*All prices / options mentioned in the review below were from the time of my order August 29th 2006, they may or may not be currently available or priced the same as mentioned.
This review was added after about 4 solid hours of using this laptop, setting it up for me, installing programs that sorta thing, overall it is one sweet quiet fast little machine!
OFFICIAL certified weight (wife has certified postal scale at home for work that was JUST calibrated 2 weeks ago)
Laptop by itself 5.44 lbs
powercord (Brick and complete cord) 24.20 oz
This is (to me) my first "real" Laptop that I plan to use quite a bit, and my first semi-real review. I am just giving my opinions in my own words with some pictures and such, sorry I am not a gamer and don't have technical benchmarks to offer.
Ordered 08/29/06 ~ ~ ~ Shipped 09/08/06 ~ ~ ~ Arrived 09/14/06
Total price for system, added options, shipping, a shirt and a hat was $1266.53 and was billed to my visa the day I ordered it.
This is one reason...but there are SO many more...
I feel a bit funny admitting this is the first laptop I have ever ordered without trying before buying it. But I loved the looks of this and so far no laptop I have used has made me say “I hate this laptop” so I said to myself - why not go for this cool, fun, different model.
I have an older than dirt Compaq Armada 233 with 32 mg ram, a Dell 600m (wifes laptop), and a Gateway 9500 pent III 800 with 256 mg ram and have had tried a few newer model/brands at stores or that were friends units.
I knew I wanted something faster than my old slow noisy 8 lb gateway 9500, I liked the Sentia's killer looks, wanted a 13-14 inch screen, it's lighter (5.5 lbs) and I liked the ability to customize options in the order process especially being able to add a larger C2D processor, 100 gig 7200 rpm hd, and the dvd burner option. (webcam was a fun freebie bonus too!)
When you say Alienware most think of gaming machines, actually I don’t play games but I love the look of these Sentia's, from what I have read, the Sentia isn't really designed for awesome gaming graphics. I just wanted something FAST in general for programs like photoshop, dvdshrink, decryptor, soundforge, dvd and mp3 creation and playback etc and this seemed like option and looks wise something I would enjoy owning.
Processor: Intel® Core™ 2 Duo Processor T7200 2.0GHz 4MB Cache 667MHz FSB
Operating System (Office software not included): Genuine Windows® XP Home Edition with Service Pack 2
Display: Alienware® Sentia m3450 with 14" WideXGA 1280 x 768 LCD with Webcam - Xeno Grey
Motherboard: Alienware® Intel® 945GM + ICH7 Chipset
Memory: 512MB Single Channel DDR2 SO-DIMM at 667MHz - 1 x 512MB
Hard Drive: 100GB Serial ATA 1.5Gb/s 7,200 RPM w/ NCQ & 8MB Cache
Primary CD ROM/DVD ROM: 8X Dual Layer DVD+/-RW / 24X CD-RW Combo w/Software
Video/Graphics Card: Intel® GMA 950 Extreme Graphics
Sound Card: Intel® 7.1 High-Definition Audio
Wireless Network Card: Internal Intel® PRO Wireless 3945 a/b/g Mini-Card
Communications: Integrated 10/1000Mb Gigabit Ethernet & 56K V.92 Modem
Warranty: 1-Year AlienCare Toll-Free 24/7 Phone Support w/ Onsite Service
Alienware Baseball Cap: Black – OSFA
Alienware T-Shirt: Alienware® T-Shirt – Black - XL
Desktop Enhancements: Exclusive AlienGUIse Theme Manager
Order Process 4.5/5
Alienware’s online order process is pretty straight forward, I confess I had been to the alienware site MANY times and had configured a Sentia easily over 2 dozen times, I just never pushed BUY. I asked a few q's before placing an order and saw a user named archalien who replied to my questions and told me to wait JUST a bit longer (a few weeks) and the memron core 2 duo’s would be out… Well I read up a bit, and decided to wait - it was only 2-3 weeks time and core 2 duo's were announced on the 3450 Sentia model August 28th 2006.
The very next morning August 29th during one of my many mock configure sessions, I saw the base price dropped to *$749 and I HAD to order - I just couldn’t resist and I am glad I did because an hour later I noticed it was back upto *$849 base price and have seen it as high as $949 so depends on timing/specials as to what you pay for it.
