That's one small step for gamers, one giant leap for Alienware. All right, maybe the Alienware m17 (starting at $1,499; $3,579 as tested) isn't as monumental as the moon landing, but decked out in the company's new Legend design, the latest iteration looks downright intergalactic. This system is more than elegant good looks, however; an overclockable Intel Core i9 CPU and Nvidia RTX GPU make the m17 a certified powerhouse. Based on our testing, this is one of the best gaming laptops you can buy.
Alienware m17 Pricing and Availability
The base model of the Alienware m17 starts at $1,499 and offers a 2.4-GHz Intel Core i5-9300H CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB M.2 PCIe SSD, an Intel UHD 630 Graphics GPU and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GPU with 6GB of VRAM. As of this writing, the m17 is on sale for $1,399 to start.
The $2,199 model is a midtier build and has a 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-9750H CPU with 16GB of RAM, a 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD, an Intel UHD 630 Graphics GPU and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q GPU with 8GB of VRAM.
I had a blast reviewing the $3,579 model of the Alienware m17. Beneath that slim chassis lies a 2.4-GHz Intel Core i9-9980HK processor with 16GB of RAM, two 512GB M.2 PCIe SSDs in RAID 0 configuration, an Intel UHD 630 Graphics GPU and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q GPU with 8GB of VRAM. If you need more storage, the $4,699 model has 4TB to spare.
Decked out in the company's Lunar Light, the m17 is alluring, yet mysterious in a the-truth-is-out-there sort of way. The slight pearlescence of the white paint is just a few steps away from giving off a light fluorescence.
It's intriguing -- so intriguing, in fact, that I'm willing to risk potential face huggers and other hostile alien life just to run my fingers across the painted aluminum lid and let my fingers linger on the glowing alien head and raised lines that form the number 17. The hinge and rear portion of the laptop are done in a simple black, with the latter sporting a honeycomb pattern lined with a customizable LED strip.
You'll find more of that hexagonal pattern along the laptop's Lunar Light undercarriage. And while it's definitely nice to look at, its real function is to act as a venting output for the m17's massive fans. If white isn't your cup of tea, you can always go for Dark Side of the Moon, which is quite fetching in its own right.
Opening the m17 gives you more of that lovely Lunar White, as the entire deck is coated in the stuff. And even better, it's got a lovely soft-touch finish that felt great against my palms. The keyboard sits in a slight recess between more honeycomb vents and the touchpad. Although they're nowhere as slim as the Dell XPS 15's InfinityEdge bezels, the m17's are plenty slim for a gaming laptop. The hinge houses a rather refined take on Tobii's eye tracker, using a slim, elongated oval instead of the large rectangle from previous iterations. The system's front lip is made of glossy black plastic with room for a pair of speakers.
At 5.7 pounds, the 15.7 x 11.6 x 0.7~0.8 inch Alienware m17 is one of the lighter 17-inch gaming laptops on the market. It definitely weighs less than the Razer Blade Pro 17 (6.1 pounds, 15.6 x 10.2 x 0.8 inches) and the Lenovo Legion Y740 (6.6 pounds, 16.2 x 12 x 0.9 inches). However, the MSI GS75 Stealth (15.6 x 10.2 x 0.7 inches) continues to hold the crown at a mere 5 pounds.
The m17 is a battlestation that comes with plenty of ports. On the right, you have two USB 3.1 Type-A ports, with another on the left, as well as an expandable Gigabit Ethernet jack and a headset jack.
Despite its matte, anti-glare coating, the m17's 17.3-inch, 1920 x 1080 display serves up bright, dramatic color with sharp detail. While watching the trailer for Queen & Slim, I was surprised by the visibility of the various bumps and ridges in the painted brick wall that served as a background for a photo of the titular characters. As far as color, actors Jodie Turner-Smith's and Daniel Kaluuya's brown skin absolutely gleamed against their clothes -- hers a faux tiger-stripe slip dress and his a cranberry velour jumpsuit.
I took a minute to stop and smell the postapocalyptic verbenas during my Far Cry New Dawn play-through. That's to a super bloom of sorts; the world is covered in this bright-pink flower, which immediately drew my eye as I crept my way through a river, trying not to alert the hostile Highwaymen to my position. Every step in the clear water issued a realistic ripple that refracted the sun's rays at different angles.
The panel's vivaciousness wasn't too much of a surprise, as it reproduced 140% of the sRGB gamut. That's much better than the 122% and 109% that the Lenovo Legion Y740 and the Razer Blade Pro 17 delivered, respectively. However, the m17's result fell short of the 146% premium-gaming-laptop average and the MSI GS75 Stealth's 161%.
