Alienware M11x - A little power is a dangerous thing?

Well it has been quite some time since I lasted posted to my blog.

Reasons (in no particular order):
  • Work - we are very busy working on the next set of features for OpSource Cloud.
  • Writing - I have reduced my writing for a while to concentrate on a writing-related project. More on that soon!
  • Geekdom - I have been sussing out the Alienware M11x that I bought as a more powerful replacement of my fantastic Samsung NC10.
  • Entrepreneurial stuff - I'm assisting a good friend with a new venture that he has in early plannin.
I won't bore you with the details of all of the above. What I will tell you about is the little Alienware machine.


I've had it for several weeks at this stage and have been using it for all manner of stuff from its intended use as a gamer to my own professional needs in supporting OpSource Cloud and even for doing some serious SaaSware development (appalling pun).  The massive leap in specs from the NC10 means that I can do things on the move that the little netbook shouldn't really have been asked to do. Such as random bits of coding and GWT development. The NC10 made a pretty good stab at running Jetbrains IntelliJ but there's only so much you can ask from the 1.6GHz Atom N270 and a full blown Java IDE running GWT isn't on the list.

It's important to state that the Samsung NC10 is one of the best netbooks produced to date and that the Alienware M11x is NOT a netbook. The two cannot be compared spec to spec. I simply needed a more powerful but easily portable machine.

Here's the core spec of the Alienware M11x for those that don't know:

Screen: 11.2" @
Processor: Intel Core  2 Duo SU7300 (1.3GHz dual-core)
RAM: 4GB
Video: 1GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 335M (switchable against built-in Intel gubbins for less power consumption on the go)

The little processor combined with that hefty whallop of RAM really does deliver when coding; I can have MySQL, Tomcat, IntelliJ and GWT (the older hosted mode) running simultaneously at a decent level of performance.

Switching between the built-in Intel graphics handling and the nVidia block is a simple key command and works smoothly. So far the only game I have tried is Halflife 2 and it's flawless. Ravenholm is as scary as it ever was and there's no lag when things get sprite heavy.

I've been using the M11x with a wireless Microsoft keyboard and a 19" LG HD LCD by the way (VGA rather than DisplayPort or HDMI - the external display has neither of the latter though the wee laptop boasts both outputs). This combination works really well - that and a USB KVM has me happily flicking between the Windows 7 set up on the M11x and my Macbook Pro.

My only big problem with the M11x is the expected one. Glare.

I purchased it in full knowledge that it's amongst the most reflective screens on the market (ref the above - I knew full well that most of my usage would be with an external monitor). I have the eye condition keratoconus so eye strain is a big deal for me - I would recommend anyone in similar circumstances to think more than twice before purchasing a high glare laptop. There are however remedies though - several manufacturers provide anti-glare filters than can be ordered to size and applied to your laptop screen to reduce the glare significantly. This is nigh on essential if you want to use the machine out doors or in a brightly lit office or other space.

The unit is very robustly built and yes, you can switch of the lights if you like. I play the odd game but I'm not a teenager anymore, so that stuff is just a waste of battery as far as I'm concerned. The great thing about the supplied tool for configuring the hardware lights is that it's pretty versatile. I was able to switch off everything except the keyboard which I have reduced to a subtle blue to make it easier for me to see in dim lighting.

My only other gripe is about the memory card slot; SD cards stick out and there's no "click" - I want to leave a 16GB SDHC in situ! .. tut tut (the NC10 sucked on that front too btw - hats off to Asus with my previous PC1000 and PC900, a solid click and the SDHC was flush to the surface) this means I can't leave the card in while I travel - it's a bit limiting. Why have to risk losing my tiny memory card while I'm on the move when there's a perfectly good slot it could be safely clicked into?

So that's about it - I ended with an negative comment but I should reiterate, the Alienware M11x is a FANTASTIC little laptop boasting some serious grunt in a tiny 11" form factor. I can see myriad commercial uses, particularly for those in media and technical industries and of course it's original target market of gamers have no reason not to love it.

Twitter: @chillyspoon

Comments

Andrew said…
Loving mine too. Did you get an anti-glare filter? If so, which one?
chillyspoon said…
Not yet! - I haven't had a chance to use it in anger out and about as yet so I haven't looked for a filter yet.

I must have a bit of a hunt about!
xyzandme said…
Is it any good for other general tasks?
Making word documents, preparing presentations etc? Is the screen size bothersome?
chillyspoon said…
Yes absolutely - I regularly use it for work.

The screen size aspect depends on your eyes, in my case I have an eye condition which makes small screens with high resolution particularly difficult to use and the little Alienware is definitely one of the better small screened machines I've encountered; way ahead of the various netbooks I've owned, including the excellent Samsung NC10.

If your eyesight is average, then you'll have no problems. If like me, you have specific medical needs, then an external monitor becomes essential for day to day use.