The Alienware M11x r2 Review

Alienware M11x r2

Let me start by saying this review is more for the casual gamer meaning it will not be filled with charts and graphs and a ton of numbers that most would not understand. There are a ton of super technical reviews on the Alienware M11x r2 that provide every benchmark number and rating score you will ever need, this, is for the rest of us.

Why purchase a gaming laptop?

For the causal gamer one might wonder why you need a gaming laptop. My answer would be that you don’t, but the great thing about gaming laptops is they have the power for everything else you would need to do so why not have the ability to play games as well?

Far too often, we as computer shoppers select a low cost laptop to save money knowing we want one that we will not have to replace within a year and one we secretly wish we could play games on. Perhaps paying $1500 plus for a gaming laptop would not be for us, but at $1000 you are not too far away from laptops you find even on sites like Tech Bargains.

If you know you like to game and especially if you like MMO’s then having the ability to pull out a gaming laptop and play those games anywhere is well worth the price.

Alienware M11x r2

Price

Most reviews do not start with the price, but this is not like most reviews. The M11x can be purchased starting at $1000 on the Alienware website. At the price you can get more than enough to run most of the games a causal gamer would playing including FPS, RTS and MMO games.

The Outside

Do looks matter? Sure, they do just ask Apple, the Alienware M11x does look sleek, like a stealth bomber. The all black styling of the laptop goes well with almost any décor and let’s face it, it looks good either at home or out in public. I have had a number of people comment on the system specifically the neon-like light coming from all over it.

Speaking of lighting there are several zones of the computer that light up from the keyboard to the grills on the front and the little Alienware heads. The great this is using a program built in called Alienware FX, you can change all the colors to what suits you and you can even mix and match them for a funky clown look if you wish.

Outside Details

Let us go into some specifics about the outside. First off, the laptop weights about 4.4 pounds and while that may seem heavy to some in the day of the iPad it is still pretty light. There are three USB 2.0 ports, to connect things like mice, a HDMI and Display Port to connect a monitor, FireWire and a headphone jack for audio privacy. There is also a place for a special Kensington lock, which you buy separately so you can lock your laptop to a desk or somewhere else it cannot be stolen from.

Alienware M11x r2

The Inside

As said, there can be debates on which processor works best with this program or that game, but for the purpose of this review we will keep it simple. For the$1000 version of the M11x you get the Intel Core i5 1.4GHz processor. From what I have found using it, it does the job for the games I play and the programs I use, but I will go into that shortly.

Next you have the memory which at that price you receive 4GB’s. If you really get into gaming big time and you want the newest game on the highest setting then people will tell you to go with an 8GB or higher system. I personally do not have that on my desktop and do fine and with 4GB you have more than enough RAM for most any task you will be doing gaming or otherwise.

As for hard drive space, that decision is made based on how much you store and install. At the $1000 price, you get 320GB’s, which is a lot of space. Considering you have a desktop at home, you most likely do not need all this space.  Even if you do not and the laptop is your sole computer, unless you install every game and have a music and video collection out of this world then you should be fine. However, Alienware offers more hard drive options that offer more space.

Video is of course very important not only because of games, but everything visual on your system. Here it can get tricky because there are desktops and even some laptops that offer dual video cards in SLI and all kinds of options. The video card on the $1000 system is the NVIDIA GeForce GT 540M and I have found it works great for the games I play and for watching video in high def.

The rest

There are other things of note that come with the M11x like its wireless network card, which is necessary for gaming on the go. The system also has a standard network port to plug it in at home, the office, and school or where have you. The operating system is Windows 7 home premium 64-bit, which I have used on my desktop for quite some time. I personally think this is the third best O/S behind Win 95 SE and Win XP, so you should not have any trouble here.

Alienware M11x r2

Usage

This is what matters, but it is also, where it depends on what you do. First off, let us talk battery life, with the 8-cell battery under normal usage I have found you get a little over 5 hours of battery life, but if you are playing games, it will be less than that.

As for gaming itself, I tried the Alienware M11x in the game World of Warcraft in its native resolution of 1366×768 and was able to run the game with full graphical features with no issues even in heavy populated zones. Perhaps the key is the smaller screen, which is 11.6 inches, which can seem small when you have a user interface with a ton of icons, but I found I was able to get used to it.

In a game like Everquest 2 that uses more CPU power, I also received good frame rates even in open zones. Now I was not able to max everything out in EQ2 specially the shadows, but I was able to crank up the texture models and general graphics to make the game look great and playable even in a raid.

Other games I have played include Fallout 3, which ran fine, a number of Steam games and emulators since I am a classic gamer. I also played StarCraft 2, which ran fine. I also run various programs like Ventrilo for communication and Digsby, which is an all in one instant messaging client. I also run Firefox with four or more windows open at the same time to check websites and information, all while playing a game usually in windowed mode.

As for sound, it sounds much better than your normal laptop, but we have to be honest that even though it has internal Hi-Def 5.1 audio it does not match what you get out of a good pair of PC speakers. What I found that worked for me was the volume does get high which was an issue on other laptops. Music and games as well as movies will sound good coming out of the M11x and even in a loud room, the speakers are loud enough so you can hear it from the highs to the lows, bass and treble.

The keyboard feels good and types well even when you are slamming the keys crying for a heal. I never liked the touchpad, but this one is built well and does not easily activate when the heel of my hand brushes against it, still, I perfect a USB or wireless mouse.

As for warranty, you receive a 1-year plan, which provides hardware support, and of course phone tech support. I cannot say much here because I have not had a need to use it yet.

Overall

I personally like this system, I am sure there are things that could be better, but for most of us this system will perfectly fit your need for work, school and gaming. The laptop itself feels sturdy and well build and the cool look is a nice touch, but most important is the price and how it performance and it does both well.

I you have questions on the m11x r2 from Alienware leave a comment and I will answer them.

