Cracking Open the Alienware M14x
The Alienware M14x isn't your average laptop. This $1,800 gaming notebook has a 2.4GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 4GB Dual Channel DDR3 1600MHz RAM, and 1.5GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 555M GPU.
But, its stand-out-feature isn't any of this high-end hardware. What makes the 2011 M14x truly interesting is the integration of a wireless HDMI transmitter. When paired with the included receiver, the M14x offers a glimpse of the future--a world without video/audio cables, where devices (laptops, set-top boxes, game consoles, and the like) stream video/audio to any display.
Follow along as I crack open the Alienware M14x.
For a more in-depth review of the M14x's internal hardware, check out my article, "Alienware M14x Teardown: Wireless HDMI portends future without wires."
Photo by: Bill Detwiler / TechRepublic
Caption by: Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. He was most recently Managing Editor for TechRepublic Pro. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the social research and energy industries. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Louisville, where he has also lectured on computer crime and crime prevention.
I may be misinterpreting the photos, but it looks to me like you have to crack the case to replace the battery. Unbelievable. Talked about forced obsolescence. I sincerely hope that this isn't the direction manufacturers are going. On my battery-driven machines, the battery is almost always the first thing to go, usually in about three years. (And don't tell me I'm "charging it wrong" -- puh-leeze.) The non-replaceable battery in all of Apple's iStuff is one of the reasons I won't buy Apple. I can't afford to drop two grand on a machine every three years, and I already own enough paperweights to last me the rest of my life.
I apologize for the mistake above, but when I noted that my Asus G73SW-3DE has for an optical drive a "BluRay reader+DVD+/-RW" device, I made a huge mistake. It actually comes OEM stock with a Matsushita BluRay 2X BD-RE writer/reader+DVD+/-RW optical drive, ie it's a BluRay WRITER and reader from Asus factory component mix. OTOH I upgraded my machine with a Sony 6X 5730S BluRay Writer/Reader DVD+/-RW optical drive which I just happened to have sitting around, taken out of my previous Asus G51JX-A1 notebook which was sold with the OEM optical drive, and I saw no need to use the OEM Matsushita BluRay writer when I had that premium Sony 6X BluRay writer not being used, sitting in its OEM box from Sony Optiarc, USA in San Jose, CA. That's the only mistake I made in my write-up about the equipment that comes standard in the Asus G73SW-3DE, ie it's a full compliment of upgrades, even has a BluRay writer standard in the package along with all of the 3D stuff that arrives in the box also, which includes a set of nVidia P854 3D Stereo-vision Glasses for 3D viewing, and to top it all off you also get a Republic of Gamers (ROG) Targus backpack to tote everything around in should you wish to travel with the "moveable gaming center" on your back to some LAN party et al, plus there's a beauty of a gaming mouse, specially made for ROG/Asus by Razer, with a myriad of adjustments and DPI choices up to 12,600DPI for superior gaming uses...that's right, it all comes standard with the 3DE model, so for my $1960 spent at Amazon.com I got a whale of a bundle of items, plus the fantastic notebook to add more value than you can shake a stick at, all OEM standard and in a huge 20-pound shipping box so that it all fits into the ROG assembly nicely, making a statement of its own you might say! I am sorry to read about the disappointment of the post above this regarding the "billing and credit card practices" of Dell/Alienware, but it's not the 1st time I've heard of such things happening with that brand and the "special order game" that they play, mostly in their own favor it turns out. There are Dell fans who believe in that brand as much as I believe in the Asus brand notebooks, but IMHO Asus has it all over Dell in terms of customer support 24/7 365-days a year, both sales and service and tech support, and Asus does NOT play the "special order game" with their notebooks, not at all. The individual product choices are many at Asus ROG notebook land, and each one comes with a specific package of extras, just like mine did above, that suffices for any possible "special order" situation that I can think of...you know? My thinking is if Asus can build packages of notebooks with everything included, standard OEM practice, that you have a much better chance at customer satisfaction than chancing a "special order" at Dell/Alienware that just might not ever come to fruition, bottom line, considering the experience above for one instance with the other poster here, and/or suppliers maybe not "having in stock" the very items that you are special ordering! Some companies do rather well with the "special order game" it must be pointed out, namely HP for one that I personally know of, but still there's a much bigger chance of having problems with a "special order" than any OEM package of notebook and extras like Asus does its merchandising with the ROG models specifically, so a word to the wise about special orders in general. I am just pleased as punch with the Asus G73SW-3DE that I bought last May 2011, that is all that I know. For a 17-inch full HD 1920x1080p 3D 120Hz LG-brand display with every conceivable option covered in the standard equipment it comes with, and then some with the special ROG extras too, I just don't think that you can go wrong. I would hate to spend a ton of $$$ on a premium laptop "special order" or not, it doesn't matter really about that aspect of buying such machines, and have problems of one sort or another and be disappointed to the maxx-pack over it, this is absolutely certain. There are many choices for great notebooks being made today, many with 3D ability too it turns out, so be careful with your purchase, read all the reports and customer reviews you can find before deciding on one brand or another, one model vs another also, and be an educated, aware buyer who goes into a new notebook armed with all the reasons FOR buying it vs not buying it in the 1st place!
