Apple MacBook Pro 17” Vs. Alienware M17x Comparison

If you’re in the market for a desktop replacement style notebook that packs a serious punch for either gaming or demanding work applications then you need to set your sights on a premium 17-inch screen machine.  Premium quality 17-inch notebooks, those being machines that cost in excess of $2,000, offer the fastest processors, most powerful graphics cards and best options for upgrades.  If you’ve got a generous budget and an eye to getting the best technology and design for your dollars the Apple MacBook Pro 17” and Alienware M17X R3 are two that are likely to be on your short list.  We’re here today to compare these two notebooks and declare a winner – and we’re assuming money is no object so make sure you’re sticker shock blinders are on.

MacBook Pro 17 Vs. Alienware M17X

First, let’s go over the specs of the Alienware M17X and Apple MacBook Pro 17” we’re comparing:

 

Alienware M17x R3

Apple MacBook Pro 17”

Processor

2.4GHz Intel Core i7 Quad-Core

2.4GHz Intel Core i7 Quad-Core

Screen

Full HD 1920×1080 glossy

Full HD 1920×1200 anti-glare

OS

Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit

Apple Mac OS X

Graphics

Nvidia GeForce GTX 580M 2GB

AMD Radeon HD 6770M 1GB

Memory

8GB

8GB

Storage

750GB 7200RPM

750GB 7200RPM hard drive

Optical Drive

Slot-load DVD burner

Slot-load DVD burner

Weight

9.4 lbs.

6.6 lbs.

Thickness

1.77 in.

0.98 in.

Ports

2x USB 2.0, 2x USB 3.0, eSATA/USB 2.0 combo, 2x headphone, microphone, HDMI in, HDMI out, mini-DisplayPort, VGA, media card reader

3x USB 2.0, FireWire 800, Ethernet, ExpressCard/34, Thunderbolt, Kensington lock slot, headphone/microphone

Battery Life

up to 3.5 hours

Up to 7 hours

Web Camera

3.0MP HD camera

FaceTime HD camera

Audio

Klipsch speakers

Stereo speakers w/ subwoofer

Price as Configured

$2,199.00

$2,799.00

Product Images

Alienware M17X MacBook Pro 17-inch

 

Screenshots for the pricing on the above configurations are shown below, just click on the image to get a larger view:

M17x Apple MacBook Pro 17" pricing

Price

Advantage: Alienware M17x

With both systems configured almost equally (we’ll sort out the differences later in this review), the Alienware M17x holds the undeniable advantage in price. It comes in $600 less with similar components and a much better graphics card. Of course, the MacBook Pro has other reasons for being more expensive, namely the design and build materials. Still, the price gap is one that can’t be ignored.

Design

Advantage: Alienware M17x

The MacBook Pro and M17x are designed to serve different audiences. Love it or hate it, the M17x is a show-stopper with its AlienFX LED lighting system and all-black chassis that looks like a military stealth aircraft. The lighting system is fully user customizable and supports a rainbow of colors; the keyboard itself can be four different colors.

The Apple MacBook Pro on the other hand, while increasingly commonplace in terms of design (mainly due to PC clones) has its own advantages; it’s as clean and smooth as can be plus has the advantage of being made of all aluminum; the Alienware uses some plastic elements. Nonetheless in terms of uniqueness, the MacBook Pro just doesn’t measure up to the Alienware.

Battery Life

Advantage: Apple MacBook Pro

The Apple MacBook Pro boasts the best battery life available in any 17” notebook at around 6.5 hours (Apple’s 7-hour claim is a bit exaggerated). The Alienware M17X on the other hand comes in at 3.5 hours on a good day, or basically half of what the Apple offers. Unless you feel like carrying a spare battery for the Alienware, the choice is rather clear if you need the most battery life possible.

Screen

Advantage: Apple MacBook Pro

While both notebooks have the same size screen, the Apple has two significant advantages: one because it has an anti-glare screen surface; two because it has a higher vertical resolution (1200 pixels vs. 1080). The anti-glare screen coating is optional ($50) but well worth the extra money because it gets rid of all the annoying reflections inherent with glossy displays. The higher resolution is a big advantage for productivity; for example, more rows in an Excel spreadsheet can be seen at the same time since there are more vertical pixels to display them.

Processor Options and Performance

Advantage: Neither (tie)

A quad-core Intel Core i7 processor – currently the fastest available in a notebook – is standard equipment on the Alienware M17x and the Apple MacBook Pro 17”. This processor excels at intensive tasks such as Adobe Photoshop CS5 and video editing.
Both notebooks for our comparison are equipped with identical amounts of memory (8GB) and hard drive space (750GB, 7200RPM).

