Alienware M11xR2 Review

by on August 1, 2010

Model: Alienware M11xR2

Manufacturer: Dell

Price: ~ £879 / ~ $879

Available: Out now

If you have been checking out our Alienware reviews so far then you will have noticed that Calvin Robinson has been at the helm testing the gaming laptops.  Calvin reviewed the M11x back in March and has handed the mantle to me to review the new improved M11xR2. This review will be taking a fresh look at the M11x and highlighting what the improved model brings to the table.

AESTHETICS: The M11xR2 is just as sexy as its dual core predecessor and that’s for a very good reason, the two units are identical in shape, size and even colour. The one change that does come with the R2 model is an all new matte finish which keeps the finger prints away.

If you have not read our M11x review then I shall indulge you further.  The M11x is small, compact and drop dead gorgeous. The laptops rigid cuts and smooth to touch edges makes the M11x a thing of beauty.

The keyboard and lighting looks great too, allowing a nice range of colour customisation throughout. As Calvin said in his M11x review “you get the full Alienware experience you’d expect from it’s bigger brothers. Amazingly, they didn’t leave anything out.”

PERFORMANCE: So what’s the big change here? Well, we have a couple of new improvements in the performance department with the all new Core-i processor and Optimus system in place. The review unit we used came equipped with a Core i5 cpu which allowed for some good multitasking between various applications, at one point I was playing StarCraft II in full screen mode and was able to alt-tab between other applications without delay.

The new Optimus technology provided by nVidia supposedly improves battery life by switching between dedicated and integrated graphics depending on the process. The idea is that large graphical applications such as a game like StarCraft II use the battery guzzling dedicated graphics, while a smaller less taxing application such as a media player relies on the integrated graphics option to save some power. Optimus is fully automated, deciding by itself when to act. Here lies the problem, at the moment Optimus is not fully optimised, pardon the pun. Optimus will often overuse the dedicated graphics, kicking in to action for processes such as high-def video when perhaps integrated would do. I am not hating on Optimus, quite the opposite, I would rather have it than not, but there is room for improvement.

So what was the end result for battery longevity? Well, if your just browsing the net, talking on instant messenger and watching some YouTube videos, the battery will last between 4-6 hours, roughly 2 hours less than the original M11x. If  you are an avid gamer and only wish to game, then you only get about 3 hours of play time before a power cable is required. All battery tests were done on the default power setting but can be adjusted to optimise battery life or laptop performance.

So with all the above taken into account, how do the games play? Well I was unsure what to expect, I understood from Calvins review of the original M11x that I would be able to play some top end games at a lower setting and that is certainly true. I started off by checking out some World of Warcraft, I had all the settings on ultra and the game ran at a solid 20-25 FPS whilst taking part in solo play but soon dropped below 20 when group play was introduced, not bad considering graphics were tuned to the max.

When it comes to WoW the M11x is great for some solo play and chatting to friends over battle.net

StarCraft II has just been released giving me the perfect opportunity to push the Mx11R2 and oh my was it pushed. Now you should note at the time of reviewing StarCraft II has some graphical bugs and not all available drivers have been optimised for the RTS. The first port of call was the options menu, upon opening the menu the game client informed me that it had detected the laptops hardware and had adjusted the graphical setting accordingly. Everything was set to low, not a huge surprise but perhaps a little disappointing. I decided to take it easy and took on a small mission which contains minimal units, the game ran between 30-40 fps so I decided to put the strain on with an increased amount of units, the result was 15-25 FPS.

The low frame rate, plus small screen does not make the M11x a desirable choice when it comes to Blizzard’s RTS but is still a great mobile option for most of today’s top games.

SPECIFICATIONS: This model comes in only two base colours, Stealth Black and Lunar Shadow (silver).

– 11 in screen (1366×768 (720p) native res))
– Intel® Core™ i5 520UM 1.06GHz (3MB Cache)
– 1GB Nvidia Geforce GT 335M
– 250GB SATA 7,200RPM
– 2GB DDR3 800MHz RAM

(These are Dell’s recommended hardware specs. These can be downgraded/upgraded on the website, but price will be affected).

VERDICT: So how good is the M11xR2? Well it’s better than its predecessor, allowing for improved gaming and multi-tasking on the go, with the addition of stunning good looks.

Now here is the dilemma, I am clearly wowed by Alieware’s small laptop and whilst you can play the latest games on the go, you will be playing them on lower settings, on a rather small screen. The question is, can you justify spending the thick end of £1000 on a machine that has these faults? Well, I guess it depends on each individual users needs and size of wallet.

What about owners of the previous M11x? If you already own an M11x then it’s probably not worth it at this point, Core-i is great but Optimus is a little before its time.

I would love to own an M11x, it’s great for browsing the internet, watching YouTube and playing games on the go but it is a luxury purchase I am not willing to indulge in…for now at least.