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Alienware m15x Review (updated 30 Aug 2009)

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Old 08-15-09, 05:58 AM Thread Starter   #1
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Alienware m15x Review (updated 30 Aug 2009)


Foreword :
When looking for a new 15 inch laptop with a bit of power one of the options you have to consider is the products from Alienware.
This review is a honest perspective of the Alienware Area 51 m15 x which I have recently purchased. I intend to cover all aspects from what made me decide upon the purchase through to delivery, first impressions, ownership and eventually benchmarks under windows vista, windows 7 and Linux.

The images used are lower quality where possible to be respectful to people not on fast connections

Alienware Area 51 m15x


  • Why Alienware
The generic Alienware customer is a gamer which I most certainly am not. In fact the last game I can recall playing on a PC was Quake 3 Arena and that was a few years ago. Taking this into consideration along with my OS of choice being Linux makes alienware a slightly odd choice. Why not another Apple product as that runs a BSD which is similar to Linux?
The truth be told there was no technical reason for choosing Alienware it was simply interest and curiosity I had heard a great deal about Alienware and thought I would take a look at them.
Alienware are also now owned by Dell as such being the owner of a current generation Dell XPS laptop I can directly compare my experiences and see if they are truly independent or operate in the same manner.
  • Purchasing
The order was placed on-line through the Alienware website on a Friday evening and everything first appeared to proceed as expected until 30 minutes after processing I received a call from my credit card company stating that they had been informed from Alienware that someone was attempting to use my card to purchase high value items.
The discussion resulted in my transaction being rejected.
I appreciate and value the need for security however rather than rejecting the payment I would have appreciated Alienware or my credit card company, putting the payment and goods on hold and calling me to see if I had actually made the purchase before taking any action.
The result was that my purchase was cancelled and I had to call Alienware on Monday to get them to reprocess the order as by the time I had finished with the credit card company Alienware sales had all departed for the weekend.
A quick phone call on Monday resolved the issue and the order was processed.
For this reason if your buying a product from Alienware I would advise calling them.
  • Specifications
Area 51 m15x
WUXGA High definition screen 1920x1200
Intel Core2 Duo T9500 (6mb cache - 800mhz FSB)
8GB PC2-5300 SO-DIMM
Nvidia 8700-GT 512 MB
Intel High Definition Audio
Samsung RBA MLC 256GB 2.5" SSD
Blueray Disk Burner (Smart Bay)
Intel Pro Wireless 4965AGN (a/b/g/n)
6 Cell Li-on Battery
9 Cell Li-on Battery
160 GB 7200 rpm Hard Disk (Smart Bay)
Battery (Smart Bay)
2.5 mega pixel webcam
Alien FX keyboard
  • Delivery
The delivery was prior to the date I expected it and came in a nicely packaged plain brown box which contained the following nicely branded, corrugated cardboard branded packing.

I this was the following content, the laptop itself which was nicely wrapped and protected by suspending it in polystyrene and a branded box containing the goodies and extras

The box of goodies contained the three battery packs, the smart bay hard disk, the charger, the leather embossed manual, restore DVD's, CD's and a wide selection of Alienware clothing, mouse mats and other things. All items were nicely packaged in an abundance of bubble wrap

Slowly the products came from the box, one item which specifically impressed me was the documentation, which was provided in an embossed leather binder which contained, all the disks for my Laptop including data recovery CD's , restore CD's and DVD's along with all the software on my Laptop.
This laptop did not ship with trial versions of applications and software everything was full version and I got the disks as well, the kit even had a driver CD.
The documentation itself was outstanding and it was great to see everything in one place as it should. Other product manufacturers could learn a lot from this and should stop giving us paper CD envelopes.

Eventually the moment I had been waiting for arrived, the Alienware laptop was unpacked

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Last edited by UnseenMenace; 08-15-09 at 07:37 AM.
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Old 08-15-09, 07:15 AM Thread Starter   #2
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  • First Impressions
The packing of the Alienware product was second to none, in the past I have been lucky enough to unpack products from Sony, Samsung, Dell, Apple and Asus and none of these come close in terms of the thought put into the packing and the quality of packing.
Unpacking the laptop showed a product which was very glossy it looked such high quality and simply oozed coolness and style in levels that would make a mac fanboy start dribbling. The lid featured an embossed alien head which would glow when the system was powered up.

Opening the lid showed a nice clean work area, it features what alienware describe as a seem-less touchpad, which in effect means in terms of texture and feel you can not tell where the wrist rests end and the touch pad starts, it all feels the same. The additional controls such as the volume, bluetooth, wireless and stealth mode (no lighting) are also seem-less while the power button is a alien head which has a reassuring button feel about it.

