Here’s something you don’t see everyday but it still lingers in the hearts of all hardcore gamers: The Alienware.
A brand quite synonymous with gaming itself but gets overshadowed by the plethora of Asian gaming brands. That’s not to say it’s not here, it’s alive and kicking in India alright. And if you’re a hardcore gamer, chances are you already know why you’re reading this.
Read on to know more about this intriguing 17in behemoth that is capable of whizzing past the most demanding gaming titles and softwares in a breeze.
Body and design
By no means should you assume that this one sticks to a diet. No sir. In fact, the Alienware 17 is packed to the brim with the latest and greatest, which inevitably increases its weight to a back-breaking 4.42kgs. No wonder it never left our office after being delivered for review.
It’s a heavy laptop, yes, but there’s still an option to lug it around should you choose to. We had it plonked to a TV for the most time and used as an excessively powerful gaming PC. The Epic Silver variant is the only colour option available and we have to admit it looks damn good, especially on the lid. The rest of the body is made of magnesium alloy and anodized aluminium. The thick bezel area is made of plastic but the hinge is by far the most iconic part about the Alienware. It’s called a hinge-forward design and we can see why. You see, the hinge is slightly forward toward the keyboard rather than being right on the edge like traditional laptops. The backside of the hinge is actually where its blowers are located and a couple of important ports. The hinge itself is super sturdy and it can hold the 17.3in screen in any angle. Believe me when I can ANY angle, this hinge is one of the best hinges I’ve seen on a gaming laptop.
Below the screen bezel is a strip of plastic glass hiding Tobii eye tracking smarts. More on that later. The soft touch palm rest area around the keyboard is just very comfortable to the skin, so countless hours of mashing long reviews wasn’t at all cumbersome.
Grills are quite a common sight on this thing. There are heat vents on either sides and behind as well. The front grill is for the speaker housing. More on that later as well.
Keyboard, trackpad and Tobii eye tracking
We’ve already mentioned how skin-loving the palm rest area is on the Alienware 17 but is it the best typing experience? Well, yes and no. The answer is not that simple. While it’s not a mechanical keyboard like the one you usually find on such high-end gaming laptops, the Alienware TactX keyboard is not all that bad for typing. The smooth finish and more surface area on the keycaps is great for mashing out laptop reviews quickly and it has a good amount of resistance as well. During gaming however, we missed the clickety feel of a mechanical keyboard and typing but ever so little. There are 10 macro keys that you can set using the Alienware Command Centre and all of the keys come with RGB lighting. Sad thing is that you can barely see those lights shining from between the keyspaces.
However, there’s RGB in the trackpad to even it out. Yup, Alienware puts RGB in the trackpad and we kinda like it. It’s very subjective, some in Stuff India HQ feel it’s unnecessary but that is debatable for all RGB lighting. It was never necessary to begin with, still, I personally love it and it’s kinda an Alienware thing now. Even the side LED strips on the lid and the base is very Alienware. It definitely stands out from the crowd while managing to stay subtle on the inside.The Tobii eye tracking is an added feature that, as the name suggests, tracks your eyes. It can be used with games and also ease the use of using a trackpad to get around when using Windows. It even works with Windows Hello to unlock your laptop just by staring at it. While it’s quite a fascinating technology to have on your laptop and the first few days with are fun then it soon outlives its usefulness. Some games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Arma 3 have compatibility support for this but I rather have a mechanical keyboard in exchange honestly. It works quite flawlessly on the Alienware if anything, the mouse pointer reaches exactly the spot your eyes land but during gaming it gets very tricky.
Display and sound
The QHD display is quite a stunner with anti-glare finish and eye-poking brightness levels. We enjoyed watching Netflix content as much as we enjoyed playing video games on this.
It’s packing 2560 x 1440 pixels across that 17.3in display with a cool 120Hz refresh rate to entice even the competitive gamers into the mix. Not that you’ll be sitting off center but the screen has good viewing angles too. We watched a couple of Netflix shows and the colour was good enough and the saturation was well balanced too. Although it wasn’t as rich in colour reproduction and the blacks were slightly whitewashed compared to a MacBook Pro screen.
