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Alienware 17 review

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Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

Pros

  • Stupendous gaming performance
  • Impressive application capabilities
  • Striking physical design
  • Excellent build quality
  • High-quality keyboard

Cons

  • Heavy, thick body
  • Battery rapidly depletes during games
  • Small trackpad
  • Loud, unrefined speakers
  • Very expensive

Key Features

  • 17in 1,920 x 1,080 display
  • 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-4700MQ processor
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 880M 8GB GDDR5 graphics
  • 8GB RAM
  • 80GB mSATA SSD
  • 1TB hard disk
  • Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • HDMI, mini-DisplayPort
  • 4.1kg
  • Manufacturer: Alienware
  • Review Price: £1,804.00

First reviewed July 2014

What is the Alienware 17?

Alienware laptops have been familiar on the gaming scene since they debuted in 1996, and despite being purchased by Dell it's still a brand that delivers among the most premium gaming machines. The firm’s latest is a 17in monster that’s attempting to lord it over the competition thanks to slick design and high-end components.

The star of the show is the GeForce GTX 880M, which is Nvidia’s most potent mobile chip. As usual, the rest of the Alienware’s specification is nothing to sniff at, either – there’s a Core i7-4700MQ processor, eight gigabytes of RAM, an SSD and a Full HD screen.

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Alienware 17 13

Alienware 17: Design & Build Quality

This machine follows the familiar, flashy blueprint that we expect from Dell’s gaming notebooks. The body is built from an anodised aluminium shell and coated with a matte black finish, and the machine’s edges are littered with dramatic angles and menacing-looking vents.

The black body is an attractive counterpoint to the Alienware’s extravagant lighting – an area where Dell’s gaming notebooks have always outpaced the competition. The 17 has a ring of light around the bottom, illuminated logos, keyboard backlighting and a glowing trackpad. Every one of those LEDs can be customised using the AlienFX app, which allows for different colours, patterns and transitions, and even different displays depending on how you’re using the laptop.

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Alienware 17 4

The Alienware’s gargantuan chassis has plenty of room for ports. The edges house a total of four USB 3.0 connectors, both HDMI and mini-DisplayPort outputs, three audio jacks for surround sound, a slim-line DVD drive, and Gigabit Ethernet (powered by a Killer Ethernet chip). On the inside, there’s also dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.

A machine of this size is not going to be slung in a backpack all that often but will likely be carted between houses and LAN parties, so we’re pleased that build quality is good. The Alienware’s body is as strong as it looks, and the 9mm-thick lid barely budges when pressed, which should help protect the screen – this is big improvement on the flexible panels we find on most other systems.

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The problem with all of this is size and weight. The 17 tips the scales at 4.1kg and it’s 48mm thick when its rubber feet are included. You’ll want a well-built backpack to lug the Alienware around, and it’s comfortably one of the biggest gaming notebooks we’ve seen: slightly slimmer but a tad heavier than the MSI GT70, and only a little smaller than the Asus G750JX. It’s also a world away from the likes of the still very powerful Alienware 14 and Schenker XMG P304.

The base can be easily removed, providing access to the memory slots and hard drive bays. Both the memory sockets were full on our configuration but you could certainly swap them out for even higher capacity units. Meanwhile one of the hard disk bays is empty. Elsewhere, every component and heatsink is accessible, including the Wi-Fi card, battery and the core chips, and many screws are numbered in the correct order to ease dismantling.

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Alienware 17: Screen & Sound Quality

The 17’s screen has many of the attributes we like to see on a gaming system. It’s got a matte finish, a Full HD resolution and there’s no sign of touch compatibility.

Quality is decent, but the Alienware’s benchmark scores don’t quite match rivals. The 326 nit brightness is a little lower than the 343 nit result of the MSI GT70, and the Alienware’s 0.41 nit black level couldn’t match the GT70, either. The contrast ratio of 795:1 is enough to give games reasonable black levels and good punch at the high end, but the MSI, Schenker and the smaller Alienware all offer better contrast.

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Alienware 17 5

The Alienware 17’s colour temperature is too warm, but it’s not far enough from 6,500K to cause problems, and the sRGB coverage of 89.7% is good – a high figure that didn’t fall down in any one area. The average Delta E of 7.03 is bad, and the maximum Delta E of 12.94 is even worse. Both of those results are a long way behind rivals, and both mean that colours won’t look as lifelike as possible.

