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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580M Review featuring Alienware M17x R3 Laptop

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580M Review featuring Alienware M17x R3 Laptop

Alienware M17x R3 (3D Vision) Gaming Laptop Review

Conclusion

Firstly, here is what we said about the original M17x R3 with GTX 460M, our thoughts on the GTX 580 are further down:

Starting with build quality we have an aspect of the system which has been impressive on each of the Alienware/Dell co-designed systems since the original version of the M17x. This latest revision is just as impressive with its rubberised finish, solid construction and high quality components. Two of the highest quality items are the screen and speakers. The former, on our review sample, was a 120Hz 3D capable panel which provided us with plenty of brightness adjustments, clarity and excellent viewing angles. The speakers, designed by Kilpsh, offer plenty of volume where required with no noticeable distortion and plenty of clarity. If we are being a little picky the only criticism we could offer of the build quality is that there is a little too much flex in the keyboard area.

In terms of design, there is a lot to like about the M17x R3. The refined lid shape and front grill bring the machine up to date and it looks phenomenal in low light conditions thanks to the customisable Alien FX lighting. The single surface screen adds a level of quality to the aesthetics and this is further enhanced by the angled edges around the system. In addition to this the cooling layout of the system allows it to maintain cool and quiet operation at all times. Even when placed on the users lap.


When thinking about the performance of the system the M17x really does give us a lot to think about. Firstly, though it isn’t a huge issue, the desktop Sandy Bridge CPUs tend to be faster than the current mobile models as we saw throughout this review. Having said that, these new processors are still high performance components which will exceed the performance of many consumers current desktops.  In comparison to the older M17x systems and their competition based on the same architecture the R3 offers plenty of reasons to upgrade. In CPU related tasks the Sandy Bridge CPUs, even the lowest specification model, offer an increase in performance. This is backed up by an improved SATA controller, offering 6GB/s performance, USB 3.0 for faster transfers and for those who require it, graphics options such as the latest 6970 2GB GPU. For those who go for the GTX 460 GPU the option is there to select a 120Hz screen and receive with it a 3DVision kit. This kit offers a better experience than the desktop equivalent as the transmitter is built into the system rather than sitting separate on the desk. For movies and pictures the M17x offers a great stereoscopic 3D experience but things are a little more complicated on gaming. Image quality wise, we have no complaints but the choice of the GTX 460 is a strange one. That GPU offers good performance in the latest games as we saw, HAWX2 and Dead Space 2 as two examples were able to run at 1920×1080 with maximum detail. Turn on 3D though, which doubles the GPU workload, and the GTX 460M starts to struggle with the result being the need to reduce settings to maintain playable framerates. Dell/Alienware should offer a 485M option on the M17x R3 to give enthusiasts an option for higher stereoscopic 3D performance now and as games get more demanding.

So that brings us to value. Overall the base M17x R3 is priced fairly and will compete well with similar configurations from other manufacturers. That said there are some issues with component pricing. The SSD option, as an example, is ridiculously overpriced. In the UK adding this component costs £460 but faster, higher specification models are available in retail for £100 less (Crucial SATA 6GB/s C300 256GB). 8GB of memory, that’s over twice the cost from Alienware as it is buying from Crucial, or most online stores. Essentially, it is wise to buy the base spec that is required with our choice of screen and then do a few upgrades in the home…this shouldn’t have to be the case though.

How does the GTX 580M version impact our conclusions?

Well firstly our request for a faster GPU to assist those who want to try 3D Vision with maximum performance has been answered. The GTX 580M will allow gamers to play with far higher detail level and less compromises in stereoscopic 3D than the GTX 460M would and that alone could be a killer feature.

Speaking of compromises, the GTX 580M based M17x R3 is a machine where we rarely have to make them. In all of the key titles from the past year we are able to game at 1920×1080 and other than The Witcher 2, which makes desktop GPUs struggle; we are able to play with maximum in game detail. There were also a couple of occasions where we were able to add anti-aliasing too, DiRT 3 being a particular highlight with its smooth framerates using Ultra (DX11) detail and 2x anti-aliasing.

Power use from the system was still well within acceptable levels, never coming close to hitting the PSUs rated 240w. In addition to this the GPU remained surprisingly cool at 69°C when gaming and as a result there was no noticeable increase in noise level over the GTX 460M build we tested in February.

Summary
The M17x R3 is a very impressive system which excels on build quality and design. The addition of NVIDIA’s GTX 580M to the configuration options makes it a phenomenal mobile gaming system too, allowing us to game at 1920×1080 with maximum image quality settings in the latest titles.

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About Author

Stuart Davidson

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