My comment is being careful about Dell billing practices for your order. When I ordered my system, I also ordered their special computer carrying bag and a game, plus a $150.00 expedited shipping charge, they claim it being customed built that it cost more for expedited shipping. Then I get this email from Dell telling me that Intel would not have the processors for three-months with an option to cancel the order if I did not want to wait. I canceled the order immediately. Then they still charged my credit card, for the bag and game, i.e. $150.00, which was never delivered. In addition I find they billed me over $2000.00 for the computer after I had canceled the order and specifically told them in writing not to charge anything on my credit card, also. I did get them to reverse the unauthorized computer amount, but still haven???t gotten my money returned for unauthorized bag & game charges. They still haven???t arrived to this date either. Well Fargo was no help in dealing with the unauthorized charges, either. I have attempted on numerous occasions for them to reverse the charge and they refuse to do it. Now I have to spend time and money for small claims court to recover the $150.00.
I'm not advertising for Asus here, just practical consideration of the "name Wow!" factor that Dell's Alienware lineup commands in the marketplace, vs the relatively cheap/sub-standard component mix the laptops actually have for c. $1800 and on up in pricing. My video card is an nVidia 460M 1.5GB DDR5 3D PCI-E 16x2.1 bus, full HD and 3D capable, FAST video component that does virtually everything the Alienware's video setup can do, save for wireless HDMI of course, and a LOT more! Plus I've got a BluRay player/DVD+/-RW optical drive to play any 3D game on, or watch any 3D BluRay movie on, or any normal DVD movie to boot. Add to that the Core i7 2630QM CPU, a full 4-Core 8-thread CPU that will give up 2500Mhz (2.5Ghz) on all 8 Cores @ 100% load demands, BlueTooth 2.1 EDR, USB 3.0 port, back-lit, fully adjustable keyboard lighting, twin fan-design ultimate CPU and GPU cooling, front to back, the best design possible to have in a notebook for cooling, handsome full-blackout trim package, sub-woofer and 2 x stereo Harmon Kardon speakers via Creative's Alchemy and other control panels, and I hope you get the picture loud and clear! The notebook comes standard with 8GB DDR3 1333Mhz Elpida RAM, but I've upgraded mine to 16GB Corsair 1333Mhz DDR3 RAM, which the SandyBridge/Asus motherboard fully supports, so you take your pick between the two notebooks if you have the chance to buy either of them and see which one you'd pick?...my Asus G73SW-3DE is a 2011 model, now surpassed by the Asus G74SW-series, which has upgraded to an nVidia 560M 3GB DDR5 video card, but the 3DE model has the same LG-based 120Hz LED LCD display @ 1920x1080p. The 3D model costs about $1960@ Amazon.com and other fine retailers who will "customize" the Asus notebooks to any degree you want, BluRay writers, 16GB RAM, custom repastes on CPU and video GPU processors (IC Diamond, EVGA's new paste called "Frostbite", whatever your heart desires there), SSD drives of all descriptions, etc etc. To add insult to injury, Asus notebooks are the No.1 most reliable laptops sold in the retail sector, with the best 24/7 tech support, and the best warranties in the bizness also (1 year accidental damage, 2 years Global Warranty, parts and labor on the entire notebook, and 30-day "no dead pixels" warranty when new--where Asus will replace the entire display and components if the notebook has any dead pixels at all!), so I leave the choices up to you nice people. I just don't get it why people buy Alienware notebooks at all, with the component mixes sold with the OEM models being so cheap and the like for premium $$$'s, when you can source much better laptop packages with not only Asus but with other makers as well (Sony, Toshiba, and Acer come to mind offhand also), so you take your pick and make it stick, because you have to live with your choices, not me! I think that Dell is just riding on the "name WOW!" factor 100% with these so-called high-tech notebooks when they are, in fact, just cheap component mixes with ho-hum graphiX displays and video boards that are average to less, no more certainly, while other manufacturers like Asus and the others have ramped up the component mixes to MAXIMUM WARP speeds and levels to where they are so far beyond Dell's so-called "premium line" at Alienware that it's not even worth considering when you analyze the packages at retail dollar$!! Point made, I have said enough I hope...
