First look: Alienware M11x (Core i5)

First Look
First look: Alienware M11x (Core i5)
Overall:  Not yet rated

Alienware’s tiny gaming terror returns, and this time with a performance upgrade. But is the M11x still our favourite portable gaming powerhouse?

Price $1699

Alienware's miniature M11x has been around for less than six months, but a lot has changed since it blazed onto the scene. Back in March, it astonished us with its performance, small size and impeccable design.

Since then, though, we’ve seen the arrival of rival ultra-portables like Acer’s Timeline X, not to mention a raft of particularly demanding games. So is the m11x still the lightweight laptop to own?

Performance tweaks
Fortunately, a few things have changed with the M11x too. The headline alteration is that the low voltage CULV processor has been switched out for Intel's latest Core i5 or i7 series CPUs.
This promises better battery life and faster performance. In addition, there should be smoother switching between power save and gaming modes thanks to NVIDIA's Optimus graphics technology.

Bombproof build
Externally, the M11x is unaltered. It still looks exactly like one of the company's bigger M15x or M17x laptops that's been washed on too hot a cycle, and it's still one of the best built notebooks around. Small, but incredibly solid.

The keyboard is compact but much more rugged than those found on larger laptops like the Asus G73, and very comfortable for gaming. The whole thing is backlit by glowing LEDs that can be customised to any colour in a control app.

The M11x isn’t exactly light, but it is very portable and the rubberised shell remains surprisingly scratch resistant. Importantly, the screen seems to be of a much better quality now too: it's still the same 1366x768 resolution, which is plenty for the 11in diagonal, but any evidence of a colour cast or bland contrast has gone. Now it's as bright and cheerful as it is sharp.

Core i5 issues
In terms of games performance, the Core i5 CPU doesn't make the perceptible difference we'd hoped for. If anything, it's marginally slower than the outgoing U7300. Games run well on its small screen, but trying to connect an external monitor with a higher resolution will slow things down to unplayable.

By preference, you'd go for the quad core Intel Core i7 option, which should help to futureproof the M11x against more demanding games over the next couple of years. That's still reasonable value for money, but doesn't fix the problem of the low-end graphics card.

What the Core i5 chip does do is extend the battery life to a very respectable five hours or more in normal use. You'll get less time out of the battery when gaming, but it means the M11x is now as versatile as it is attractive.

We haven't changed our opinion of the M11x. It's still a great notebook for gaming if you want a screen smaller than 15in. Hopefully the next round of upgrades to the series will bring an improved graphics processor too.

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See more about:  alienware  |  m11x  |  core  |  i5  |  review

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