So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Alienware M11x R3 ultraportable gaming laptop
Alienware M11x R3 review: One of the most attractive little laptops on the market, and it has fast graphics performance
- Small yet powerful
- Great build quality
- Customisable light schemes
- Feels cramped
- Fan gets loud
- Slightly heavy for its size
The M11x R3 is a little gaming laptop that you'll love. It looks good, it feels good and it performs very well. The only downside is that it's a little cramped due to its size.
Price$ 1,799.00 (AUD)
The Alienware M11x R3 is one of the heaviest 11.6in laptops you'll ever hold, but it's also the most badass! Within its tiny form factor lies an Intel Core i7-2617M CPU, 8GB of DDR3 SDRAM, a 750GB (7200rpm) hard drive and an NVIDIA GeForce GT 540M graphics adapter. It's a small laptop that's built for speed and mobility and it is ideal for gamers who want something that's easy to carry to LAN parties. On the flipside, its small size makes it feel cramped to use and you'll need to plug in external peripherals to get the most out of your gaming experience.
Design and usability
The design and build quality of the M11x R3 is the same as the M11x that we reviewed last year. It has the same square-ish body and angled front bezel with 'alien eyes', and its lighting looks superb. You can customise its lights easily through the Alienware Command Centre utility and give your laptop its own unique colour scheme; up to 19 colours can be used to illuminate the keyboard, the 'eyes' at the front, the Wi-Fi logo and the Alienware logos. Additionally, they can be set up to pulse, to morph into another colour, or just to display one solid colour. You can also have different colour schemes depending on the power source. We love this customisation and think it looks fantastic in dark environments.
The keyboard itself has soft and responsive keys that feel good to hit, but the downside is that they are a little too small. To Alienware's credit, the keyboard has a full complement of keys and there aren't any keys in awkward positions. You get used to the cramped board after a while and it becomes a little easier to type on, but it's still not good for gaming unless you have very thin fingers. You'll definitely be better off plugging in a keyboard; there are three USB ports (two of them are USB 3.0) to accommodate extra peripherals.
The touchpad is a good size (80x43mm) considering the small dimensions of the unit. It has a slightly 'grippy' texture, but we found it to be responsive during our test period. It doesn't support many gestures though (only Pinch Zoom), and you can only use single-finger edge scrolling. In this respect, it could be better.
We think the overall user comfort of the M11x R3 is good once you get used to its small size and this is mainly because its keyboard feels so soft and nice to use once you get on a roll. Furthermore, the build quality of the chassis and lid is excellent and this makes the laptop feel good to hold. There is barely any bend in the chassis; the lid and the edge-to-edge glass in front of the screen can withstand a fair bit of pressure and torsional movement. Even though it's a slightly heavy notebook for its size (it weighs 2.1kg), using it in your lap shouldn't be too uncomfortable unless it sits awkwardly and the square corners dig in to you.
If you use the M11x R3 for gaming or other taxing tasks for long periods of time, it will get warm. Some of this warmth will be felt through the palmrest, but in our tests it wasn't anything to worry about. The base, too, only got lukewarm while using the laptop on our lap. A large vent is present at the rear-left of the chassis and there is a 4cm fan installed to extract the warmth that's generated by the components. If you've got the laptop plugged in and it's running at its full capacity during a game, you should expect the fan to get LOUD!
Turning up the speakers on the M11x R3 won't drown out much of the fan noise — they are just not loud enough and they are positioned under the chassis, which means they can easily be muffled if the unit is used in your lap. You're better off plugging in a headset or a nice pair of headphones, and there are two headphone ports and a microphone port to facilitate this.
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