History and Inspiration
Alienware was founded in 1996 by Nelson Gonzalez and Alex Aguila with the aim of creating high performance systems with custom Alien inspired designs. Their strategy proved to be a successful one as people around the world embraced the unique designs and features of their notebooks and desktops. This success eventually caught Dell’s attention and in 2006, Dell acquired Alienware. The result of this merger was the development of the first in-house Alienware notebook, the Alienware M17x-R1.
The M17x-R1 was unique in many ways, it incorporated a fully aluminum chassis along with the latest cutting edge dual graphics cards, integrated graphics support and a top performing extreme mobile CPU. In designing the M17x-R1, Dell hired an outside team of industrial designers that found their inspiration for the design of this new notebook from high performance cars, motorcycles and sci-fi gear.
Following the M17x-R1, Alienware launched the M17x-R2 which took the best attributes of the M17x-R1 and improved on them by delivering AMD 5870M graphics cards in Crossfire, nVidia 285M SLi and Intel’s first generation core i7 mobile processors. The AMD 5870M was also the first video card on the market to support DirectX 11. Dell also upgraded the display from CCFL in the M17x-R1 to an RGB LED in the M17x-R2 which was met with a lot of zeal by fans.
However, integrated graphics was a key element that was absent from the M17x-R2 because Dell switched from an nVidia chipset to an Intel one that did not support this feature. One of the common complaints from M17x-R1 and M17x-R2 owners was the size and weight of the system relative to other competing 17” notebooks. However, the majority of 17” gaming notebooks on the market did not support dual graphic cards like the M17x and were largely constructed of plastic, resulting in inferior build quality as well as substantially lower performance and price.
Enter Alienware M17x-R3
In December 2010, Alienware revamped its notebook lineup by discontinuing the M17x-R2 and introducing the M17x-R3. The M17x-R3 marks a radical shift in Alienware’s 17” gaming notebook strategy – it no longer supports dual graphics cards, it uses a standard WLED 72% gamut display and is constructed almost entirely of plastic. The M17x-R3 utilizes Intel’s second generation core i7 mobile processor known as Sandy Bridge and the HM67 chipset which brings with it integrated graphics support.
This system is believed to be Alienware’s response to cheaper competing 17” notebooks by offering Alienware’s traditional high quality design along with other distinct features such as AlienFx lighting, integrated graphics support (via nVidia Optimus or AMD manual switching), HDMI input, WiHD support and 4-6 hours of battery life. It also offers consumers the option to configure the system with a 3D kit equipped with an nVidia 460M graphics card and 120 Hz display or an AMD 6970M graphics card with a 60 Hz display.
Sandy Bridge Fiasco
Many Alienware fans were shocked by the introduction of the M17x-R3 because most thought it would follow in the footsteps of its predecessors with dual graphic cards support, RGB LED and a metal chassis. To their dismay, it had none of these attributes and instead was positioned as an alternative to cheaper gaming notebooks such as the Asus G73. With the Sandy Bridge recall, Alienware stopped selling the M17x-R3 shortly after its release which further compounded their fanbase’s anxiety. To make matters worse, Alienware gave no hints at all about its forthcoming M18x.
Once the M17x-R3 was reintroduced in March 2011, Alienware made no mention of the M18x which further fueled speculation online about what the specifications for the M18x could be and when it might be released. Most Alienware fans (including us) already knew the M18x release was an inevitability due to leaked photos from Dell’s catalog and despite the mounting evidence of its existence, Alienware remained silent.
Alienware’s Not-So-Secret-Weapon: Alienware M18x
In April, Alienware held an online press conference that finally revealed the M18x. This system is Alienware’s first foray into the 18” notebook market although it did have a 19” notebook (Aurora mALX) in the past. The M18x is considered the “true” successor to the M17x-R1 and R2.
It continues the tradition of top notch build quality with its aluminum chassis and has support for dual graphics cards such as the AMD 6970M in Crossfire and nVidia 460M SLi. Like the M17x-R3, it supports Intel’s second generation core i7 mobile processors including the 2920xm (which is not officially supported by the M17x-R3) and other unique features like the new 330W Power Supply Unit (PSU) that is able to provide ample power to the system.