 

The Interview: Nelson Gonzalez

Nelson Gonzalez, co-founder of Alienware Corporation,

Nelson Gonzalez

Is a gamer born or does it happen over time? What makes one’s idea die on the cutting room floor while the other turns into a blockbuster? Gamers and those within the culture are as diverse as America itself, but we all share similarities. When entering the PC gaming world one has to know the layout, where it came from and where it is going. We can look at the background of some of these pioneers and learn from them and if nothing else enjoy a good story.

Obsolete Gamer has had a chance to interview quite a few from the Alienware and Dell family including Alex Aguila and Arthur Lewis and we were excited when we had a chance to sit down with co-founder of Alienware, Nelson Gonzalez.

 

Can you tell us about what got you into gaming?

 

It was all about the arcade baby! The arcade was the catalyst to my immersion in those virtual worlds. Aside from video games, playing games from an early age was in our DNA. Everybody in the neighborhood was hyper competitive and we played basketball, football, chess, wargames, boardgames and of course…dungeons and dragons! We loved every aspect of gaming and competition.

 

What were some of your favorite games growing up?

 

Too many. I’m pretty old, but I will mention some of the PC games which is probably what you might be interested in:

Civilization, Privateer, Myst, Falcon, X-Com, Alone in the Dark, Red Baron, Pirates, Star Wars TIE/XWing, Aces over Europe/Pacific, Mech Warrior, SimCity, Doom, Quake, Wing Commander Series, Might and Magic Series, Unreal Tournament, Dawn of War, COD Series, Medal of Honor Series

 

Now as far as Alienware part of the name and style of the brand came from your love of science fiction?

 

Absolutely. I grew up watching great SciFi and Horror flicks. Star Trek, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Invaders, UFO, Outer Limits, Twilight Zone, The Time Tunnel, Lost in Space and of course, the X Files to name some of the TV shows. The movie list would be too long to detail. Forbidden Planet, The Day the Earth Stood Still (original), Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars would be a glimpse into my list though.

 

Alex Aguila and Nelson Gonzalez - Alienware

You and Alex Aguila were friends from an early age correct?

 

Yes, I met Alex when I was 10 or so. 35 + years…way too long! Arthur Lewis which now runs Alienware, has also been a friend since I was like 16. Hector Penton from Origin PC I’ve also known for 30 + years.

We are all big-time gamers.

 

What type of PC games do you and Alex use to play?

 

Right now I think both of us are on sabbatical. We are playing intense Warhammer 40K and its consuming quite a bit of our time. Alex plays a ruthless Space Marine Blood Angel. Hector is a brother of the Hivefleet Leviathan and my path is that of the Eldar.

 

Did you have any rivalries game wise with Alex?

 

Absolutely. Falcon 3.0 comes to mind. Quake 2 was also an immersive bloodbath 🙂

 

What was your first PC?

 

An XT 286 I believe.

 

You also began building PC’s at a young age can you tell us about that?

 

I started building PC’s with 80386 Intel processors with clock speeds of 12MHz…LOL. Then we moved up to 486’s w/VESA bus video cards. Then came Pentium processors and 3D graphic cards (gaming nirvana). The dawn of 3D games such as Castle Wolfenstein and DOOM really hooked us all. I was forced to become the technician of the group so we can play all these games. We played most of those games in DOS and they required some tinkering such as creating boot disks with Autoexec.bat and config.sys files for specific games . Ah… the good ol’ days.

 

Before Alienware you created your own PC building company, can you tell us about that?

 

Well I thought that I could build PC’s locally in South Florida, but soon realized that wasn’t my cup of tea. I really liked high performance and squeezing every bit of juice out of a PC. Building standard PC’s for business’s just didn’t satisfy me. I always felt that if we did something that was specific for the gamers just like us, we could survive as a business.

 

Nelson Gonzalez - Alienware

How did the beginning of Alienware come about?

 

I was with a friend of mine (who happens to be Hector Penton’s brother) in my kitchen one day and I pitched him the idea of custom building PC’s for gamers like us. I asked him what he felt about the name Alienware and he said it sounded pretty cool. At that point it just felt right. I immediately called Alex and asked him if he would join me in this new adventure. I told him that he needed to quit his job, give me like $5K and come to work immediately. To his credit he said yes without hesitation. The funny thing is that we weren’t really speaking to each other at that time and  I can only imagine the conversation he had with the wife that night. 🙂

 

What was the first few months like running Alienware?

 

Boy it was very intense. At times we nervously laughed and secretly prayed 🙂 We had no money, no resources, but somehow we felt confident. We knew if we ‘built it’, they would come. PC Gaming was in its infancy and we had experienced how addictive it really was. We knew we were on to something, but we just didn’t to what extent.

 

What would be one of your favorite moments while at Alienware?

 

There were so many, but that first PC Gamer ’98 Area 51 review written by Gary Whitta was one of those rare moments were I felt validated.

The first online order.

When we hit one million in revenue.

When we reached 100 employees.

When we had Michael Dell visit us at Alienware.

When we sold the company to Dell.

 

Do you have a funny story about Alienware you can share with us?

 

Alex telling me that “no one would order an expensive custom PC online” and then we get 3 orders the first day 🙂

 

How did it feel to see Alienware become so big?

 

Crazy. I knew we wouldn’t have to work for anyone else if we did our ‘thing’ and we performed well. I also felt that if we bent over backwards for the customer and treated our employees like we’d like to be treated, we would be OK. I never imagined it becoming so wildly successful.

 

What was it like during the acquisition by Dell?

 

Awesome. I think Michael really understood us and because we had such a synergistic model, the transition was good and the acquisition made sense.

 

What type of PC do you play games on now?

 

Alienware Aurora i7 3.2GHz

2 X ATI Radeon 5800’s

Win 7 64-bit

 

Do you play console games?

 

No not really. I’ll load up Heavenly Sword or Gran Turismo every once in a while for shits and giggles.

 

What PC games are you currently playing?

 

I was playing DC Universe online, but stopped, we all started playing 40K. I am getting ready for SWTOR and maybe, just maybe Duke Nukem…finally?

 

What would you say your favorite classic game(s) is?

