Dell is refreshing its range of Alienware gaming laptops with new graphics chips, complete with PCI Express 3.0 support for additional bandwidth, as well as a bump in RAM and new storage options. Curiously, the company went ahead and announced the updates just a couple of weeks before Ivy Bridge's arrival, so while the freshened-up models are also getting new Core i7 processors they are still the Sandy Bridge kind.
A recent leak suggests Ivy Bridge models of the same laptops are just around the corner. In other words, if you're considering one of these, you're better off waiting until sometime after April 29 to place your order.
The other noteworthy bit about this latest refresh is the fact that Dell is leaving behind the M11x model, which attempted to bring gaming power to the 11-inch notebook form factor. Although the machine earned some positive reviews around the web, apparently it no longer fits into the Alienware lineup, with Dell explaining to The Verge that its customers prefer full-sized keyboards and built-in optical drives.
Otherwise the M14x, M17x, and M18x are getting Nvidia GeForce 600 graphics, a minimum of 6GB of 1600MHz dual-channel RAM, and support for mSATA SSDs. The latter means you'll be able to pair an mSATA boot drive with a HDD for storage, and still get a fast and responsive machine while spending much less than you would by customizing it with larger 2.5-inch SSDs -- which is still available as an option.
The 14-inch M14x in particular packs a 2GB GeForce GT 650M GPU and up to 16GB of RAM. The 18.4-inch M18x and 17.3-inch M17x bump RAM capacity to 32GB, have dual 2.5-inch slots for storage in addition to the mSATA, and come standard with the 2GB GeForce GTX 660M. This can be upgraded to a GTX 675M or a Radeon HD 7970M, with dual SLI or CrossFire options also available with the 18.4-inch model.
Dissapointingly, Dell is still shipping these with a 1600 x 900 screen as standard, but there's a 1080p, 120Hz WLED 3D-ready display option available for an extra fee.
On the design front, the updated Alienware notebooks look and weigh the same as their predecessors. They are available right now starting at $1,099, $1,499 and $1,999 for each respective size.