We were keen to see how the two graphics chips compared with each other. The Intel Extreme graphics lasted for 128 minutes in the MobileMark 2005 battery life test, wheres the Nvidia last only 92 minutes, which is a fair difference. It was also longer-running than the Rock, though that machine has a faster processor.
On the DVD playback test, the Intel graphics lasted an extra 52 minutes, though even so, at 164 minutes in total you’ll only be getting to the end of the standard editions of the Lord of the Rings movies, not the extended editions.
In terms of SYSmark scores, the Alienware keeps pace with the Rock. However, it's clear from the results that this is because we tested the Rock in SYSmark and PCMark with the slower Intel graphics enabled when we should have done so with the faster Nvidia graphics chip. Had it been an apples-to-apples comparison, the Rock's faster CPU and greater memory would have pulled it ahead.
The Nvidia chip yielded healthy scores of 6288 in 3DMark 03 and a reasonable 2636 in 3Dmark 05. It's better than the Rock but a mid-range ATI Mobilty chip would beat both. The X700 in the Acer Ferrari 4000 got 6358 and our early look at ATI's Mobility X1600 produced 7206 and 83803 in 3DMark 03 and 05, respectively.
So the Alienware is a reasonable performer. However, when you compare it to the Rock, it's not fantastic value for money. The Rock does cost over £100 more but you're getting a faster CPU, double the memory, a higher-resolution screen and a DVD burner. With the Alienware you get a glowing blue alien head and rubber grips. To really throw salt into the wound, Rock also offers a free Vodafone 3G data card.
The Alienware doesn't feel special enough to justify the extra cost. Sure you get a cool designed lid, but it comes on a generic notebook chassis. You do get some cool custom Alienware skins for Windows that are fun, but I don't want to spend extra bucks just for that.
A decent notebook in and of itself, but for an Alienware it's just not special enough, unfortunately making it poor value compared to other manufacturers.