 

If I had to pick one, it would have to be Civilization. Wow… did I burn out on that one.

My second would have to be XCOM. Classic arcade would have to be Joust and Lunar Lander.

 

WarFactory PCs’ The Sentinel PC January 2011 model Review

Cooler Master HAF 912 caseThese days there are many manufacturers which make custom or prebuilt gaming PCs, but which one is the right one for one to choose? There are many factors to take into account such as price, choice of parts, real world performance numbers, the reliability of the system, the quality of construction and assembly, the availability of support as well as the duration and quality of the warranty, and especially these days whether or not the company will be around during the life of the product to be able to help you with or help repair the system. There are many brands and companies to choose from whether big or small, such as Alienware, Dell, OriginPC, IBuyPower, LanSlide PCs, WarFactory PCs, and many others. I’ve seen many companies come and go so most people will usually only want to purchase from a bigger company but even some of those are starting to disappear. It’s important to choose the right brand. Today, we will be looking at The Sentinel, the model offered around January 2011 by the manufacturer WarFactory PCs. I will discuss its real world performance, how I found the construction and finish to be, and talk about what I thought about WarFactory PCs based on my interactions with them.

What are the specifications of the Sentinel – January 2011 model?

Price As Configured: $1238
OPERATING SYSTEM: Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit
PROCESSOR: AMD Phenom II X6 1090T BE 3.2GHz stepping: AACAC AC, CACAC AC
GRAPHICS PROCESSOR: ATI 5870 1 GB
MEMORY: G.Skill 4GB DDR3 1600MHz
MOTHERBOARD: ASUS M4A89TD/USB3
STORAGE: Western Digital Caviar Black 500GB
CASE: Cooler Master HAF 912
POWER SUPPLY: Corsair CMPSU-650TX 650 Watt
PERIPHERALS: Asus DVD Burner

Performance benchmark tests:

The criteria used for my gaming PC benchmarking is shown in my Gaming PC Benchmarking Guide February 2011 article.

The Sentinel will be compared to my old gaming PC that I built in 2007. At the time it had all the parts needed to run anything and it still can run just about every game out there. That system has the following specs:

OS: Windows XP Professional (Corporate)
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-MA770-DS3
CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 5400+ 2.8 Ghz
Video Card: Sapphire ATI 3870 512 MB
Memory: G. Skill 4 GB DDR2 800 Mhz (limited to 3.4 GB by the 32-bit OS)
Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster Live Platinum
Storage: Western Digital 750 GB 7200 RPM HD
Case: generic black case from newegg.com
Power Supply: generic 480 Watt
Peripherals: NEC DVD burner

Onto benchmarks…

Following the order of my benchmarking guide first we will see how well the systems compare in the RealStorm Global Illumination Bench 2006 test.

If you remember my benchmarking guide you will remember that this test shows a real world analysis of single core raw processing power. In this test The Sentinel is 43.79% faster than my machine. That means that each core is that percent faster per CPU core. This is important because not every program one uses is multi-threaded (supports multi-core processing).

The average performance in this test showed that The Sentinel is about 44.06% faster than my gaming PC in this single-core CPU test.

In this same test, this shows that at the bare minimum frames per second rendered, The Sentinel was 39.41% faster than my system. Minimum FPS tests are usually very important tests because this is when you notice the lag the most.

At their peak performance, we see a performance difference of The Sentinel being 47.35% faster than my gaming PC. Max fps is not as important as other benchmarks but I include it in my tests simply to see as high as peak performance goes.

Battleforge 1024x768 average fps

Battleforge is a free RTS MMO that I used to play a lot of and it still looks pretty amazing and is a great benchmarking tool for testing how good your system is at running a modern war game. I usually run my Battleforge settings to display 1024×768 so I wanted to benchmark it like that, as well as at a higher resolution. At 1024×768, The Sentinel performed on an average 757.60% faster than my old gaming PC. This is the proof I needed to remind myself to get a new gaming PC! The game supports all the latest graphic technologies for modern video cards as well as has modern multi-core support.

Battleforge 1024x768 minimum fps

Again, this is where a PC fails and we notice lag, which ruins the gaming experience. In this test, The Sentinel is 311.76% faster than my system. It put out 14 Frames Per Second, which is still under the desired 30 Frames Per Second that most of us would want, but then again this is with every option on, so a smart move would be to turn down some of the options before playing.

Battleforge 1024x768 max fps

In this test we see that The Sentinel is 240.61% faster than my machine. The game is obviously much smoother on The Sentinel system.

Battleforge 1280x1024 average fps

The Battleforge test gets more brutal as the resolution gets bumped up to 1280×1024 with everything on. The limitations of my own system are more obvious now and even The Sentinel has a hard time, but it’s still 845.58% faster in this test.

Battleforge 1280x1024 minimum fps

11.1 Frames Per Second are still not desirable so again, I recommend lowering the graphic settings. Still, it’s nice to bring systems down to their knees. Although in this test, The Sentinel does shame my old machine by being 2120% faster than it… Yeah…

Battleforge 1280x1024 max fps

This again is the fastest each system can run the benchmark. The Sentinel flies again, yielding performance 215.51% faster than my old gaming rig.

Dirt 2 1280x1024 max settings average fps

Like I mention in my guide, Dirt 2 is simply brutal and overall the best benchmark I recommend for testing the real gaming capability of a system since racing games require so much to run right. Lag is most unforgiving in racing games out of all games because one wrong move and you crash, so you need peak performance always. This test shows that The Sentinel is 280.25% faster than my machine. I will have to get a new machine before playing the next Codemasters racing game, although I do love how efficient they code them.

Dirt 2 1280x1024 max settings minimum fps

This is where we see that my system can no longer handle modern racing games. The Sentinel is 273.88% percent faster than mine. It’s Frame Rate at 50.1 is much higher than the 30 fps minimum we all need. This does make it a great gaming machine for modern gaming.