I did a few basic upgrades
The 2.0Ghz core 2 duo (over the base 1.66) it was *($200 at time of order)
I also added the 7200 rpm 100gig hard drive *($180 at time of order)
and the 8x dvdrom/burner *($50 at time of order)
then I added a t-shirt *$5, a hat *$15 and shipping *$60 – all in all the total order with shipping came to *$1266.53 on my Visa, (who loves me btw).
In the near future I will be getting at least the backpack and upgrading the ram but couldn’t see the *($330 price at the time of order) for 2 gig when at newegg I could add 2 gig for *$190-*$240 (depending on maker, sales, rebates).
Charging my card the moment I ordered it vs the day it shipped, minor gripe I know...
I never got any sort of confirmation of my order via email, I did recall the final page saying here is your order number and I could check the status of my order at their site, but geez if I order a $15 cd from amazon I get a confirmation of order email with the breakdown.
With Alienware I never got any such email. I did get shipment verification emails, but nothing after ordering that told me ok this is what you bought and here was the breakdown. To be fair though I did write down the order number and checked status easily online probably too many times everyday hehe.
The Phase Period 2/5
Their Phase system online is buggy, goes to Phase 1 when you are in Phase 5 or whatever, it’s a bug I read they are trying to fix, I hit refresh and it would usually fix itself with a current phase magically appearing. I did learn quickly though thru many here the phase updates are very outdated and not updated often enough, I sat in Phase 3 for a few days so I emailed and asked why (was there a problem?) and was told even though the site showed Phase 3 I was actually in Phase 5 and about to enter Phase 6, the website didn’t show these phases till a few days later….
If they would update the phases online in real time I would have given this a 5, but a quick call or email usually can get you more accurate info.
Shipping 2/5 a BIG Thumbs Down to FedEx
I swore this laptop came via horse and buggy but here is the picture of him backing up into a spot right infront of my house...
This in no way reflects bad light on Alienware or the laptop but the shipping was very frustrating, I did FedEx ground & it was *($60 at time of my order) and it took FedEx 7 days to get it from Florida to Michigan. During the process no updates on website till the morning of delivery and no way via phone or internet to track the progress. Sorry but that is just really bad/expensive/slow service to me. Overall I just don’t care for FedEx but hey what can ya do…it did finally arrive and the box was in good shape so for that I was happy to finally see it come and safely.
The Nuts and Bolts of what I ordered
To be honest I was scared of this touchpad from reviews I had read, yes at first it was goofy but everyone is different, I hate my wifes settings of her touchpad but she hates mine on my gateway, so I went into settings made a few adjustments and within minutes I was totally fine with it, the click buttons have a crisp feel yet are light to the touch.
Hard Drive 5/5
I upgraded to the only 7200 rpm drive at the time of ordering which was 100 gig, I did this for speed reasons but hoped it wouldn't come back to bite me heat or noise wise, I am here to say this hard drive doesn't heat up like I worried, it's ULTRA quiet and SUPER fast! They put a Seagate 100 gig 7200 into it here are the specs from the model number
Seagate Model ST910021AS
For me everything I need and more is here, and where everything is makes sense to me, I couldn’t have laid it out any better… The only very minor thing I would change is location of power input (currently on right side), would rather see this on back of unit but that’s just a preference thing for me due to the way I sit in a chair in my living room with it and because the powercord is right next to the dvdrom tray and that tray at least on mine is TOUCHY, opens at slightest pressure to area and I open it accidently plugging in and unplugging powercord - this has a much better battery than my gateway which I am lucky to get 2 hrs out of, so I can charge up and go wire-free when I want to cozy up with it in the lazyboy.
Screen 5/5 BEAUTIFUL!
I ran a small screen tester program I have on it called Nokia Test and it can be found HERE I am VERY pleased to say I saw ZERO problems pixel wise, I have used this indoor with lighting and outdoor in normal sunny day conditions on my back deck area, I did angle it differently outside but still was able to view and see it all fine and it looks DARN good to me, side by side with wifes Dell 600m and Gateway 9500 this looks very vibrant, I like this screen a lot!
I had read reviews that made me wonder on this keyboard, my gateway is “clicky” sounding and drives me nuts, wifes dell is ok, this is right in the middle of both, has a good feel and response, yet isn’t “clicky” like the gateway is, I do like it and the layout is easy to type on (I have big hands), the function keys and layout seems smart, will just take time to learn these new locations vs previous laptops but nothing that I don’t like the location or feel of so far (2 hrs use at time of review).