Opening the laptop for the first time and powering it on produced a warm refreshing glow from the keyboard, lights and screen pipe round the edge of the screen, the little alien head on the case was flashing away. I called out to my family "come and check this out" as they came into the room where I was the lights went out, Every single last one of them

  • When things start go wrong
At this time my laptop was sitting in darkness which prompted a swift call to the Alienware support team.
So often we judge products and companies based on products which are as expected, however I believe that you understand more from a company by how they respond when things have gone wrong.
First of all Alienware were refreshingly honest with me, they informed me that this is a known issue with the laptop since the OS has changed from WindowsXP to Vista and the manner in which to resolve this was to Bios flash my system and to use a patch for the lighting, the support tech then offered to do this for me and used the Alienware support application to connect to my system with a password he provided over the phone and did what he said.
My system was also tweaked for better performance and advice was given for running Linux on the system even though it is not supported.
The support tech then proceeded to call me the following day to check if things were OK.

Considering the value of the product, I expect decent service however so many companies talk it, but can not actually provide it - Alienware support were honest, offered great service and resolved my issues, and recognized their failings in not patching the product prior to dispatch and said sorry for this.
It was good to see that as a customer I was placed first - 10 out of 10 for Alienware support.

The laptop is great and working as expected now.

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Last edited by UnseenMenace; 08-15-09 at 08:00 AM.
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Old 08-15-09, 08:01 AM Thread Starter   #3
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  • Living with an Alienware (The first week)

The Alienware feels a little heavier than most 15 inch laptops I have come across, the weight however feels low in the unit as such it sits will on your lap nicely without that feeling that it could tip up.

* Size and Weight
  • Height: 1.30”
  • Width: 14.55”
  • Depth: 10.73”
  • Weight: 7 lbs

Looking round the Alienware m15x I started to notice some really well thought out features, the base of the laptop is very heavily vented as such it never really feels overly warm on your lap.
The main battery packs also have a power button which when pressed informs you of the charge level prior to turning on the laptop.

  • Batterys
The Alienware comes with a nice selection of batterys for all your requirements, the smaller of the main batterys is a six cell li-on while the slightly larger battery is a nine cell li-on battery.
The smart bay battery which looks like the CD Drive you remove to fit this is a six cell li-on battery pack.
Ive not yet used the nine sell battery, however from the two six cell packs im getting about four and a half or five hours life which makes it very usable.

  • Cooling
The cooling vents on the base of the product as seen in the picture below are quite substantial as such the heat is never retained within the laptop itself.
The laptop remains reasonably cool on the base no matter how prelonged the use, I am yet to experience that feeling of my lap cooking.
  • Internals
    The laptop has two fans and a selection of heatsinks and heatpipes covering the processor, chipset, graphic card and SDA disk which appear to be well thought out as the system itself does not suffer from heat issues.
  • Trackpad
One feature which I nave noticed that I think is rather nice is that when you connect a bluetooth mouse to the laptop, the tracjpad is disabled and powered down.
  • Living with an Alienware (The second week)
  • Battery Life Continued
The battery packs have now been charged and discharged fully, Along with the tweaks done to the system I am now achieving over 5 hours usage on battery power which makes this the first full size laptop I have been able to take anywhere without the power supply. Well impressed

Last edited by UnseenMenace; 08-17-09 at 04:47 PM.
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Old 08-15-09, 08:01 AM Thread Starter   #4
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  • Linux on Alienware
I've just installed Linux Mint 7 x64 which is currently not having any issues, everything seems to work as I would expect, the additional fuction buttons work as does the webcam.
The only thing which I am having issues with is the high definition audio which works on headphones but not through the speakers. I will look into this and report back.

Last edited by UnseenMenace; 08-17-09 at 04:41 PM.
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Old 08-15-09, 08:02 AM Thread Starter   #5
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  • Benchmark and Test information
The Windows experience rating of the m15x came up at 5.0
ive no idea if this is respectfull or poor for a laptop as in general im not a windows user


The following benchmarks were provided as a text file on the desktop of the system, I have not established if this is a generic benchmark provided for all m15x laptops or if the benchmarks produced were from my very system.
  • Alienware provided benchmarks
3DMark Score 2006 - 6,451.00 3DMarks
SM2.0 Score- 2,661.00
HDR/SM3.0 Score- 2,582.00
CPU Score- 2,371.00
Game Score- 0.00 Points
SM2.0 Graphics Tests
GT1 - Return To Proxycon- 22.06 FPS
GT2 - Firefly Forest- 22.29 FPS
CPU Tests
CPU1 - Red Valley- 0.75 FPS
CPU2 - Red Valley- 1.19 FPS
HDR/SM3.0 Graphics Tests
HDR1 - Canyon Flight- 21.95 FPS
HDR2 - Deep Freeze- 29.69 FPS


Im not someone who follows benchmarks and believe that they have little relationship with real world performance, however I am aware that some people like these for comparrison reasons.
  • Samsung 256GB SSD Drive Benchmarks