HAWX 1280x1024 max highest fps

Tom Clancy’s HAWX is still one of my favorite action flying games out there and it does showcase some of the best graphics I’ve seen come out in the past 2-3 years. The efficiency of this game engine makes me smile and the built-in benchmark tool does too. At peak output, which this test shows, The Sentinel is 181.88% faster than my machine.

HAWX 1280x1024 max average fps

Again, in this test The Sentinel shames my system by being 582.60% faster than mine. Its 157 Frames Per Second put my 23 fps to shame utterly.

X3 Terran Conflict 1280x1024 max average fps

This game is filled with super eye-candy and you really want to be able to run this game on a system that is totally up to par with the scalability of the game’s graphics engine. In this benchmark, The Sentinel was 397.80% as faster than my machine. The average FPS is at 84.686 which is way higher than the fabled 60 FPS that most people desire.

Trackmania Nations average fps

This test shows what a legacy game that still requires a good system to run will yield. The window closes a little but The Sentinel still beats the crap out of my system being 107.86% faster than it.

Performance Conclusion and Parts Analysis:

In the performance department, The Sentinel is sufficient enough of a gaming PC to be able to run any modern game at pretty much max settings, staying reasonably realistic.

The processor it comes with is great for both gaming and running heavy applications. It’s great for multitasking and multi-threaded programs and applications as well.

The video card has 1 GB of memory on it which is really important for rendering high resolutions. 1 GB of video memory is usually enough for most gaming needs unless you are one of those people that wants to set the resolution as high as your display can handle for every single game you play. It also has a strong GPU which keeps your framerates high while minimizing minimum framerates.

The RAM is quick but 4 GB is starting be a low number for modern PCs. It’s still enough to run anything, don’t get me wrong but this is probably one of the first areas that one will want to improve on if you are like me and run 10 applications WHILE running a game at once and alt-tabbing. The motherboard supports 16 GB of RAM max so it’s very future-proof and that’s a really great thing to have.

The hard drive only has 500 GB of space, which is not high compared to some other gaming machines but it does have enough speed to be able to load games up quickly. Anyways, I wouldn’t probably use the machine to store much on if you want it straight up for gaming and if you do want to store a lot, I would recommend adding a multi-TB hard drive for storage and using the main drive for applications and gaming. That’s a no-brainer. ;]

The case is a Cooler Master HAF 912 which looks both great in its jet black color and could pose well not only as a gaming machine but a professional server or business computer. Not many cases have such prestige to be able to pull that off. Great pick, WarFactory PCs on such an amazing case. The design of the case inside is so well done that it’s easy to install and remove components. This is highly desirable. All wiring came neatly assembled and tucked-in correctly as well.

Compared to my systems The Sentinel is relatively quiet. The fans barely make any noise even when under heavy load.

The Corsair CMPSU-650TX 650 Watt power supply is more than enough to handle the power requirements of the system and leaves enough free power for reliable operation as well as adding more parts and faster parts in the future.

Warfactory PCs emblemSupport and Warranty Information:
The basic price and system include a limited lifetime warranty. This means that you get a one year warranty on the actual parts, a three year labor warranty, and a lifetime of general support. Since there are manufacturers out there that will not provide any sort of support whatsoever for an out of warranty machine, WarFactory PCs beats them in with their lifetime general support warranty. At the time of this writing, support is available through a phone system at the number 708-667-5375 as well as through AOL Instant Messenger under the screen name WarFactoryPCs and email. It’s important to be able to call a company in the instance that the system is your only system and you have no way to get online to contact support. WarFactory PCs addresses this criteria with their phone system support channel.

My Impressions of WarFactory PCs:

They were very attentive to my many, many annoying questions that I used for formulating this review as well as asking them questions that showed me that they are a reliable and trustworthy company worth buying products from. If you guys know how annoying I am and how little life I have, you very well know that I am the kind of person that will contact a company in the middle of the night when normals are sleeping or having dinner. Gamers don’t rest! WarFactory PCs understand this.

Conclusion:

If you are looking for a gaming PC machine right now that DOES have a manufacturer warranty and is set at a reasonable price, I would recommend The Sentinel to be among the systems you look at before making a purchase or build decision. Some manufacturers which I will not name right now (or yet) offer really shitty entry-level gaming PC solutions, but this is not the case with The Sentinel. Even the basic configuration is worth getting as it will be able to run every modern game. You can’t go wrong with a system like that for only $1238. This recommendation is coming from someone that only builds his own systems and never buys any built PCs. It might totally be worth the difference of spending 100-200 dollars more knowing that you have the manufacturer’s expertise to help you out when something goes wrong.

***

This review was done on a Sentinel PC lent to me by WarFactory PCs solely for review purposes. Stand by for upcoming reviews by other gaming PC manufacturers. Once I get a good list of reviews going and more data for my benchmarking database, stand by for a competition to see who is the best bang for the buck out of these gaming PC manufacturers!

The Interview: Alex Aguila

Alex Aguila from Alienware
Alex Aguila from Alienware

Alex Aguila

Alex Agulia was the co-founder and former president of Alienware, but long before that he was an avid computer and console game and collector. In our Gamer Profile of Alex, we peeked inside the world of a real gamer and while there I had a chance to stir up an old Temco Bowl rivalry between him and current president of Dell Gaming at Alienware, Arthur Lewis. In Arthur’s interview, he talked about his early days of gaming all the way up to the Alienware days. We wanted to go back to Alex and this time get a bit more of a history of his gaming and to take one more shot at their competition.

Obsolete Gamer: When did you first begin playing video games?

Alex: The first video game I ever saw was Pong at a Miami Beach hotel in 1975. I was 8 years old. A few years later I played with the Odyssey 2 and all the hand held electronic games but my first love (that I still love it today) was the Atari 2600.

Obsolete Gamer: When did your love for video games turn into a full time hobby?

Alex: Games have always been a part of my life. It is something that is just part of me since the late 70s.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about collecting video games and consoles?

Alex: I hate to throw away anything that I enjoy, so my collection of video game started back in the late 70s. I now have a huge collection. In the last 15 years or so I have almost strictly concentrated on very rare games for the different consoles and when I say rare I mean really, really rare.

