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Alienware Aurora m9700 review: Alienware Aurora m9700

On CNET Labs' SysMark 2004 application benchmark, the Alienware Aurora m9700 trailed Intel Core Duo-based systems, such as the Dell XPS M1710 and the Toshiba Satellite P105-S921 by 19 and 9 percent, respectively. Core Duo CPUs typically perform better on SysMark in part because they have more L2 cache than their AMD counterparts. As expected, the Aurora m9700 edged the Eurocom M590K Emperor, a system that uses a slightly slower Turion 64 processor. Do note, however, that all of the laptops discussed here are among the most powerful available. The Aurora m9700 felt fast and responsive throughout all of our hands-on testing.

Still, the Aurora m9700 turned in frame rates that failed to extinguish all comers. On CNET Labs' F.E.A.R. test, it finished behind the Dell XPS M1710, with its lone 512MB GeForce Go 7900 GTX card. (The M1710's 7900 GTX GPU is faster than the 7900 GS GPU, and it features the same amount of memory as the two GS chips combined.) The Aurora m9700 evened the score by topping the XPS M1710 on our Doom 3 benchmark. The massive Eurocom Emperor, with two 256MB GeForce Go 7800 GTX graphics cards, took top honors on both 3D benchmarks. On our anecdotal tests with Half-Life 2, we found that the 800x600 resolution on the Aurora m9700 offered the optimal gaming experience, and we didn't go crazy enabling lots of advanced features. Though the system didn't take top honors at every 3D turn, it's still one of the fastest gaming laptops on the market.

The system features a large, 12-cell lithium-ion battery. Given the laptop's heft and size, we imagine it will spend most of its time tethered to a wall outlet; we did not run our MobileMark battery-life test.

Alienware backs up the Aurora m9700 with a standard one-year warranty on parts and labor and 24/7 toll-free phone support for the length of the warranty. You can extend the warranty to up to three years. Repair is handled via depot service; Alienware pays shipping in each direction. Support options on Alienware's Web site include live chat, an extensive knowledge database, and a page of drivers. Our review system also included Alienware's Respawn recover CD, a $29 option.

SysMark 2004 performance
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo SysMark 2004 rating  
SysMark2004 Internet content creation  
SysMark2004 office productivity  
Dell XPS M1710
Toshiba Satellite P105-S921
Alienware Aurora m9700
Eurocom M590K Emporer

Doom 3 High Quality, 10x7, 4xAA
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Id Software/Activision's Doom 3  

F.E.A.R. 10x7, 4xAA
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Monolith's/VU Games' F.E.A.R.  

System configurations:

Alienware Aurora m9700
Windows XP Media Center Edition; 2.5GHz AMD T64 ML-44; 2GB PC 3200 DDR2 SDRAM 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce Go 7900 GS 256MB (each); Hitachi Travelstar 7K100 100GB 7,200rpm

Dell XPS M1710
Windows XP Media Center Edition; 2.16GHz Core Duo T2600; 2GB PC 5300 DDR2 SDRAM 666MHz; Nvidia GeForce Go 7900 GTX 512MB; Hitachi Travelstar 7K100 100GB 7,200rpm

Eurocom M590K Emporer
Windows XP Professional; 2.21GHz Turion 64 T-40; 2GB PC 3200 DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce Go 7800 GTX 256MB (each); Seagate Momentus 7200.1 100GB 7,200rpm

Toshiba Satellite P105-S921
Windows XP Professional; 1.83GHz Core Duo T2400; 1GB PC5300 DDR2 SDRAM 666MHz; Nvidia GeForce Go 7900 GS 256MB; Fujitsu MHV2160BT 160GB 4,200rpm

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