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Best Gaming Laptops: Alienware M17

written by: Daniel Barros•edited by: J. F. Amprimoz•updated: 6/9/2009

In the first article of our new Best Gaming Laptop series, we'll be examining the Alienware M17 and how it compares to the other gaming laptops currently available.

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    It had been quite a while since a laptop had the ability to actually knock me out of my chair, but that’s exactly what the Alienware M17 did. Simply put, I’ve never seen anything like this, with this sort of level of performance, with this amount of memory, and, because we’re in a spending-concerned economy, with such a high price. This laptop is outrageous in more ways than can be described – it’s bigger and a more powerful gaming rig than most tricked out desktops that I’ve seen, and is also the single most expensive laptop I’ve ever seen for sale either in or out of the store when fully “maxed out” (read: all features installed and upgraded). So, without further ado, let’s get to what makes this amazing machine actually tick.

    First, there’s the processor. Ever had your laptop with a side of quad-core goodness? Neither have I. The M17 is powered by a quad-core, 2.53 Ghz processor with a cache of 12 Mb and a 1066 Mhz FSB, which I’m sad to say put even my lovely quad-core desktop processor to shame. How they managed to get a quad core processor into a 17 inch laptop is still a mystery. I know from personal experience, and from having written about building your perfect Desktop for gaming that a quad-core processor would require an insane amount of heat dissipating parts - something that I can’t see fitting into a laptop. As a matter of fact, there have been murmurs on the internet from those currently using this particular laptop that overheating is a serious issue, and perhaps a common one.

    Of course, what is a gaming rig without a video card? Absolutely nothing, and the people at Alienware seem to know this and are quick to remedy the issue with a video card that is at the top of the line currently available on the market. Even though I’ve never been a big fan of ATI graphics cards, even I have to say that putting two HD 3870s in an SLI configuration (lovingly termed “Crossfire” by the ATI people) is something of an absurd proposition for an enormous desktop computer, much less something as compact as a laptop. Yet, this impossible task is what has been accomplished with the highest end model of the M17 – a true feat of engineering, but more importantly, a guarantee that your computer is “future-proof” (and I use this loosely) for the next year or so.

    And the final component of a successful gaming rig is the RAM, and they pack in as much as they could possibly fit into the impossibly small chassis of the notebook. In the “Ultimate Gamer” configuration, you have 4 Gb of RAM to play around with – something that most desktops today are just starting to have.

    Of course, not everything is sunshine and roses for this laptop. While it’s essentially a walking version of the desktop I’m currently writing on, I paid $700 to upgrade my computer with ALL the bells and whistles. Wondering how much this will set you back? Just a paltry $4000 in the ultimate configuration – a real steal with everyone pinching pennies the way they currently are.

    So, what can I say about a laptop that I couldn’t even hold in my hands while I was demoing from a friend? Simply put, if you have money to burn (literally, money to throw in an incinerator), this laptop is a must buy. For the rest of the poor mortals like you and I, there are other options out there that offer a lot of bang for your buck – they may not be as high end as the M17, but they also won’t burn up your savings account to buy.

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  2. Best Gaming Laptops: Alienware M17