I’ve been reading that the new Alienware Area-51 m15x is a gaming machine. Sure, it’s great at games, pushing through high polycount mayhem at 1920 x 1040 and allowing for death and destruction to occur with high-res blood maps and Z depth fog. This is surely a lot of fun, but I’m not a gamer, despite my humble beginnings as a six-year Combat! player on the Atari 2600. I’m not going to pay $4,000-5,000 for a laptop so that my refresh rate is faster than my opponent’s. I invest so that my investment will pay me back’am I right, fellow animators? Our tools have to give us what we need to do our job, and this is why I am going to discuss the m15x.
It’s sleek, shiny and compact. It may not be as physically robust as its predecessors, but I don’t need a laptop that can brain a carjacker. In fact, I would let the jacker take the car in lieu of the laptop’given my car. The keyboard is illuminated along with other buttonless features, giving off an eerie colored glow that can be customized through the Alienware Command Center. I like this feature because it comes in really handy when you are sitting in a darkened theater taking notes during dailies.
But, enough of the superficial niceties: The laptop’s real power is in the CPU and the GPU. The NVIDIA GeForce 8800M GTX powers the graphics of this little gadget with 512MB of RAM on board. Supplemented with the Intel Core 2 Extreme X9000 2, 8Ghz CPU, it packs quite a punch. It managed any number of 3D programs, throwing tons of polys at the system, without a noticeable slowdown. I did, however, have to turn off Vista’s pretty and delicate 3D/Transparent windows feature for 3ds Max 9’simply because 9 doesn’t support Vista. (Not a big deal, but it gives me a chance to say how much I abhor Vista!)
The m15x sports up to a 500GB internal drive. You also have the option of getting a 64GB internal SSD (Solid State Drive) with no moving parts and more robust than standard drives. You might think that 64GB isn’t enough’and you’d be right. So, you have a SmartBay in the side of the machine that you can swap out additional drives from 120GB to 500GB.
I could go on for a few more pages, but I’ll wrap it up by saying that the m15x is a powerful enough machines for most applications and small enough that it’s not intrusive in mobile work situations. Out of the box, it is priced at $1,500, but you can jazz it up with supplements to bring it into the $5,000 range. Yes, there is that much room to customize the system to your liking.