August 17, 2011
- Outstanding gaming performance
- Gamer-friendly keyboard
- Huge, 18-inch display
- Lots of ports available
- Aging Alienware design
- High-end configurations are very expensive
The Alienware M18x desktop replacement laptop offers a huge 18-inch display, fantastic performance and high-end internal specifications. Behind a rather bland design, however, there is an Intel quad-core CPU, a massive 16GB of memory and dual Nvidia GTX 580M video cards.
The Alienware M18x measures 17.2 x 2.1 x 12.7-inches (wdh) and weighs 13-pounds, which makes it quite heavy, so you'll want to keep this monster at a desk. The design of the chassis follows Alienware's usual style, with a matte black lid and glowing alien head logo. This design looked futuristic and neat about 5 years ago, but now it's time for a change of Alienware's "go-to" design. In addition to that, much of the design elements are made of a cheap-feeling plastic, which is disappointing since this laptop costs more than your usual notebook.
The keyboard has tapered keys, which provide more space between each key. The thinking for this is that gamers will have more space between keys for more accurate gameplay. There's also a row of customizable quick-launch buttons as well as multimedia keys along the top edge of the keyboard deck. The keyboard also is backlit too for late-night gaming.
The 5.1-surround sound speakers seemed to produce a good amount of volume and clarity, but most gamers will want to use headphones most likely simply out of habit.
Alienware's 18-inch display used on this laptop has a 1920 x 1080-pixel resolution, which means that it is full 1080p HD. The screen looks awesome and displayed colors with great quality and it had no problem with fast-moving images, a must for gaming.
In terms of ports, there are two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, 1 eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port, both HDMI-in & HDMI-out, VGA-out, mini-DisplayPort, analog audio out, dual headphone jacks, S/PDIF optical audio jack, Ethernet and an SD memory card reader. We especially liked the inclusion of both USB 3.0 and eSATA connectivity as well as coverage of all the various display and audio connections available. There is also 802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth and a tray-loading DVD burner (a Blu-ray option is available via an upgrade).
Configurations for the Alienware M18x vary, but our review unit had an overclocked quad-core Intel Core i7-2920XM CPU (2.5GHz), 16GB of RAM, dual 720GB 7200RPM hard drives and dual SLI-linked Nvidia GeForce GTX 580M graphics card. This configuration is the highest available (and the most costly) and will deliver superior performance, but if you're looking to save some money, the base CPU available is a Core i7-2630QM and the GPU base is one Nvidia GeForce 460M card. Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) is the operating system that Alienware pre-installs.
With the highest configuration, gaming performance was simply outstanding at the highest graphics setting for all of the games tested. It is definitely the best-performing laptop that we've tested to date, thanks to the amazing specifications and uncommon SLI-graphics setup.
Battery life, as you can expect, with the Alienware M18x is rather poor compared with all other laptops at about 1.5 hours, so you'll definitely want to stay near a power source if you do any portability.