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Alienware 15 review

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Awards

  • Recommended by TR

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Alienware 15
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  • Alienware 15
  • Alienware 15
  • Alienware 15
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  • Alienware 15
  • Alienware 15
  • Alienware 15
  • Alienware 15

Summary

Our Score:

9

Pros

  • Superb build quality
  • 'Gamer' oriented design remains stylish
  • Excellent performance
  • High quality screen and keyboard
  • Good value

Cons

  • Heavy and fairly thick for the performance level
  • No optical drive
  • Speakers have fairly weak bass

Key Features

  • 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080, IPS screen
  • Aluminium and carbon fibre construction
  • Backlit keyboard + seven programmable light zones
  • Intel Core i7-4710HQ processor
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M GPU
  • Manufacturer: Alienware
  • Review Price: £1,322.00

What is the Alienware 15?

Alienware has just re-jigged its gaming laptop offering, ditching its 18-inch and 14-inch models and replacing them with new slimmer 15-inch and 17-inch variants, to add to the Alienware 13 that arrived last year.

Packing the latest Intel processors, top-spec graphics cards and high-quality screens, they’re every bit the premium laptops you’d expect. Plus they both support Alienware’s new graphics amplifier for boosting your laptop’s graphics by way of an external box. Let’s see if the new Alienware 15 adds up to being the gaming laptop of choice at this size.

Alienware 15 – Design

The one area where Alienware has seldom let itself down is in the design of its products, and it hasn’t tripped up on this occasion either, assuming you’re a fan of having an alien head on the lid of your laptop, of course.

The signature of these latest models is a combination of carbon fibre and aluminium for their construction. The latter covers the whole top surface of the lid, while the former is hidden away in the machine’s construction, below a coating of lovely soft-touch black covering the whole outside.

SEE ALSO: Best Gaming Laptops

Alienware 15

Combined with a keen eye for just the right sharp angles, some just subtle enough lighting and an otherwise minimalist approach you have a laptop that retains a sense of class and quality despite its clearly sci-fi gaming styling.

There are plenty of lights, though, if that’s your thing. There’s the alien head on the lid along with a couple of thin angled strips then another couple of thin strips sit in the front edge while inside there’s another alien head just above the keyboard, the Alienware logo on the screen bezel, the keyboard is backlit and the trackpad surface glows too.

All of these are independently controlled through the pre-installed Alienware software and they can be changed individually to whatever colour you want, as well as being turned off altogether.

SEE ALSO: Best Laptops, Ultrabooks and Hybrids

Alienware 15

Although slimmer than some predecessor offerings, the Alienware 15 is still a fairly hefty laptop. With dimensions of 385.8 x 270.2 x 34mm it’s only just under an inch and a half thick and weighing in at just over 3kg – our sample was 3.03kg without its power supply – it’s certainly something that you’ll notice whether carried in the hand or slung in a backpack.

However, the very robust construction does mean that you can treat it fairly roughly. For instance, despite its weight you can grab the top edge of the lid to pick the whole thing up without fear of buckling the screen. There is a bit of flex there, but it’s nothing to be concerned about.

Alienware 15

Ripping the bottom off – it does actually require quite a tug once the screws are undone – reveals easy access to the two RAM slots, the 2.5-inch HDD slot, the m.2 SSD slot and the wireless card. It looks like gaining further access to the CPU wouldn’t be too difficult, but we didn’t venture further. Moreover, to have so much already accessible is a great start – buying the cheaper version and doing the upgrades yourself at a later date is an easy option here.

Alienware 15 – Features

Available starting from £1099 the Alienware 15 starts off with an Intel Core i5-4210H processor, 8GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M graphics card and 1TB hard drive. This then rises through our spec – Intel Core i7-4710HQ, 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD, Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M – for £1322 then up to the top-spec model that swaps the Nvidia graphics card for an AMD Radeon HD R9 295X.

All models come with the same 1920 x 1080 LCD screen that’s an IPS panel with a matte, anti-glare finish and 300-nits brightness. This can also be swapped out for a 4K (3860 x 2146) touchscreen panel for an extra £300. They all also come with Killer wireless networking and a choice of either Windows 8.1 or Windows 7.