Well this is the fastest thing I have ever touched laptop wise, I don’t have any fancy games or benchmarks to use, but in general bootup, loading, installing, opening things (even with the base 512 ram till I buy 2 gig) is still pretty darn fast to me, I think adding the 7200 HD and upping the processor to the 2.0 vs 1.66 helped too. Once I add the 2 gig ram vs current 512 I will come back and let you all know what differences I see and feel in general day to day stuff (surfin web, photoshop, webdesign software, mp3 creation, dvd shrink etc etc).
I have used this for 4 hours now, installing rebooting, setting things up, messing with things, pretty much have things running good and I LOVE how it comes nice and basic with none of that junk & bloatware stuff. After 2 hours it is mildly warm but NOT hot, fans haven’t kicked on but I am using a cooler pad, on purpose I removed the cooler pad and used it directly on my lap for about 20 mins, it got mild warm but not hot and still heard no fan kick on. UPDATE (actually those fans WERE and are on they are just SO quiet vs my gateway I didn't realize it till I felt the exhaust port area and felt flow.)
Very quiet, fan noise wise hasn’t kicked on yet, although I am using a generic usb cooler pad under it, dvd/cdrom drive noise is MUCH better (lower noise level) than my wifes Dell 600m and my Gateway 9500 which sounds like an airplane taking off.
Build Quality 5/5
First off it’s much lighter than my gateway 9500 which weighs in at 7.9 lbs, this weighed in at 5.4 lbs and picking it up while open the case did not have the “flex” feel the gateway has, looks and feels pretty solid, the no lid lock is NICE I wasn’t sure if I would like that feature but I do now that I have tried it in person.
Speakers 4/5 (I have upped the rating from 3/5) read below why
Here was my initial 6- hour review info
Low volume, I installed winamp and adjusted eq so it’s a bit better now, it’s a 14 inch laptop, and the location is great vs the front lip of my gateway 9500 which on my lap always get blocked partially while using, I actually haven’t heard a decent laptop sound wise, wife’s Dell 600m is blah, gateway 9500 nothing special either and HATE location on both, so this is a better location for me.
I did plug my Sennheiser HD 485’s into it and the sound was great and plenty loud thru winamp and the headphones. The tradeoff of where and how they are located with how little they have to be to FIT there makes it still a winner for me, would be cool if in the base they added a small sub and a bit more power to the audio itself …
I tried a movie in the laptop (shes the man) and I cant even hear the speaking parts with dvd player and windows volumes MAXXED out.
HOWEVER after even more tweeking and I mean going into every menu, no hardware or physical modifications, you CAN make the sound on this laptop decent for movies music etc.
First go into windows jack up all those volumes and confirm they are up, then go into
the realtek audio menus play with that a bit turning things up using the eq etc,
That should fix most mp3 sounds and such, for me I installed winamp and use that eq too so it gives it a bit more boost, but in media player you can use that graphic eq to help too.
In Cyberlink dvd I thought I was stuck cuz the movie talking was low no matter what I tried within windows to adjust, but in the settings for cyberlink go to audio / advanced / Misc and check "NOISY ENVIORMENT" even if it isnt noisy this gives a nice BOOST to the overall sound volume and I CAN hear talking fine now (even tho its not noisy sitting here, I couldnt hear talking before now I can hear it fine).
Everything is still maxxed for mp3 and dvds and its not really noisy here so I don't know how well it would do say in an airport or on a plane or outside with more noise, however I would have earbuds in those places anyways and headphones DO work well on this loud too) but the only minus I gave on this was because you are pretty much forced to go in and dig and adjust everything (especially dvd player) to get a reasonable volume.
DONT pass on the 3450 just for sound reasons, 90% of it CAN be fixed thru adjustments mentioned above.
Cool add-on bonus item, seems to take nice video images, here is a 22mg avi file video direct from the webcam. http://rapidshare.de/files/33168724/hhh.avi.html
To download this clip just click link, scroll down on right click FREE, then wait 70 seconds, enter the code they give you and download to your desktop to view.
Wireless 5/5 FANTASTIC!
Surprisingly good range for me it exceeds my expectations! I have read a bit about lower range on Alienwares, but I have an 80 foot distance (measured literally with tape) from router to back deck and was out there today with a "excellent" rated connection in the menus (router is a netgear b/g 614) and yes I was hitting "refresh" on the intel wilress settings each 8 steps.
