In February last year, we reviewed the barnstorming Alienware M17 gaming laptop. Sixteen months and 16 intensive chiropractic sessions later, the spine-crushingly heavy, brain-meltingly powerful gaming behemoth is back. It's been dubbed the Alienware M17x for some time now, but this latest version adds Intel's processor for even more power. Available in about a zillion different configurations, the base model costs around £1,550, while the model we've reviewed will set you back about £2,170. Does the new hardware pack enough extra punch to satisfy the discerning PC gamer?
It may be a laptop, but any notions that the M17x is portable should be instantly dismissed. It weighs 5.3kg and measures 406 by 51 by 321mm, so it's really far too big and heavy to move on a frequent basis, except possibly from room to room. Even the power brick has dimensions that outstrip those of some we've seen.
Once it's finally installed, however, you'll be able to feast your eyes on the M17x's demonic good looks. Extremely angular, our review model came in a bright red that extended across the lid and around the sides of the chassis. At the front, twin grilles cover the built-in speakers.
The M17 sported a fairly understated interior, but that's no longer the case. An LED backlight illuminates the keyboard, speakers, trackpad, logo and power switch in a range of customisable colours. We opted for a very butch rainbow effect, spread across the keyboard, but there are enough colour options so that you'll probably be able to make the laptop match the walls in your house.
Our review sample came with a 17-inch, 1,920x1,200-pixel LCD display, but, if you're not fussed about having a super-high-resolution screen, you can opt for a cheaper, 1,440x900-pixel model. We have to say, though, that the higher-spec screen looks really fantastic.
Despite the glossy display, our gaming experience wasn't ruined by annoying reflections, because the M17x's screen is very bright indeed. It's crisp, extremely colourful, and has really impressive horizontal and vertical viewing angles, so the whole family will be able to crowd around the display as you pump rounds into the corpse of an enemy.
The charmingly backlit keyboard is very comfortable to use. Each key is springy and responsive, and the massive wrist-rest area means your fingers will stay comfortable hovering over the W, A, S and D keys for hours on end. A full numberpad to the right of the keyboard will help you out if your games require frantic number input or if you're fond of assigning in-game macros to the number keys.
The trackpad is less impressive. It's tricky to distinguish the touch-sensitive area from the rest of the machine's chassis, and the trackpad itself doesn't feel very sensitive. The tracking area is large, but it's not possible to execute very fine cursor movements.
To an extent, this isn't important because, once you fire up a game, you'll undoubtedly want to use a serious gaming mouse anyway. But, if you're using the M17x for a spot of light Web browsing or image editing, the lack of sensitivity may rankle.
Around the side, you'll find a whole heap of ports, including VGA and HDMI outputs, a FireWire port, an Ethernet jack, four USB sockets, a multi-format card reader, one SATA and USB 2.0 two-in-one port, two 3.5mm headphone sockets, and one 3.5mm microphone socket.
Our only complaint about the ports is that the USB sockets are clustered quite closely together. If you're hoping to plug in bulky peripherals, you might find that they obscure more than one USB port. That's quite aggravating.