The soft, rubbery texture that covers the whole of Alienware's new flagship M17 will strike some as unusually tactile for a cold-hearted games machine. For others, the fleshy texture will make their skin crawl. If that's you, it’s time to look at a different laptop.
Not that the M17 is a complete oddball. Aside from the soft finish and sculpted lid, it’s exactly the same shape and size as other recent twin-graphics card machines from the likes of Cyberpower and Chillblast. In other words, it’s enormous.
There are a few reasons you might consider the Alienware above the competition though. For a start, it has a fantastic 1920x1200 screen that’s bright, colourful and fast.
The keyboard is backlit making it easy to hit shortcuts in the dark, and there's an optional TV tuner and remote if you want a laptop that's an all-round entertainment centre.
The big draw, though, is in the graphics cards. Unlike most previous heavy-duty laptops, the new M17 doesn't use NVIDIA's 9-series GeForce card to render games. Instead, Alienware has fitted it out with two AMD Mobility Radeon HD3870 cards.
There’s one main reason for this. Over in the world of desktop graphics, NVIDIA is the clear performance king, but when it comes to notebooks, AMD's cards perform better and use less power.
Value for money
The upshot of which is something we never thought we'd say about Alienware – the M17 actually represents good value for money.
To get the same performance from an NVIDIA-powered laptop you'd need to spend between £300 and £500 more, and you'd lose a bit of battery life too.
Everything in the system is configurable, but our unit had some sensible options included. A dual core CPU, rather than quad core, helps to keep the price down without impacting games, as does a fairly small hard drive.
Of course, the M17 is still pricey and not especially portable, and it's hard to really recommend spending this much money on a notebook in a world where high streets are falling apart. But as far as gaming laptops go, right now it's the best.