Alienware: 2019 Brand Report Card
A newcomer to Best and Worst Brands, Alienware comes out swinging and lands in fourth place, just a point behind its parent company. Known for its out-of-this world gaming laptops, Alienware brought a number of innovations to the table, including its redesigned Alienware Command Center software.
It also introduced the Alienware Area-51m, the world's first fully upgradable gaming laptop (including the CPU and GPU). The laptop marks a new era in the company's history by introducing the new Legend design, which is stylish yet functional. And when it comes to choice, Alienware has scads of customization options. However, we're still waiting for the company to consistently hit that sub-$1,000 market for budget gamers.
Alienware's Key Strengths
- Functional, Innovative Design: Alienware's Legend design is not only stunning, it's also functional, allowing consumers to access and swap out everything from the storage to the processor.
- Lots of Customization: Alienware's never been a brand to shy away from the kitchen sink approach. From color to components, consumers can build their dream system. The company has recently added 4K OLED displays to several of its laptops.
Alienware Key Weaknesses
- No Sub-$1,000 Option: Although Alienware offers an impressive amount of configurations, it's rare for you to see one of its systems starting at under $1,000.
Top-Rated Alienware Laptops
- Best Overall: Alienware Area-51m
- Best Portable Gaming: Alienware m15
- Best Bang for Your Buck: Alienware 17 R5
Alienware absolutely crushed it this year, consistently releasing excellent gaming laptops. Yes, the subsidiary of Dell sells only a few models, but of the five we reviewed, three were Editor's Choice picks and none received less than a 4-star rating. With those marks, Alienware achieved the highest average laptop rating of any brand, at 4.1 stars.
While we recommend each of the Alienware laptops we reviewed this year, the standout is undoubtedly the Area-51m. A 17.3-inch behemoth, the upgradable Area-51m is packed with the most powerful components around, including a Core i9 CPU and a GTX 2080 GPU. The sleeker m15 is a more budget-friendly option that offers similar performance as well as long battery life (for a gaming laptop) and a brilliant display.
The spaceship has evolved. With the Alienware Area-51m, the company is making a decisive move by employing the new Legend design language. As seen on the Area-51m, Alienware is going for a sleeker look, sporting rounded curves, bold honeycomb patterns and magnesium-alloy chassis with otherworldly paint jobs dubbed Dark Side of the Moon and Lunar Light. Alienware has pulled back on the amount of customizable LEDs, but it’s still there with its seductive glow. But the new aesthetic is equal parts lovely and functional as it's the world’s only upgradable laptop on the market — and, yes, that includes the CPU and GPU.
Alienware, however, isn't done with its Epic design language just yet. On the contrary, the company made many tweaks to the interstellar-battleship aesthetic. The company launched the m15 and m17 laptops, the thinnest, lightest Alienware laptops in their respective size range. The m15 is also the first Alienware system to incorporate the highly popular narrow bezel design that gives viewers more display real estate. And the Nebula Red m17 is our favorite red laptop this year. But even though Alienware has been trimming the fat, it still hasn't been enough to match competing systems,
The gaming laptop that truly stole the show in the last year is the Alienware Area 51m, which is the first gaming laptop to offer an upgradeable CPU and GPU along with a stunning all-new design and cooling system.
Alienware also delivered its thinnest and lightest 15-inch and 17-inch notebooks ever and its first 15-inch OLED gaming laptop. On the software front, Alienware Command Center enables GPU overclocking with an updated interface, as well as auto-tune game profiles.
Support and Warranty (16/20)
Our undercover technical support investigation showed that Alienware customers will find the best help on social media platforms, where the company's knowledgeable agents provided answers in a timely fashion. If only the company's telephone agents were a bit more accurate and focused on providing answers than jumping onto our system and doing it for us, their overall experience would be loads better.
Warranties for Alienware laptops can be extended by up to five years. The company allows you to upgrade memory and storage without voiding your warranty, and it provides an option to spend a little more to add accidental-damage protection
Value and Selection (9/15)
As you might imagine, Alienware doesn't have a very large selection of laptops, and they're not exactly cheap. However, each one has been an exceptional addition to the company's lineup. The most affordable machine offered by this company is the Alienware m15, which starts at $1,199 and comes with a Core i5 CPU, a GTX 1660 Ti and 8GB of RAM. That price is pretty high for those components, even if you do get a sleek design, a vivid display and relatively long battery life.
The Alienware m17 ($1,249 starting) and Alienware 17 R5 ($1,249 starting) ditch Nvidia Max-Q for full-size GPUs and offer mainstream pricing. Meanwhile, the Alienware 15 R4 and Area-51m can get ludicrously expensive. Although the Area-51m is the most powerful of these machines, it starts at $1,949, whereas the Alienware 15 R4 starts at $1,449.
MORE: Best Alienware Laptops
Depending on the configuration, the Area-51m can go for up to $5,149 and come stuffed with an overclockable 9th Gen Core i9 desktop CPU, a full RTX 2080 GPU and 64GB of RAM. The Alienware 15 R4 caps out at $4,789 and comes with an 8th Gen Core i9 laptop CPU, a GTX 1080 Max-Q GPU and 32GB of RAM. For just a $360 difference, that upgrade is wild.
While Alienware is focused on high-end gaming, we'd like to see one of these machines dip into the sub-$1,000 range.