Generally, we don’t review computers. But an exceptional computer rates an exception.
You don’t buy an Alienware laptop; you visit their web site, configure it from various options (at various prices), and they build it. Want max hard disk track count? Spec a 7200 RPM drive instead of 5400 RPM. Just be aware you’re getting a “desktop replacement” machine, which trades off battery life, size, and cost in return for no-apologies raw power.
Every aspect of this computer overachieves. The wide-screen TFT display handles 1680x1050 pixels (as close as you’ll get to a dual-monitor laptop display) and has a wide viewing angle. The onboard sound is decent, thanks to four speakers: two at the screen’s base, two in the case front. The Intel 3.2GHz Pentium 4 Hyperthreading processor is not a lite version for portable use, and you can support it with up to two gigs of memory. The review model shipped with a DVD-RW drive and nVidia GeForce FX Go5700 graphics accelerator, which delivered stunning graphics. Of course, there are USB 2 and FireWire ports, but there’s also S/PDIF out, a built-in mic at the top of the screen (away from noise sources), and an IR remote for controlling several aspects of the computer. Software-wise, you get a system restoration CD, Windows XP Pro, DVD playback programs, and an OEM version of Nero.
The chassis doesn’t flex, the screen feels solid, and thermally, the unit runs surprisingly cool (the tradeoff is some fan noise). I wasn’t about to “drop test” a $3,000+ computer I don’t own, but I feel it would survive better than most. I like the keyboard feel, although I’m not a fan of Synaptics touch pads — happily, a mouse comes with the package.
Sure, this price range offers many choices for powerful laptops. But for audio and video editing, Alienware’s audio/video powerhouse is, well, out of this world.