Sunday, 3 February 2013

A Tale of Two Laptops

Right now I have two laptops, a much publicised Cr-48 Chromebook and the now discontinued Alienware M11X R3. Both of them are massively different machines even if they both have a svelte matte black bodies. I love the simple, inconspicuous exterior of these machines, that usually belies the power underneath.

 M11X (left) and  Cr-48, photo by Zathu at

Best of the M11X


The M11X is sub-compact power. Mine has a Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, a discrete NVIDIA graphics card  and a 240GB hard drive. It is a middle of the road M11X, but powerful enough to easily run many PC games of the past few years I loved Mass Effect 3 on it. Apart from the ending, but that is another story! I bought it because I thought it was the best subcompact laptop for the money at the time, and the MacBook Air just wasn’t worth the extra cash.


It is upgradable to any 2.5” drive and 16GB of RAM with a level of future-proofing and flexibility that isn’t available to the Chromebook. The M11X’s specs are among the best for a machine with a footprint smaller than the 13” MacBook and a 1366x768 pixel 11.6” screen, far more pixels than the Cr-48 with a greater density too making pictures sharper and clearer.

OS & Apps

Since the M11X runs Windows 7, and I even had the betas of Windows 8 on it, it can run any of the millions of different programs available for the OS, and run them well online and offline without any problems, something that isn’t the case for the Cr-48. This gives a huge level of flexibility to use the Adobe Creative Suite and other powerful desktop programs that simply would not be able to run on the Chromebook and its netbook specs. There are several apps I use on Windows and OS X that aren’t able to work on the Chromebook, especially Dropbox which is an inconvenience. The full desktop OS also means that I can take the M11x away with me and know that it will be able to perform well as a primary machine for weeks at a time. This is something I am not at all sure the Cr-48 can do.

Worst of the M11X

Windows 8

I have written about Windows 8 and my experiences with it before. I just don’t enjoy it on the M11X. It is well suited for the tablet interface, but it isn’t as smooth on an ‘old’ style laptop like this. This is partially the fault of Alienware’s design - the trackpad is tiny, as they expect you to use an external mouse, but on the other hand, Windows 8 is a very touch-centric interface. At the same time I feel Mountain Lion has actually increased the usefulness of Apple’s famed trackpads and is far better than Lion was at utilising the hardware, I feel the same cannot be said for the M11X on Windows 8.


The M11X R3 was a high-end machine when it was released and even now is punching well above its size category. I got a good deal on eBay when I bought it, but it is still worth around £500. I bought the Cr-48 for £100 with a bit extra for postage and I know that the M11X just isn’t worth five times more than the Chromebook, at least to me, especially with the upgrades and accessories required to make it a truly great gaming machine. Perhaps that means it is time to sell it and recoup the cash.


This is a brilliant laptop, but it cries out for more attention than I give it. It deserves a 1080p monitor, an SSD and an external keyboard and mouse to play games properly and perform unhindered. Yet all of these things add up to an increase in costs and desk space, and considering I already have an Xbox 360 and an iMac, a gaming computer seems an extravagance I should do without.


The M11x R3 is an amazing little machine, that is probably exactly what I want in a gaming laptop with a tiny footprint, but with decent specs, but I am not sure it really fits within my budget or my lifestyle. There can be no doubt that the M11X is a far better laptop than the Cr-48, but I’m not sure that it is better enough to make it worth the increased cost.

1 comment:

  1. Disruptive innovation from the chromebook. Looking at getting one myself.