Sexy redesigned chassis; Customizable lighting; Excellent graphics and performance; Comfortable keyboard; Big, balanced audio; Colorful 1080p display with wide viewing angles
The Alienware 17 is the gold standard for gaming rigs, combining a sleek new design, glorious full-HD display and excellent graphics power.
New look, new name, new specs. Alienware's got a brand-new swag. The company's latest gaming powerhouse is simply dubbed Alienware 17. Starting at $1,499 ($2,799 as configured), this laptop sports a drastic redesign that's sure to turn heads. Even better, this rig is outfitted with a fourth-generation Intel Haswell processor and Nvidia's latest and greatest GeForce GTX 780M GPU, promising unparalleled power. The end result is one sexy and screamingly fast beast.
Instead of being swathed in a solid, soft-touch finish, the majority of the lid is made from gray, anodized aluminum, with a thick band of black, soft-touch plastic lining the top. Alienware also softened the angles and rounded out the edges throughout the design. For example, the company's trademark alien head sits along the midline of the top panel. The midline across the top of the lid looks more subtle than on previous models.
The bottom of the lid tapers and wraps around the chassis. The ornate speaker grills along the front edge of the notebook have also undergone a make-under, replaced by a pair of understated grills accented by a thin strip of plastic.
Opening the 17 is like watching fireworks: full of oohs and ahhs. The 17's interior is the inverse of the lid, plying us with loads of luxurious, black, soft-touch finish and a thick strip of gray aluminum. Located in the top-left corner of the deck, the glossy power button glowed warmly, thanks to Alienware's elegant lighting.
Weighing 9.2 lbs., the 17.9 x 12.9 x 2.26-2.23-inch 17 is a beautiful but thick behemoth. This machine easily dwarfs the 8.4-lb., 16.85 x 11.34 x 2.17-inch MSI GT70.
The keyboard and the Alienware logo in the bezel still light up as well. Users can customize all of the above using the AlienFX section of the Alienware Command Center.
Just like on the previous generation, users can choose from one of 13 preloaded lighting profiles or create their own custom profiles. Creating a profile is fairly easy: After selecting the New Theme option, users can assign 20 colors to each of the notebook's 10 zones.
Alienware has also partnered with several popular game developers that have agreed to create custom profiles for specific titles. The company currently offers 60 titles, including "Metro: Last Light," "Orcs Must Die 2," and "Hotline Miami."
A 1080p mountain-view image was simply gorgeous, accurately displaying various shades of greens and blues. In a side-by-side comparison, the Alienware 17 and the GT70 offered nearly equivalent display performance. However, the 17 had a slight advantage due to gentler gradient transitions and more accurate color.
The 1080p "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters" trailer was full of vibrant pinks, blues and golds. Details were sharp enough to see the pinstripes in Nathan Fillion's suit as well as the intricate design on his tie.
At 307 lux, the Alienware 17 outshines both the 249-lux desktop replacement average and the 240-lux display of the GT70.
Alienware took a "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach to audio on the 17, once again equipping its notebook with Klipsch speakers. The front-mounted speakers are certainly powerful, and easily filled our room with full-bodied, balanced audio.
Robin Thicke's uptempo dance track "Blurred Lines" delivered snappy snares, clear keyboards, a strong bass line and enough cowbell to satisfy our fever. When we compared it against the GT70, it was no contest: Audio on the 17 was louder and clearer, easily overpowering the GT70's Dynaudio speakers.
We were awash in immersive audio as we played "Tomb Raider." The set music was nice and clear, but the score didn't overwhelm some of the more nuanced sounds of the game, such as the swirling winds or the creaking of dilapidated wreckage. We could hear Lara Croft groan in pain as she dealt with injuries as clearly as we could hear the staccato rhythm of a semi-automatic weapon.
The speakers get a huge assist from Dolby's Home Theater v4 software. Each of the settings (Music, Game and Movies) delivered optimal audio for their intended scenarios.
Keyboard and touchpad
The large, black keys delivered firm, snappy feedback. The keyboard maintained its bounciness as we put the hurt on a few psychos in "Borderlands 2." In the more mundane world of typing, we notched 60 words per minute with a 1 percent error rate on the Ten Thumbs Typing test -- a new high for us.
While the 17 dissipates heat well during everyday activities, it gets a bit toasty when you're gaming. After streaming a full-screen video on Hulu for 15 minutes, the touchpad and underside of the notebook measured 89 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively, and the space between the G and H keys was slightly warmer, at 90 degrees. Each measurement was below our 95-degree comfort threshold.
After a 15-minute play-through of "Tomb Raider," the touchpad and space between the G and H keys measured 83 and 92 degrees. Both are acceptable, but the bottom reached an unpleasant 99 degrees. However, we don't envision many people using this machine on their laps. Also, steer clear of the bottom-right fan; it blew a scorching 140-degree air.