The 17’s panel has its good points – the matte finish, resolution, brightness and contrast are all decent – but it’s hampered by poor results elsewhere and the strength of the competition.

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Speakers aren’t as big a deal as they used to be thanks to the popularity of headsets, but that’s not stopped Dell including the loudest speakers we’ve ever heard on a gaming laptop.

The ear-destroying volume isn’t matched by great quality, though. The mid-range is the loudest thing here, but it’s too flat and lifeless, with tinny high-end noises mercifully pushed into the background. Bass, too, is underwhelming. The Alienware has huge volume, but that’s not enough to make games sound their best – we’d still prefer a headset.

Jacob Marsh

March 19, 2015, 2:37 pm

I've owned Dell's gaming laptops for a few generations now; including an XPS M1730, Alienware M17x and two Alienware 18's. I also currently have an Alienware 17 on order, due for delivery in April.

The good bit - They are powerhouses! Fiendishly fast, and monster graphics cards, they never cease to amaze me. The best bit is that they're portable (sort of), so perfect for gaming on the move.

The bad bit - all 4 laptops have had their graphics cards "burn out" within a 1 - 2 year period. So a word of warning, get the extended warranty, it'll save you a massive headache in the long run.

JohnnyB82

March 31, 2015, 6:17 am

Hmm.... Ive owned so many notebooks from dell... (1)Inspiron, (2)Dell Studio 17s, (2)Dell XPS 17s, (1)Alienware 17, (1)Alienware 18 and currently an Alienware 17 is on its way due to arrive in little over 2 weeks, With all this said, I've never had a single video card burn out. Are you properly ventilating it? Do you use it on a soft surface where it can't breathe? Do you overclock way, way too much?

Cause at 4 in a row, I think its you and not the computer.

Only one laptop I've owned has ever had a card burnout. That was a Toshiba Satellite (17inch gaming version) many years ago.

Jacob Marsh

March 31, 2015, 8:46 am

All laptops have been top spec. e.g. the best that money can buy at the time. Because if this, I've always been careful to set the laptop up on a clean hard surface, with sufficient ventilation, and never used it on a soft service.

All laptops have been treated with the utmost respect and never overclocked over factory spec. After my M1730 failed originally, I also clean all fans and vents bi-monthly to ensure they don't get full of dust. You'd have to be mad not to treat equipment this expensive with care!

I actually had an Alienware 18 fail with graphics cards issues the day it was delivered. During this time, it had been booted on and off once. I can't be blamed for that one :)

I would say this - all laptops have been used daily, for at 8-9 hours/day for their life, although the majority of this is mundane tasks.

The fact of the matter is that these laptops are great, I wouldn't have bought 4 otherwise!. But like most performance items, they have longevity issues, hence my recommendation to get the extended warranty.

DemandedGoblin

May 6, 2015, 9:39 pm

I am looking at buying this PC, and I am looking at buying a power bank for it so I can charge it whilst on a plane as I travel a lot. Does anyone know how big a power bank I would need to just charge this once (as know its all measured in mAH)

OZCAN AKSOY

November 3, 2015, 2:39 am

I owned Alienware 17x mid 2013 , purchased in April 2014 so far so good but taking extreme care to keep it clean and dust free.
For example; bought rubber stands which keeps the laptop elevated about a inc that gives better air flow into the fans. Always keep the laptop on clean hard surface and free from the dusty environment.
Just a kind advise; never use/keep the laptop in a room if it covered by floor carpet or nearby your bed where the airborne dust rate is high.
Almost every month I open the back cover and use handheld vacuum to suck the dust or dirt that builds up on the fan blades ( I know there is an issue using sucking instated of blowing) any way still ok
Nevertheless every machine has their life soon or later even how much you take care unavoidable to stop the failure

Joseph Murdock

January 23, 2016, 11:06 am

Own an Alienware 17 R3 and boy what beast it is unleashes all the gaming power. Loving it all the way. With Graphics, Performance or Sounds. Don't mind paying bit more to own it. I bought it after I got to see some good video reviews from www.fanreviews.co by the fans of Alienware and users like me. Let me see if I can post the direct link - here is goes - http://fanreviews.co/gaming/al...

Hope this helps to others trying to buy it.

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