Alienware 14 and 17 review: Dell’s new gaming laptops are fast, powerful and well-lit

Choosing a gaming laptop these days is a daunting task: machines can be found in all shapes and sizes, from expensive thin and light to giant giants. Such a wide selection is a good thing, as it allows buyers to choose the best machines from dozens of manufacturers and maybe even find deals on cheaper ODM systems. However, there needs to be some sort of benchmark that buyers can refer to, and for many, Alienware is there for that. The brand, now owned by Dell, is known for making powerful, high-quality machines. However, not too cheap or too expensive, but reasonably priced with a touch of prestige. With Alienware’s hardware update in 2013, it seems like it’s time to take a closer look at Dell’s updated line of gaming laptops. We picked two: the Alienware 14 ($1199++) and the larger Alienware 17 ($1499++). Let’s see how they stack up.
If you unpack like we do, you start to develop a strange obsession with product packaging. Often a box is just a box, but sometimes the product container really adds to the experience. Dell Alienware laptops hug the shape of the machine with a thick, eggshell-like foam padding. It’s not as visually appealing as the premium cardboard that comes with Razer Blade laptops, but it serves as a solid briefcase. It’s also reusable: Alienware packaging can be a great carrier the next time you bring your device to a LAN party.
When we unpack the laptop, we find a new generation of Alienware laptops built from the ground up with the finest materials and brand new designs. Both the 14 and 17 feel very solid, no doubt thanks to the durable magnesium body. The metal overhaul also extends to the keyboard stand, screen hinges, and LCD assembly, although this isn’t noticeable under the soft rubber coating that extends across the machine’s surface. This matte finish darkens the corners of the laptop, which are adorned with multiple LED indicators. In a nod to past Alienware design, the laptop has 10 different lighting zones, each of which can be customized with one of 19 colors (Dell says there are 20, but if that means off, we don’t count it as black).
By the way, these diodes are everywhere – on the cover, and under the keyboard, and in several places along the edges, a thin luminous strip on the front and sides of the case. The light also spreads across the entire surface of the trackpad, which is a stark change from last year’s model, which only had lighting around the perimeter of the trackpad. Overall, it’s a more sophisticated design than the last one we saw, but it’s definitely not boring or modest. It is also surprisingly unified not only in aesthetics, but also in the choice of ports. Alienware 14-inch and 17-inch laptops offer the same connectivity options, with the exception of an additional USB port and a slight repositioning on the 17-inch model. On the left side of both machines are two USB 3.0 SuperSpeed ​​ports (not blue this time), HDMI, and Mini DisplayPort. There is also an audio jack for a line-out (with headphone support) and a line-in for a microphone. On the right edge are an optical drive slot, a multi-format memory card reader, an Ethernet jack, and one or more USB ports, depending on the model.
Aside from the extra USB port and the noticeable size difference, the only difference between the two models is the speaker bar. The 14″ version has a perforated metal bar that acts as an obvious sound grille, but this area is completely solid on the larger Alienware 17. The speakers on the 17″ model also seem quieter, but we can’t tell if that’s a component or speaker issue. . Regardless, Alienware’s new design fits both sizes perfectly. It’s sleek and attractive, yet retains enough of a visual (and user-customizable) style to suit the needs of most Alienware customers. Both machines feel very solid and well-built, although some of the thickness that makes them so solid might put off gamers accustomed to thinner models.
As with other designs, the keyboard and trackpad look very unified on these models. Aside from the slightly different shape of the numeric keypad and mouse keys on the 17-inch model, the inputs on our two test devices were mostly identical. Here’s the good thing: keyboards are a departure from the chocolatey trend that has gripped most modern laptops. It’s also a major change for Dell: the layout here is more like an old ThinkPad than any previous Alienware model. Overall, the keys are pleasant to the touch, have the same soft-touch finish as the rest of the machine, and more than match our tastes. The 17-inch model has four additional keys above the keyboard: A, B, C, and D toggle keys that work with the machine’s AlienTactX macro; by default they are assigned to F1-F4. In terms of ghosting, we found the Alienware keyboard to be capable of handling three to eight simultaneous keystrokes, depending on the key combination. This means that the keyboard itself is no exception, but we would have a hard time knocking it out due to the fact that it follows the “rules” set by most laptops on the market.
Alienware’s new trackpad is big enough to be comfortable to use, but not too big to get in the way. Its surface also has a different texture than the rest of the car, so it’s easy to find without looking down. Also, its left and right buttons provide good resistance without being too stiff. It’s also a great multi-touch surface, but you won’t know that without going into the Synaptics device settings: for some reason, scrolling options and all gestures are disabled by default. It’s also a shame because this particular trackpad is one of the best we’ve seen.
