Magnificent 1080p display; Blistering graphics performance; Huge and comfortable keyboard; Rich audio; Stealthy sleek design; Solid battery life
Expensive; Mouse buttons a bit mushy
Sporting dual Nvidia graphics cards, crazy-fast dual SSDs and a show-stopping 1080p display, the Alienware M18x R2 is the gaming notebook dreams are made of.
If you could design a fantasy gaming notebook, there's a pretty good chance you would wind up with the Alienware M18x R2. Starting at $1,999, this notebook is jam-packed to the gills with awesomeness, including a beautiful 1080p display, dual Nvidia GTX 680M cards, and dual Samsung SSDs. Our configuration costs a whopping $4,454, but you shouldn't let a little thing like money come between you and sheer gaming bliss.
The 17.2 x 12.7 x 2.05-2.12 inch M18x R2 weighs in at a whopping 12.6 pounds, which is expected from a gaming rig this big. Still, this machine makes both the MSI GT70 (16.8 x 11.3 x 2.17 inches, 6.8 pounds) and the Origin Eon 17S (16.2 x 10.8 x 1.65-1.79 inches, 6.2 pounds) seem positively puny by comparison.
The screen burst to life while watching the 1080p "Samsara" trailer. We felt like we were actually in India, gazing at a breathtaking view of a series of temples surrounded by lush green jungle canopy. A nighttime volcanic explosion painted the sky in blood-red clouds punctuated by bright orange flecks of lava. The display's wide viewing angles allowed three staff members to comfortably watch the trailer. They noticed a slight washout, but not enough to detract from the overall beauty.
At 255 lux, the M18x R2 comes in slightly higher than the 250 lux desktop replacement category average. The Eon 17S and the GT70 registered 205 and 262 lux, respectively.
Despite the subwoofer, the notebook is a little light in the bass department. Trying to adjust the bass only succeeded in distorting an otherwise beautiful track.
However, the M18x R2 redeemed itself during "Max Payne 3," delivering rich, remorseful violins during the opening credits. In the first chapter we heard lively banter and casual music of a cocktail party devolve into screams, gunfire and a tense drumline. During the nightclub scene, there was heavy bass-driven techno coupled with Max's grisly, but muted, inner dialogue. We switched between a revolver and a Micro 9mm SMG with a sharp click that was almost as gratifying as the heavy blast of gunfire juxtaposed against the delicate sound of gun casings hitting the pavement.
The notebook will produce decent audio without TruStudio enabled, but we found that the technology adds a layer of warmth and depth that the Klipsch speakers lack.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keys are nice and big with firm, springy feedback. Combined with the soft-touch palm rest, the M18x R2 is one of the more comfortable notebooks we've typed on. We notched 52 words per minute on the Ten Thumbs Typing Test with an 1 percent error rate. That's noticeably higher than our normal 45 wpm/1 percent error rate.
For such a big notebook, the M18x R2 manages to keep things nice and cool. The touchpad measured a temperate 77 degrees Fahrenheit on the touchpad after streaming a full-screen episode of "Rocko's Modern Life" on Netflix. The space between the G and H keys and the bottom of the notebook were also relatively cool at 86 and 85 degrees, respectively.
The thermostat barely moved as we started playing "Batman: Arkham City." The touchpad, space between the G and H keys and underside measured 76, 83 and 84 degrees, respectively. We were able to watch videos with the M18x R2 resting comfortably in our lap for well over an hour.
Gaming and Graphics
The M18x R2 dropped some seriously impressive numbers in "Max Payne 3." At maximum settings on 1920 x 1080p with Antialiasing at 8X, the M18x R2 delivered an average of 43 frames per second. When we kept the Antialiasing at 8X and dropped the settings down to high, we got 60 fps; switching to Normal, we saw 84 fps.
During the "World of Warcraft" test, the M18x R2 notched an incredible 410 fps on autodetect at native resolution (1920 x 1080p). That's light- years above the 168 fps average. The GT70 and the Eon 17S were neck and neck with 231 and 232 fps, respectively. When we maxed the settings out, the M18x R2's frame rate dropped to 201 fps, more than twice the 87 fps average. The GT70 scored 137 fps while the Eon 17S notched 129 fps.
Not even the notoriously taxing "Batman: Arkham City" could slow the M18 R2's stride. The notebook notched 86 fps on low at native resolution, crushing the 64 fps average. The Eon 17S and the GT70 managed only 69 fps. When we cranked the game to maximum, the M18x R2 notched a ridiculous 70 fps. That's more than twice the 33 fps desktop replacement average. The GT70 scored 44 fps, and the Eon 17S could muster only 30 fps.
The M18x R2's dual 256GB Samsung SSDs in a RAID 0 configuration booted Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit) in 29 seconds, beating the 0:54 second average. The GT70 and its dual 128GB SSDs and 1TB 5,400-rpm hard drive clocked in at 0:32. The Eon 17S burned past the competition with 0:17, thanks to its dual 128GB SSDs.
When we ran the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro Test, the M18x R2 paired 20,000 names to their matching addresses in 4 minutes and 4 seconds. It was enough to top the 4:14 average and the GT70, which notched 4:44. However, the Eon 17S finished in a speedier 3:17.
Software and Warranty
AlienAdrenaline was one of the more useful programs. We liked having the ability to set up custom profiles for specific games. For example, when we clicked the"Max Payne 3" shortcut, the utility automatically launched FRAPS and switched the keyboard to our Max Payne setup.
What, you mean you can't afford that? In that case, the $1,999 base model features a 2.3-GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM CPU, 6GB of RAM, a 500GB 7,200-rpm hard drive and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 660M GPU with 2GB of VRAM. The $2,599 model has similar specs to the base model but ups the ante with 8GBB of RAM, dual 500GB 7,200-rpm hard drives in a RAID 0 configuration and Nvidia GeForce GTX 675M GPU with 2GB of VRAM.
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|CPU||2.7-GHz Intel Core i7-3820QM|
|Operating System||MS Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit)|
|RAM Upgradable to||32GB|
|Hard Drive Size||Dual 256GB SSD|
|Hard Drive Speed||n/a|
|Hard Drive Type||Dual SSDs|
|Optical Drive||BRROM, DVD+-RW, CD-RW|
|Optical Drive Speed||8X|
|Graphics Card||Dual Nvidia GeForce GTX 680M SLI Enabled|
|Touchpad Size||3.9 x 2.2 inches|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Gigabit Ethernet|
|Ports (excluding USB)||S/PDIF|
|Ports (excluding USB)||eSATA/USB|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Mini DisplayPort|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Audio-out|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Microphone|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Audio-in|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Headphone|
|Ports (excluding USB)||VGA|
|Ports (excluding USB)||HDMI-out|
|Ports (excluding USB)||USB 3.0|
|Ports (excluding USB)||HDMI-in|
|Ports (excluding USB)||security lock slot|
|Card Slots||9-1 card reader|
|Warranty/Support||1 Year Basic Plan|
|Size||17.17 x 12.7 x 2.09-2.15 inches|