"Very serious hardware drawbacks. Please read summary."1.5 starson by azinkand
Pros: Appealing case design, the ability to include a quad core processor, optional HD screen, fast system performace (with dual core processor).
Cons: Poor performance (with quadcore). Once the northbridge heats up under load, all of that quadcore performance disappears. Alienware attempted to solve the problem with a BIOS release that undervolted the CPU, thereby causing even more instability.
Summary: I'm writing this review with the intent of it being the most helpful review possible. If you purchase the laptop with a dual core processor, there will be no issues with the system and it will perform remarkably well. The quad core processor on the other hand causes issues with heat because of its size and power consumption.
Due to the increased size of the quad core heat sink, the Northbridge heat sink does not make good contact with the Northbridge chip. This is because the CPU heat sink and the Northbridge heat sink are one physical assembly. Consequently, the Northbridge chip cannot be cooled well and the system begins to stutter horribly once the Northbridge reaches its temperature limit (which it does routinely). Frame rates and system performance drop so drastically that games become unplayable. During some of my testing, once the Northbridge reached its limit and the system began to stutter, game frame rates in WoW and Left 4 Dead would drop to 2 - 7 FPS. During digital video encoding, frame rates fell to 3-4 fps. The stuttering I have described is the reason that many other reviewers are claiming that the system is trash and has poor performance.
To solve this problem, Alienware attempted to remove heat from the system through a BIOS update (version B14) which undervolted the CPU. Admittedly, the stuttering was reduced after installing B14; however, it does still occur. Additionally, by undervolting the CPU they caused massive instability issues. Over a 30 day period, I blue screened 68 times (I kept a log :( ).
If you call Alienware and ask for support on this issue, they will run you through the basics of trying to speed up your system or remove excess services from startup. After that fails they blame the poor performance and instability on whatever applications you are running at the time of crash. They love to blame WoW, so if you are purchasing this laptop with that game in mind, I would avoid it. These are the reasons that many of the other reviewers claim their support to be awful. Most of their support staff speak English well in my opinion.
There is a solution to the problem to be found by "copper modding" the north bridge heat sink. If you are going to attempt this, know that it does work; but, it will void the warranty. After the copper mod, the system performance is incredible.
Overall, I would not recommend purchasing this laptop with the quad core CPU unless you feel like doing the copper mod.