Alienware upgrades pint-sized gaming laptop

Corporate face of PC gaming Alienware has upgraded the specs of its M11x laptop, offering Core i5 and i7 CPUs, as well as Nvidia's Optimus technology. The Dell-owned PC maker describes the machine as "the world’s most powerful 11-inch laptop."

Gamers looking for a pint-sized, high-powered machine on the move will now have access to a GeForce GT 335M graphics chip, along with a respectable resolution of 1,366 x 768 on the 11-inch screen.

Although this mobile GPU can't rival the latest desktop cards, it has 72 stream processors, a 128-bit memory interface and 1GB of GDDR3 memory, which isn't bad for a low-power slice of silicon. The company says the machine can average 54fps when playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, although it didn't specify the test settings.

As well as this, the machine's use of Nvidia's Optimus technology means that the machine will switch seamlessly between the Nvidia chip and the integrated Intel HD graphics system, according to the workload. With Optimus, you won't need to physically flick a switch to swap between the two graphics systems, and there won't even be any flickering on the screen.

The processor options are similarly impressive, and Alienware has clearly aimed to squeeze the maximum amount of processing power out of the small machine. You now have a choice of a Core i5 or a Core i7 processor although, again, these are low-powered mobile devices, so you make some sacrifices with regards to performance.

Both CPUs are dual-core chips, rather than quad-core, but they can still process four simultaneous threads with Hyped-up-Threading. The 1.06GHz Core i5 520UM has 3MB of Level 3 cache, and a top speed of 1.886GHz using Intel's TurboBoost technology, which dynamically overclocks the CPU according to demand.

Meanwhile, the top-end 1.2GHz Core i7 640UM has 4MB of Level 3 cache and can hit 2.266GHz using TurboBoost, while keeping the TDP down to just 18W. Alienware has also thrown a bone to overclockers prepared to take a bit of a risk with their delicate laptops, claiming: "all the Alienware M11x processors are overclockable beyond the standard specification."

However, the space-age company was also keen to cover its owner's backside, saying that "Dell does not recommend operating the processor or other system components beyond factory settings. This may cause system instability and reduce the operating life of your system components."

In terms of the rest of the kit, the M11x can accommodate up to 8GB of 800MHz DDR3 memory, along with a 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive and even a 256GB SSD, although the latter will add £505 to the cost of the machine.

The M11x is available now from Dell, and starts at £849 for a Core i5 machine with 2GB of RAM and a 250GB hard drive. You'll need to add another £180 if you want to get the Core i7 chip.