If you think screen resolution is something to complain about, it's just a minor part of the problems of these laptops. Dell and Alienware are among the least reliable laptops made, and only one notch better than HP which is at the bottom. Dell does have better support than HP, but you will need it! I have an enormous pile of these laptops in my junk box that have died an early death. My customers have learned the hard way that just because they are featured front and centre in the local big box store doesn't mean they are good products, just cheap.
$1800 and it's a 900P SCREEN?! WHAT A PIECE OF JUNK... I wish ALL laptop manufacturers would start putting the RESOLUTION of their LCD right up there with the CPU, HD, and RAM. In fact, I care LESS about the CPU (because really, another 10-15% on top of 2.4 BILLION instructions per second with FOUR PROCESSORS)... plus I can CHANGE OUT the RAM... But a LOUSY SCREEN is something you have to LOOK AT AND USE day in and day out. I have a Dell Vostro 1720 that I bought for about $1400 and IT HAS A 1920x1200 LCD !!! I absolutely HATE THE FACT that all these laptop manufacturers have virtually dropped the 1920x1200 in favor of the 1920x1080 (which is the HD standard). Going from 1200 to 1080 means you LOOSE 10% of the screen !!! But, even 1080: is BETTER THAN 900P !!! I mean come on... 1600x900 - PFFFFTTTT. If that's the best they have to brag about, well, go brag somewhere else, cause THAT IS WHERE MY DOLLARS ARE GOING ... SOMEWHERE ELSE...
You call this hefty? My Gateway FX 7811 weighs in at 12 pounds. Of course its a 17 inch 1920x1280. I get about 1-1/2 hours of battery with everything turned up!
Yeah, that's it. &, by d way, do u know any given tablet that have a replaceable battery ? Huumm, neither do I. Still want one, though ... ;)
You are comparing David with Goliath. Alienware 14 inch screen it's much smaller and sacrifices must be made for the low profile to be kept. For a heavy traveler (planes, buses and other) this piece of small jewellery worth like 3 times your huge ASUS at 17 inches. And for the others witch complain about DELL: - I had a DELL Inspiron build in Ireland still works after 5 years NOT EVEN 1 PROBLEM; - I have a DELL XPS 13 build in Malayesia (bought it in BEST BUY) working PERFECTLY after 3 years Both were used extensively in various atmospheric conditions (YES OUTSIDE of the house) and in sometimes continuous gaming sessions of around 10 hours. So sorry for u, maybe u are unlucky and also sorry for DELL for not trying to correct their mistakes in good time. For both of them I did not use support except for updating my drivers.
If it was my list, I would add HP to the list as I have "never" had an issue with HP with their computers. Over the years I have up-graded, and still have all of my HP's as collector items now because they all still work. Their customer service is unmatched from my experiences with them. My last one was another Entertainment Laptop with WIN 7, great all around machine.
PLease...I have an 8 year old Dell Inspiron 9300 that is still going strong. It only has the high end (at that time) Pent 4, but the resolution with the Nvidia card that I paid a premium for is the deciding factor...I have had a HDD die on me, but that was a quick fix. The MB is going strong and I have not had troubles with most programs even many advanced ones that rum better on 2/4 core machines. Yes, it is a bit slower these days, but it still works well.
I got myself a laptop even more powerful that this (for 1300) but unless you get one with a bluray player, 1600 x 900 is the new standard resolution.