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Alienware M11X early review: Real gaming on a netbook

There are plenty of awkward phrases in our language, but none are as oxymoronic as those that describe the M11X. Yes, folks, it's an 'Alienware netbook'

Rory Reid
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There are plenty of words in our language that don't go well together. Examples include 'airline' and 'food', 'military' and 'intelligence', 'black' and 'Russian'. None of these, however, are as oxymoronic as those that describe the M11X -- 'Alienware' and 'netbook'.

We got a chance to play with this thing last night and we're not ashamed to say a little sliver of drool oozed out. Whereas most devices of this type look cute, this bad little boy exudes a meanness usually reserved for its larger siblings. It's littered with LED lights and looks like it'd be just as handy for running iPlayer as for bludgeoning someone to death.

Like the Acer Ferrari One, it uses an 11-inch, 1,366x768-pixel screen. Unlike its rival, however, it has the 3D horsepower to really make the most of that display. In addition to a slow, but battery-friendly, Intel integrated graphics chip, it can automatically switch without rebooting to an Nvidia GeForce GT 335M unit. According to Nvidia, this offers 30 times the performance of standard netbook graphics, meaning the M11X should be able to run Call of Duty without batting an eyelid, and even have a stab at more demanding titles (Crysis, anyone?).

Unlike most netbooks, which use weedy little Atom chips, the M11X we looked at uses an Intel U4100. Very few details on this processor are available, but we believe it to be a dual-core part which, in theory, should make the M11X noticeably quicker than its rivals. In addition, Alienware had thrown 2GB of RAM, a 250GB hard drive and a copy of Windows 7 Home Premium into the bargain, though we suspect final machines to be customisable by end users.

We're not too sure when the M11X will go on sale, but word on the grapevine is it'll sell for under $1,000 (£620), which isn't bad considering the unique blend of horsepower and portability you're getting. We're chasing Alienware for a proper review sample, but in the meantime you can take a look at some of the pictures we took during our short time with it.

Update: Alienware says the M11X will have a base price of $799 (£498).

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It's a little heavier than a standard netbook, but that's forgiveable, as it's shedloads faster than a standard netbook, too.
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It looks like it means business, doesn't it? We love the detailing on the lid and the absense of that annoying glossy plastic most of its rivals rely on.
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Notably, the M11X has HDMI video output as well as DisplayPort. It also has VGA, USB, Ethernet, four-pin FireWire and a memory card reader on the same side.
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The backlit keyboard is a smart touch.
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Speaking of keyboards, we found this one to be extremely comfortable to use.

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