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Alienware M laptops jacked up with Intel Ivy Bridge chips

Alienware's M series gaming laptops now come with the latest Intel processors, Nvidia 6-series graphics cards and mSATA SSD drives.

Alienware has given its M14X, M17X and M18X gaming laptops a raucous update for 2012, replacing the dusty old Intel Sandy Bridge processors with the sharp new third-generation Ivy Bridge chips, along with the latest Nvidia 6-series graphics cards and mSATA SSD drives for super-speedy start-up times.

Intel's been teasing us with these Ivy Bridge processors for a while now and Alienware's M-series laptops are among the first to arrive packing the new chips. Ivy Bridge chips are designed to provide greater performance while keeping operating power -- and physical size -- lower. Intel promises a significant graphics boost too, so it's particularly exciting to see them slapped inside gaming laptops like these.

Those processors are paired with the latest Nvidia 6-series graphics cards, which aim to offer similar boosts. I've seen these in action on the Acer Aspire Timeline U M3 ultrabook and was extremely impressed at the way it handled even the most recent games, so I'm particularly keen to see how the new Alienwares tackle Skyrim and Battlefield 3.

Another nifty feature is the option to add an mSATA drive. These are small-capacity, solid-state disks that are much quicker to read from than traditional hard disks. You can configure your computer to boot from this drive, resulting in a speedier start-up time.

What hasn't been changed is the outward appearance. All models come with exactly the same physical dimensions and colour schemes, so if you're already familiar with the range, there'll be no surprises here. It's a shame Alienware hasn't tried to reduce the sizes at all -- the M series are massive brutes and the smaller, more power-efficient Ivy Bridge chips could have resulted in a smaller overall size, as we saw with the Acer Timeline U.

One model that was conspicuous by its absence at a recent Alienware showcase I went to was the scrappy little 11-inch M11X gaming netbook. Alienware explained that while it isn't immediately axing it from sale, it is slowly phasing it out and so isn't updating it with the new components. Whether it'll see a price drop or not remains to be seen.

There's no official word on pricing for the whole range yet, but Alienware reckons it'll be roughly similar to the current models. Like all products from Dell (which builds Alienware stuff), it's customisable to the nth degree when you buy one. Including the various sizes, processor and RAM options, storage and of course colours and aesthetic customisations, there are nearly 39 million options available. It's a rather different experience to buying a MacBook Pro.

The new models are due to go on sale today, so if you fancy gaming on some oven-fresh processors, head over to the Alienware store and check out the range. Be sure to let me know what you make of them in the comments below, or over on our Facebook page. Stay tuned for full reviews soon.