The 11.6-inch ultraportable Dell Alienware M11x laptop has enough power to play all the latest titles while making only modest compromises, yet it's considerably more portable than typical gaming notebooks in the 15-inch range, let alone giant desktop replacement notebooks. The Dell Alienware M11x generally doesn't cost as much as those larger alternatives, either.
The Dell Alienware M11x squeezes its fantastic performance into a small package by taking an Intel SU7300 ultra-low-voltage CPU, which normally runs at 1.3GHz, and overclocking it to 1.73GHz by way of boosting the frontside bus from 800MHz to 1066MHz.
At least, that's what you find on Alienware's spec sheets and in the Windows system properties page. Using the CPU-Z tool to examine the CPU properties, we discovered that the clock multiplier was dropped from its default 6.5 to 6.0, making the final clock speed 1.6GHz. If you don't like the overclocked speed, an option in the BIOS lets you tell the CPU to run at the default speed. Alienware fully supports the overclocked speed in the one-year warranty (optional extended warranties are available).
Our review Dell Alienware M11x system came with 4GB of RAM (up from 2GB in the base configuration, and highly recommended). The base configuration also includes the Intel SU4100 ULV processor; the SU7300 that our review unit had costs more. Graphics duties are handled by the very capable GeForce 335M with 1GB of video memory.
The Dell Alienware M11x unfortunately does not use nVidia's new Optimus switchable graphics technology, so you have to switch between the Intel integrated GPU and the nVidia GPU manually (or rely on Windows power profiles). Fortunately, Alienware has made this task quite easy: The Function-F6 key combination toggles between the Intel and nVidia graphics, so it's easy to get longer battery life when you're just surfing the web and then to kick in the powerful discrete graphics when it's game time.
As for storage, the default configuration has a 160GB, 5400rpm hard drive; you should opt for one of the faster 7200rpm models, which can have a big impact on overall performance. Our review system Dell Alienware M11x was loaded with a 500GB drive, but if you have cash to spare, you can pay through the nose for a 256GB solid-state drive.
Regardless of what the true CPU speed is, the Dell Alienware M11x flies. On our WorldBench 6 tests, it earned a score of 77, which is among the best marks we've seen from an ultraportable PC. Does the overclocked CPU ruin your battery life? Our tests say no - at least, not if you throw enough battery at it.
Using the Intel integrated graphics, with the CPU in its overclocked state, we achieved about 7.5 hours of battery life. That was without any sort of bulky extended battery sticking out of the bottom of the case. In fact, extended batteries are not available: the Dell Alienware M11x's eight-cell prismatic battery is fully integrated and can't be easily removed, which helps give the case a smooth and clean look.