Obsolete Gamer: How big into the Arcade scene were you?

Alex: I feel blessed that I was there from the very start. Arcade gaming was bigger for me in the early 80s than consoles were actually. I spent every quarter I could get my hands on playing defender, stargate, zaxxon, Ms pac man, Galaga and many, many other classic etc. I got really great at some of them. I was the dude people gathered around to see a game ending. I actually could finish dragon’s lair with my back turned away from the machine simply relying on audio queues. That’s a lot of quarters.

Obsolete Gamer: At what point did you move into PC gaming?

Alex: The commodore 64 opened up an entire new realm of more sophisticated games. There was a period where I shelved all consoles and stopped going to the arcade around the mid-80s. Commodore was simply too strong. The simulations were great (playable today), the text adventures were great (playable to this day). It was a given that I would graduate from the commodore 64 to the PC in the early 90s.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us the differences in your experience playing console games of the 90’s and PC games of the 90’s?

Alex: Super Nintendo’s Donkey Kong Country was a classic masterpiece. I have finished the game beginning to end 4 times since it was released (I have not done that with any other game PC or console). That being said, there was nothing that Sega or Nintendo could do that would even come close to some of the stuff the PC was doing. When the CD-Rom and CD-Rom games were released, the gap grew even larger.

Obsolete Gamer: Was your love for gaming a major reason for co-founding Alienware?

Alex: Yeah, I was a gaming guru. Nelson was a gamer that built PCs, it was a natural fit.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you give us a little history of the gaming “friendly competition” between yourself and Arthur Lewis?

Alex: You know a lot has been made out of this through the years but before there was any “competition” there was a lot of “cooperation”. We played Atari 2600 sword quest series and raiders of the lost ark quite a bit and we worked together towards a common goal. The real competition started when Nintendo released Tecmo bowl and Bases Loaded. The era of cooperation was over, It got ugly, what can I say…

Obsolete Gamer: Arthur stated you guys are about even as far as gaming, would you agree with that?

Alex: Yeah I guess, I’ll give Arthur Robotron and sports games (any era any console) but gaming encompasses quite a bit. Saying “gaming” is a big statement. He is really great (legendary) in specific areas. So am I, I’ll leave it at that.

Obsolete Gamer: Do you plan to have a rematch of Temco football since Arthur won last?

Alex: He won’t play me or give me a rematch since the early 90s. I get it since the story and the myth grow larger that way. I made peace with it.

Obsolete Gamer: Are you active in the gaming community?

Alex: Yes I am the founder of www.combatace.com a site dedicated to combat simulations, I play DCU universe right now and we have a pretty cool super hero team with a website.

Obsolete Gamer: What are your thoughts on the number of classic games being rereleased on today’s consoles?

Alex: I’ll give you a worn out cliché answer but the truth is the truth. A good game is a good game any era, so of course there will be rereleases but I encourage the developers doing it to stay as true to the original source and code as possible. No one wants someone messing with their Mona Lisa.

The Interview: Arthur Lewis

Alienware Armageddon
Alienware Armageddon

Arthur Lewis

The great thing about gamers is that we come in all shapes, sizes and colors and though we move forward in life doing many things, for most of us the gamer inside never dies. When you have a chance to work in an industry that stems from your love of gaming there is not much better than that.

Arthur Lewis is the president of the Alienware Corporation and GM of Dell Gaming at Alienware. Obsolete Gamer had a chance to talk with Arthur at E3 where we learned of his gaming background and an interesting friendly rivalry between him and co-founder of Alienware Alex Aguila.

 

Obsolete Gamer: When did you first get into gaming?

Arthur Lewis: The term “Gaming” is all-encompassing.  I started playing video games when I was very young, but my friends and I played all kinds of games as kids.  Games were very, very important.  We played video games (arcade, console, handheld, computer), and we played board games (from games like Line in the Sand to Talisman to Space Marines), role playing games based on fantasy (e.g., 1st edition D&D), the future (e.g., Warhammer 40k), the wild west (e.g., Boot Hill) and comics (e.g., Marvel) – just to name but a few.  My experience gaming has actually taught me a lot and I find myself looking for the game in all I do.

 

Obsolete Gamer: What were your favorite games to play?

Arthur Lewis: This is a tough one because there were (and are) so many, and I’m sure I’m gonna miss a bunch.  From an arcade perspective, my favorites were (and still are) the oldies but goodies:   Asteroids, Defender, Stargate, Galaga, Space Invaders and, of course, Robotron.   Superbowl Sunday on C64 was classic.  You could pick teams from previous Superbowls and match them against each other.  We played this quite a bit.  Pit Fall, Paper Boy, Mario Brothers definitely were played extensively, and all the sport franchises on PCs, consoles and handhelds.

Then on the PC of course it was Quake, Doom, then Counterstrike.  Neverwinter Nights was also a game I played quite a bit.  Then there was a period that I was into RTS games and played games like Civilization and Age of Empires for many years.  Hats off to Sid Myers for such a fantastic franchise.  Civ was a game we really burned out on.  For the past three years, I’ve been on the MMORPG kick, playing Lord of the Rings Online mainly.

 

Obsolete Gamer: Did you know you wanted to do something gaming related or was it more of a hobby?

Arthur Lewis: Gaming was always (and will always be) a hobby.   The fact that it’s also my job is a HUGE plus!!

 

Obsolete Gamer: Talking both with Alex Aguila and yourself we know you have known each other for a while can you tell us about how you first met?

Arthur Lewis: Alex and I have known each other since 7th grade.  We met in Ms. Stamatinos English class I believe.  We went to the same school through high school.  And we’ve been playing different kinds of games together for the better part of 30 years.

 

Obsolete Gamer: We know from our interview with Alex that you two had a gaming rivalry; can you tell us a little about that?

 

Arthur Lewis: It’s not so much a rivalry as it is friendly competition.  We both like to win.

 

Alienware at E3 2010

Obsolete Gamer: Overall who is the better gamer between you and Alex?

