Alienware & Dell Gaming Laptops - 2017 Brand Rating and Report Card
Value, innovation and an out-of-this-world design: those are the features that make a winning gaming laptop brand. Alienware takes the top spot in our inaugural Best and Worst Gaming Brands special report because it has gotten consistently high marks for its impressive performance, its proprietary, comprehensive gaming software and wealth of customization options. Being the only brand to offer a show-stopping OLED screen helps, too.
Even Dell is following Alienware's lead with a supremely eye-catching budget system that has plenty of room for improvement. However, it's also the little things — like the ultracomfortable keyboards and paying for shipping on warrantied items — that help Alienware earn first place.
Alienware and its corporate parent, Dell, took first place in our reviews category this year. Of the six gaming laptops we tested, four earned our coveted Editors’ Choice award. One received a score of 4.5 and four got 4 stars.
Of the systems we reviewed, there's isn't one that we wouldn't recommend. We enjoyed everything from high-end offerings like the Alienware 17 R4 and Alienware 13 with OLED display as well as the sub-$1,000 Dell Inspiron 15 7000.
Alienware's space-gray design with its distinctive customizable LED lighting accents has been described as parts of a roving intergalactic armada. And the aesthetic continues to be interstellar. This year, Alienware went for a sleeker and more sophisticated look, making each laptop noticeably slimmer than its predecessors. Some of the lights have been moved to the sides of the system, but they're still every bit Alienware, down to the black, sumptuous soft-touch deck and light-up touchpad.
The Alienware laptops aren't the only attractive systems in Dell's portfolio. The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 is a head-turner in its own right, sporting a striking Hibiscus Red soft-touch exterior with lovely geometrical red and black venting along the front and back of the machine.
Alienware has some of the best displays on the market. But man, oh man, the Alienware 13 OLED has raised the bar for all laptops — gaming or otherwise. The glossy panel is one of the most vivid on the market, able to produce a whopping 220 percent of the sRGB gamut. But let's not forget about the 15 and 17, which offer G-Sync technology for silky-smooth graphics.
While Dell's Inspiron 15 7000 has several good qualities, its screen is not one of them. The sub-$1,000 panel can only produce 67 percent of the sRGB gamut with a rather dim 253 nits and poor color accuracy.
Alienware consistently has some of the prettiest keyboards on the market; the RGB backlighting is capable of reproducing 16.8 million colors. Those hues shine brightly, thanks to the company's new lighting-diffusion system.
As far as typing goes, the steel-reinforced TactX keyboards normally average 2.1 millimeters of key travel (1.5 to 2 mm is typical), with 68 grams of required force (higher than 60 grams is good). The 17-inch offering has the best key travel at 2.3 mm, while the 15-inch system serves up an impressive 78 g of actuation.
The Dell Inspiron 15 7000's island-style keyboard isn't too shabby, either. Despite its monotone red-backlit keys, you can still expect an excellent 2.1 mm of travel, with 58 g of actuation.
Alienware has stayed at the forefront of gaming by being among the first to adopt Intel’s Kaby Lake processors and Nvidia’s Pascal graphics. However, the company went above and beyond the rest of the industry by being the first to add an OLED display to its gaming laptop, just as it did on the Alienware 13. Speaking of the 13-inch system, it's currently the smallest VR-ready laptop on the market.
Never one to rest on its laurels, Alienware has adopted VR support across its entire range of laptops, while integrating G-Sync tech and Tobii eye tracking into the 15- and 17-inch notebooks. Continued support for the Alienware Graphics Amplifier means that you can add the latest VR-ready graphics even to older systems. It’s not a new feature, but the broad support across several models is still unique, and it opens up new experiences, saving you from having to frequently replace your laptop for the latest and greatest.
Alienware's AlienCommand hub offers one of the most robust suites of gaming software i on the market. Launching AlienCommand gives you access to AlienFX, one of our favorite keyboard-customization tools, with options to select color and lighting effects in multiple regions of your system. The TactX tool allows you to map commands to your macro keys.
AlienAdrenaline lets you create custom game modes, monitor system performance and adjust your graphics amp (provided you have one). And if your power settings need a tweak, AlienFusion will meet those demands.
Alienware Sound Center helps your kills and pwns, letting you amplify the sounds of enemy footsteps. It also comes with audio presets, just for specific genres, so gunshots in Shooters sound as strong as victory music in Role Playing titles. You can use Audio Launchpad to map audio to your keyboard for playback during streams.
Alienware machines that feature Tobii Eye Tracking, such as the Alienware 17, include the EyeX software. Not only does this technology allow you to control certain games (many, but not all) with your eyes, it also lets you set preferences, including dimming your display when you walk away.
Dell laptops don't offer as many bells and whistles. The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 only has Nvidia GeForce Experience. However, that includes Game Optimization for tweaking performance settings and Battery Boost to eke out every last minute of juice.
Selection and Customization (5/5)
They may not have the thinnest or most powerful gaming laptops on the market, but with notebooks starting at well under $1,000 and the freedom to choose almost any component you could ever want, Dell and Alienware have some of the best selection and customization options of any gaming laptop brand.
Highlights include the Alienware 13 with its spectacular OLED display and the Alienware 17 with its optional Tobii eye-tracking hardware. Customers also get the freedom of moving up to Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics, 32GB of RAM and dual storage drives on the Alienware 17, not to mention the system's overclockable Intel Core i7-7820HK CPU. On the flip side, Dell's Inspiron 15 7000 is a fantastic option for gamers on a budget who want something that can play AAA games without breaking the bank.
Alienware and Dell laptops come with a standard one-year, limited warranty. If your laptop is an Alienware, this warranty includes on-site service when the system needs repair, but if it's a Dell, the company pays for shipping, and you send it in.
You can purchase a variety of extended-warranty options with either type of laptop, including accidental damage protection. Upgrading your RAM or storage doesn't void the warranty.