We’ll take that G-Sync 120Hz screen anyday because it helps when you’re deep into gaming and figuring out how to land a headshot in Tilted Towers without getting sniped yourself.
The audio quality is loud and very detailed. You can even hear decent amount of audio over the buzzing fan noise when it's in full throttle mode. Although we wished the bass was a bit more punchy.
Here’s where everything goes from boring to mind blowing amazing and this is the first time the innards of a laptop have excited me so much. We’re talking about the Intel i9-8950HK processor that is oozing power and when you add 32GB RAM and a Nvidia GTX 1080 into the mix, you’ll find a weak-kneed reviewer taking office leaves quite often than usual just to play video games on this thing.
And at the core of any high-end gaming machine, that’s exactly what you’d be searching for. A machine that flies over tasks like a cheetah on steroids and games run ever so smoothly. The Alienware 17 scored a 6454 in Time Spy benchmark and 8720 on VRMark Orange Room. Both of which are top of the line scores for the benchmarks.
But you probably know by now that we believe in the real deal and not benchmarks as such, so cut to the chase, the Alienware 17 absolutely destroyed Forza Horizon 3 even when connected to a 4K telly. Capping a steady 60fps. Not quite the benchmark right? We pushed PUBG rounds on this thing and it delivered brilliantly without breaking a sweat, quite literally. The fans didn’t even kick into max because the Alienware 17 doesn’t consider this a challenge I guess? Hardcore!
Taking it up a notch, Gears of War on QHD with maxed out settings was giving us a stable 60fps and on 4K it was working around 45 to 50fps. That’s not bad at all. The only problem comes when the upper hinge area and keyboard start getting a bit warm.
And when you’re done with gaming and recording your footage of being the next big game vlogger, the i9 will never betray you. Photoshop and Adobe Premiere Pro are just a childsplay for this beast. Our VR Mark test showed positive results for VR gaming as well. So when it comes to sheer performance, the Alienware 17 dominating that space easily.
Software and ports
The Alienware Command Center is usually the one you’ll be going back and forth with. It allows you to customise the RGB lights on the laptop and even the dreamy alien head logo. The macros keys can be assigned here and you can obviously overclock the system! Compared to the Asus ROG Center, the Alienware is much cleaner and sombre. The controls are very intuitive and easy to understand.
The Killer Control Center lets you set internet speed priorities to different apps and functions on the laptop. There’s Bluetooth 5.0 which is speedy and good for wireless peripheral connections. Speaking of which, you get plenty of ports to jostle around with. The rear side gets 1 Power/DC-in Jack, 1 Killer Ethernet Port, 1 USB 3.0 Type-A SuperSpeed Port, 1 USB 3.0 Type-A SuperSpeed Port with PowerShare technology, 1 USB 3.0 Type-C SuperSpeed Port, 1 Thunderbolt 3 Port (USB Type-C™ with support for SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps, 40Gbps Thunderbolt, and DisplayPort), 1 Alienware Graphics Amplifier Port, 1 HDMI 2.0 Output, 1 Mini-Display Port 1.2 (certified) Output, 1 Audio in/out headphone port, 1 Noble Lock port (cable and lock sold separately).
There is no surprise that the Alienware 17 is one of the most powerful gaming laptops around but look closer and you’ll also see that it’s by far the most sensible ₹3lac laptop. What I mean is that if you find sense in buying a behemoth gaming laptop for ₹3lacs then this baby has the most practical combination of hardware for that price.
Sure, there’s a bit of premium you pay on the whole - but bro this is an Alienware - shindig but sticking to a QHD (120Hz) screen instead of 4K is smarter than other brands because the GTX 1080 doesn’t really touch 60fps on 4K for the games that actually need a cinematic 4K display. We’ll take the Intel i9 anyday for snappy processing and even some VR gaming fun. Add 32GB of RAM and 2x 512GB M.1 SSDs along with 1TB HDD storage space and you’ve got a recipe for success.
The keyboard leaves some room for debate and the screen quality deserves a bit more attention but it really doesn’t break the experience one bit and before you start googling, nope don’t expect the battery life to last much. Three to four hours tops, even faster if you open any intensive apps. It’s a gaming laptop for God’s sake, don’t trouble your mind with battery life. Nothing is going to fix that.