consoles. Being an Alienware system, you can also use the AlienFX utility to change the colour of the LEDs around the base, touchpad and keyboard. We went for neon pink.

Dell Alienware M17x

The M17x has plenty of room for a full-sized keyboard and numeric keypad, but we weren't particularly impressed with its quality. The keys have plenty of travel, but there's an annoying amount of flex, especially around the WASD keys; no good at all if you want nothing to delay a quick sidestep in a first-person shooter. The large and accurate touchpad was better, letting us navigate the Windows desktop with ease.

Dell Alienware M17x

No corners have been cut when it comes to the screen, though. It's a reflective model, so works best in darker environments, but colours are vibrant and consistent across the panel's surface. The Full HD resolution is perfect for sharp 3D graphics and Blu-ray films; our test model came with a Blu-ray reader and combo drive, but you can save £90 by opting for a DVD writer instead. It's a slot-loading drive, which always feels classy. The laptop also has a Sound Blaster Recon3Di sound card, which has a number of effects to help the built-in speakers sound their best. We found Surround made music sound artificial, but Crystalizer and Bass gave music some extra punch. The speakers sound far better than most laptop models, with clear mid-range and treble and some bass. They're not particularly loud, though, so you'll want separate speakers or headphones if you want to get involved in a film.