Alienware 15 – Keyboard and Trackpad
Alienware has kept things relatively simple for the Alienware 15 keyboard. Its keys are black to match the surround and there is just a single strip of gaming keys to running down the left edge. There’s none of the mechanical keyboard wackiness of the MSI GT80 Titan here.
Simple it may be, but it’s also very good. The core typing action is excellent, with a nice crisp feedback that makes for speedy and accurate typing. There’s a little bit of flex as you type but nowhere near enough to put you off your stride.
The layout on our test sample is for the US market but a proper UK one will be used when you buy the machine. Otherwise the layout is spot on and the choice of lettering font is clear and easy to read – a point that may seem obvious but you’ll be surprised how many keyboards slip up here.
That nice clear font also helps to make the most of the backlighting, which can be changed to whatever colour you like. There’s also a trick up the keyboard’s sleeve. In the top left corner is a button that switches the gaming profiles of the keyboard and correspondingly changes the backlighting colour of the gaming keys below. It’s a simple but very welcome touch.
Also generally impressive is the trackpad. It’s nice and large and correctly matches the shape of the screen. However it doesn’t have a clicky surface, but instead has two separate easy-to-press buttons below. The debate rages on about which style is best, but generally this separate button approach is preferred for gaming – though, of course, a proper mouse is many times better still.
The trackpad’s party piece, though, is that it lights up. A strip of light under the front edge illuminates the whole surface in whatever colour you choose and the uniformity with which it achieves this is impressive. It’s also rather satisfying the way it brightens and dims when you activate it and leave it alone.
Other things to consider
Alienware includes quite a few bits of extra software on its machines. The main one provides access to four key functions: AlienFX, AlienFusion, Alienware TactX and AlienAdreneline. These respectively are for managing the notebook’s lights, power settings, macro and gaming keys and application-specific system settings.
All four are intuitively laid out and slickly presented making it easy to get everything setup just how you like.
There’s also a program called AlienRespawn which provides backup and recovery services for system settings and personal data. In its free version it can only do local backups of personal data and do a system restore with a premium subscription adding extra features like program backup and continuous backup. There’s also a cloud backup option.
Otherwise the system arrives blessedly free of unwanted extra software meaning you don’t have to spend the first half hour of use uninstalling all the extra crud the manufacturer has installed.
Should I buy the Alienware 15?
The Alienware 15 is a very accomplished premium gaming laptop. It combines a stylish and well build chassis with a great selection of features for a pretty reasonable price.
Performance wise it’s a powerhouse and exactly what you’d expect for the price, plus Alienware offers a decent selection of configuration options to get the right price/performance balance for your needs. It has also provided easy access to the key upgradable components so doing your upgrades later on is an easy option.
Normally upgrade potential is limited by the fact CPUs and GPUs in laptops are fixed but here the latter can also be upgraded via the optional Alienware graphics amplifier. We’re yet to try it ourselves but there’s definitely potential for a cheap graphics upgrade down the line.
Ergonomically the Alienware 15 is great too with an excellent screen, keyboard and trackpad and a decent selection of connectivity.
In other words, “yes”. Yes, you should buy the Alienware 15.
If you’re in the market for a premium 15-inch gaming laptop, and you aren’t too concerned about portability, then you’ll be hard pushed to find a better system than the Alienware 15.