As we said, both the keyboard and touchpad are tricked by LED backlighting and are available in a variety of color options. The Dell AlienFX software manages the light show (more on that later), but it’s not always intuitive to use; disabling the trackpad backlight requires unchecking “keep status area on while dimming” and disabling FX mode entirely. For some reason, the program doesn’t allow us to simply select “black” as the default mouse color, leaving us in an all-or-nothing binding. Basically, if you don’t want a glowing mouse and prefer a backlit keyboard, you’re out of luck. Dell told us that a future firmware patch may have more precise control over the backlight behavior of the trackpad, as this feature is tied to the BIOS.
The Alienware 14 and 17 combine excellent screen quality and sound quality respectively – one device is slightly better than the other. The difference is subtle but noticeable when the two machines are used side by side. Sure, both have powerful displays and decent sound, but they’re not exactly equal – for example, the 14 1080p display offers deeper blacks and more accurate colors, making a 1920 x 1080 17-inch panel look better. – compare. We can’t speak to other display configurations available (the Alienware 14 has a 1366 x 768 option and the Alienware 17 has a 1600 x 900 option), but upgrading to Full HD is definitely worth the investment. Every panel is great, with vibrant and crisp colors, wide viewing angles, and a matte finish; 14, as we said, just “shoots” a little.
The smaller Alienware division may have a display edge, but its speakers aren’t quite as good as those of its bigger sibling. While both devices proudly claim to be “powered by Klipsch Audio,” the 17-inch model clearly offers richer sound. At least part of the reason has to do with acoustics: the Alienware 17′s wide base spreads the speakers farther apart, providing a level of stereo separation that the 14-inch model simply can’t compete with. To the credit of the 14th model, it can still easily fill a room, but its speakers sound a little on the small side.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a PC gamer who focuses on battery life – historically, handheld consoles haven’t generated much interest in this segment, and Alienware’s latest machines are no exception. With the NVIDIA Optimus Alienware 14 and 17 graphics switch enabled, it lasted three and a half hours on our standard battery test, which involves cycling video at a fixed brightness (with Wi-Fi enabled) before draining. Running only on the machine’s discrete GPU (Alienware allows users to disable the Optimus switch by rebooting with Fn+F5, which disables the integrated Intel GPU) reduces overall run time by another 30 minutes or so. It’s not uncommon for high-end gaming systems, but compared to the Razer Blade 14 (which ran for over six hours) and the MSI GT70 Dragon Edition 2 (which ran for four and a half hours), it felt like the previous generation. This isn’t the nail in the coffin, but further proof that Haswell’s architecture alone isn’t a panacea for extending laptop life.
The latest Alienware PCs may have battery life issues, but they all make up for it in performance. Comparing frame rates head-to-head, the Alienware 14 is basically on par with the Razer Blade 14 – at least until you remember that Dell’s kit moved its visuals to a higher resolution 1920 x 1080 monitor ( Blade maximum resolution is 1600 x 1080). 900). Equipped with 16GB DDR3 RAM, a 2.4GHz Intel Core-i7-4700MQ processor, and a 2GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M GPU, Dell’s handheld gamer auto-adjusts to ultra-high speed with a steady 35fps in BioShock: Infinite Quality . Similarly, we saw 57 fps in a visually maximized Payday 2 session, and 40 to 70 fps (indoors and outdoors) in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Saints Row IV also allowed for Ultra settings, but we had to reduce MSAA and anisotropic filtering a bit to reach an average of 45 fps.
Alienware 17 (with a more powerful 2.7GHz Intel Core i7 processor and 4GB NVIDIA GTX 780M graphics card) performed better, reaching 67, 119, 100, and 55fps in the same game, for each which is set to the default value. . The 17-inch device even managed a good 51fps with Far Cry 3, but both systems had to reset to get playable framerates in the third Crysis game: low 33fps and Alienware 14 stable 46fps, average 17 inches
However, flashy performances come with one caveat: consecutive performances must be used correctly. We’re talking about a GPU switching mode that allows the user to manually disable NVIDIA Optimus (which requires a system reboot) and use the discrete GPU exclusively. With the feature enabled, the standard battery tests on both laptops increased by 30 minutes, but we found that some games randomly switched between the two graphics options in the middle of a game, causing the frame rate to drop dramatically for a short time. It doesn’t happen very often, but a few times is enough to completely abandon the switchable graphics mode.
It’s a pleasure to play on any high-end gaming device, but Alienware’s AlienFX lighting makes using the 14 and 17 a unique experience. In addition to a set of colored LEDs, the system can interact directly with selected games, changing colors depending on the state of the player or the game environment. Battlefield 3, for example, causes the laptop to metaphorically bleed with the player, turning the white backlight to more red when your character takes damage. However, the implementation was far from uniform: it took several minutes to figure out what the flashing lights meant for this or that name. This is nothing new (Alienware has had interactive light shows for generations), but it’s still fun. We hardly want to state the obvious, but both machines get pretty hot during heavy gaming sessions, with the rear and bottom vents getting pretty hot. It’s almost unbearable – in fact, it’s the norm for the class – but I still like to have these cars on my lap, unless I’m wearing very thick pants.