But when it comes to display brightness, the m17 is the king of the castle, averaging 395 nits. The GS75 Stealth was a distant second, at 339 nits, with the category average (289 nits), Blade Pro 17 (267 nits) and Legion Y740 (247 nits) bringing up the rear.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Alienware m17's Chiclet-style keyboard is absolutely massive, with generous spacing between the keys and plenty of room for a number pad with about an inch of space leftover on the sides. The white keys greatly enhance the colored backlighting of the LED-lit keys and make it easier to see when you're typing in a dim setting.
Speaking of those colorful keys, you can customize them in the Alienware Command Center under the FX hub. Though you still have 16.8 million colors to play with, you have only six zones not counting the two alien heads and the rear vent. I'm hoping the next iteration of the software will let you tweak individual keys.
The keys have 1.4 millimeters of travel, which is just below our 1.5-mm preference. But the 79 grams of actuation force (we prefer 60 g minimum) needed to depress the keys definitely made up for that. The result was a somewhat mushy, but still comfortable, key feel. Reaching 72 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, I slightly surpassed my usual 70-wpm typing average.
The 3.1 x 4.1-inch glass precision-point touchpad felt and worked great. The bottom corners were nice and clicky, while the rest of the pad performed Windows 10 gestures -- like pinching to zoom, launching Action Center and scrolling through recent apps -- with unfettered ease.
Gaming, Graphics and VR
Unleash the beast! The m17 harnesses the power of an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q GPU with 8GB of VRAM. It also has an integrated Intel UHD 630 Graphics GPU for when you're not saving the world or rebuilding it. After cobbling together a saw cannon in Far Cry New Dawn, I made my way toward a nest of Highwaymen. I launched my first saw into an explosive barrel, sending several enemies flying in different directions, at a swift 94 frames per second on Ultra at 1920 x 1080.
The laptop also held its own on our synthetic benchmarks, reaching 102 fps on the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark, handily beating the 64-fps premium-gaming-laptop average. Equipped with their own 2080 Max-Q GPUs, the Lenovo Legion Y740, MSI GS75 Stealth and Razer Blade Pro 17 hit 64, 65 and 72 fps, respectively.
During the Hitman test, the m17 obtained 111 fps, but the Blade Pro wasn't too far off, with 110 fps. Both scores were enough to top the 105-fps category average, as the Legion Y740 also did. However, the GS75 Stealth fell short of the mark, at 96 fps.
When we ran the Grand Theft Auto V test, the m17 achieved 82 fps, which was enough to stave off the Stealth (77 fps) as well as the Y740 and the average (78 fps). However, the Blade Pro was the winner of this dustup, with 92 fps.
The m17 delivered 100 fps on the Middle-earth: Shadow of War test, beating the 91-fps average and the 65 fps put up by the Y740. But the Blade Pro managed to hit 106 fps.
During the Far Cry New Day test, the m17 produced 94 fps, topping the Blade Pro's 81 fps and the 88-fps average.
And, in case you're wondering what this machine will manage if you're in the mood to get virtual, the m17 maxed out the SteamVR Performance test at 11, matching its competitors and besting the 10.9 average.
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Yes, the Alienware m17 is a gaming beast, but that doesn't mean it's one-dimensional. Thanks to its overclockable 2.4-GHz Intel Core i9-9980HK processor with 16GB of RAM, this bad boy can crunch numbers, stream videos and multitask with the best of them. The laptop barely broke a sweat when I opened 40 Google Chrome tabs with Far Cry New Dawn running in the background.
The laptop held up similarly well on the synthetic tests like Geekbench 4.3, where the m17 scored 30,267, easily surpassing the 20,571 premium-gaming-laptop average. The MSI GS75 Stealth and the Lenovo Legion Y740, with their respective Intel Core i7-7850H CPUs, notched 20,843 and 22,287. The Razer Blade Pro 17, with its Intel Core i7-9750H CPU, obtained 19,217.
The m17 took only 6 minutes and 55 seconds to transcode a 4K video to 1080p, which is faster than the 9:45 average. The Y740 clocked 9:30, while the Blade Pro and Stealth posted times of 10:39 and 11:00, respectively.
During the File Transfer test, the m17's pair of 512GB M.2 PCIe SSDs in RAID 0 configurations duplicated 4.97GB of multimedia files in 5 seconds. That's a transfer rate of 1017.9 MBps, which is more than enough to defeat the 750.3-MBps average. The Stealth (512GB NVMe SSD) and the Y740 (256GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD) notched 848 MBps and 363 MBps, respectively. The Blade Pro and its dual 512GB PCIe NVMe SSDs produced an impressive 1272.3 MBps.
