Alienware is a dedicated gaming brand offering distinctive machines with powerful performance. As such, its Aurora M9700 (£2250 inc. VAT) offers Nvidia's SLI (Scalable Link Interface) technology - this allows the M9700 to use two graphics cards simultaneously.

In this case, you'll find two Nvidia GeForce Go 7900GS cards. Although an older solution than the 7950GTX, with 512MB of dedicated memory performance is impressive. Playing the latest games in the highest resolutions caused no problems, with games running smoothly. The Aurora's 3DMark 2003 score of over 22,000 reflects this, and is on par with single card solutions from Dell and Evesham.

The 17-inch display features a resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels (WUXGA). Although icons appear small during everday use, images are sharp. A super-TFT coating helps to add vibrancy, although the display could be brighter.

When it comes to laptops, Alienware is playing catch up, as it was one of the last desktop manufacturers to offer them. As such, it uses a standard case with an Alienware twist. With a unique alien-themed design, it is one of the more cohesive designs around, although build quality is let down by the rear of the display. Flimsy to the touch, the screen is vulnerable when travelling.

With a 4.3kg weight, you won't want to carry it far. Use on the move is also hindered by a poor battery life; we struggled to get much more than an hour and a half between charges.

The large keyboard is excellent, offering well-spaced keys, making it easy to type at speed and in comfort. However, there is a fair degree of heat build up within the chassis.

Showing its age

Popular with gamers due to the high 2.4GHz clock speed, AMD's Turion 64 ML-44 is in place. However, it's an older, single core solution and is starting to look dated in this company. Memory is more than adequate at 2048MB, and a 7200rpm hard drive also helps to increase performance. However, at 80GB it offers considerably less storage space than other machines around.

A 1.3-megapixel camera is built into the top of the screen surround. Along with an integrated microphone, it's ideal for online gaming or chatting to friends. If playing games on the small screen isn't good enough for you, a DVI port lets you hook up an external display.

Comfortable, reasonably quick and stylish, the Alienware has a lot going for it. However, it's outperformed by several rival machines, and build quality is not as impressive as we'd hoped for at this price.