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If there are some small complaints, though, none could be made about the performance of the m15x. This is the fastest notebook that's ever graced the TrustedReviews office. In PCMark Vantage it's the first to break the 4,000 point barrier, comfortably besting our test machines, the Rock X7700 T7800-8800 and our first Penryn equipped notebook, the Zepto Znote 3415W. It was also fastest in both our in-house Photoshop Elements and VirtualDub tests, were any more evidence needed of its stupendous performance.
It's gaming that's the really important point here, though, and it doesn't disappoint in this arena either. For legacy testing the m15x was pitted against the Rock in both Counter-Strike: Source (CS:S) and Prey - neither games that should tax the system greatly. In CS:S the m15x had a noticeable advantage, showing that the faster CPU was having an effect, however Prey results were more or less the same, showing that the GPU was the limiting factor.
This is going to be case in most games, especially the likes of Crysis - the ultimate system stretcher. From testing it's clear you're still going to be pushed to play the game at high settings, even at 1,280 x 800 the m15x managed only 26.50 frames per second (fps). This may sound playable, but the minimum frame rate is bound to be fairly low, so you'll still want to game at medium settings. This may sound like a bad result, but for a gaming notebook it's really not that bad at all and with some tweaking you can play at smooth enough frame rates with the game still looking pretty good. Just don't expect to be able to play at the display's native resolution, unless you opt for the cheaper 1,440 x 900 panel.
Crysis, however, is an exception rather than a rule and other games, like the exceedingly popular Call of Duty 4 (CoD4), cause no real problems for the m15x. On the maximum ‘extra' settings with no anti-aliasing (AA) or filtering (AF) it managed a comfortable 39fps, while at 4xAA and 8xAF a playable 30fps was the result. Moving down to the ‘high' settings during some subjective testing found a nice balance, with a solid 40-60fps performance at 1,920 x 1,200 while continuing to look very detailed and magnificent to behold. Ultimately, with the exception of Crysis, you shouldn't have too many problems playing most games at good settings and short of adding another 2GB of RAM, this is as fast as you're going to get.
And, when you add this bleeding edge performance, great design and abundance of features to the fact that you can switch to integrated graphics and get some moderate battery performance, the m15x makes a great case for itself. Yes, it's expensive and yes, unlike a desktop it can't be easily upgraded, but if a gaming notebook is what you want, the m15x does more than most to justify that expense. It's not perfect, but it dares to do more than the ordinary and if I were shopping for a gaming notebook right now, this is the one I'd buy.
It's smaller than most gaming notebooks and thanks to a superb lighting system, it looks the part too. But performance is where it counts and the Alienware Area-51 m15x has it in spades. A generous selection of options means you can tailor it to your needs, and all this combined makes this arguably the best gaming notebook currently available.
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