Love or hate Metro and the new Start menu, Windows 8 has become a point of contention for many gamers. In particular, some games (ironically, those that relied on the now defunct Windows Live games) clashed with the operating system, giving grudging updates a good reason to stay. The camp will be happy to see Windows 7 as the default operating system on Alienware’s latest line of gaming laptops, although the setup tool on the company’s website labels Windows 8 “recommended by Dell.”
It’s also an amazing clean install using only Alienware’s proprietary recovery tools and Alienware Command Center to back up, restore, and create physical recovery media. The latter program is responsible for controlling AlienFX lighting, quick settings, power profiles, touchpad options, and dedicated program shortcuts. The user interface is quite intuitive, providing quick access to common Windows features that are often hidden under complex menus. Part of the “AlienAdrenaline” bundle allows you to create a custom launch profile for the game, which can invoke peripheral voice chat or hotkey programs that you may use frequently while playing. The 17-inch model has an additional feature: AlienTactX, which uses the aforementioned A, B, C, and D keys as macro shortcuts. It’s a good kit, but it also won’t slow down the system if you choose to ignore it.
As part of Dell, Alienware has an advantage over smaller companies in that all of its machines are highly customizable and customizable. Alienware’s latest laptops are available in 14″, 17″, and 18″ sizes, each with a wide selection of components. These options can be a bit overwhelming, but having them in place gives gamers the option to build a system to fit within a tighter budget, or the option of breaking the bank in a dizzying powerhouse. Our review unit chose the latter option.
The Alienware 14 we tested came with a 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-4700MQ processor, NVIDIA GTX 765M 2GB GPU, 16GB DDR3L RAM, 256GB mSATA SDD boot drive, spare 750GB hard drive for storage and Blu-ray drive – excluding promotional discounts. The price is 2049 dollars. It’s not a high price, but it’s hardly the most expensive configuration of the model: users can upgrade to a Core i7-4800MQ or 4900MQ chip, and the cost of the entire device can reach $2,300. Of course, if you cut down on SSD and RAM and settle for a less durable optical drive, the price could move in the other direction as well. Gamers on a budget can also get a price of just $1,200 by opting for the GT 750M GPU and dropping the resolution down to 1366 x 768.
The configurator did a similar job with our $2,799 Alienware 17 test unit with an Intel Core i7-4800MQ processor and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M 4GB GPU and the same RAM, optical drive, and storage options as the 14 -inch model. The Alienware 17 can use almost all of the same options as a small laptop (including its own low-res panel – a 1600 x 900 resolution display), but can also go even further, offering up to 32GB of RAM, 1.5TB of RAID 0. hard drive configurations (two 7200 rpm 750 GB drives) and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770M and 780M GPUs. Gamers looking to save money can even upgrade to a 120Hz panel with the 3D package. Alienware 17 costs between $1499 and $3449 depending on the version. It’s an amazing buffet selection, not even the full Dell menu. The 18-inch model further raises the bar with an optional Intel Core i7-4930MX processor and a 512GB SSD boot drive with 750GB drive for a whopping $4,949.
With a wide range of configuration options and superb build quality, Alienware Dell does a pretty good job. There’s not much competition to beat him. Aside from brand loyalty or better deals, the better question is what Alienware doesn’t offer. For this generation, it’s a thin profile and long battery life, two characteristics that are rare in consoles, but they’re there if you know where to look. Gamers who prefer the larger 17-inch form factor should check out the MSI GT70 Dragon Edition 2, which is just as ferocious as the Alienware 17. Plus, it can last for at least an hour without a network connection. The MSI GS70 is also an attractive option, offering a slimmer alternative to the Razer Blade while retaining a Full HD display and stunning internals. Heck, you can also try the Blade: it can’t compete with Alienware in performance potential, but the company makes one of the best 14-inch gaming laptops we’ve ever seen.
Surprise: Dell’s legacy as an OEM and Alienware’s gaming experience still make for a great combination – both the Alienware 14 and 17 are among the best gaming laptops we’ve reviewed this year. Great build quality, amazing components, and great performance leave us with few complaints. Those looking for downsides can find them in the pair’s relatively short battery life and overall thickness, but neither looks like a deal-breaker on a large display. However, if set to nine o’clock, it can be very expensive. In conclusion, Alienware’s new lineup is a strong continuation of the previous generation, offering just enough power for those who want it, as well as a fresh, modern design. However, that glowing trackpad is still a little weird.

Post time: Oct-24-2022
Let’s Talk
We can help you figure out your needs.
+   Contact Us