NOTE : This review is a work in progress, if you have any questions or specific things you wish to know please state so
[*]Ownership after a month
Well the illuminated keyboard and features although looking really cool have seriously started to bug the hell out of me to the point where I will never every buy a laptop with a backlit keyboard.
[*]Upgrades
The secondary 7200rpm hard disk which features in the smart bay has been replaced with the 160GB 34nm Intel X25 M to work alongside the 256GB Samsung SDA given the choice for performance and heat generation the Samsung wins every time imho.
[*]Observations to date
As is well known Im a linux geek however I wanted to learn a little bit abouut the latest generation of Windows as as this laptop shipped with Vista 64, I decided to have a look and to be honest I found it not exceptionally intuitive and quite invasive in the sence than any time I wished to do something it asked me if I was sure, and then checked again after I had confirmed I was sure.
I thought Microsoft got it pretty much right with XP in terms of their product however I am of the opinion that a new computer user would have more problems frinding their way round the interface than they would with either OSX or a friendly linux distro such is Ubuntu. Vista to me is design over fuction.
The reason why I am formating this weekend and going with a full Linux drive is simply because I consider Vista to be a really bad performer, I would not want to run this on a system with less ram than 8gb and most certainly would want more inorder to consider it.

An interesting experience but one I will not wish to repeat

Ive just got another new laptop so will be able to play with the Alienware a bit more

Last edited by UnseenMenace; 08-30-09 at 01:12 PM.
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Old 08-15-09, 08:51 AM   #6
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Great review so far, I can't see myself ever getting a laptop that's so bulky but I would like to here from you what it's like when have had to cart it around.

Hummm, it appears that the m15x isn't on the uk website anymore.

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Old 08-15-09, 09:42 AM   #7
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How heavy is that it,

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Old 08-15-09, 05:54 PM Thread Starter   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zbo View Post
Great review so far, I can't see myself ever getting a laptop that's so bulky but I would like to here from you what it's like when have had to cart it around.

Hummm, it appears that the m15x isn't on the uk website anymore.
It's weight can vary quite dramatically depending upon the configuration of the smart bay, at this time I have the additional battery pack which weighs more than the optical drive.
The weight however is not excessive or enough to become a long term problem and it feels really low down in the product as such it sits nicely on your lap and has a reassuringly secure and stable feel.

The m15x is only available in the UK now under special order

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Old 08-15-09, 05:58 PM Thread Starter   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by meionm View Post
How heavy is that it,
The weight has now been posted, it certainly feels heavier than my Dell XPS1530 but its not such a weight that carrying it for long period of time would be an issue.

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Old 08-16-09, 12:39 PM   #10
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How much does this laptop cost? I always saw alienware as overpriced...
I like my MSI laptop alot, Comes with a similar processor (P9500) but has a turbo button for 2.93Ghz, and you can change the settings in the BIOS for 1000Mhz DDR2 and ~3.2Ghz clock speed.
To compare I get almost 11,000 in 3dmark06

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Old 08-16-09, 12:50 PM Thread Starter   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Badbonji View Post
How much does this laptop cost? I always saw alienware as overpriced...
I like my MSI laptop alot, Comes with a similar processor (P9500) but has a turbo button for 2.93Ghz, and you can change the settings in the BIOS for 1000Mhz DDR2 and ~3.2Ghz clock speed.
To compare I get almost 11,000 in 3dmark06
The laptop prior to being removed from Alienware UK's website was £899 and was purchased out of interest more than anything, the most impressive thing to date is the battery life. If I turn off the lighting effects I can get a little over 5 hours battery life which makes this a very usable portable system/

The 3DMark scores are those quoted by Alienware, I have little understanding of their value, they mean nothing to me as Im not a gamer. The bigest curiousity I have is regarding how acurate the scores are and if they are generic for this system. I intend to reproduce some of the benchmarks to check this.

Last edited by UnseenMenace; 08-17-09 at 04:41 PM.
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Old 08-22-09, 10:34 AM   #12
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you said you got the intel turbo memory in another thread

any reports on how well this plays with linux?

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Old 08-23-09, 03:47 PM Thread Starter   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stratus_ss View Post
you said you got the intel turbo memory in another thread

any reports on how well this plays with linux?
It's not playing with Linux at the moment, I have not discovered how to utilise it at this time however I must admit that I have not put considerable effort into this area yet, currently im having a few issues with the high definition audio I need to fix prior to looking into this.

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Old 08-23-09, 04:44 PM   #14
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ya does the intel turbo memory give u any performance?

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Old 08-24-09, 02:12 AM Thread Starter   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SuperMiguel View Post
ya does the intel turbo memory give u any performance?
I've not noticed any additional performance from it in Linux or Windows (yes im also looking at Windows to get a balanced experience of how the laptop performs under each OS, but intend to loose it once all my Linux issues are resolved)
At this point in time I would not care if it is there or not, It simply seems to be one of those things which is great in theory but fails to deliver in reality.

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Old 01-16-10, 01:16 PM   #16
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Hey... R u willing to sell the smartbay battery?
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Old 01-16-10, 09:24 PM   #17
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No buying or selling in the general forums, vpalko3; please re-read our posting rules. We have a Classified area here that we buy and sell in. You will get access after 100 quality posts and you list your ISP email address as your registration email address (for security purposes).

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Old 01-20-10, 10:30 AM   #18
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Wow very nice laptop you have there. I wish I had one!!!
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