The era of Nvidia Pascal is at hand and it just wouldn't be a party without Alienware. The company has just unveiled the latest versions of the Alienware 15 and 17 laptops and they have undergone some serious changes, including a new keyboard, streamlined design and even some eye-tracking technology. Even better, both laptops will be packing Nvidia's new Pascal GPUs, which means that they'll be the first VR-ready Alienware laptops when they launch on September 30th.
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Lean, Mean Gaming Machines
Typically, Alienware laptops tend to be on the thicker/heavier side of the gaming laptop spectrum, but not this time around. Both the 15 and 17 have shed some of their bulk thanks to what the company is calling its new hinge-forward design.
Now instead of each laptop's backside ending in a smooth silvery finish, a large black compartment juts out with a hinge positioned about an inch forward. The new caboose allowed Alienware to shift the thermal system to the back and make room for the Pascal GPU while shaving off some inches. Both laptops are 20 percent slimmer than last year's models, which makes a huge difference. The new Alienware 17 measures 16.7 x 13.1 x 1.2 inches compared to the previous model (16.9 x 11.5 x 1.4 inches). The new 15 (15.3 x 12 x 1 inches) is also noticeably slimmer than its predecessor (15.2 x 10.6 x 0.9~1.3 inches).
Alienware made a few changes to the chassis's lighting. Don't worry; you still have your light show, but it's a little more demure than in the previous iteration. The two LED strips that previously resided on the anodized aluminum lid have migrated to the sides of the lid, leaving primary shine duty to the glowing alien head. The strips that were mounted along the front of the notebook now reside along the sides.
A majority of the ports, including the USB 3.1 Type-C port, HDMI mini DisplayPort, Gigabit Ethernet and the power jack now, live in that rear compartment sandwiched between the back vents.
When they launch, both the Alienware 15 and 17 will be the first of the company's laptops to feature Nvidia's G-Sync displays. G-Sync technology syncs up the laptop's display rate with the graphics card, in essence, placing a frame cap that allows for instant rendering, nixing any unsightly tearing. When the tech initially debuted last year, Alienware passed, citing battery concerns.
Apparently, there's no issue this time around because the company is outfitting its myriad of displays with the game-enhancing tech. However, I am curious whether Alienware will feature the 75Hz panels or go all out with the 120Hz units. I'm hoping for the latter.
The Alienware 17 will have three IPS panel options when it launches (1920 x 1080, 2560 x 1440 and 3840 x 2160) while the 15 will only offer two choices: FHD and UHD. The company is claiming both systems displays will average 300 nits, but I'm eager to see what our testing turns up.
Alienware has consistently delivered some of my favorite gaming laptop keyboards and it looks like it's maintaining that streak. The company is switching to a new TactX keyboard, which has N-Key rollover functionality. That means that this keyboard can enable over 108 key commands per minute.
The new keyboard also brings a new more sophisticated font as well as slightly more concave caps. Plunking out a few sentences felt as comfortable as ever with the keys cradling my fingertips a bit more than usual. The keys also felt nice and springy, which is probably due to the 2.2 millimeter key travel.
Although pricing for either system has yet to be announced, Alienware did share a few specs. You can get the 17 with either an Intel Core i7 processor or a Core i7 K-model CPU which will allow for overclocking. The notebook will also support up to 32GB of RAM, PCI-e SSDs in conjunction with SATA hard drive options and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPU.
Gamers interested in the Alienware 15 can configure their notebook with either of the Core i7 CPUs or a Core i5 option. Specs for RAM and storage are identical, but the 15-inch can only support the GTX 1070 GPU.
Thanks to Nvidia's 10-series GPUs, every gaming laptop is VR-ready. Just plug in your HTC Vive or Oculus Rift and you're good to go. I had a blast playing Epic Games' crazy Bullet Train demo where I used my crazy teleportation powers to warp around a station and take out waves of hostile agents. There was no latency as I slowed down time, plucked bullets out the air and flung them at my enemies, despite playing on laptop. My finest moment was catching a pair of missiles in mid-air and lobbing them back at the flying robot monstrosity that shot them in the first place.
I know I've talked a lot about the Alienware 15 and 17 a lot in this article. But never fear, the Alienware 13 is on its way. It's scheduled to launch sometime in November and like its bigger brothers, it'll also be 20 percent thinner and feature a Nvidia 10-series GPU. Stay tuned to Laptop for more details.
If you're not a PC gamer, this might be the year to reconsider that stance. If you are a member of the tribe, it's definitely time for an upgrade. The Alienware 15 and 17 are serving up the outlandish design, gorgeous displays and comfortable keyboards we've come to know and love, but added a slimmer chassis and a VR-capable GPU. Although I can't make any lasting judgements until both systems come in for review, I can say that I'm looking forward to benchmarking both and taking full advantage of that G-Sync goodness.
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Sherri L. Smith has been cranking out product reviews for Laptopmag.com since 2011. In that time, she's reviewed more than her share of laptops, tablets, smartphones and everything in between. The resident gamer and audio junkie, Sherri was previously a managing editor for Black Web 2.0 and contributed to BET.Com and Popgadget.