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Tiny gamer: Dell announces Alienware M11x 11.6-incher

Alienware's latest gaming laptop tries to take hardcore gaming to the small screen for a more affordable price. We get hands-on with the miniature system.

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Update: The Alienware M11x has been nominated for the Best of CES awards in the Gaming category.

LAS VEGAS--Alienware laptops are powerful, but they're not exactly known for being ultraportable or affordable. At Dell's press conference this morning, however, a chief focus was put on their new M11x laptop, which seems to be attacking both ends head-on. In a form approaching Netbook size, the 11.6-inch laptop comes packed with switchable graphics, including an Nvidia GT335M GPU as its main powerhouse, and will sell this spring for less than $1,000.

According to Dell representatives, the M11x will achieve over six hours of battery life in its lower-graphics function mode, and with a hot switch to the faster Nvidia GPU that will take under 2 seconds and not require logging out, will attain around two hours of "intense gaming." The tiny laptop was shown off in the hands of Dell executives, and an M11x was also connected to a larger monitor to demonstrate how the laptop--with DisplayPort, HDMI, and VGA ports--can connect to larger monitors and HDTVs to play games as well. Dell claims that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 will run at over 30fps in full-HD mode and settings set to high, which would certainly be a feat.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Hands-on update: We got a chance for some hands-on time with the M11x, and made several observations: first, its processor is in fact an Intel Core 2 ULV, the U7300--this is the same processor we've seen in higher-end thin-and-lights. It's augmented with Nvidia's GT335M discrete graphics, making it a kind of a hybrid machine. Its purportedly strong non-gaming-mode battery life would be because of its ULV processor.

Compared to other Alienware laptops, the M11x is surprisingly slim. In fact, its overall dimensions weren't far off from the Asus EeePC 12.1-inch Atom Netbook we were carrying along with us. It's a bit angular and blocky, but the M11x represents a massive move to true portability for the Alienware brand.

We were also told that, even with the advertised "under $1,000" price, models will be sold for as low as $799. That's close to what standard thin-and-lights sold for earlier last year.