Summary

Our Score

7/10

Review Price free/subscription

Not that the M17 is a bad gaming machine in general. To put the previous poor figures into context, this Alienware managed 53FPS in Call of Duty 4 at 1,920 x 1,200 with no AA but maximum detail. And to compare to non-gaming notebooks, TrackMania Nations Forever scored a healthy 31FPS average at the same resolution with detail set to maximum, 4xAF and 2xAA and all the post processing effects it offers. To be honest, though, the Crysis figures simply don't represent the kind of gaming performance you would expect from nearly two-and-a-half thousand pounds' worth of machine.

Lastly, we find out what kind of portability the M17's 12-cell battery can provide, though when we're talking about a machine weighing over 4.3kg with a power-brick that adds an extra 1.1kg 'portability' becomes relative. Battery results are pretty much as poor as one would expect, with just over an hour and a half in our non-intensive Reader test. Since this is already with wireless turned off and brightness at 40 per cent, the most you can realistically expect from this machine is two hours of very frugal use. With heavy use, on the other hand, you'll be lucky to get to an hour. This is quite poor compared to notebooks with even bigger screens, such as the 18.4in Acer Aspire 8920G, and clearly shows the drain of twin graphics cards.

Overall then, is Alienware's M17 worth £2,500 of your hard-earned cash in these economically troubled times? Well, that kind of depends. It's actually pretty good value, at least when compared to Alienware's own M17x or indeed m15x, though obviously with the latter the size-difference is a primary consideration. For a similar configuration (going with the dual-core X9100 on the M17 and GeForce 8700GTs in SLI on the M17x), you end up paying almost £400 more, and that's with slower DDR2 memory and a slower X9000 Extreme processor.

However, thanks to the somewhat disappointing gaming performance of the twin Radeon Mobility HD3870s, the M17 is not an outright recommendation for gamers. If gaming is your highest priority, you'd be far better off going for a cheaper processor and getting a GeForce Go 9800M GTX - or even a pair of these in SLI - for around the same outlay. Unfortunately, this is not an option with the M17, so it might be worth looking elsewhere for now.

In the meantime, if you think you'll benefit from the Quad Core processor and want Alienware, the M17 is beautifully designed, well-built and generally a pleasure to use, and surprisingly very silent in operation.

Verdict

The M17 is a well designed and powerful laptop only let down by its slightly weak graphics cards in very demanding games like Crysis. For gaming, there are better alternatives out there in terms of performance for the money, but this quad-core machine makes short work of everything else, making it well suited to video editing and other multi-threaded tasks.

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