|Alienware Line-up: A Layman's Perspective|
|Posted: 13.06.2011 13:36 by Joe Robinson||Comments: 6|
It's strange being the only layman in the room. I've always considered myself a journalist/writer first, a gamer second and everything else just kind of fights over third place. Despite growing up more or less on Blizzard strategy games on the PC (bar my affair with Nintendo), I've never really gotten involved with the hardcore technical side of things. I've always had an interest, I guess, enough to build my own rig, but nothing much beyond that. Personally, I blame my school's shoddy IT education.
Strategy Informer however, despite being a gaming website, has dabbled in the tech side of our fair industry before. I'm sure many of you have seen our peripheral reviews, we took a look at some stuff that one time, and we've even done some coverage every now and then. Today, thanks to the lovely people over at AxiComm, we've decided to once again delve into the PC Tech side of things. Strategy Informer was invited to a night of Laptops and Gaming, although naturally we didn't want to embarrass everyone with our l337 skills, so we threw the match in the second round.
It also gave us more time to check out Alienware's current range of dedicated gaming laptops:
First and foremost, the M11x. It's the smallest form factor Alienware offer that's still orientated towards gaming. Weighing in at 2 kilograms, it can feature a second-generation overclockable Intel Core i-series CPU, Nvidia GeForce GT 540M graphics, up to 16GB of system memory and is HDMI compatible. Alienware claim this is the most powerful 11" laptop on the market, although naturally it's not the most powerful laptop you can find, and it's trying to straddle the line between portability and gaming requirements.
One up from the M11, there's the M14x. Weighing at 2.9 kilograms, it's more powerful but still portable, and again supposedly the most powerful 14" laptop. Highlights of the M14X include: Nvidia 'Optimus' technology that can transform your laptop into a truck... or it might just extend the battery life, we're not sure yet. It can be fitted with an Intel i7 processor, GeForce GT 555M 3GB, and can handle 8GB of system memory. This one edges more towards the power side of the spectrum, but it's 14" design and battery life mean that it's still going for day-to-day portability as well.
This is the largest and most powerful gaming laptop Alienware has to offer. It's also pretty hefty, coming in at anything up to 4 kilograms, and so not really something for day-to-day mobility. Alienware sees these kind of laptops (including the M17x which we'll get to in a minute) more as desktop replacements that can be just as powerful, but more portable. The M18x specifically can have up to 32GB of RAM, and offers dual-graphics technology and the industry’s only Intel Core i7 Extreme CPU option factory overclocked to 4GHz. It is, for lack of a better word, a beast.
Last but certainly not least (and taken out of order because of the subject matter) is the M17x. Now, this model was actually announced and launched earlier in the year, but at the moment it represents Alienware's only fully 3D capable gaming Laptop. Much like the M18x, it's a high-end, desktop-replacement model that's only slightly smaller, and can't support the optional dual graphic card option. The 3D option is full stereoscopic, and requires active shutter 3D glasses which will probably need to be bought separately.
I asked Alienware's European Brand Manager, Daniel Charbit, about what he thought the significance of 3D gaming was for the PC market: "It's a tricky question," he said, "because right now there's no really dedicated game that is working only in 3D".
"It will probably happen in the future, but of course the market's established base needs to be bigger as well. The good thing about this solution is that it can adapt any game that's been released in the past, and convert it into 3D."
Those of you who've been keeping up with the E3 news last week will have also seen Sony's attempt to make adopting 3D more attractive with their bundle kit. Charbit didn't seem as concerned about making 3D accessible, because for them it's not a main selling point, just an option:
"The main difference here is that Sony have interested a lot in that, but for Alienware it's just an option. You can still play whatever games you want, even old ones, and not have a piece of hardware that (Eventually) no one will develop for."
Now, these laptops certainly aren't cheap. The M14X alone start at just over 1 grand, and the M18X, specced out, can easily reach £2,000. Compared to a desktop of the same spec, especially if you bought and built the component yourself, these are definitely not the cheaper option. From Charbit's point of view, the value comes in their portability and stuff like speakers, a screen, a keyboard etc... that get thrown in as part of the design: "Whilst it would cost about 3-400 pound more, you get the screen and the portability as well, and an array of additional options that you wouldn't find on a desktop as well."
Where is Alienware going from here? well it seems they want to push their two separate tracks of mobility and power, whilst also keeping an eye on the 3D market and adapting as necessary:
"The future at the moment is divided between two types of gamers - ones that like portability - which is what we have the M14X and M11x for, and the ones who want to play with all the latest specs and software available. It depends what's really going on in the market, and what solutions companies like Nvidia and ATI can offer, but with 3D gaming for example, clearly the way to go there is PC because you can retroactively play all your old games in 3D."
There laptops are all built specifically for gamers, so we're told. On the one hand, there's a train of thought that see's gaming laptops as a bit of a contradiction, as anyone who takes gaming professionally will just build their own rig anyway. But for the more mainstream market, perhaps this emerging 'Desktop replacement' idea will make some in-roads. We hope you've enjoyed this Layman's view of Alienware's current line-up. Since this is a new thing for us, please feel free to leave some feedback below.