The words 'gaming' and 'laptop' are frequently used together, but they're uncomfortable bedfellows. Aside from the long lost Zepto Znote 6224W, we can't think of a single "gaming laptop" worthy of the description that weighed less than three kilos and came with a screen smaller than 15 inches. Alienware, which is really just a Dell sub-brand these days, looks to have broken this trend in the M11x.
This much we gleaned from our initial hands-on when the Alienware M11x was announced at CES earlier this year. Since then we've been itching to get our hands on it, counting the days in fact. When it finally arrived our expectations have proved justified. This 11.6in laptop, which weighs just a shade less than two kilos, delivers on its promise with great aplomb.
Leaving aside its gaming focus for the moment, the M11x's most obvious contemporary is the Acer Aspire Timeline 1810TZ. It has the same size and resolution screen, has roughly similar dimensions and utilises the same Intel CULV range of processors. What it adds is dedicated Nvidia graphics and a little of the Alienware special sauce. Unsurprisingly it costs a good deal more - prices start at £748 and our review model would set you back £1,159, but you get a lot more too.
Powering our review unit is an Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300, which has two 1.3GHz cores that share a 3MB Cache. It's not the only option, though, since you can also get the near identical Intel Pentium SU4100. Despite not having the Core 2 Duo moniker and aside from its smaller 2MB Cache, it has the same features and 1.3GHz core clock speed. Considering both can be overclocked to up to 1.73GHz (selectable from the BIOS) and will perform near identically, we'd save the £40 and get the SU4100.
In addition, we have 4GB of 800MHz DDR3 RAM, which is the minimum (and the maximum) we'd recommend on this system. What makes our system particularly expensive is the optional 256GB SSD, which is great if you can afford it but overkill for most people. Alternatively you can choose between 320GB and 500GB 7,200rpm hard drives, both of which bring the price to less than £900. Our preferred specification, which would feature the Intel Pentium SU4100 and 500GB hard drive, would currently set you back £868.99. A 320GB drive further reduces this to £829.00.
One thing that remains constant is the graphics card, which is an Nvidia GeForce GT 335M with 1GB dedicated memory. This chip sits near the top of Nvidia's mobile graphics range, albeit not at the very top, but its ability to play games is the key component of the whole machine. Better yet the M11x can also switch to Intel's integrated graphics to save power, giving you the best of both worlds. Unfortunately, at the moment at least, the graphics switching tech on the M11x isn't the seamless experience offered by Nvidia's Optimus technology - you have to select which GPU you want manually - but rumour has it this is likely to change later this year.