Intel's Core i7 processors are finally making it to the notebook market, with manufacturers Dell and MSI racing each other to be the first to announce products based around the chip.

The winner by a nose was Dell, which CNet reports as having been the first company to officially announce a Core i7-based laptop under its Alienware branding. The 15" Alienware M15x - aimed firmly at gamers - comes with a Clarksfield-based Core i7 920XM processor running at 2GHz which is capable of switching to single-core mode and ramping up to 3.2GHz should you be running a single-threaded application you want to give plenty of horsepower.

Being a gaming laptop, the unit also comes with an nVidia GeForce GTX 260M GPU, which has 1GB of dedicated video memory. Add in the open to have a 500GB mechanical drive or 256GB SSD, up to 8GB of DDR3 RAM, a slot-loading Blu-ray drive, and the usual host of inputs and ouputs - including both VGA and DisplayPort video outputs - and you're looking at a bit of beast measuring almost two inches thick and weighing a not-inconsiderable 4KG.

The runner up in the Clarksfield race is MSI, which Fudzilla reports as launching a pair of GT-series laptops featuring the new mobile i7 chips: the GT640 and GT740. Using the 1.6GHz Core i7 720QM and an nVidia GeForce GTS 250M, the pair are somewhat slower than their Alienware equivalent. This should, however, result in a lower price - especially as the units use up to 4GB of cheaper DDR2 RAM compared to the still-expensive DDR3 which populates the slots of Dell's M15x.

Although you get a slower system, there are advantages to MSI's offerings: at 1.55 inches thick, the GT740 is significantly more svelte than the Alienware offering, and the GT640 brings the size down still further to just 1.26 inches at its thickest point.

Do you believe that i7 has a place in notebook computers, or should manufacturers be concerned with performance per watt rather than just raw benchmark results? Can you see yourself splashing out on the Alienware for a portable gaming rig? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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