Graphics Card

Advantage: Alienware M17x

The AMD Radeon in the Apple MacBook Pro is respectable but doesn’t hold a candle to the Alienware M17x’s Nvidia GeForce GTX 580M; the top-shelf graphics card has 2GB of its own ultra-fast GDDR5 memory. Both graphics cards are capable of playing the latest games, but only the Alienware’s card will be able to play all of them at the highest settings.

Weight and Thickness

Advantage: Apple MacBook Pro

The Alienware M17x’s design and powerful graphics card come at a price: 9.39 lbs and almost two inches thick! The Apple MacBook Pro 17” on the other hand is just 6.6 lbs – almost a featherweight for a 17” notebook – and is a touch under one inch thin. These are impressive if not exceptional dimensions for a powerful 17” notebook.

Ports Selection

Advantage:  Neither (tie)

Although the Alienware M17x has more ports overall, the MacBook Pro includes a Thunderbolt port, FireWire 800, and an ExpressCard/34 slot – none of which the Alienware has. On the flip side, the Alienware has USB 3.0 and eSATA, which the Apple lacks. Overall it’s a draw; we can’t see this being a deal-breaker unless you are dead-set on having a certain type of port in your next notebook.

Speakers

Advantage: Alienware M17x

Alienware worked with the audio professionals at Klipsch to design a sound system for the M17x. The speakers are larger than expected from a notebook and make big sound (again, for a notebook). The MacBook Pro can’t quite measure up.

Warranty, Support and Return

Advantage: Alienware

These two machines come standard with a one-year warranty. The warranty upgrade prices are about the same on both notebooks (for three years with accidental damage protection, Apple charges $349 while Dell charges $418). Alienware notebooks come with upgraded support compared to standard Dell notebooks, but then again Apple’s support is also highly rated. Apple has the undeniable advantage of its brick-and-mortar Apple Stores, which can be found almost anywhere these days – that makes it really easy to take your notebook in to get service. To be fair, Alienware offers in-house warranty support but it costs extra. The edge goes to Alienware because Apple only includes 90 days of telephone support with its basic plan; the Alienware has standard phone support for a year.

And the winner is?

apple macbook pro 17These two powerhouse notebooks went back and forth throughout our comparison. The Apple MacBook Pro 17” ultimately wins out; it was a tough decision. The only true advantage the Alienware holds besides price is the more powerful graphics card and customizable lighting system. Otherwise the Apple MacBook Pro 17” offers a thinner and lighter design, higher-resolution display, almost twice the battery life, and the ability to run both Mac OS X and Windows (the best of both worlds, in other words).

Unless ultimate graphics performance and an out-of-this-world design are high priority items, the Apple MacBook Pro 17” is the better choice assuming you have an extra few hundred dollars.

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4 Responses to Apple MacBook Pro 17” Vs. Alienware M17x Comparison

  1. Robert January 30, 2012 at 5:14 am #

    I’ve noticed that under Warranty, you’ve said that both notebooks are available with three years of accidental damage coverage. Actually, AppleCare does not cover accidental damage of any kind; it is basically nothing more than an extended version of their standard warranty.

    • Andrew February 3, 2012 at 3:43 am #

      Good point Robert, AppleCare+ which does cover accidental damage is only available on the iPhone for +$49. Since the advantage is still given to Alienware there, the fact Apple doesn’t offer accidental damage just solidifies the fact Alienware might be a better option if you care a lot about a bullet proof warranty and coverage.

  2. Jimmy February 7, 2012 at 7:55 pm #

    Also the alienware is made to be a gaming laptop isn’t it? It isn’t made to be moved around often, just more accessible than the desktop versions. You also should include that the alienware includes customizable lights as well. Customizability or aesthetics should definitely be in the categories.

  3. Lunar February 12, 2012 at 6:51 pm #

    Alienware is for gaming, not many people play PC anymore so nobody is gonna buy a clunky laptop if there not gonna game on it. Mac gives us the best of both worlds and works delightfully, it’s simple, it’s light. It’s design is the reason so many people prefer it over Alienware well thats one of the reasons. People say you can get Alienware that has the same specs for a cheaper price, well thats true but it dosent last as long it’s clunky and is pretty much your average PC execpt you can play good games on it that’s it’s only advantage.

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