For all its strengths, though, not everything about the m15x delights. Its display, for instance, despite the generous resolution, is fairly underwhelming. Though sharp and responsive, firing up some high definition video showed quite poor black level response, with scenes rendered grey and lifeless and colours a pale shadow of what one would like to see. Gaming performance was less of a problem, since games are more forgiving and the panel does deal well with motion too.
Consequently, if you were thinking of opting for a Blu-ray drive for watching high-definition movies on the m15x, I’d recommend reconsidering. Moreover, considering the relative noisiness of the machine, it’s not particularly well suited to watching films at all. It’s a shame, too, that the only other screen offering is a 1,440 x 900 display, since a 1,680 x 1,050 version would provide a more acceptable compromise.
One other weakness, that would also affect its media credentials, is the relatively disappointing integrated speakers. One would never expect high fidelity audio from a notebook, but by modest standards the speakers on the m15x are merely “okay”. They’ll do for casual usage, but a pair of external speakers or headphones will always be preferable. Sticking with audio, it’s also a shame Alienware hasn’t opted for Dolby Home Theatre certified audio. Its virtual headphone technology is particularly good and would have added a lot of value and quality to what is, after all, a premium product.
Indeed, headphones are likely to be the order of the day given that when gaming m15x does get not only moderately warm, but as a result very noisy. It utilises two fans (one each for CPU and GPU) on each corner to force heat out of the back of the machine, while underneath is an array of vents meant to help maximise heat dissipation – all of which are clearly required. Of course, this certainly isn’t a problem that’s unique to this machine; all gaming notebooks are noisy, but it’s a point that’s worth remembering.
Another more palpable annoyance is the touch sensitive buttons, none of which work well at all. They require far too much pressure to activate them, while the volume slider is imprecise and difficult to use. It seems odd that of all of the things on the Alienware these shouldn’t work that well, especially considering parent company Dell has used them to great success.
Finally, before I get back to lavishing the praise the m15x otherwise deserves, it’s a bit puzzling to see only an HDMI port and not a DVI video output. This means you can’t drive a 30in monitor from the m15x, and it’s not as if the chassis couldn’t house one since it’s more than thick enough to do so. Perhaps it’s just an aesthetic choice, HDMI is far less imposing, but DVI definitely offers more flexibility.