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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  • ouchtastic - Friday, July 22, 2011 - link

    forgot to say that 720p would work great too when output via hdmi, can game on any hdtv out there. Although I suspect nvidia settings might require you to play with overscan settings if you do this.
  • Thermogenic - Friday, July 22, 2011 - link

    I have an m11x R1 and generally like it, although the CPU really holds me back trying to watch MLB.tv.

    Can anyone comment on the webcam quality of the R3? I find the R1 to be exceptionally poor in low light situations, and not great even with good lighting.
  • rufwork - Friday, July 22, 2011 - link

    "The R3 is easy to recommend over the R2. It's absolutely worth the money, definitely the best one Alienware's released thus far, and an easy sell for the portable gamer. The $999 stock configuration can easily be left unchanged..."

    CNET's running a deal now with the R2 (I believe) with i3 for $599.

    Windows 7 Home Premium, 64Bit
    Intel Core i3 330UM (3M Cache, 1.2 GHz) - Overclockable
    11.6-inch WideHD 1366x768 (720p) WLED
    1GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 335M
    Alienware M11x a/b/g/n 2x2 MIMO Wireless

    Is it really worth two-thirds the cost to move to R3 land? What games am I missing at R2 for $600 that I'm getting with R3 for a grand? Which doors can't I open? (Honest questions here; if the difference is a PS3, the answers should be pretty convincing ones, though, don't you think?)
  • redchar - Friday, July 22, 2011 - link

    I wouldn't buy the stock for $1000. I've been waiting, and just recently the r3 has come out on dell's refurbished device website. I had seen the stock version for as low as $800, and the high-end i7 version for $900. Also, dell gives out coupons monthly to give discounts on the already discounted refurbished devices, usually between $100-200 off. So, before tax and shipping you might be able to get the stock version for $700 or something similar. Compared to the r2, you'd be getting better performance, usb3, and slightly better battery life. It might be worthwhile.
    Also, the refurbs get a 1 year warranty which covers free in-home repairs, so I really don't see a point in buying them new.
  • tzhu07 - Friday, July 22, 2011 - link

    Does this company put any effort into industrial design? That thing looks like puke.
  • dhiiir - Friday, July 22, 2011 - link

    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.By the way, I would like to share a website with everyone, you can try clicking into perspective,-.www.upsfashion.com- there are many things we need, I often buy things here. Now share it with everyone. Can not miss it, or will be very unfortunate.
  • dhiiir - Friday, July 22, 2011 - link

    good ,i want to buy it
  • mschira - Saturday, July 23, 2011 - link

    my Lenovo t420s weights 3.94 pounds that is with a 14" screen. I wouldn't call it ultraportable thought....
    not that the t420s can compete in graphic power, unfortunately...
  • Luke2.0 - Saturday, July 23, 2011 - link

    Forgive me if this sound noobish, or OOT.

    Taken from ark.intel.com for i7-2720QM
    Memory Type: DDR3-1066/1333/1600
    # of memory channels: 2
    Max memory bandwidth: 25.6 GB/s

    Could I put in a pair of DDR-1866 or 2000 modules and run them at said speed, thus more bandwidth?? 32 GB/s, anyone?

    FYI I ask because I read Llano provides users with max 51.2 GB/s (some) thanks to the generous 128-bit bus, making me feel "why not,Intel?!"
    You know, Ivy Bridge would get the same 25.6 GB/s of max bandwidth on paper, at least for now.

  • erple2 - Saturday, July 23, 2011 - link

    The answer is "yes, but it's only worthwhile where memory bandwidth is your limiting factor". Nowadays, I can't think of many situations where memory bandwidth (beyond a certain level, that is) has any significant play in the overall performance of the machine. Sure, if you're compiling large quantities of java code in parallel, or maybe certain tasks while manipulating large data files might be faster, I'm willing to bet that the additional cost of DDR1866 or 2000 memory modules would not translate into a reasonably measurable (> 5%) increase in performance. Unless there's no additional cost to fancier memory.

    Though that's more or less been the norm for the past 5 years - faster memory generally doesn't make a reasonable (considering it's price premium) choice. Note that overclocking can slightly justify better memory (faster, tighter timings, etc), but even there, the gains aren't necessarily in line with the resultant price premium.

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