There are countless trends competing for attention in the gaming notebook and laptop space but not all of them are either useful or benefit the core gaming experience.
Alienware Sentia M3200
- Compact, Zippy performance, Good Speakers
- Poorly designed keyboard, Battery life could be better.
Alienware takes a nice step out of the high-power desktop world into the ultraportable market with the Sentia m3200
Price$ 2,499.00 (AUD)
Alienware's smallest notebook yet, the Sentia m3200, offers a bright 12.1 inch wide-screen display, a good case design, and zippy performance. Only its slightly disappointing keyboard should give you pause.
Using a 2-GHz Pentium M 760 processor and 1GB of RAM, the Sentia earned an impressive WorldBench 5 score of 92. Our test unit included an 80GB hard drive; however, the 2.2 kg Sentia m3200 beats most thin-and-light competitors with the option of a capacious 160GB drive, which costs a little more than the drive in our configuration.
We liked the lid's rubberized hand grips, as well as the Sentia's overall layout and design. All the connections are on the sides, within easy reach, except for a third USB port tucked in a bottom compartment for semipermanent parking of a small thumb drive. (Our 3-inch-long thumb drive was too big to fit.)
The keyboard is decent, but not perfect. The mouse buttons were a tad small and stiff, and the PageUp and PageDown keys were clumsily laid out - separated by the up-arrow key and positioned horizontally instead of in the more intuitive vertical arrangement. Otherwise typing was easy, and the touchpad was well calibrated.
For making the best use of your downtime, the Sentia's instant-play capability takes you straight to your DVD movie, music CD, video, or photo slide show without requiring you to turn on the notebook first. (You simply have to press the P key to launch the Windows-independent PowerCinema application.) The Sentia's speakers aren't bad for a small unit, especially when playing CDs, but we found that DVD movies were almost inaudible, even with the volume on full.
Alienware doesn't sell docking stations, but you have a fair number of expansion options with this notebook. Although tedious to access because of the cover's nine small screws, the large bottom compartment houses an upgradeable hard drive and both memory slots. Removing one bottom screw releases the left-side optical drive (a DVD burner at this price), in case you ever need to replace it. The Sentia has an ExpressCard slot, too, and its media-card reader accepts four storage types: SD Card, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, and MultiMediaCard.
Your battery, however, is limited to one rear-mounted six-cell power pack that lasted 2 hours, 53 minutes in our tests--one of the shortest-lasting batteries we've tested. The Sentia offers Wi-Fi but no off switch, so there's no saving power that way.
If basic business applications are all you need, you'll want to spring for Microsoft Works 8. (The Windows Media Center Edition operating system and a remote control are an option, but seem like overkill for a small notebook with weak speakers.) The user manuals that Alienware provides are complete and helpful, including a travel folder with pockets for system-restore CDs.
Alienware takes a nice step out of the high-power desktop world into the ultraportable market with the Sentia m3200.
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