Since I have an 81 foot range from router on my back deck that still says excellent, I am gonna walk outside away from the house till I lose connection, then measure from that point to my house for total distance but its great here in and around and outside my house within 81 feet I am STILL getting full signal and it says excellent so I am impressed.
I am in from the walkaway test, First Off - I am not lying, Second even I don't believe my range readings but I confirmed them I am getting solid signals far away (even jumped on mytube and played a few videos from the yard) if you live near white lake MI stop by I will prove it, but I can't believe the range on this thing, could be geographical, envoirmental, luck I dunno but I am getting awesome range and speed from the wifi.
in the house (single story stick built 20 yrs old) 30x68 I get solid 5 bars except bathroom where it drops to 4 bars but still reads excellent (refreshing in every room).
My router is located in livingroom, I have a construction 100 foot tape measurer that I used for this test btw, and I am hitting refresh every 8 steps away on these tests.
inside pretty much solid 5's except bathroom its a 4 (I think because tile walls and fireplace between bathroom and livingroom).
Out back of house, back deck seat is 81 feet from livingroom router, still had 4 bars excellent rated signal, watched a few youtube videos of paris hiltons punked cd (funny stuff) Paris Punked
I have no trees or obstructions in back yard but it leads to a field, so I started walking...
every 8 footsteps I took a refresh reading and marked ground and measured distance.
off deck and into yard first reading
93 feet - 4 bars "good" upon refreshing
8 more steps
104 feet - 3 bars signal still said "good", watched a few more youtube vids
8 more steps
115 feet - 3 bars signal changed to poor still watched vids fine on youtube
8 more steps refreshed again as usual
125 feet - 2 bars signal says poor still able to watch various new youtube vids *not same vids in case they were in temp internet cache or something.
8 more steps
133 feet - 1 bar signal says poor but still able to view a youtube video and search google fine
8 more steps and I am in a lake, and hitting 1 bar at 133 feet from router thru a wall I figured was pretty damn good.
Tomorrow I could get half that (I dunno if its weather related or what) I honestly don't know what the range of my router or this card is, but last night and today both got excellent on back deck and beyond into yard so for me this is a SOLID 5/5 review wise.
BTW my gateway uses a cheap $15 CHIEFMAX pcmcia card in it and I can't go on back deck 81 feet from router with it, cuts out just before I step outside.
Dvd Rom 5/5
I burned a music cd and a few videos of my daughters soccer game onto dvd, I am used to nero and that is whats on here, super simple to use, VERY quiet, minimal vibration, burn times were good finalization took a bit on the dvd but that takes a bit on pc too...
Overall it’s quiet and smooth in and out, my gateway 9500 is easily 3x louder and wifes Dell 600m is easily 2x louder, I hope it stays quiet like this over time and use. It is a BIT touchy though in terms of opening when barely touched or when going to plug in or unplug power cord.
Let's all be honest nobody buys an Alienware and says "if it only DIDN'T have that funny glowing alien".... So embrace your love of the blue guy and enjoy....
I have looked at dozens of AW photos even GOOD photos, NOTHING beats walking into a dim room and turning this thing around to see the back, I might be putting a mirror on my backwall here just so I can admire it more, it really makes this laptop unique and the grips have a nice feel to them (makes your grip on it feel secure).
When I first got this I didn't have the wifi on and let it charge up fully before use, I spent close to 2 hours on it mainly installing programs and was just at the 50% mark battery wise with a few restarts - that was with using a 3 fan usb coolerpad, but no wifi, so I thought I was easily looking at 3+ hr battery life as Alienware stated...
Well a bit more real everyday use here with wifi on and NO cooler pad I am getting just over 2 hours use before it showed 10% and stopped running on me, probably could have EKKED it out to 2 1/2 hours but at 10% I just re-plugged it in, my use was mostly web and email I did do a defrag and antivirus complete scan, plus one reboot after a windows update install.
Maybe the lower life was due to more heat (no cooler pad being on) or possibly due to the faster hard drive (7200 rpm) warming up from no cooler pad on (fans did kick in but are so quiet! But to see the 10% battery warning at just over 2 hours of being online was not fun. It still didn't feel that hot though with the cooler pad not on... I think the wifi really zapped battery life tho I dunno but I wasn't too happy to see just over 2 hours and it's zapped out (with wifi on).
I will try it with same use and usb coolerpad & wifi & who knows maybe running it cooler off the pad will help it run longer I dunno but I will probably do a test too of NO wifi NO coolerpad just to see what that does to it too, I will report back...
