Alienware has had something of a mixed year. Back in April we took a look at its Area-51 m15x, a 15.4in gaming notebook boasting some serious power, and it left us suitably impressed that Alienware had managed to cram such high performance components into a comparatively small chassis. More recently, however, we were distinctly underwhelmed by the Area-51 Desktop Gaming PC, to the point that we wondered whether Alienware's once unique desktops had become something of an anachronism. It's lucky, then, that the company has another notebook to come, the new M17.
In terms of design it's very similar to the Area-51 m9750 that we reviewed over a year ago, though this is by no means a bad thing. On the outside it sports the rubberised Skullcap design common to many of the company's notebook offerings. It looks a bit like the outside of the Batman suit, but thankfully you don't get that weird gravely voice that makes Christian Bale sound like an axe murderer who eats nails for breakfast.
This is matched on the inside with a similar soft-touch black finish, one that adds a tactile and premium feel. It lends the M17 a pleasingly stealth-like appearance, too, and it's something that instantly sets it apart from the overly 'blinged' overtones of the Dell XPS M1730 and similar efforts, or the rather cheap feeling re-badged equivalents. Indeed, in this sense the M17 is the very antithesis of Alienware's own desktops, whose plastic shells lack that sense of quality we'd expect from premium products.
Given it can house two graphics cards it's no surprise to discover it's a big machine, measuring just shy of 400mm across and 300mm deep. To put that into perspective, the whole chassis is in fact deeper than an MSI Wind is wide. Alienware also quotes a weight of an incredible 5.65kg, so if someone happens to drop one down the stairs you should probably get out of the way and then maybe swear profusely. Its size and weight should also make it handy in the case of a zombie apocalypse, though a handle would probably enhance its brain crushing capabilities - Alienware, take note!
Portable it might not be but powerful, on paper at least, it is. It should come as no surprise to discover it houses a Centrino 2 chipset, with processor options starting at a 2.26GHz P8400 and running up to the 3.06GHz Core 2 Extreme, 2.26GHz Core 2 Quad Q9100 and the 2.53GHz Core 2 Extreme Quad QX9300. Graphics, meanwhile, are dealt with by one or two 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3870's. If you do happen to opt for the base specification prices start at £999 inc. VAT, but frankly you need to get the chequebook out if you want to make the most of the machine.