30% off Alienware M14x, and Dell paid me for a printer

Well, my earlier skepticism about the M14x aside, I’ve pulled the trigger on a nebula red model with the following specs:

  • Intel Core i7 2630QM 2.0GHz (2.9GHz Turbo Mode, 6M cache)
  • 4GB Dual Channel DDR3 at 1600MHz
  • 14.0 High Def+ (900p/1600×900) with WLED backlight
  • 1.5GB DDR3 NVIDIA GeForce GT 555M using NVIDIA Optimus technology
  • 500GB 7200RPM SATA 3GB/s
  • Slot-Load Dual Layer DVD Burner, DVD+-RW, CD-RW
  • Soundblaster X-Fi Hi Def Audio – Software Enabled
  • Intel Advanced-N WiFi Link 6250 a/g/n 2×2 MIMO Technology with WiMax
  • Internal 60GHz WirelessHD Transmitter
  • Internal Bluetooth 3.0

Image gallery from Laptop Magazine:

Yes, I’ve abandoned Thinkpad and have been seduced by Alienware as I predicted. I started at the website and configured it as above, for a total of $2071, including 4 year basic warranty. I also had added the external Vizio kit for Wireless HD. Then I called in to Dell to see what kind of a deal I could swing. My rep’s name was Eric Morales and I gave him my EPP number for UW (hoping to get 2-3%), and agreed to use a DPA account (another 3%). I also mentioned the Farmer’s discount of 21% that runs until April 28th.

Eric put me on hold and went to crunch the numbers and he came back with 30% off and free shipping! The only downside was that they were out of the Vizio kits, but he could still include the internal wireless transmitter. No big deal there – it’s on Amazon for about the same price.

At this point my total with tax was down to 1494.26. That’s $400 off! (after accounting for the wireless kit). The total includes the Orion backpack, I do need to lug this thing around after all.

This is when my rep blew my mind by saying he could add a wireless printer/scanner … for -$6. Dell would pay me six dollars to take the printer in other words.

(obviously, I agreed)

Bottom line: just confirmed my M14x for $1486, which includes the 4 year warranty, backpack, bluetooth, upgraded audio, wimax, and wireless HD. Ship date 5/13 arrives 5/18 (I’ll call may 1st and see if I can get NBD).

Some thoughts btw on the cpu, gpu, ram and hdd:

If you look at Anandtech’s review of SNB mobile chips, you see that the base option (2630QM) is an OEM part and the upgrades (2720QM, 2820QM) are retail chips with minor baseline frequency advantage (0.2 or 0.3 Ghz). Not a great value unless you’re intent on overclocking. All are 4/8 core with HT and the same TDP.

further, the upgraded chips support DDR3 1600 memory, whereas the baseline supports DDR3-1333. However, the only RAM available for the M14x is DDR3-1600, which will get downclocked to 1333 by the 2630 anyway. So if you choose the 2630, there’s no point in paying for more 1600 RAM – it’s better to get the 4GB they give you, and then upgrade to 8 or 16 GB with 1333 modules for cheaper off of NewEgg.

With respect to the GPU memory, paying for 3GB is a waste of money with the GT 555m. If it were a 460 GTX like on the M17 it would be a different matter. But the 3G ram upgrade is a pure profit play by Dell. Avoid. 1.5 GB is plenty.

Finally, the base HD of 500GB is decent, but I do want to go SSD eventually. But the cost of $600 for the upgrade is nuts, especially since the M14x only supports SATA2 (3 GBps). Better to pay $200 for 128 GB SSD on Newegg; all I will put on the laptop is the OS, apps, and games – I’ll use Dropbox to sync whatever data and or files I need for work from my desktop. Even if I wanted a 256GB SSD, by the end of the year these will be at $400 due to all the new SATA3/6GBps drives coming out.

Bottom line: performance wise, the low-end configuration for the system core is perfectly defensible, and frees up budget for the bells and whistles (wirelessHD, wimax, bluetooth, and most importantly 900p screen).

My sales rep was Eric Morales (Eric_Morales@DELL.com, 1-800-695-8133 x4167526) and I can’t recommend him highly enough. Am really happy with this deal and will be doing business with him again.

Alienware M11x R3 crossing the Sandy Bridge in April, joined by M14x

Back in January, Anandtech previewed the entire Sandy Bridge lineup, including the mobile LV/ULV parts, and commented:

What’s interesting to note about the ULV parts is that even the slowest i5-2537M (yeah, those code names are going to be easy to remember!) comes clocked higher than the outgoing i7-640UM, with more aggressive Turbo modes and a 1W lower TDP. Perhaps we’ll see an M11x R3 with 400M (or 500M?) graphics and one of these ULV chips?

