Dell tested my patience this morning in having its press conference at a hotel on the opposite side of town to everything else, but the trip turned out to be worth it. The company showed a number of new products, more on which at a later date, but the outstanding highlight was the Alienware M11X.
An 11.6in laptop, Dell reckons it has created a new category with this high-performance, ultra-portable laptop that offers on-the-fly switchable graphics so you get both performance and longevity. As yet there's no full spec sheet, but what Dell did reveal is that the system uses a Core 2 Duo processor (likely a CULV, though not confirmed) alongside an exceedingly powerful nVidia GeForce 335M that packs a whopping 1GB dedicated memory and a 35W TDP.
As was explained by Alex Gruzen, SVP of Dell's Consumer Product Group, the system's thermal design has been focussed on the GPU. This allowed them to fit a far more powerful chip than you'd normally get in such a small machine, most of which rely on very limited integrated graphics.
Unfortunately I didn't have time to stop and get my game on, but Dell reckons the likes of Modern Warfare 2 is playable at 30fps on high settings (no anti-aliasing) and that the 3D Mark score is in the region of 6,000 to 7,000 depending on configuration. All very impressive for a machine that's similar in size to an Acer Aspire 1810!
Not only is the system a capable gaming performer, switchable graphics allows for battery life of six and a half hours using the non-removable, lithium-polymer battery. Connectivity is also very strong, with DisplayPort, HDMI and VGA all on-hand for video and three USB ports with standby power. Those in the US, at least, won’t have to wait long either, with the system going on sale within a month for less than $1,000.
From my brief time with the machine it's clear this is a very impressive piece of engineering. While the Alienware design ethic won't be to everyone's taste, it is executed to a very high standard and the various lighting features (including backlit keyboard) are tastefully done. As you'd rightly expect these days, the keyboard is very good, sporting decent key actions and a logical layout. Even the touchpad is pretty good, no mean feat given the comparatively small dimensions. A sharp, colourful 1,366 x 768 display is also very alluring, even if it sports the inevitable glossy finish
Overall, the M11X is clearly one of the more intriguing and innovative laptop developments of recent times. It remains to be seen whether the performance matches Dell's ambition for the machine and whether people really want gaming performance in this form-factor, but I'm certainly keen to find out.
Link: Product Page