Inside, as noted previously, is more or less the most powerful mobile hardware available. Our sample, which would set you back a credit crunch inducing £2,165 inc. VAT, is powered by an Intel Core 2 Extreme X9000, which has a standard clock of 2.8GHz, 6MB L2 Cache and an 800MHz Front Side Bus. This is one of the latest 45nm Penryn CPUs (see: Inside Mobile Penryn) and it also has an unlocked multiplier, so can easily be overclocked.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to perform comprehensive overclocking tests; however most indications suggest that a 3.2GHz overclock is possible – for those that wish to do so. However, though an interesting distraction for the enthusiast, one can’t help but doubt the need for such a CPU in a laptop.
For gaming in particular it’s a needless expense since in most games it’s not the CPU that’s the limiting factor in performance, but the GPU and quite possibly the RAM as well. As such, unless you want to overclock for performing CPU intensive tasks such as video encoding and the like, most would be better off opting for one of the cheaper Penryn CPUs. For example, opting for the 2.6GHz T9500 will trim off close to £230 and if you’re happy to sacrifice just another 100MHz, the otherwise identical 2.5GHz T9300 will reduce the price by a massive £390 when compared to the X9000. That’s the difference between a machine costing over £2,000 and one that’s around £1,750. That’s a pretty sizable difference, which could be a pure saving or allow for an extra one or two years warranty – arguably a necessity when spending this much money on a notebook.
Supporting the CPU is 2GB of 667MHz DDR2 RAM and a 200GB 7200rpm SATA HDD with 16MB Cache, along with the all important 512MB nVidia 8800M GTX providing the graphics grunt. For all intents and purposes this is a slightly scaled down version of the superb nVidia 8800 GT desktop part, utilising the same 256-bit memory interface and the 65nm G92 core, but with slightly fewer stream processors, 96 versus 112, and reduced memory and core clock speeds. Whatever the compromises the Rock X770 T7800-8800 showed what an improvement it was over the frankly hopeless 8700M GT, so its gaming credentials aren’t in question.
Neither, for that matter, is any other element of the specification. For this price you a get Full HD capable 1,920 x 1,200 display, an impressive feature for a 15.4in notebook, while Intel Draft N wireless and Gigabit Ethernet come as standard. Throw in other features such as Bluetooth 2.0+ EDR, a 2.0 Megapixel webcam, a 7-in-1 memory card reader, 9-pin FireWire 800 port, 54mm ExpressCard, HDMI output and an 8x DVD+/-RW optical drive and you’re not wanting for much – these being just the standard features.
You can also opt for Blu-ray drives, both readers and writers, for fairly sizeable premiums. And, if you’d rather not rely upon the integrated Realtek audio you can opt for an External Creative X-Fi Extreme, though you could equally buy one separately. Likewise, Alienware offers a range of third party accessories, including mice, bags, hard drives, headphones and Dell monitors up to 27in. Another option is removable ‘Smart Bay’ hard drives that can be put into the optical disk drive bay, with options ranging up to 320GB. This ‘Smart Bay’ can also be used for an additional battery – always a useful option.