Arthur Lewis: I’d say we’re pretty even.  I’m sure there are some games he’ll win and others I will.  He, however, definitely has more time to practice.  And he has more tools.  He has a full blown arcade in his house!!!

 

Obsolete Gamer: At E3 you told us you still had upcoming Temco football matches against Alex. Alex says you still haven’t played him again. When do you plan to have your Temco football face of and who do you expect to win?

 

Arthur Lewis: LOL.  I don’t know.  I think I like the memory of being the last one to win, so I may leave it at that.

 

Obsolete Gamer: What was it like seeing the company grow and peoples response to your gaming PC’s?

Arthur Lewis: One of the most fulfilling parts of our job is seeing the dedication to the Brand by our customers.  And then to see it translate to all places around the world.  It’s truly amazing.  Last year, we launched Alienware into China for the first time.  We had over 400 media show up!!  Every question I got was around “why did it take you guys so long.”  To see the reach our Brand has, and to see how it’s valued in all of the different parts of the world where we didn’t even know people knew us is both amazing and humbling.

 

Obsolete Gamer: How did you feel during the joining with Dell?

Arthur Lewis: I felt a combination with Dell would enable Alienware to do the kinds of things we otherwise would not have been able to do as a closely held company.  For example, over the course of the past 24 months, we expanded our geographic footprint to the point that we are in every major country in the world, and we support 3.5x the number of languages.  I think we now reach close to 90% of the World’s population.  Another example, is we can leverage Dell’s scale to develop PCs that are conceived from the ground up for truly differentiated products.

 

Alienware Booth E3 2010

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about running the gaming division for Dell/Alienware?

Arthur Lewis: What can I say, at times, I have the best job in the world.

 

Obsolete Gamer: What is your opinion on the high end gaming PC market today?

Arthur Lewis: It’s an exciting time, to be sure.  There is so much going on.  There is a proliferation of great AAA titles on the horizon.  Customers are buying their games in entirely different ways from just a couple of years ago.  And there’s a massive installed-base of 100s of millions of gaming capable PCs.   In our industry, high end gaming has been the bridge to many new and useful technologies.  Over the next couple of years, I see history repeating itself.

 

Obsolete Gamer: Do you think 3D is the future of PC gaming?

Arthur Lewis: I do not believe that 3D is “the” future, but it’s certainly an “important part” of the evolution of video games and all video content for that matter.

 

Obsolete Gamer: What changes do you think need to be made to keep the high end PC market going in the future?

Arthur Lewis: We need more connected devices that allow, in a very simple fashion, content to be shared across multiple, open platforms.

The Obsolete Gamer Show: Episode 8

Build vs Buy PCs
Build vs Buy PCs

The topic of building a pc or having it built for you is not new, in fact I wrote about that very subject earlier this year. However we wanted to ask some of the people who make a living offering custom built systems what they thought of the building versus buying debate and so we reached out and ended up having three great conversations on the subject.

We began the show with my recounting my first showing up at the Red-Eye Lan party with my Compaq PC and being almost laughed out of the building and from there learned that being a real gamer meant building your own PC. Then I began working at Alienware and from that side I saw how having a great team put together and support your own rig is pretty awesome in itself. Both Ignacio and I agreed that while it is true that almost anyone can put together a system it takes a little bit more to build a great gaming or high end PC and if you can find a good company who will offer you support and a reasonable price then why not go for it.

We wanted to get our guests take on it and were happy to be joined by Chris Morley, chief technical officer for Maingear PC, Justin Melendez, co-founder of LanSlide PC and John Blain, consumer public relations for Dell/Alienware.

Each company has a different way of doing things, but the overall goal is the same and that is to give the customer the best computer they can at a price they can afford with a support staff they can depend on. In fact they will tell you that if you have a love of building a PC then go for it. However, it is not for everyone and if you decide you want a well-built system then do you research and be informed before you make your final choice.

Obsolete Gamer would like to thank our guests for coming on the show and we covered much more than just PC building and buying. So have a listen and tell us what you think.

Click here to listen to the podcast on the OGS page

Or download our podcast from Itunes

John Blain: Dell

Dell-logo-black

Name: John “The Gaming Griefer” Blain

Company: Dell/Alienware

Position: Consumer Public Relations

Street Fighter 2 - Arcade

Favorite Classic Game: Street Fighter 2

Quote: Dhalsim, after winning a fight: “Now you’ve realized the inner mysteries of Yoga!” – I spent enough money on this game in the arcade to put a down payment on a small house. Nothing was more satisfying than having a bunch of people line up to put their quarters down to try and kick you off the cabinet, and playing for an hour or more on 1 quarter.


Frankenstein Computers Make Little Girls Cry

Family Guy Six Million Dollar Man
We Can Rebuild Him

Frankenstein Computers Make Little Girls Cry

Contrary to how much of a dick I portray myself to be, I am not a heartless monster. Normally when I decide to help someone it is usually to get them to shut up and stop nagging. There are a few occasions in a given year where I actually truly help people for the hell of it. Some of those instances are rather memorable because of the outcome and how good I felt inside from helping someone in need.

Of these far and few times, I remember the night I was asked to create a computer overnight for a little girl who just came from Cuba. She was the daughter of the cleaning crew at my mother’s office, a family struggling to get by during this tough economy. Their daughter had begun school and some way or another she was qualified to be given a computer so that she may do her homework and studies since a lot of textbooks and assignments are now done via software. Of course, when someone is given something for free it is normally a bag of dicks and is made from some E-Machine abomination in the late 90’s. It was only a matter of time before it exploded into a nuclear mess.

The specifics weren’t given but the computer died. I can only assume they spilled Materva on it since that is what I believe little Cuban children sustain themselves on. It could also have been a faulty power supply. I don’t know. I like labeling people. Her school wouldn’t supply her with another computer and her parents couldn’t cover the repairs or the cost of a new one. With most of her work being done on the machine she couldn’t get anything done and was marooned in situation a lot of families nowadays must be experiencing.