SEE ALSO: Best Windows 8 Laptops

Alienware 15

Upgrades are limited to doubling the RAM to 16GB and adding a larger SSD and HDD, with the usual extended warranties and anti-virus software options too.

The one obvious missing feature is any sort of optical drive, with them seemingly having dropped out of favour, even in chunky gaming laptops.

Alienware 15

All this lot is joined by a good selection of external connections with two USB 3.0 ports on the right edge along with the Ethernet socket and SD card reader. Two further USB 3.0 ports sit on the left edge next to the headphone and microphone jacks and Kensington lock slot while the back has a full size HDMI, mini DisplayPort and the proprietary Graphics Amplifier port.

The Graphics Amplifier is a £200 box into which you can place any conventional desktop graphics card, providing a bump in graphics processing power for your laptop when gaming at home. We’re yet to review it, but it should be able to provide a graphics boost for most of the configurations possible with the Alienware 15.

Alienware 15

The only problem is that the connection between the card and laptop only uses an x4 PCI-E connection, which means it won’t be able to provide the full bandwidth expected by the fastest graphics cards, which rely on x16 PCI-E interconnects. We’ll just have to see exactly what it’s capable of when we review it, though.

Alienware 15 – Screen and Sound Quality

Alienware has largely steered clear of the trend for ultra-high resolutions with its latest gaming laptop, choosing instead to equip every model with a 1920 x 1080 resolution screen by default. However, as mentioned, all the models can be optionally upgraded to a 4K (3860 x 2146) touchscreen panel. Although some people will yearn for the high-res option, we suspect most will be quite happy with the 1080p one, particularly as it’s rather good.

The first thing that’s striking about it is the matte finish which really does eliminate any annoying reflections. Then there’s the sheer solidness of the image that comes from the relatively high resolution and tight pixel structure – there’s none of the graininess that you get with some displays. Combined with excellent viewing angles, a lack of backlight bleed and not a hint of patchiness to its backlighting and you have a display that just looks very solid and uniform.

Alienware 15

Colours are also accurate and vibrant, while maximum brightness is plentiful. Black levels are also top notch – good stuff all round.

The most serious of gamers may want a higher refresh rate display – this is a standard 60Hz IPS screen – but we’d take a better quality panel every time.

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When it’s comes to audio the Alienware 15 isn’t quite so accomplished, though it’s still very good. Its speaker system is provides plenty of volume and clarity, with good high-end detail and mid-range warmth but bass is a little lacking for such a chunky laptop.

Babu Mohan

March 6, 2015, 7:23 am

What about the display Delta E and brightness figures?

Megacharge

April 4, 2015, 7:58 am

6.6 pounds is just too heavy for this kind of laptop. So many other ones out there with just as good cooling and performance at least a pound if not more, lighter.

vampyren

April 5, 2015, 9:39 pm

Like what? i been searching for a week and nothing comes close to this!
Show me an i7 quad (4710) + 980m GPU and one pound less and i be grateful.

People usually talk about MBP but its not really on the same performance.

Michael McMillan

April 22, 2015, 1:57 am

Nice, my current gaming laptop is 12 pounds with a 3 pound power brick. and gets 40 minutes of battery life, or it can sleep for 3.5 hours, but it holds 2 hard drives + optical.

Reviews rarely mention keyboard response, and it is a feature that is needed.

I do IT work, and plan to get the external box so I can stick a sata card in it most of the time, but it will be nice to have the pcie slot available for next year's gpu. This gpu has the required display port connector so I can drive my 4k external monitor. For work I use a 4k 40 inch tv so I can run 12 remote desktop sessions simultaneously.

My main desktop is 2 processor , 4 core, xeon with hyperthreading socket 1366, 24GB of ECC, so I can virtualize scenarios for clients, but the single threaded performance is not so hot, and youtube has started dropping frames

I plan to buy the alienware laptop very soon based on this review. The MSI GS30 (with external gpu) was a contender, but the rest of the fit and finish that makes it a good laptop when it is not connected to the external box is lacking according to reviews.

-Michael

Mike Bramley

May 4, 2015, 6:48 pm

Sorry for the rather dumb question, but how do you install games without an optical drive?

