Alienware aurora m9700 laptop - EUROPE EXCLUSIVE review

4 out of 5
From 1198

For

Dual graphics cards, glossy screen, available in bright green

Against

Powerpack almost as big as the laptop, scroll pad very plastic to touch

So you like going to gaming parties, but are fed up with having to lug that monster of a desktop PC with you, the screen and of course keyboard and mouse set.

In steps the newly updated Alienware Aurora m9700 now not only available in three crazy colours; green, blue or silver, but also with the added bonus of being the first 17-inch laptop to feature 1GB of graphics memory across two 512MB NVIDIA GeForce Go 7900 GS graphics cards.

The machine, which in size dwarfs over the office's 15-inch G4 Powerbook, looks every bit the Green Goblin, Incredible Hulk or any other menacing comic book hero you can think of and in keeping with the Alienware laptops the notebook sports a glowing alien head on the top of the model just like apple laptops with its logo.

Powered by an AMD Turion 64 Mobile Processor (ours had a 2.2GHz 800MHz FSB 1MB L2 Cache) and with memory starting at 512MB and up to 2GB of DDR SDRAM at 400MHz the Aurora offers a powerful alternative away from Dell's (who bought Alienware earlier this year) XPS range with Core Duo T2400 chip.

Beyond the processing power storage space is distributed over two hard drives, allowing you to choose to record up to 125 hours of television programming with the units built in TV tuner, with RAID 0 or the opting for the defence of the mirrored settings and enhanced data backup of RAID 1.

Other features include a built in 1.3 megapixel webcam at the top of the very glossy 17-inch widescreen WUXGA 1920 x 1200 with Clearview that is great for both gaming and watching DVDs on and a full sized QWERTY keyboard included due to the sheer size of the notebook being able to accommodate it.

While we're on the topic of watching DVDs the Aurora also features a quick panel of shortcut keys that mean you can access the DVD features such as skip, pause and volume without having to access the software.

Outside all that processing power, the Aurora m9700 offers more slots and connectors than a Vegas Casino and offers a VGA Connector, One DVI-D Connector, One S-Video out connector, S-Video In, Coaxial in, numerous audio ins and outs including an optical connection, four USB sockets, Ethernet, modem, firewire, PC Card and an SD and Memory Card reader for good measure.

Being slightly scared of the system powerful specs we ran PassMark's Performance Test benchmarking software on it. The higher the number, the better the machine.

To give you an idea, according to PassMark an old Intel Pentium 4 1GHz machine has a rating of about 100 while a 3.4GHz Pentium 4 with 2GB of memory may have a rating of around 650.

The Aurora's pass mark was 481 showing that for a laptop it’s a pretty impressive piece of kit and this score looking at the results in greater detail was considerably boosted by the units graphics cards.

In practice we also tested it with the latest FEAR expansion pack - Extraction Point from Sierra at the game's highest settings.

The results were very impressive. We ran FEAR at 1024 x 768 x 32 with everything from volumetric light density to model decals all set to maximum. The results, some of the best graphics we've seen on or off a laptop.

Verdict

In our tests the m9700 performed very well and certainly held its own when it came to playing games. The combined 1GB cards certainly made the difference and our tests with one of the most demanding games on the market didn't seem to give it any problems what so ever.

While the Alienware Aurora m9700 professes to be a desktop replacement and in size it is, we were pleasantly surprised that it didn't weight as much as a desktop machine -it's still 3.9Kg, but that's not bad for a 17-inch monster.

If you are looking for a desktop replacement to go to the next LAN party with this could just be the solution, and better still it won't break the bank.