We've just reviewed the Alienware M11x mini gaming laptop and our verdict is in: "it blows everything else out of the water" -- except, perhaps, where price is concerned. Our sharp-eyed readers have been quick to remind us that, while the entry-level UK machine costs £748, its US equivalent is listed on Alienware.com for just $799 (£520). Is this another case of rip-off Britain, or is there more to this discrepancy than meets the eye?
On the surface, a £228 mark-up looks like bare-faced greed. After all, with that sort of money, you could buy a whole new netbook. With this in mind, we kicked Alienware's door down, pinned its execs against a wall and demanded to know what the heck the company was playing at. Actually, we made a polite enquiry, to which a company spokesperson responded:
"When comparing pricing on a product across different regions, it's worth noting that any product sold in the UK to consumers must quote the full price including VAT and any delivery charges. In the US, prices quoted are exclusive of tax and shipping, as these charges vary from state to state. Also, the configuration of Dell products may vary in different regions, as is the case between the base bundles for the Alienware M11x in the UK and US."
The company has a point. UK M11x customers get a 320GB, 7,200rpm hard drive, 2GB of DDR3 1,066MHz memory and Bluetooth as standard, whereas the basic US model makes do with a smaller, slower 160GB 5,200rpm disk, 2GB of slower DDR3 800MHz memory and Bluetooth as an optional extra. Also, the US machine is indeed listed without tax and delivery.
Attempting to get a true US-UK price comparison by configuring the US M11x to match the spec of the entry-level UK model is impossible, as the yanks don't even get the option of 1,066MHz RAM. Adding a 320GB drive and Bluetooth, however, increases the price of the US system to $894 (£583) excluding tax and delivery. If the US M11x were subject to 17.5 per cent UK VAT and the £17 (plus VAT) Dell charges for delivery, it would cost the equivalent of £705.
Even when attempting to level the playing field, the UK machine still costs £43 more than the US model. This could have something to do with the difference in price between DDR3 800MHz memory and the faster DDR3
1,066MHz we get in the UK, though we couldn't accurately factor this in, as DDR3 800MHz RAM is largely discontinued. It's also worth bearing in mind that exchange rates vary from the £1 = $1.53 we used in our calculations at the time of writing.
What do you reckon? Is Alienware justified in its pricing? Would you rather fly out to the US to buy your M11x? Does a Crysis-playing 'netbook' even appeal to you? Have your say in the comments section below.