After a steady stream of Netbooks and entry-level laptops, it's nice to slip behind the seat of a deluxe mobile powerhouse for a change. Alienware's new M17x laptop jams pretty much any high-end component you can think of into an imposing, matte, black chassis, including an Intel Core 2 Quad Extreme QX9300 CPU, dual Nvidia GeForce GTX 280M GPUs, and 1TB of hard-drive space.
While the system starts at a reasonable $1,799, you'll need to configure something closer to our $4,849 review unit to really get the benefit of Alienware's years of experience making high-end gaming PCs.
While playing around with the M17x was a blast, and we especially enjoyed creating wacky color combinations with the customizable backlit keyboard (this new version has four separate color zones under the keyboard tray), we're left wondering if the era of the extreme gaming rig is over--replaced by a mix of 10-inch Netbooks and console games.
It's an argument some have been making for years (or rebutting), but the oft-reported "Death of PC Games" really does seem closer than ever. An industry group called the Entertainment Software Association reports that console games brought in $8.9 billion last year, compared with only $701.4 million for PC games. This data usually excludes many downloadable and casual games, and MMO subscriptions, but those kinds of games (even The Sims 3 and WoW) are specifically designed to run on lower-end machines--not $5,000 gaming monsters.
We honestly had a hard time figuring out what we'd even play on a blazingly fast M17x (Plants vs. Zombies?). The usual default high-end gaming benchmark, EA's Crysis, came out almost two years ago, and we can't think of too many other big-budget, high-profile PC-native games in the pipeline.
After expensive flops such as Hellgate: London, some publishers and developers may be gun-shy about PC gaming. One exception is Bioware's Dragon Age: Origins, one of the few buzz-worthy upcoming games that's being developed for the PC and ported to consoles, rather than the other way around (and definitely something we'd love to play on the M17x).
As a life-long PC gamer, I hope I'm wrong--and I suspect many of you will think that I am--so sound off below in the comments section. In the meantime, I'll be trying to get my GOG.com copy of Under a Killing Moon to run on a Netbook.
Read the full review of the Alienware M17x.