Alienware are a huge name in performance gaming systems. With a new range of notebooks released this month, they're out to prove that gaming on the go doesn't mean a drop in performance, or any compromise in style.
The last two gaming notebooks we looked at - the Rock Extreme CT and the Evesham Voyager C720 - were based on the same high-end chassis from the original manufacturers at Clevo. Alienware have eschewed this route, going with a different chassis that is a heck of a lot more stylish, as you will see.
However, Alienware have made some difficult choices in the component selection. The Centrino brand is there, as you might expect, but unlike the GeForce Go 7800 graphics included in recent high-end gaming notebooks, the Area-51 is sporting the GeForce Go 6800 chipset. How does it compare? Let's find out.
The m5700 sports a 17" widescreen display, which is swiftly becoming the norm for top-of-the-line gaming notebooks. The base resolution on this model is 1440x900 (WSXGA), although you can pay to have an upgrade to a pixel-busting 1920x1200 (WUXGA). We'll debate the pros and cons of this, vis-a-vis the graphics power, in just a minute.
We've mentioned that the chassis is different from what we have previously seen - whilst we like the fact that even über-powerful gaming rigs can come in thin-ish form factors, we've mentioned before that the Clevo design is hardly cutting edge and really doesn't befit a machine with such awesome power. Alienware are known for their aesthetics, and they don't disappoint here. The machine is in a striking almost-black colour, and the top of the lid - whilst adding some bulk for only cosmetic advantages - really makes the machine look like it means business. Coupled with blue LEDs across the top of the machine, and we're staring at a very good looking notebook. In actual size, it's 2.8cm x 40.6cm x 29.0cm, and it weighs in at around 3.5kg.
We previously said that the Rock machine was the best-looking gaming notebook we'd seen - well, unfortunately for them, the Alienware takes the new title. This is cool.
The version of the notebook we had from Alienware was specced up as following:
Pentium M 2.13GHz CPU
1GB DDR 2 533MHz RAM
GeForce Go 6800 with 256MB RAM
17" screen with 1440x900 resolution
80GB 7200 RPM hard drive
8x dual-layer DVD burner
Gigabit ethernet, Centrino Wifi
You also get an Alienware mousemat, a tshirt, system restore disks and a full version of PowerDVD.
Alienware also bundle some software called AlienGUIse which is a theme manager. It's fair to say that the included themes are pretty horrendous in an eye-bleed inducing kind of way. We also found that if we reverted back to the default Windows skin from within the application, bits of windows went missing in various apps, with the most extreme example being the complete disappearance of the Preference panes in some apps. Props for trying, but Alienware really needs to get someone with some Samurize skills to sort out this if they really want to appeal to enthusiasts.
The cost for this machine is £1726.08 including VAT. We'd recommend a couple of options on the configurator: the first is to drop the processor specification. With a Go 6800, we'd suggest a 1.86GHz Pentium M. You don't lose an awful lot of power, but you save £250. You should also grab the recovery kit, which does a similar job to the Rock recovery software that we chronicled previously. Taking those factors into account, the notebook would come to £1505.18, which is a little bit more reasonable. If you really want the extra screen resolution, £98 will get you an upgrade to 1920x1200.