Her parents told my mother their sad tale and she decided to tell them I could build them a computer for free. She knew I had junk parts all over the place. It wasn’t a secret that I hoard shinies in the computer chassis in my room. I was involuntarily volunteered to create a new but stable atrocity from the discarded parts in my possession. Normally, I wouldn’t have minded doing this but I was given a single night deadline for some reason. You don’t ask my mother for an extension because she assumes you can find compatible components and install everything in the blink of an eye. She was under the theory that this would only take me a mere two hours to complete. She was so far from wrong.

Grabbing an old Dell unit that used to belong to my sister, I thought this would be an easy task as well. My heart and mind told me otherwise, constantly reminding me that nothing is easy when you believe it will be. I was going to just delete all of my sister’s files, remove her profile, and create a new one. Wham, Bam, Thank you Ma’am. Am I right or what?

No, I was wrong. There was something seriously wrong with my sister’s old computer. Out of nowhere a blue screen erupted forth, the harbinger of ill omens. Being the totally awesome guy I was, I knew it was the memory being a dick so I switched the sticks from some other cadaver unit sitting in my closet. The storm had cleared and the unit booted into Windows. As I began my purging of the registry I noticed there was a virus in the unit. Well, let me rephrase that. There were 28 high risk trojan viruses and I could only remove 14 of them. Normally after running three different antivirus softwares, if you fail it is wise to just reformat the computer since it is the easiest resolution. For this who know me, though, I hate reformatting a computer because it means I gave up on finding a true solution to the problem.

After attempting to remove them multiple times manually, I managed to have only two viruses left that would not go away. I googled many operations I could conduct to remove these annoyances but I couldn’t figure out how to do so. I spent a good four hours trying to avoid the inevitable. I decided to reformat.

It wasn’t until after I reformatted using my own Windows 7 CD that I realized I should put Windows XP on the system and use an old COA from one of my trash units. Unfortunately, I lost my Windows XP CD and this is where I began to curse to the Heavens. Why would God do this to me? Why would he make children in Africa starve and I had to suffer a similar fate by losing my Windows XP CD? What a cruel maker, I thought. The only option was to torrent the Windows XP software and burn it to a disc. As I torrented I began to search for a CD to burn it to. Turns out I ran out of CDs. I made the ultimate sacrifice and burned the operating system onto my Hulk VS Wolverine disc. My heart was shattered and broken.

Once the unit had Windows XP installed, I decided to put in the stable software I normally put into a freshly made computer: AVG, Malware Bytes, Google Chrome, Flash, Open Office and VLC Media Player. As I made my attempt to connect to the internet to install the drivers for the video card, I realized I couldn’t establish connection and that I didn’t know the name of any of the components on the damn system! My blood boiled with rage! It was already 4 am and I began my quest at 10PM! This was a travesty!

Murder filled my thoughts as I traversed the Dell Support site looking for the components that matched this unit. I couldn’t pin point the make and model specifics and I ended up having to mix and match the drivers till I found the correct ones. After multiple attempts at trial and error, the unit began to function. Hastily, I installed all the software and made sure the unit worked.

There was one thing missing though. I forgot this little girl needed a monitor, mouse, and keyboard since her school took her computer and all the components associated with it. Scurrying through my treasures I found an old mouse, keyboard, and an old 17″ LCD I thought I lost. Being the paranoid person I am, I made sure about three times that the system booted up, everything worked, and that all the components were properly functioning. Finally, I turned off the unit and put the entire thing on the table for my mother to pick up and take to her office. It was 6:45AM and I collapsed in bed.

It wasn’t until that night that my mother told me she gave the computer to the little girl. I really didn’t care what the girl’s reaction was. I just wanted to make sure the computer didn’t break or explode or something and all my trials were in vain. Turns out, the family was shocked I actually did it and that it was running better than their old computer. They thanked my mother for being so generous and asked her to thank me for staying up all night to build this perfect abomination for them. I don’t like to be thanked. It feels weird every time someone thanks me. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s some crazy psychological thing. Maybe I was molested by Mickey Mouse at Disney World and he thanked me for the feel up which I just blocked out but subconsciously get defensive when I am thanked. Crazy shit man… crazy shit.

Anyway, the part of this story that actually made me feel that I did something positive for this girl was what my mother told me next. She said the girl cried when she received the computer. She wasn’t used to people being so nice for nothing in return and broke out into tears. I felt good inside. Not because I made a little girl cry. I’m not some sick freak that enjoys watching children lose control of their emotions. I felt good because the “thank you” I got from this girl was genuine. This humdrum activity which I thought was more trouble than it was worth actually repaid me in full and I felt good about it.

I never met these people and I don’t really need to. Just knowing that I may have actually changed this girl’s life by showing her not everyone is a communist dickhole is something I will always remember. Sometimes not being a total douche and actually accepting someone’s need for help while not being promised anything in return pays you back in ways you didn’t really expect.

Arthur Lewis: Alienware

Alienware Performance Systems logo

Arthur_Lewis

Arthur Lewis – Alienware

Name: Arthur Lewis

Title: President, Alienware Corporation & GM Dell Gaming at Alienware

Company: Alienware

Favorite Classic Game: A ton of them

Quote: So this gamer profile is a bit different, Arthur Lewis was kind enough to talk with J.A. Laraque at E3 about his love of classic video games.

Arthur Lewis Gamer Profile Interview


Left Behind: Alienware’s Legacy Problem

Alienware Dell
Alienware Dell

There were rumblings from the fans base when Alienware was purchased by Dell that everything would change and that the cool, elite name of Alienware would be forever lost. That aside many felt that the support that Dell provided to home users was less than stellar and that level of service would become Alienware’s. There were also those who already felt Alienware support was on the decline and felt this would push it over the edge. For the most part these were concerns that would come up no matter who the company was, but in the end it was not new purchasers of Alienware/Dell that felt frustration it was the old ones.

