Computers / Hands-on Review

Dell's Alienware Computers: Get Your Game On


Hardcore gamers and production software users have something in common: they both rely on beefy, turbo-charged computers to run their favorite programs (whether it’s Premiere Pro, Nuendo, World of Warcraft or otherwise). Alienware computers have all of the muscle that B&H power-users desire, with their blazingly powerful graphics processors, fast hard drives, advanced CPUs and abundance of I/O ports. So if you’re looking for an incredible gaming machine that just happens to be an ideal production computer, you should give the latest notebooks and desktops from Alienware a closer look. They come loaded with all of the firepower you need and an eye-catching, otherworldly look.

If the name Alienware sounds, well, alien to you, fear not. It’s a brand that’s owned and operated by Dell, so you can be assured that their service and support will be top notch. You’re also guaranteed to be getting nothing but the latest and most face-meltingly fast components available. All of these computers come with second-generation Sandy Bridge Intel Core series processors with Turbo Boost 2.0 technology, which enables the CPU to operate even faster than its specified speed (under certain conditions). They’re also all equipped with gaming-ready (and video editing/multi-track audio friendly) 7200 rpm internal hard drives. The cornerstones for high performance are in place with the entire Alienware product line.

It wasn’t long ago that desktop machines were the only computers with enough juice to handle demanding video game applications. However, today’s Alienware notebook computers pack such a powerful punch that they can go to battle, too. A few of the old deal-breakers that used to turn people away from gaming notebooks were that they weren’t truly mobile, they tended to be awkwardly heavy, and their batteries would be gobbled up really quickly by the power-hungry components required by gamers. It also didn’t help that they were simply far more expensive than their desktop counterparts. If you took a look at gaming notebooks in the past and weren’t enticed by what you found, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the options that are available today. They’ve gotten faster, more powerful, more battery efficient and far more affordable. Notebooks like the Alienware M14x have rewritten this story.

If you forget for a moment that the M14x has a relatively low introductory price and that it will happily fold up and travel with you in a backpack, what you’ll see is a traditionally ample gaming machine. The graphics processor is an NVIDIA GeForce GT 555M, which sports 1.5GB of memory. This is the engine that drives the fast-paced graphical demands of popular video game titles, as well as being able to readily handle your video editing, graphics and effects programs (if you’re into that kind of thing).

The GPU isn’t the only component that’s souped up on this portable notebook with menacing good looks. It has a speedy 7200 rpm drive with a whopping 750GB of space; it’s packed with 8GB of RAM; Windows 7 Premium; a 2.0MP webcam; it provides up to six hours of battery life; and has built-in Wi-Fi that can wirelessly hook you into a variety of high-speed networks. The M14X is also WirelessHD ready, so if you have a WirelessHD-compatible receiver, a 3D capable TV, and 3D games, you’ll be able to combat forces of evil in the third dimension (in your living room).

When you check out the ports on the M14x, you forget you’re sizing up a gaming computer because it sounds more like a media-production workhorse. It has two SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, HDMI, Ethernet, a Mini-Display Port, 9-in-1 media card reader and audio ins and outs, plus the processor is a second-generation 2.3 GHz Intel Core i5 2410M. This is some serious firepower for a machine that’s the size of a Trapper Keeper.

If you like the idea of the M14x, but you want a little more screen real estate than its 14.0" 720p display, you should look to the Alienware M17x. When you step up to the larger 17.3" display on the M17x, you get a lot more than just a larger screen. It has a 1GB GDDR5 AMD Radeon HD 6870M video card; the processor is bumped up to a  2.0 GHz Intel Core i7 2630QM, which can turbo-boost up to 2.8 GHz with a 6MB cache; and it has two HDMI ports (a 1.4 output and a 1.3 input, both with audio), an extra USB 2.0 port, and an eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port. When you’re not battling evil forces or working on your next masterpiece, you can kick back and take in some movies with its slot loading, dual-layer DVD burner optical drive.

Are you looking for a portable notebook computer with a generous amount of screen real estate for clearly obliterating your enemies and perhaps editing photos and video? How does an 18.4" full HD 1920 x 1080 display sound? If this tickles your fancy, the Alienware M18x is for you. It’s the most desktop-like portable gaming computer you’re likely to find anywhere. This puppy has an oceanic 1TB SATA hard drive, and the Intel Core i7 2630QM 2.0 GHz Turbo Boost ready processor. The video card is the 1.5GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460M, and the battery is a high capacity 12-cell Lithium-Ion. The M18x has the same ports as its smaller 14-inch sibling, with the addition of an optical S/PDIF input. The keyboard has 82 keys (five of which are user programmable) and there are multiple colored backlights to spice up your alien command center.It’s high time that gamers started thinking about game play as something that can exist outside of the confines of a big, heavy desk. Watching cable TV in your hotel room when you’re away on trips isn’t anything to get excited about, and when you spend a few nights at Grandma’s house, you have to admit it’d be nice to have a formidable gaming laptop with you. The new Alienware notebooks dissolve the limitations of where and when gaming takes place. However, if you’re looking for a new desktop machine for the utmost in performance, look no further than Dell’s Alienware.

Desktop computers (especially those designed for gaming) continue to push the envelope for the ultimate in power. The latest Aurora mid-tower desktop PCs offer high performance, upgradability, an interior build that promotes a proper thermal flow and all while being the shortest version of this computer that Alienware has ever built. Its stylish, black matte exterior will add to the futuristic look of your gaming area/project studio with its array of color-changing exterior lights.

There are two versions of the Aurora available at B&H: one features 6GB of RAM, a DVD R/W optical drive and a 1.5GB NVIDIA GTS 450 video card, the other has 8GB of RAM, Blu-Ray dual drives and a 1GB ATI Radeon 6870 video card. Both computers have liquid-cooled quad core Intel Core i7-2600K Over-clocked Turbo Boost processors, 1TB 7200 rpm drives (with space to carry up to four internal drives) and the Windows 7 Premium operating system. In keeping with the streamlined, dedicated approach, these computers are sent out into the world with a “no bloatware software strategy,” meaning that they won’t be filled to the gills with pre-loaded trials of software that get in the way of serious gaming and production.

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