The webcam also works with the FastAccess Facial Recognition software. Once the system learns your face, it can be used -- in lieu of a password -- to unlock the laptop, social networking accounts and other websites.
Gaming and graphics
As we played the game on Ultimate, we enjoyed watching the wind through Lara's hair almost as much as we enjoyed watching her dispatch crazed hostiles. The 17 never stuttered, even when there were 10 or more enemies on the field with Lara.
The notebook notched 5,903 on the 3DMark11 benchmark, smashing the 3,925 desktop-replacement average. However, it wasn't enough to outdo the MSI GT70, which scored 7,352 with the same GPU.
On the "World of Warcraft" benchmark, the 17 delivered a whopping 144 frames on Good at 1080p, slightly below the GT70's (1080p) 146 fps and the 173 fps desktop average. When we made the leap to maximum settings, the 17 delivered 103 fps at 1080p -- enough to top the 91 fps category average, but not the GT70's 105 fps.
When we pulled out the big guns on the "BioShock Infinite" benchmark, the 17 barely broke a sweat. At 1080p on low, the notebook registered 106 fps, demolishing the 60 fps desktop-replacement average as well as the GT70's 70 fps. On Ultimate, the 17 notched 35 fps, skirting by the 31 fps average. The GT70 rebounded, scoring a solid 44 fps.
We saw a respectable score of 5,492 from the 17 on the PCMark 7 benchmark -- enough to best the 4,193 desktop-replacement average. However, the Alienware couldn't topple the MSI GT70 and its 2.4-GHz Intel Core i7-4700MQ CPU, which scored 6,025.
The 17's 256GB mSATA SSD and 750GB 7,200-rpm hard drive booted Windows 7 in 35 seconds, matching the category average. The GT70's dual 128GB SSD and 1TB 7,200-rpm hard drive blazed ahead, loading Windows 8 in 9 seconds.
During the File Transfer Test, the 17 duplicated 4.97GB of multimedia files in 28 seconds, for a transfer rate of 181.8 MBps. That's well above the 106.9 average, but short of the GT70's score of 462.7 MBps.
When we ran the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro Test, the 17 paired 20,000 names and addresses in 3 minutes and 42 seconds, faster than the 4:51 category average. The GT70 clocked in at 4:01.
Software and warranty
AlienFusion enables users to create custom power profiles, while AlienAdrenaline creates custom shortcuts that will perform a specified set of actions at startup or when a game is launched. AlienAutopsy handles the diagnostic side of things, running scheduled system checks. Last but not least is AlienRespawn, which lets users create backup discs to protect precious data.
Skype and a one-year free trial of McAfee LiveSafe are the only third-party applications preloaded on the 17.
Our $2,799 configuration of the Alienware 17 features a 2.7-GHz Intel Core i7-4800MQ processor with 16GB of RAM, 256GB mSATA SSD with a 750GB 7,200-rpm hard drive, a Nvidia GeForce GTX 780M GPU with 4GB of VRAM and a 1080p anti-glare display.
The $1,499 base model has a 2.4-GHz Intel Core i7-4700MQ CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 750GB 7,200-rpm hard drive, a Nvidia GeForce GTX 675M GPU with 2GB of VRAM and a 1600 x 900 anti-glare display.
However, the Alienware 17 isn't the fastest rig in its class. For the same price as our $2,799 configuration, you can get the MSI GT70, which isn't as flashy but outperforms the Alienware in some tests due to its dual SSDs. However, the 17 offers a brighter display, better audio and more fun lighting options. It looks and sounds more badass. Overall, gamers looking to invest in a rig with the best mix of style and power need look no further.
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|CPU||2.70-GHz Intel Core i7-4800MQ|
|Operating System||MS Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|RAM Upgradable to||32GB|
|Hard Drive Size||256GB mSATA SSD Boot + 750GB HDD|
|Hard Drive Speed||n/a|
|Hard Drive Type||mSATA SSD|
|Secondary Hard Drive Size||750GB|
|Secondary Hard Drive Speed||7,200 rpm|
|Secondary Hard Drive Type||SATA Hard Drive|
|Optical Drive Speed||8X|
|Graphics Card||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M|
|Touchpad Size||4 x 2.25 inches|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Mini DisplayPort|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Microphone|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Headphone|
|Ports (excluding USB)||HDMI-in/out|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Gigabit Ethernet|
|Ports (excluding USB)||USB 3.0|
|Ports (excluding USB)||security lock slot|
|Card Slots||9-1 card reader|
|Size||17.9 x 12.9 x 2.26-2.23 inches|