4.4 Pounds of Gaming Performance

In all of our synthetic metrics, the Alienware M11x R3's updated processor and GPU helped it put in a strong showing against even full-voltage chips from the Arrandale generation. Sandy Bridge's aggressive Turbo Boost seems to be paying big dividends towards helping the line finally get out from under being heavily CPU-limited, so let's see how that pans out once we start using it for what it was intended for: gaming.

The combination of a faster processor and faster GPU seems to pay off handsomely for the M11x R3, but the big news is definitely that the CPU limitations that tended to plague performance on the last two generations are mostly ameliorated by the i7-2617M. It's difficult to gauge how deleterious an effect downgrading to the i5-2537M would have on the M11x R3's gaming performance, but at these settings we appear to be largely GPU-limited. Pay special attention to those Mafia II results: Mafia II has a tendency to stress every part of a system in a way few games do these days, and for that reason I actually use it to max out power consumption when I do desktop testing. Nothing else really comes close.

We have added a few titles since the M11x R2 review, specifically Mafia II, Metro 2033, and StarCraft II. That means we don't have the same set of laptops in those charts, so we added a couple other laptops to flesh things out. You can get a full comparison of how the smaller M11x R3 stacks up against the Dell XPS 15 in Mobile Bench, or you can compare the M11x R3 with it's big brother, the M14x we reviewed earlier this week. Considering the difference in chassis size and CPU performance, it's pretty clear that the i7-2617M isn't holding the GT 540M back much; the M14x on the other hand still gets a healthy boost from the GT 555M. Moving to our High settings will obviously stress the hardware more, but we've included the native 768p results for the M11x as well.

At our "High" preset the M11x R3 continues to put in a strong showing, and most of these games are actually quite playable at the notebook's native 1366x768 resolution. It appears that we're again heavily GPU-limited here, which is fantastic given the low voltage processor. The 17W TDP of the i7-2617M (and the i5-2537M) is as low as Sandy Bridge goes, one watt lower than the previous generation's i7-640UM.

The Fastest Ultraportable on the Block Battery, Noise, and Heat
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  • shangshang - Friday, July 22, 2011 - link

    gaming laptop is so out of fashion at this point. I'll take the ipad2 toy anyday.
  • theda3g0 - Friday, July 22, 2011 - link

    "out of fashion"?? What does fashion have to do with it? This is the most functional ultra-portable gaming laptop available on the market. It's about function, not fashion. (though the lights and flashy gimmicks might imply otherwise)
  • NicodemusMM - Friday, July 22, 2011 - link

    Actually for certain aspects the light are functional.. at least one of them. I've run into situations where such a small form factor and a lighted keyboard are very handy. Mine gets used very little for gaming, but as a PC to interface with machines that may be in dark, enclosed areas it's paid for itself many times over.

    ~ Nicodemus
  • The0ne - Monday, July 25, 2011 - link

    Fashion and gaming laptop? Are you serious? Ipad2 over a gaming laptop? To begin comparing the two together? Just wow...

    Alienware is their trademark, hence the keyword "ALIEN". If you want a non-alien gaming laptop go Asus, Clevo and what not. Why must there always be someone that don't understand how trademarks and logo's work.
  • sulhogar - Saturday, August 27, 2011 - link

    Being in fashion isn't the most important thing for everyone. Some of us have to find a portable gaming laptop to bring with them on a submarine, where space is limited.
  • redchar - Friday, July 22, 2011 - link

    Ever since the r1, I've seen the m11x as the only laptop that makes sense (for my needs). Most of the benefits of both a netbook and a full-sized laptop, without the drawbacks of each. You get around the battery life you would expect from a netbook or similar, at not much larger than the size of a netbook, too, but yet you get enough power to do everything you might want to do on a mobile device. Sure, you would not be getting top performance for autocad or some compute-heavy professional work, but that's not really the point of most laptops - and people who wish to do that should be looking for a monster-sized desktop replacement style laptop. Also unless someone really needs to go and max crysis 2 output to an external display, the m11xr3 should provide an excellent mobile experience, be it a college laptop for note-taking (would benefit from relative portability and battery life), a movie-playing computer on the go or to squeeze some gaming in, I think the m11x series is just great. It may not be the prettiest device (well, the r1 grew on me over time, it's not as ugly as I originally thought), but I like to recommend the m11x to my friends and family - unless they are opposed to such a small device, and just need something a bit bigger.
  • failquail - Friday, July 22, 2011 - link

    I broadly agree with most of that.

    Never could get past the incredible uglyness of the chassis though.

    In the end i went for the lower specced Lenovo x100e and spent the price difference on a SSD for it.
    Netbook size and weight chassis, but speed of a larger notebook. (would love the newer fusion-based versions for my next one though)
  • redchar - Friday, July 22, 2011 - link

    I was reluctant to buy the r1 at first, but when I looked around I could find nothing that suited me better - I wanted something netbook-sized, with long life, but as powerful as possible, for around $1000. At first I thought it looked like some riced-up computer-equivalent of a honda civic, but over the months I've grown used to the look. The LED lights can be disabled completely, or enabled for individual areas. If you disable the lights for all but the keyboard, and have the keyboard LEDs to be white, it looks a lot less ugly. With all lights off, and the device closed, it doesn't look as ugly as I used to think. A small, mostly smooth black laptop if you think about it - a lot less uglier than some of the previous alienware designs with crazy ribs on the lid. It reminds me a bit of a ferrari, actually. You know - overall it will certainly stick out, but as long as you don't go out of your way to enable all the LEDs to make it look like a kids civic, the curves aren't too bad, or at least I can put up with them since the m11x has so many other great features.

    I'm not sure that I ever looked for the lenovo x100e when I was searching for a machine of that size. It certainly looks like a fine replacement for a netbook, and is a bit more visually appealing than the m11x, but I think I prefer the bit of ugliness associated with the m11x than to being stuck with an athlon neo. My previous laptop was an ion netbook - wouldn't feel like too much of an upgrade.
  • Aikouka - Monday, July 25, 2011 - link

    The only thing I'd like to see more of was touched on in the article. In my Dell M1530, I have an OCZ SSD, which I rather like the overall speed that it brings to the system, but I dislike the fact that I'm stuck with just a 120GB SSD. To get a laptop with two HDD bays, I've found that you typically have to go with a 17" laptop or larger.

    I wouldn't mind the 14" or 15" models with an option to remove the optical drive in lieu of another HDD. Right now, I'm toting around a WD Elements SE 500GB HDD as my secondary drive for my laptop.
  • FlyBri - Friday, July 22, 2011 - link

    Seriously, I don't get it. Can we please have a few laptop manufacturers give us consumers some high end displays to choose from? Specifically for me, I want more choices when it comes to 15.6" laptops with an option for a high quality 1080p, where the rest of the laptop is also high end as well.

    But even if it's not 1080p, many of the screens on laptops are just plain sh*t. Look at all the reviews here on AnandTech...all you see in the "display" section of reviews is how bad most of these laptop screen are. As much as I hate to say it, this is where Apple truly shines. You get a high end display, and the rest of the laptop also feels extremely high end and well built. The Samsung Series 9 is finally starting a trend, and the new Dell (bleh, hate Dell), but come on HP, Acer, Asus, etc....GET WITH IT!

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