Alienware M17x gaming notebook review – here comes the Alien mothership
As is always the case in our reviews, here are some screenshots from CPU-Z and GPU-Z to give you a better idea of the hardware used to power the M17x R3 gaming notebook.
That being said, we should point out that the particular M17x R3 gaming notebook which Dell had sent to us is one that was meant to be used as an internal testing unit. As such, the HD 6970M graphics card that came bundled with our review unit was discovered to be utilizing a non-finalized VBIOS, a trait which could, and will most probably skew our benchmark results for better or for worse. Indeed, the system seemed intent on letting us know that our video card was not using a proper VBIOS by watermarking the display with prominent "TEST VBIOS" message as soon as the notebook was powered.
However, as we still had a review to carry out, and an article about "7 ways on how NOT to go about finding a proper VBIOS on the M17x R3" does not have the kind of appeal we want to achieve with this story, we figured that we'd just go ahead with the review, but with the addition of this little disclaimer. And if it is of any consolation, Dell has kindly informed us that the actual production units of the M17x R3 are shipping with a proper VBIOS, and that they are reportedly compatible with the generic mobile Catalyst drivers that AMD has published.
In addition, the benchmarks were carried out under the following circumstances to ensure consistency:
- Stock hardware speeds, no overclocking/underclocking done on any of the M17x R3's hardware;
- Primary display set to PEG instead of the default SG to ensure that the notebook's Radeon HD6970M graphics card will be the only card that is being used at all times, without switching between Intel's built-in GPU even when idle;
- Energy profile set to High Performance, with all power management features turned off.
Battery Eater PRO
Battery life is definitely not the M17x R3's strong point. On testing, Battery Eater PRO drained out the bundled 9-cell battery in 64 minutes flat during the Classic test. However, we should also point out that the M14x did not fare much better either, being able to last only up to 65 minutes before its battery, too, gave up the ghost. As far as both notebooks are concerned, battery uptime appears to be a tie, at least when the notebooks are used under full-load situations. Simply put, you really do not want to caught taking this notebook outdoors without packing the bundled power brick along for the ride.
Futuremark 3DMark 2011
Unlike the M14x which clearly had some issues in keeping up with 3DMark 2011's graphics benchmarks, the Radeon HD 6970M graphics card which was powering the M17x R3 gaming notebook was on a totally different level where performance is concerned. The 3DMark 2011 scores tell the whole story, where it handily beat the M14x's GT555m by returning a score that is more than twice that of the latter.
In fact, we were so confident of the HD 6970M's capabilities that we re-ran the test under the Xtreme presets, where the notebook was able to obtain a score close to that of a 1000 points. At this point, things are looking really good for the M17x R3, as the results are a strong indicator that it might just be able to handle most of the popular, graphically-intensive games on the market today.
Futuremark PCMark 7
Having been able to obtain such a decent score in 3DMark 2011, we were expecting to see some better results in PCMark 7, simply because this benchmark tool is designed to test a system's general performance, and the SSD + high performance graphics card combination that the M17x R3 boasts should be more than enough to clock some impressive results where general performance is concerned. As it turned out, we were right; the M17x R3 returned a score of 4493 points, which is almost double that of what the M14x was capable of achieving.