Power Cord 5/5
Smaller and lighter power cord than I expected, the "brick" is 4x2x1-1/4 inches and weighs (with cords) 24.20 oz.
I ordered this because it looked cool and was only $5 – it won’t fit me but I will make my wife wear it so I can admire it
Black Baseball Cap 1/5
I ordered this for myself since the T-Shirt comes only in XL and I am 6’6’ 365 lbs there is NO WAY a xl was gonna fit. They shipped this separately from the laptop which I thought was a bit weird (why not stick in box with tshirt and laptop).
you can see where on the back area the a in alienware is starting to come out and that is before I wore it even...I thought it was a pucker and overlooked it, but the threads literally just fell out from backside after half day wearing it.
It arrived days before the laptop did and I still had to sign for it, it was very DUSTY but was oddly in a clean plastic bag, I dusted it off and wore it for about half a day took off to show wife and she noticed the threads on the back were coming out, the “A” in Alienware was starting to come apart.
I emailed Alienware about it and they sent a reply saying call them to "discuss" the situation, I didn’t want to argue over a $15 hat but am very bummed it arrived dusty and threads were coming out of it on the first day, so I guess I just lost $15 (it’s not worth the hassle of paying return shipping or calling and raising a fuss over a $15 hat)… Glad I got pics of this before I wore it...Only wish Alienware would have said sorry here is a new hat (you would think for $1266 dollar order they would do that)...
Overall Review/Experience/what I wish it had on it 4.3/5
I took .7 off total but overall this thing is really nice and better than I expected taking all initial fear of ordering away once I had it in hand.
.2 came off for battery life less than expected, so far in normal wifi mode using it for mainly web and emails I am getting just over 2 hours, I was hoping for more battery wise since the site stated 3+ hours of use. I am also in process of testing a few different theories, (going to try no wifi see if that helps battery life etc). But for everyday stuff I do, web and email is pretty basic and needs wifi on, getting only 2 hrs 10 mins out of it wasn't fun to see it hitting 10% critical battery levels that soon for basic use.
.1 came off for very issues with FedEx (don't get me started on them) pricey, slow, untrackable till the morning of delivery, phone service gives no help for ground shipments in terms of tracking and it took 7 days for something that ups could get here in 3.
.1 came off for issues with alienware in terms of their phase section of website, most chime in saying its useless and outdated never current and my experiences with its bugs (showing me back at phase one often) and calling to find phases weren't in synch, umm fix it or pull it, its lame.. Plus I have the laptop now but never once did i get an email of the order or order breakdown, if I had not printed out the final page and order number I wouldn't even have known (besides my card getting charged) if the order went thru or was correct, call me silly but if I order a $15 cd from Amazon I get a review email of the order, a $1266 laptop and I never got a single email about the order except when it shipped out, I had to call to find out parts were behind (hard drive) and had to call to ask why I was not moving past phase 3, I thought it was a billing issue but had to make the calls to find out why. BUT when I called they were nice and did update me as to where I was.
I guess at 38 yrs old I shouldn't need my hand held and perhaps I was a bit excited about getting this (over anxious) so I will give them the benefit of the doubt cuz on phone they were nice but website and email wise I felt underwhelmed.
.1 came off for the speaker volume being so low, HOWEVER with adujstments mentioned above it is acceptible but still that is maxxed out sound wise, wish it had a pinch more power for noisy areas. I love the placement vs other models, so its a give and take but they are pretty weak sound wise maybe the audio chip on motherboard can be reworked in future models to put out a bit more power?
.1 came off for no respawn - I wanted it but again they said it was not available at time of my order.
.1 came off for no bluetooth, the 3450 had bluetooth when it first came out and I guess they had troubles and pulled it option wise from what I read, I don't know how often I would use it but my phone and camera both do bluetooth so it would have been nice to have.
Things I would like to have seen or to see on future model....
I would have liked to see something like a top screen light (like some Lenovos have) or an illumination option of keyboard that would make alienware really unique and I would pay well for it.
Today was a good day for me, I got my laptop, and my Marcello C Tridente Chronograph watch came back to me from Germany (needed repair done due to accidental fall), I love this watch and missed it BIGTIME not to mention waiting for this laptop, well I can now say, things are finally feeling complete around here with both of them here in my hands.
For a laptop I never touched before ordering I am SUPER happy and even the best picture I took or have seen online doesn't do it justice IN person IN your hands.