Report: Sandy Bridge coming to 11.6-inch gaming notebook

Alienware's M11x laptop is a curious beast: an 11.6" ultraportable designed specifically with gamers in mind. The current version is a little thicker and heavier than other systems sharing the same screen size, but it packs a discrete graphics processor that's quite a bit more potent than the bottom-of-the-line GPUs usually seen in smaller laptops. Although the current M11x is stuck in the Core 2 Duo era, purported specifications for a new model have leaked online. As one might suspect, the system is due for a Sandy Bridge upgrade.

The "R3" M11x is expected to arrive early next month with a selection of dual-core CPUs: the Core i5-2537M, i7-2617M, and i7-2657M. All three pack much-improved integrated graphics, but there's reportedly "no word" on whether a discrete GPU will be included in this refresh. Leaving one out would be a mistake. Sandy Bridge's integrated GPU may be better than previous iterations, but you don't want to rely on it for serious gaming, even at the relatively modest 1366x768 resolution typical of 11" panels.

Otherwise, the R3 looks pretty well equipped. In addition to Wi-Fi, you can expect optional 3G and 4G connectivity. Up to 8GB of memory can reportedly be crammed into the system alongside what looks to be a single 2.5" hard drive. There's no room inside the smaller chassis to combine a 2.5" drive bay with an mSATA SSD like Intel's 310 Series, it seems. You do get a beefy eight-cell battery with 63-Wh of juice, though.

The current M11x starts at $800, so its successor shouldn't be exorbitantly expensive. With other 11.6" systems like Apple's MacBook Air and Samsung's Series 9 settling on slower hardware to squeeze into slimmer chassis, it would be nice to have a chunkier alternative capable of playing real games with minimal compromise. Thanks to Engadget for the tip.

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