capsule review

Alienware Aurora m7700

At a Glance
  • Alienware Aurora m7700

    PCWorld Rating

Alienware Aurora m7700
Artwork: Rick Rizner, Chris Manners

The Aurora m7700 gaming notebook is a 12.8-pound beast with a 3-pound power adapter, but what a beauty of a desktop replacement! Are you ready? We're talking 17-inch WXGA+ wide-aspect screen, optional dual optical drives (our review model had just one), optional dual RAID hard disks (our unit included a single 160GB drive), four built-in speakers, a built-in 1.3-megapixel Webcam, an nVidia GeForce Go 7800 GTX graphics card with 256MB of RAM, a seven-in-one memory card reader, a USB floppy drive, and almost as many ports and connections as a desktop PC: serial, parallel, PS/2, DVI-I, two FireWire, four USB, S/PDF, S-Video-in, and S-Video-out. (The only thing missing is a standard VGA connection; a DVI-to-VGA adapter cable comes in the box.) Top it off with a beautiful blue upper casing, and you have an imposing machine.

Alienware offers the m7700 with your choice of three AMD desktop processors: a 2.4-GHz dual-core Athlon 64 X2 4800+ (as featured in our unit), a faster Athlon FX, or a standard Athlon 64 processor. Equipped with 1GB of RAM, our review unit returned a superior WorldBench 5 score of 106, beating out the handful of notebooks with Intel mobile dual-core processors that we've tested so far. The m7700's 2.4-GHz Athlon 64 X2 4800+ processor outperformed the Intel Core Duo processors in our multitasking tests, by about 10 percent. Battery life on a desktop-chip-equipped notebook this big is generally awful; and though not the worst we've ever seen, the m7700's 12-cell 6600-mAH battery lasted just 1.6 hours on one charge.

The Aurora m7700's graphics performance was extremely strong, with results such as 87 frames per second in Doom 3 at 1024 by 768 resolution and 32-bit color with antialiasing turned off. Even if games aren't your area of focus, this notebook is worth a look for graphics and CAD work.

The m7700 has a video-in port for video capture, but Alienware doesn't offer the notebook with Windows Media Center Edition. The m7700 does make a very nice stand-alone CD player, however, thanks to dedicated music buttons and a front LED readout. The subwoofer-assisted built-in speakers aren't too bad on their own, but you can also attach up to eight external speakers to take advantage of the unit's 5.1 surround sound.

All four of the Aurora m7700's USB ports are way back on the left side of the notebook where they're hard to get to; and reaching the keys on this notebook, which is quite tall and has a deep palm rest, can feel like a real stretch sometimes.

At $4006 (as of March 27, 2006), this notebook costs a small fortune. You get a lot of great features and terrific performance, but Alienware charges a premium for the distinctive look and the wide choice of graphics cards. Of course, you could configure the m7700 a little more cheaply by opting for items such as a single processor, but what's the beauty in that?

Carla Thornton

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This beefy desktop replacement has lots of ports, a striking blue design, and top-notch performance offset by poor battery li

    Pros

    • Striking design; has scads of ports

    Cons

    • Expensive; poor battery life
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