Hands on Usage
I have mentioned before that how well a notebook performs comes down to much more than just how well any one major component such as the CPU or GPU performs. For a notebook to be truly great, it needs to have a great screen, great keyboard and a great design as well.
The Alienware m15x offers some of the best components that you can get in a gaming notebook. The keyboard in particular is fantastic. The keys are full-size and offer great tactile feedback. Touch typists will find that you can work on the m15x as well as you can with most any desktop keyboard. The only thing lacking from the keyboard is a full number pad, which Alienware could have included had it desired. There is more than enough room for a number pad on the chassis.
One of the things I really liked about the m15x was the lighting system for the notebook that allows you to customize the color of just about every light on the machine. You can have different colors for the touch sensitive controls, the glowing Alienware logo on the bottom of the screen bezel, the keyboard backlighting, the Alienware head logo on the front of the case and for the lighted ring around the track pad. You can also opt to go for the same color everywhere if you want and the choice of colors is very impressive.
The controls on the top of the keyboard area allow you to control all the software and features of the m15x. Rather than buttons that you press, all of the controls are touch sensitive, including the power button. To turn the computer on you simply lay your finger on the alien head above the keyboard for a few seconds and the notebook comes to life.
The screen is one of the most important things on a notebook and the m15x has a fantastic screen. The only bad thing I can say about it is that the glossy coating makes for serious glare in some environments. The 1920 x 1200 resolution makes for some fantastic graphics in games and allows the use of the Blu-ray drive to watch full resolution Blu-ray films.
To test the screen I popped in my favorite Blu-ray flick -- Casino Royale. This is hands down the best 15-inch screen I have ever tested. Colors are sharp and crisp and skin tones are realistic without any of the green tint so many inferior screens tend to add to skin tones. Fast action was fluid and no smearing or tearing was noted. The screen could use a bit more contrast in darker scenes, but is still better than other screens I have tested.
One of the biggest gripes I have with the m15x is its onboard sound system. The speakers sound good and offer decent bass in quiet environments, but the volume levels are simply far too low for a high-end notebook. Watching movies in a moderately loud environment was very difficult because you couldn't hear the spoken words well, even at 100% volume. This problem was pronounced and noted on all DVD movies that I watched on the m15x. The only real way to remedy the lack of volume is to use amplified headphones or a set of external speakers.