Alienware offers snazzy workstation

Powerful mobile workstation is a good replacement for desktop PCs

At first we thought we were seeing double, but this mobile workstation from Alienware — which looks like a huge notebook PC — really does have two processors and can accept two hard drives and two optical drives.

But that’s in keeping with the desktop replacement theme of the MJ-12 m7700a, which is quite a powerhouse.

It’s also a head-turner with its deep blue color and two large rubberized grips on the cover — not to mention the silver alien face between them.

OK, it’s not exactly a lightweight. At about 12 pounds and measuring 15.6 by 11.7 by 2.1 inches, the system is not meant to go on the road with you. Instead, it offers the flexibility of working in different offices or transporting work between the office and home.

We’d happily chuck our desktop PCs for this snazzy and powerful computer. The huge 17-inch widescreen rivals the size of most typical desktop monitors and the 2.0GHz AMD Opteron 64-bit dual-core processor is ideal for data-intensive tasks such as special effects, rendering, three-dimensional painting and running multiple applications at once.

The dual Serial ATA hard drive capability lets you take advantage of as much as 240G of storage space in a RAID 0 configuration, or you can use the second hard drive as a backup drive, storing your data in parallel in a RAID 1 configuration. With RAID 1, the second hard drive automatically takes over if the first drive fails.

The option for dual optical drives is another impressive feature. Because the workstation accepts CD-RW/DVD and DVD R/W drives, you can have one disk read at the same time another is being written.

Government users especially will appreciate that the hard drives and optical drives are externally accessible and easily removable.

The list of ports on the MJ-12 m7700a rivals some of our longer grocery shopping lists. This workstation has everything from legacy ports such as parallel and serial to a cable TV jack.

And when it comes to memory cards, you name it and this system can accept it, thanks to its seven-in-one media card reader. Examples include Secure Digital cards, memory sticks and multimedia cards.

A set of control buttons for CDs and DVDs is located on the front of the workstation, and in between is an LCD clock that displayed the time in a 24-hour format on our review unit.

Four speakers provide good sound. Two are located on either side of the keyboard and two are on the front of the unit. We cranked the volume to the maximum level and the sound quality remained good without the vibration that so often occurs when the volume on small speakers is turned up too high.

The video quality was excellent. Watching a DVD on the notebook was just like watching it on TV. Our review unit came with an external 802.11 a/b/g wireless networking PC Card. The external card gave us a wider range because integrated wireless is available on the unit but only with 802.11 b/g. The notebook costs $40 less with the integrated wireless.

Pricing for the MJ-12 m7700a starts at $2,549. chart

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