After Hours

Geek Gifts 2010: Alienware M11x gaming notebook

The Alienware M11x is a netbook-sized computer with the insides of a high-performance desktop. Mark Kaelin takes it for a spin in this Geekend review.

Alienware has a reputation for making really nice gaming personal computers for what has been dubbed as the enthusiast market. In more common language, computer enthusiasts don't mind paying more for hardware that meets a high standard for performance and style. Since my current personal Alienware gaming desktop is my fourth PC purchased from this company, I guess that makes me an enthusiast.

But the Alienware M11x is a slightly different kind of notebook for the company. Oh sure, it still has a fast CPU and GPU, and it still rivals any other notebook when it comes to performance, but this Alienware is different because it is netbook-sized.

Specifications and features

  • System: Alienware M11x
  • Dimensions: Height: 32.7mm (1.29 inches), Width: 285.7mm (11.25 inches), Depth: 233.3mm (9.19 inches), Weight: Start at 1.99kg (4.39 lbs)
  • LCD: 11.6-inch WideHD 1366x768 (720p) WLED
  • Discrete video card: 1GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 335M
  • Integrated video: Intel GMA
  • CPU: Intel Core2 Duo SU7300 1.3GHz (3MB Cache)
  • Operating system: Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium, 64bit, English
  • RAM: 4GB Dual Channel DDR3 at 800MHz
  • Hard drive: 500GB SATAII 7,200RPM
  • Sound: Internal High-Definition Surround Sound Audio (5.1)
  • Webcam: 1.3MP Webcam
  • Cost: $1099 for review unit, $799 base price
  • TechRepublic Photo Gallery

What I like

  • Performance: The Alienware M11x, for its small size, is second to none in terms of performance. It flawlessly ran every game I threw at it, from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 to World of Warcraft: The Lich King, at the highest settings I could configure. At this price point, I would typically expect to see some sputtering as the PC tries to move data through its subsystems, but the M11x handled it all without a hiccup.
  • Size and weight: When compared to your typical 10-plus inch netbook, the M11x is roughly the same proportions, but heavier. I would not exactly call it heavy at a little over four pounds, but you can tell the weight difference between the M11x and an ASUS EEE PC.
  • LCD: The LCD is bright and sharp, and the resolution of 1366 X 768 means that Web sites are displayed properly. Games at the resolution look great albeit a little small. I hooked the M11x up to a 42-inch LCD using the HDMI output, and it looked fantastic, and the M11x continued to perform at a high-level.
  • Durable: While not made out of Titanium, the case for the M11x is nonetheless sturdy and durable. All of the connections are tight, and the machine is constructed to last even at its portable size.
  • Battery life: For a gaming PC, the battery life is at the high range of acceptable at three hours. If you switch to the integrated Intel Graphics chipset, turning off the NVIDIA GeForce GT 335M, you could get over four hours.
  • Style: I am not a big "style guy" when it comes to PCs, but the M11x is a head turner at the coffee shop. The LED lighting system gives the owner numerous color options, and the LED keyboard lights mean that gaming in the dark is not a problem and, in fact, encouraged.
  • Steam: Because the M11x does not ship with a CD-ROM drive, Alienware has made a deal with Valve to include the Steam client application with each unit. With Steam, users can download and play many of the hottest game titles without having a CD to worry about.
  • Sound: The onboard sound chipset is top notch and able to product digital 5.1 surround sound.

What I don't like

  • Screen size: While the LCD screen is very bright and sharp, it is also fairly small at 11 inches. At this size, games are playable, but not all that comfortable. If I am on the road and feel like fragging a few bad guys, the M11x is perfect, but at home I would want to do my fragging on an LCD with substantially more real estate.
  • Face recognition security: The M11x has a built-in face recognition security feature. The PC will try to recognize your face during the login sequence in lieu of typing a password. The feature works, but it is very dependent on the quality and the quantity of the light present during login. If it is too dark, it will never recognize you. Personally, I would rather just type in a password.
  • No CD drive: The lack of a CD-ROM drive is a compromise for power and weight and I understand it perfectly, but a drive is needed for installing many games. This means you will have to have an external CD drive connected at least sometime. Alienware does sell a basic external CD-drive for $65, which I find to be a reasonable price.

Geek bottom line

The Alienware M11x is the almost perfect geeky gift for PC gamers in need of portability. Although small in size, the M11x is a powerhouse of computer gaming performance that can push pixels as well as just about any desktop. If I were in the market for a new notebook computer, I would be taking a serious look at the M11x because it does everything I want in terms of performance without draining my bank account.

Geek gift score (out of 5)

  • Fun factor: *****
  • Geek factor: *****
  • Value: ****
  • Overall: *****

Want more reviews of tech gadgets and gizmos? Download the PDF of TechRepublic's Geek Gift Guide 2010.

About

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.

Editor's Picks