Patricio Villalobos

June 6, 2015, 5:20 am

People buy digital games nowadays, so you install them by downloading

Megacharge

June 26, 2015, 3:10 am

Sorry my response took so long, just stumbled onto this site again while looking at laptops and surprisingly saw my old comment. To answer your question, the Clevo P651SA/SE/SG is 5.7 pounds and has similar specs, quad core i7 options, same GPU options, same screen options back lit keyboard etc etc, also a bit cheaper..

MrGoodNews

July 6, 2015, 3:25 am

Download dude. I havent used optical drive for few years now.

Armada Dee

September 3, 2015, 4:02 am

LMAO you're comparing probably that piece of trash with an alienware with it's many services and many game compatabilities and high specs? similar specs and quad core i7 options? same GPU options, and screen options? HAHAHAH and it's back lighting is not even close lol are you a delusional fanboy? no offense... That laptop looks like rectangular dust box. There is no comparison. it's not even that heavy and at this power it's phenomenal. The laptop barely even heats on ultra graphics, what laptop at this weight can do that? You're probably basically making anything up without having a clue... fanboys... Its not the laptop's fault that you can't lift it i guess, no offense, at this power and weight it's pretty much nothing. Don't make up random fanboy nonsense if you probably don't even know what you're talking about or maybe you're just in denial idk, there is no similarity in laptops, otherwise you would say a g500 card is close to a g600 card because it only differs by a hundred lol, there is no similarity in them. Like that other guy told you, there is nothing close to this. So how about you stop being a fanboy and stay quiet if you're just going to deny it. How pathetic, yeah you got one thing right though, it's cheaper... in quality and specs. no offense but better be quiet if you're going to be a fanboy that is probably in denial or doesn't know what he's talking about

John

September 7, 2015, 10:38 am

I've seen paving slabs thinner than that....

xone9

January 18, 2016, 10:09 pm

spend $40 on an external DVD-RW

archimedes

April 4, 2016, 6:27 pm

Please TR do a review of 'Laptops with proper keyboards'.

The keyboard is easily the most important feature of a gaming laptop. Nobody wants to carry around an external keyboard with them.

This one looks near identical to a Dell Latitude keyboard from 5 years ago, but that's probably OK, Dell used good keyboards back then.

RuRu

April 5, 2016, 12:25 pm

Depends how you use your laptop. On a go, yes keyboard is somewhat important, or lets say when you are not at home. But most gaming is usually done at home (at least for me), where I have a different keyboard designed for gaming and heavy work. So a keyboard is not a concern in hear.

Of course an argument is than, why not get a PC. But for those who move a lot, and have limited space. PC is not an option.

I dont think keyboard on a laptop is such a big thing. Spec and build quality is what really matters.

Priyanshu

April 21, 2016, 2:22 pm

I've been using it for a year now. The laptop's really good. However, after the windows 10 update, the drivers kind of get screwed up and crash a lot. Re-installed them a couple of times, but now everything seems to work fine, with very rare crashes like any other laptop would have. For those who are looking to buy one, just keep in mind that the Dell service is really very poor. I spent a total of £111 just on calls. Their pro care is really bad. One of the customer care callers even uninstalled my WiFi and Ethernet driver by accident, that's how inexperienced they are.

Eugene Rubinchikov

June 23, 2016, 7:22 pm

I purchased Alienware 17.3 for my birthday. Computer was great for 6 months and I had no problems.
One day my computer wouldn't start, I called the support, they asked me to unscrew couple of screws in the back and to disconnect and connect a wire. Computer still wouldn't work. I was told it needs to be sent for a repair. Two weeks without my laptop but OK, it's back. In less then one hour my computer fails again. Called support again, keeps getting transferred back and forth from one person to another and now I'm being told that I need to ship my computer back for repairs again. After a week, finally got a reply that they don't have parts now and i have to wait. another week. Finally, got an answer that my unit will be replaced. 4 more weeks of waiting and i got my replacement unit.
I got my unit delivered on Monday June 20th, today is June 23rd and I'm on the phone with support once again because the computer processor has failed and needs to be sent for repairs.
I heard great things about Alienware but now its just a disappointment.
DON'T BUY IT !!!!!!!!!!!

Jaime Tree

July 16, 2016, 1:05 pm

Optical drive lol. What a pleb

melganic

August 12, 2016, 11:13 pm

mám v obrázku řízky

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