Alienware has once again teamed with Tobii to add the latter company's eye-tracking sensor. Located prominently in the hinge, the tracker allows you to control the computer using only your eyes. After a quick calibration session, a clear blob showed up wherever I happened to be looking on the display.
The technology has myriad uses. For the 143 games that currently support eye tracking, it can be used to control the camera, aim or put your character into cover. For instance, when playing Shadow of the Tomb Raider, I adjusted the camera with a glance. Once I settled on a target, a prolonged stare brought up the aiming reticle, so all I had to do was press the shoot or grenade buttons.
You can also use Tobii when streaming on Twitch, so your viewers can watch your lightning-fast reflexes as you mow down enemies.
Tobii also works as a power-and-productivity utility. You can not only wake your laptop with just a look but also set the technology to dim the display when you aren't looking. Tobii also can function as a mouse of sorts, with the ability to launch apps or appear wherever you look, like a regular cursor.
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Gaming laptops this powerful typically don't have long battery life, and the m17 is no different. However, it is one of the longest-lasting in its class. The laptop lasted 4 hours on the Laptop Mag battery test, which consists of continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. The Razer Blade Pro 17, Lenovo Legion Y740 and MSI GS75 Stealth were all below the 3:17 premium-laptop average, with times of 3:12, 2:30 and 2:29, respectively.
Heat is a constant battle gaming laptop makersfight. How do you keep those powerful components cool enough for optimal performance? Alienware's solution is its Cryo-Tech 3.0 technology, which boasts bigger, more powerful fans. They're a little loud, but man do they keep this baby cool. I typed the majority of this review with the notebook resting comfortably in my lap, and the fans actually made my knees chilly.
After 15 minutes of playing a YouTube video, the touchpad, middle and bottom measured 82, 90 and 94 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. The lower-left vent was the hottest point on the system, registering 98 degrees, which is only several degrees above our comfort threshold.
Things were noticeably warmer during my 15-minute Far Cry New Dawn play-through. Thetouchpad hit 91 degrees, and the center of the keyboard and the undercarriage registered 119 and 114 degrees, respectively. And while the air buffeting my legs was definitely warm, it wasn't uncomfortable even when I went on to play for another hour with the system in my lap.
Nice color, fuzzy details. The m17's 720p webcam managed to accurately capture my skin tone and my mustard shirt. It had a bit of trouble capturing the blues and purples in my locks, however. The detail didn't fare as well, as my test shots were full of visual noise, to the point where my couch looked gray when it actually has black and white striations.
Software and Warranty
Alienware's collection of branded software makes an appearance on the m17, including Update, which ensures that the BIOS, drivers and firmware are up to date. Digital Delivery keeps your software updated. Mobile Connect lets you shuttle files between your phone and your laptop, as well as access apps like Lyft from your desktop. Alienware Command Center aggregates your games and allows you to create macros and overclock your system.
And, of course, you still have Alienware Command Center, which, in addition to letting you customize your lighting setup, aggregates your games and allows you to overclock the CPU and GPU and control the fan speed.
Killer Control Center and Nvidia GeForce Experience are the most useful of the third-party apps, allowing you to prioritize network bandwidth and optimize your games' settings for gameplay.
In terms of third-party apps, there's a host of Windows 10 bloatware, such as Asphalt Street Storm Racing, Seekers Notes: Hidden Mystery, and Candy Crush Saga. The Alienware m17 comes with a one-year hardware service warranty with on-site/in-home service. See how Alienware fared in our annual Best and Worst Brands and Best and Worst Gaming Brands special reports.
Alienware put a whole lotta laptop into a relatively slim, lightweight package. The m17 comes out of the box swinging with an overclockable Intel Core i9 processor and an Nvidia RTX 2080 Max-Q GPU, which all but guarantees the system will be a powerhouse. Impressive battery life (for a gaming laptop) and a speedy SSD only sweeten the pot, while Alienware's new showstopping Legend design is an emphatic nod to the future.
However, $3,579 for our test configuration can make even the most avid gamer pause. To get the most bang for your buck, we recommend opting for the $2,199 config, which gets you a 9th Gen Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and a powerful RTX 2070 Max-Q GPU.
The $2,999 MSI GS75 Stealth is a slightly more affordable option that's lighter and slimmer than the m17 and has a more vivid display and similar specs. But if you want the very best power and performance, the Alienware m17 is the clear choice.