Once I opened the box I found all sorts of cool little touches that I have not seen from a PC manufacturer before like a leather looking ring binder to hold the owners manual which was nice. Little things like this give a feel of exclusivity to the owner.
Since the first time I laid eyes on an Alienware system, I have been a big fan of the design of the case Alienware uses. The m9700 was no exception. Externally this is in my opinion the best-looking laptop I have seen, especially so in the bright metallic blue Alienware dubbed Conspiracy Blue. If I were buying I probably would have opted for the Cyborg Green if for no other reason than to feel like I was in an episode of Smallville. The other available color for the m9700 is Saucer Silver.
The quality of the finish was the first thing that caught my eye after the unboxing. I would call it automotive quality, but in all honesty, the paint on my car is not as nice as the m9700. Flawless is a good way to describe the paint. Deep blue color was very appealing and I thought it was cool that Alienware even paints the touchpad to the same color as the chassis.
The rig Alienware choose to send me for review was pretty much maxed out for the m9700 line and carried a massive sticker price of $3948, though the m9700 systems start at a more pocketbook friendly $1699. Expensive the system is, but buying Alienware is akin to buying luxury car.
You do not walk into the Cadillac dealer and complain that the cars cost too much. Let’s face it Alienware is a status symbol. You buy Alienware for performance and prestige in my opinion and when you want something more exclusive than Acer or Dell’s boring laptops, it costs more.
Performance is what Alienware built their empire on, and the m9700 has it. I once made the mistake of trying to play FEAR on my Acer laptop and it just did not work. This beastly SLI m9700 ran FEAR as well as most desktop systems are capable of doing. I am talking serious performance.
Rather than spend lots of time running benchmarks that do not really tell you anything about the real world performance of a computer, I opted to run two simple tests and then spent several week simply using the system as my main workstation for gaming and work.
|Closeup of the Alienware m9700|
I made several passes with 3DMark06 to get an idea of how well the Alienware m9700 would compare to other systems I have tested. The m9700 would hold its own with most desktop systems out there, it scored 5049 3DMarks. The CPU in my test system is certainly the biggest determent to performance here with only a 932 score for the CPU. The SM2.0 score was 2592 while the SM3.0/HDR score was 2493.
To help put that in perspective a bit I tested a new XFX 7950 GT Extreme edition not long ago on a system with 2GB of PC2-8000 DDR2 RAM and an AMD Athlon FX-62 CPU that scored 5442 3DMarks. The two graphics test scores were about 400 points higher each on the m9700, it was totally the CPU that put the FX-62 based system over the top performance wise with eh FX-62 scoring a whopping 2161 in the CPU portions.
What you see here is a notebook computer that has the graphical oomph of a nice desktop gaming machine even when the desktop runs a significantly faster processor. Talk about a desktop replacement. The other game I played lots of on the Alienware m9700 was FEAR. I test graphics cards frequently with FEAR because it is a very tough game on hardware. I set all the settings to max in the FEAR options panel and ran a resolution of 1600x1200 for the in game test sequence.
The m9700 did very well with a minimum frame rate of 20 fps, an average frame rate of 48 fps and a maximum frame rate of 142 fps. Only 7% of the time was frame rates lower than 25 fps, 29% of the time frame rates were 25 – 40 fps and 64% of the time frame rates were over 40 fps. This is some serious performance for most any computer, and fantastic in a laptop.
During my time with the m9700 I used it exclusively for several weeks as my main workstation. I can say that if you have bad eye site you will want to run a different resolution than the native of 1920 x 1200 which on the 17” screen makes text difficult to read for some, while it is fantastic for gaming.
The addition of a surround sound graphics card makes for a much-improved gaming experience and when you couple surround sound with the Windows XP Media Center Edition operating system you get a serious media center machine as well for your money.
Wireless performance was good, though to get the fastest wireless network performance you can you will wan to use an add in card, the on-board WiFi card is 54Mbps max. Alienware even included a built in SD card reader, since that is the most common consumer media for digital cameras. If you like to be able to web conference or video chat on the road you will appreciate the built-in webcam as well.
Battery life on a machine running a large and bright LCD along with dual graphics cards is going to be shorter than a less powerful machine for sure. On the standard 12-cell battery I could get a good two hours in playing FEAR online with eh WiFi card before I had to plug the computer in. That is with the CPU running full speed; the CPU does not run full speed in all situations to improve battery life. That time frame also included having the WiFi card active as well. Not too bad for a serious wireless gaming rig that can run FEAR maxed out.
Leading our review center, Shane McGlaun (Google) knows technology inside out. His extensive experience in testing computer hardware and consumer electronics enable him to effectively qualify new products and trends. If you want us review your product, please contact Shane.
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