It’s amazing to think that Alienware’s M11x has achieved such mindshare among gaming laptops that the first thing people think about is the R3 when presented with a new chip! But this is also a commentary on how badly the M11x is due for a refresh. Well, looks like the wait is over – here are preliminary specifications for Dell’s new Alienware M11X R3, due out in April:

LCD: 11.6″, 1366×768, TrueLife glossy panel, White-LED backlight
RAM stick options: 1GB/2GB/4GB/8GB, 1333MHz, DDR3
CPU options:
i5-2537M, 1.4GHz up to 2.3GHz
i7-2617M, 1.5GHz up to 2.6GHz
i7-2657M, 1.6GHz up to 2.7GHz

Check out the comparative stats on those LV/ULV CPUs from Anand’s January post. No word on what discrete GPU will be used yet, but nvidia is a good bet for Optimus.

But the more interesting news is that Alienware is also releasing a M14x version – not an M13x as previously assumed and lusted after:

RAM options: 1GB-4GB, DDR3, 1333MHz or 2GB/4GB, 1600MHz
CPU options: i3-2310M all the way up to i7-2820QM
LCD options:
14″ Full-HD 1920×1080
14″ 1366×768

The downside is that battery will be the same 8-cell, 63 Whr used in the M11x R3 above, which is a real problem since the CPUs are the OEM/Retail ones not LV/ULV. The TDP is 35W-45W for these CPUs versus 17W for the CPUs in the M11x R3. Between the more thirsty CPUs and the larger screen, expect battery life to be the Suck for the M14x. It doesn’t make much sense to go for a M14x when you could wait a bit and get an M15x instead (also overdue for a Sandy Bridge refresh).

The M13x would have been far more reasonable, with LV/ULV and a 63 Whr battery, than the M14x. I think I’ll stick with the M11x – can’t wait until “early April” !

UPDATE: Eric at Dell-Lab blog responds to my critique of the M14x:

Currently, I have no information on an M15X refresh. It could be that the M14X is the successor to the M15X. Dell must have figured that going for a 14″ form factor would be better overall.

I agree, that would make more sense. But the current lineup of 11, 15 and 17 is well-spaced out, and has a natural opening for a 13. If Dell is instead going to have 11, 14 and 17 then that is also evenly spaced, but fewer options. Maybe that is deliberate, easier to have three models in the lineup than four. But the discrepancy between the midrange and high end will be greater. It remains to be seen how the pricing goes.

CES 2011: Waiting for Alienware M13x :)

Remember my earlier laptop angst? Well, I’m not exactly bowled over by the new Thinkpads just announced at CES, and the logic that we are unlikely to see a M11x R3 refresh this soon after the R2 refresh just a few months ago is pretty compelling (per this long thread at the NBReview forums). Plus, Sandy Bridge architecture is out now, and probably most importantly I’ve built myself a professional desktop rig (my long-standing advocacy for flex computing be darned).

And yet, Alienware has been teasing about something… “huge, exciting, skinny, [other superlatives], sexy” via email:

Could it be, an M13x?

Anyway, tomorrow morning we will find out. I hope it’s not just the M17x R3 which has already been leaked. Yawn… I’ll update the post accordingly… but I’m hoping for a 13-inch, sandy-bridge sibling to plug the hole in AW’s mobile line. Let’s see!

UPDATE: I agree mostly with this list of pros and cons of the M11x which hopefully will/won’t make it into an M11x R3 or a M13x.

UPDATE: Yup, just the M17x R3. On what planet does Alienware think “skinny” applies to this beast? I expect the M11x R3 sometime this summer, and maybe they will have an M13x by then as well, though if they give the M11x a better screen and Sandy Bridge, I’ll probably be sold on it.

thinking about Thinkpad, seduced by Alienware

I’m waiting for my aging Thinkpad T42 to be delivered today from repair – it had the same fan error as last time, and fortuitously chose the day before my 3-year warranty expired to conk out. My desktop PC replacement saga aside, I need to think seriously about what my next laptop will be – especcially since I can’t renew the extended warranty on the T42 anymore.

The T42 is a 14″ machine and it’s basically been the best laptop I’ve ever owned. I have no complaints, and for a replacement the T401s looks like an obvious choice. However, my dalliance with netbooks has me convinced that smaller is better. Unfortunately, netbooks seems to have imploded as a category, I still cant find a decent Core Duo 9-inch netbook with an SSD and Nvidia’s ION2 “Optimus” – and even if I could, I doubt it would come in under the $500 mark (if anyone knows otherwise, though, please let me know ASAP!).

However, I’ve become aware of Alienware’s new M11x, an 11-inch laptop which is designed for gaming portability. The smaller size makes it compelling, and it would scream at my scientific work as well as run Warcraft better than anything I’ve ever played on. And it has Optimus and an SSD option (only on the R2 revision, which has the i-series processor instead of Core Duo). The downside is of course that it won’t be cheap, probably $1k minimum if I get a good deal or closer to $2k loaded including 3yr warranty. Thats what I’d be paying for a Thinkpad though as well.

I’m going to have stay tuned to @DellOutlet and see if they have any deals on the M11 in the pipe. I’m seriously tempted by it, enough to even consider straying outside the Thinkpad tent.