Alienware M18x gaming notebook

This 18.4in beast of a notebook is supremely powerful, but has a matching price tag

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Alienware M18x
  • Alienware M18x
  • Alienware M18x
  • Alienware M18x
  • Expert Rating

    4.25 / 5

Pros

  • Hugely powerful
  • Great screen and excellent build quality
  • HDMI-in, USB 3.0, amazing feature-set

Cons

  • Hugely expensive
  • Just huge
  • Clunky process to switch graphics

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a proper desktop replacement -- replacing a gaming desktop, that is -- the Alienware M18x is undoubtedly the notebook to pick. It’s massive and has a price tag that’s painful, but its performance is almost unparalleled.

Would you buy this?

Alienware M18x: Specs and performance

The Alienware M18x we tested was a mid-range specification, but you can build one to order on Alienware’s site that is even more of a performance beast. Our test unit had a second generation Intel Core i7 processor, the 2720QM. 16GB of RAM was installed but you can fit up to 32GB, and you can similarly swap the twin 750GB hard drives in our test mule for two 256GB solid state drives in a RAID configuration. We tested twin Radeon HD 6790M graphics processors in our M18x but the latest incarnation has dual power-hungry Radeon HD 6990M or Geforce GTX 580M chips.

In a laptop chassis, even a big one like the M18x’s, all this equipment makes an impressive statement. Our Alienware M18x was around the $3299 entry-level price tag (yep, that’s as cheap as they get), but a fully-specced up M18x with top-of-the-line processor, dual graphics, dual solid state hard drives and RAM will lighten your wallet by a full $8249 (and change, but what’s another 40 cents).

In any case, the Alienware M18x blitzed our performance tests. It managed a result of 20 seconds flat to create our test Blender file, and iTunes media encoding was equally fast at a blistering 37 seconds. The M18x’s 3DMark06 score of 22411 is amazing — it’s roughly twice as high as the next most powerful result in our 2011 notebook performance chart. This notebook is no slouch, and you can customise it to be even more powerful.

See how the Alienware M18x performs compared to other laptops.

Switching between the M18x’s discrete dual graphics cards and the integrated Intel graphics requires a full system restart — a minute-long wait for the purpose of power-saving — which makes it a bit of a cumbersome process. We don’t expect many users to take the M18x away from their desks, so this isn’t a huge problem.

The fans of the Alienware M18x do get a good workout when the notebook is being used for 3D gaming. When we booted up Steam and tried out Tropico 4, Space Marine, Dead Island and Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the slightly-whiny exhaust fan was an ever-present accompaniment. Although the speakers are good, Alienware should consider shipping noise-cancelling gaming headphones with the M18x.

We’re not sure what to think about the battery life of the Alienware M18x. It’s definitely not a good result at 2hr 1min in our battery torture test (where we disable all power-saving, maximise screen brightness, turn on Wi-Fi and loop a DVD movie), but given the size and power of the M18x we’re inclined to think it’s impressive nonetheless. We ran the test with the full-fat Radeon graphics enabled, because changing to the low-power integrated Intel HD chipset requires a restart. If you’re looking to wring as much life out of the M18x as possible we think you could crack the three hour mark with brightness down and power saving on. The M18x’s internal battery is a 12-cell that can be replaced.

Alienware M18x: Conclusion

The Alienware M18x is, for a laptop, incredibly powerful. It’s also incredibly bulky, incredibly heavy, and incredibly expensive. It’s just an incredible machine.

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