Just above the keyboard sits an assortment of touch-sensitive media keys and were one to pick a weakness of the overall design, this would be it. Compared to the smart implementations seen on the HP Pavilion dv5-1011ea and other HP notebooks, or even on the Dell Studio 15 (Dell owning Alienware as it does), the plastic covered buttons on the M17 look a little incongruous. They do work fine; they just lack the visual appeal that we know is possible and desirable. We also found it odd that the touchpad was rather small in relation to the rest of this sizable machine, especially after the acreage found on the Apple MacBook.
One thing you're unlikely to have a problem with is the screen. Unlike some of the entertainment machines we've seen recently it isn't an 18.6in 16:9 ratio affair, but sticks with the traditional 17in, 16:10 aspect. It's available in 1,440 x 900 and 1,920 x 1,200 versions, but clearly the latter is well worth it if you can stretch your budget that far. It does have a high contrast glossy finish, but given the M17 will spend most (all) of its time indoors, this is no bad thing.
Unsurprisingly, Alienware chose to show us a unit with the 1,920 x 1,200 panel and though we didn't have the time to sit down and watch a film, or play a game, it looked sharp, bright and colourful.
Ultimately, of course, a gaming notebook really lives and dies on its performance and this is something we'll be testing when we get a production model to review. We still, as we've said in the past, have reservations about dual GPU configurations in notebooks due to flaky driver support, so it will be interesting to see whether Alienware and ATI can deliver the goods in this department. Aside from this all the basics are definitely there and when we get hold of a review machine, we'll find out if it can deliver the whole package.