Any transition is difficult and it is expected that there will be growing or in this case merging pains. You must also understand that in the gaming world it is common to hear many more complaints that compliments. The rule is, if you are doing good you don’t hear about it, but if you are doing bad you will clearly know.

At first the change came with little notice, customers began to see Alienware products on the Dell website and the name Alienware was mentioned more and more alongside Dell. As time went on there were more changes like links on the main Alienware page taking you to a Dell website. Again these were small changes that did not bring much change to the common user.

When the new Alienware systems were launched by Dell they came with much fanfare because they were well built machines and a decent price. Even some of the more harsh critics felt that perhaps Alienware would retain its status and even gain from the acquisition by Dell.

Soon after that, personnel began to be laid off from Alienware’s Miami based headquarters. Word spread across the net that changes were coming to the company as Dell took over more roles from the Alienware team. The question for many fans and owners of Alienware computers was what would become of the service team they were use to working with if Alienware HQ was shut down.

Before that question could be answered a new issue came to light with Alienware Australia. Customers began to report they were not receiving service for systems they purchased from Alienware AU. They stated they called the service line and would never reach a person and send e-mails that would not be responded too. Right away the forums fired off posts that this had to do with Dell and that all support would be moved and Alienware AU was the first to go. In the end, it was the Alienware Miami team that reached out to help the AU customers receive support.

It seemed as if there was a fire burning and at the same time firefighters were being laid off by the truckload. As 2010 came, past customers of Alienware began reporting frequently that they were not receiving support for their systems. They reported that when calling the same 800 number they always have for support they were being connected to Dell agents who could not pull up their information.

It was then the pre-Dell Alienware customers discovered their new title, Legacy. A legacy member was someone who purchased a system before the acquisition. Customers said that the way information was stored and accessed was different from the Legacy Alienware customers and new Dell/Alienware customers. What this meant was the Dell agents only knew how to bring up information on post-Alienware customers.

What became confusing was that the same support number was still in use, so customers would sometimes reach an Alienware agent who could assist them, but more often than not connected with a Dell agent who either could not assist them or had to scramble to help them and sometimes transfer them somewhere else.

Unfortunately, the troubles did not stop there. Fans began to post on popular sites such as Notebook forums, Notebook Review and Alienware Niche that the long time support e-mail of support@alienware.com no longer worked. This caused more frustration because service men and women who purchased systems had a harder time contacting Alienware for support.

As for the Alienware, official forums customers stated they no longer received support or feedback from that support line. Many customers said they wrote and posted to the forums, but their posts never showed up. It was believed that the forums were perhaps closed or moved to Dell forums and as one forums member noted there are Alienware subcategories on the Dell forum page, but the Alienware page still has a working link to their forums.

Where does the problem lie? It is unclear. Though there have been complaints about support for the most part when someone did reach Alienware Miami personnel, they reported their issues were solved at least to a satisfactory level. The main disconnect looks to be between the Alienware Miami staff and the Dell parent company.

One thing to note is that those who purchased any of the newer Alienware products made by Dell received a warranty by Dell. Therefore the conclusion anyone can draw is that those under the legacy brand had warranties under the old Alienware banner. Perhaps it is a matter of running out the clock and as those who had old warranties under Alienware legacy fall off the books the problem is swept under the rug.

Now to be fair this issue has not affected everyone under the legacy banner. There have been reports and praise from some legacy customers that they did receive support not only from the Miami HQ, but from Dell agents as well. There are still however those who feel left behind and have resorted to contacting the BBB, writing to online publications and posting on popular forums about their less than satisfactory experience with legacy support.

It is not clear what changes if any will be made. Some legacy customers believe they will be forgotten and once their warranty expires it is over. There as some who have said that support has improved and that calling the 800 number works, but as of this posting, the support e-mail is still discontinued and the Alienware forums seem abandoned.

It is an unfortunate turn for Alienware and for Dell. We can only hope something will be done for the customers who helped turn Alienware into the company Dell wanted to acquire. We also hope this treatment of legacy customers does not further hurt the Dell name which has shown improvement in home customers support and has always had excellent business support. However, you are judged on how you treat all your customers not just the latest ones. We will be watching to see if the legacy customers of Alienware will receive the support they paid for and deserve or if they will be left behind.

State of the LAN Party I

LAN party
LAN party

Originally posted by me on the Direct2Dell Blogs

A good friend of mine asked me what would become of LAN parties with so many people having access to high-speed internet and online games like, World of Warcraft. To answer his question I thought back to when I first arrived in Miami.

I did not know anyone my age, so I asked my mother for a computer; this led to me buying Warcraft for the PC. I did not know much about online gaming so I did an Alta-Vista search and found a site called Dawango.

Dawango, called that because it stood for, “Dialup Wide-Area Network Game Operation” allowed people to dial in and play with other people over their network. The big games at the time were Doom and Duke Nukem 3D.

It was in the Miami channel that I met my first real online friends. Over the next few weeks we played a ton of games together and then one day they told me about a LAN party they were going to start called Red-Eye.

Now I had never taken my PC out of the house and with all the warnings about giving out information to people you meet online the idea of going to some warehouse with my PC to meet people I never had seen in person was just crazy. However, I decided to give it a chance and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

The LAN party allowed me to meet great new people and make lifelong friends. In fact, if it was not for the LAN party I would not have become an Alienware employee. It was at that LAN that I learned how important a person’s computer is to them and where I saw my first Alienware. It was a jet black hydraulic case and had everyone there asking about it.

The LAN however, is more than just gaming and competition. I thought of it as a fraternity for gamers. Often you had people who were more seasoned in gaming or had been with the LAN group longer and so they were looked upon as elders.

You earned your place not only by how well you played, but your rig (computer), your knowledge of gaming and computers and your overall personality. When I showed up I had a small computer I purchased from a discount store and knew little about the inner workings of a computer. Less than a year later, I knew how to build my own PC and how to connect and troubleshoot networks without ever stepping into a classroom.

In part 2, I will talk about how personal a person’s computer is to a LAN member and the debate between buying and building your own. Also I will cover the evolution of the LAN and the friendships created within.