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Review : Alienware 17 - Dell's Alienware laptops

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TECH SPECS

Price: $2,699

Processor: Intel Core i7-4710HQ (2.5GHz)

Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M 3GB GDDR5

RAM: 16GB

Screen: 17 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels

Connectivity: 4 x USB 3.0, HDMI, Mini-DisplayPort, Alienware Graphics Amplifier port, SD card reader, Ethernet port, audio jacks

Battery: 92 watt-hour


RATING

Features 4/5

Design 4/5

Performance 4/5

Value for money 3/5

Battery life 3/5

Overall 4/5

Dell's Alienware laptops  are among the most powerful machines of play that the money can buy - if you can allow them.


 

Compared with the mammoth Alienware 18 that I tried almost two years ago, the new Alienware 17 is a svelte and lean machine. The former was 5.5kg; the latter, 3.6kg.

Of course, the Alienware 18 had a slightly larger 18.4-inch display compared with the 17.3-inch screen on the new model. The older one also had an optical drive, a feature missing on the newcomer.

Crucially, the Alienware 17 is not as powerful as the Alienware 18 and its dual graphics chips. The starting configuration reviewed here has a single Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M. It is capable enough, though not the fastest in its class.

This also makes the Alienware 17 relatively affordable for a gaming laptop. Prices start at $2,699. The Alienware 18 would have set you back by $4,999.

The new one looks like its older sibling. The logo still resembles the head of an alien, as depicted in Hollywood movies. There are still plenty of LEDs to jazz up the machine's appearance, from the glowing touchpad to the multi-colour keyboard backlight.

Gamers will appreciate that the keyboard has nine additional keys which can be customised for game commands. Key travel is as good as some desktop keyboards, though it cannot compete with mechanical keyboards. The screen resolution - 1,920 x 1,080 pixels - is typical for a gaming laptop. Viewing angles are good on this IPS screen. It is bright, but not overly saturated.

As in recent Alienware laptops, the graphics performance of the Alienware 17 can be boosted by hooking it up to the optional Alienware Graphics Amplifier. This accessory holds a desktop-class graphics card that, when connected to the laptop, takes over the graphics rendering duties from the laptop's mobile graphics chip.

As the Alienware already uses a capable Nvidia chip, this accessory is nice to have, but not essential. Performance was solid - the laptop produced almost 60 frames per second in Crysis 3 at High setting.

Battery life was surprisingly good for a gaming laptop. In our video playback test, the Alienware 17 lasted 4hr 48min. This figure is probably much lower when running games.

What would be really nice is to have a solid-state drive as the default option. What I got with this review set was a terribly slow 5,400rpm hard drive that took a while to load games or apps. Upgrading to a solid-state drive is highly recommended, though Alienware will charge $272 more for a 256GB drive.

 The new Alienware 17 is an excellent gaming PC which is slimmer and more affordable than its predecessor.

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