I’ve always recommended more lightweight laptops rather than so much the larger beefier kinds out there. Alienware has already established a warm place in my own heart though, especially since I was a longtime owner of the m11x. Of course the m11x was still considered very lightweight at that time, but through the years, I’ve had less and less interest in laptops over 1” thick.
I’ll admit that I’ve been just a little envious of 17-inch laptops though, but I’ve been hung through to three things: low dpi screens, size and cost. Fix two of these three issues and I could possibly be interested. That’s why when Not long ago i found a heck of a deal on the brand new Alienware 17 R3, I simply had to check it out.
The model I acquired and tested in this article carries a Skylake quad-core processor, Nivida GTX 980M graphics, NVMe storage and a 4K screen. Minus an improved CPU option, this unit is just about the most you can placed into a laptop. After a few weeks of using it, I’ve reached know it quite nicely and all I must say up to now is that I’m really liking it.
Design and exterior
Let’s be clear upon this first – this is simply not a very lightweight machine. But it is pretty somewhat thinner and lighter compared to the old m17x I recall seeing in stores a couple of years back. Weighing just over 8 lbs and being practically an inch . 5 thick, I struggled a bit picking it up with one hand. It’s certainly possible to accomplish though and I’m a bit more at ease given that I’ve had to lug it around my home for the past few weeks. This is something I possibly could certainly live with.
Overall, the construction is very good – about as effective as I remembered with the m11x. It’s mostly plastic, however the lid is made from aluminum. The plastic they thought we would use was high-quality though and feels as though it could have a beating over time. I could certainly see this machine staying clean generally, with exception to the palm rest. Within my short utilization it had been clear to see when my palms were sweaty. Being plastic though, it had been very simple to wipe up and get clean again.
The lid is manufactured with a bit of silver anodized aluminum. The very best strip is plastic and there’s also come cutouts in the aluminum for the lights and the Alienware logo. The logo’s eyes will glow in the same color as the cutouts on the lid, that you’ve multiple different colors from which to choose. The cuts and angles on the lid are incredibly unique, but surprisingly not outrageous in being too flashy. If anything, the lights do this, but you can change them off. Without the Alienware head, you could probably escape with using this notebook professionally, in the event that you wanted.
Opening the lid is a two handed task. The hinge is merely too strong to accomplish it with simply a finger. Underneath, you’ll visit a full layout keyboard and underneath that is clearly a trackpad, which is sort of small for me, but gets the work done. I’ll get more into both of these later. The energy button is situated centrally above the keyboard and the indicator lights can be found on the upper left.
The screen on my model is a matte 4K panel. It’s surrounded by a plastic bezel, which is relatively thin on all of the edges except underneath. Also on underneath may be the Alienware logo, that may also illuminate to whatever color you wish.
Connectivity options are pretty abundant upon this laptop. On the left edge, you have the energy connector, Noble Lock Port, 2x USB 3.0, microphone and headphone. Their placement is quite intuitive and I could utilize them in dark rooms with zero issues.
On the proper hand side, beginning with the back may be the gigabit Ethernet connection. Before that you have an individual USB 3.0 port, accompanied by a USB-C 3.1 port which can be Thunderbolt 3 capable. Finally, there’s a 3-in-1 card reader, which also has a slot cover.
On the trunk edge, you have the exhaust vents on each side for both CPU and GPU. In the guts, there’s also a couple more connections – an HDMI 2.0 port and a particular connection which can be used to add an Alienware Graphics Amplifier.
There aren’t any connections on leading side, but instead there are front facing speakers. That is a welcome departure to bottom facing speakers and makes good usage of all the property they have on leading lip. Along underneath of the speakers there are a few more light effects which can be changed to the colour you desire.
Finally, on underneath, you have the intake vents for both CPU and GPU. In this reviewer’s opinion, Dell did an excellent job with these. They are so big that air couldn’t be blocked by my legs, regardless of how hard I tried. Off aside there’s also a built-in subwoofer, within the center there’s a panel held on by two screws, that could be opened to upgrade the hard disks and RAM.
Keyboard and trackpad
Dell certainly keeps up their good background with keyboards (at least from my experience) with the Alienware 17. The keys are organized very well and so are properly spaced apart. There’s a good amount of space to have proper sized keys, including the right shift and arrow keys, that i really appreciate.
I was immediately in a position to adjust to it and type naturally. After using it for only one hour, I scored a 47 wpm on a typing test, and I typically score 50ish on the keyboards I’m used to. The keys have excellent feedback and good travel. Touch typists must have no issues used to this one.
Like all previous Alienware keyboards, it really is backlit and you have the opportunity to control the colour of the backlighting. It’s nothing like on Razer or MSI devices where you have an incredible number of color choices from the box, but Dell gives a lot of options to pick from and the colors look even through the entire keyboard. Strangely enough, Dell removed white from the colour choices, possibly as the trackpad looked just a little pinkish. But if you’re comfortable editing the config files with a text editor, you can virtually choose white and any other color by editing the colour hex codes.
Unfortunately they neglect a thing that almost every other gaming notebook computer has – the opportunity to disable the Windows key. It’s sort of comical because I literally experienced that feature for a couple of years in the laptops I’ve owned, but haven’t needed it…until now. For reasons uknown I simply can’t stop pressing it on the Alienware 17 and it drove me nuts enough to download Autohotkey to disable it.
The only other notable feature of the keyboard may be the hotkeys located above the NumPad and on the left hand side. You can map each one of these to do just about whatever you want. In addition you have an instant switcher on the left hotkeys that changes their color and switches between profiles. Until you get accustomed to the keyboard, you’ll probably hit that switcher type in host to the Esc a whole lot. Luckily it doesn’t do anything except switch profiles, but if you’re trying to pause in a rush, you may fail.
The trackpad is nothing special really. It’s pretty good, but definitely nothing to brag about. To begin with, I found it sort of small – especially considering there’s so much space for something larger. The buttons are also sort of mushy, nonetheless they work good enough to accomplish what you ought to.
It’s a Synaptics touchpad therefore the drivers and gestures were pretty familiar and I could optimize the settings to my liking. I’m used to buttonless trackpads and I was still in a position to put it to use as though it didn’t have buttons (two finger taps for right clicks work fine). I did so appreciate the buttons on long drags though, so it’s an advantage to have them.
My biggest gripe with the trackpad may be the texture. They could have gone just a little smoother upon this one as it’s a touch too cheap feeling for my taste. I could track properly and initiate multi-touch gestures pretty much generally, but only when i updated the drivers and meddled with the sensitivity settings a whole lot. Long story short, I possibly could live with it.
One added feature, pretty useless in my own view though, may be the trackpad’s backlight, which glows once you touch the top. You can set it to any color, like everyone else can on the keyboard. It’s cool to check out for a couple minutes but I simply don’t see any practical use because of this other than revealing. The trackpad is indeed recessed in to the palm rest that I possibly could not imagine not having the ability to think it is without the backlight on.
The model I received includes a 17.3-inch 3840 x 2160 px resolution panel, created by AU Optronics(part number B173ZAN). I want to come right out and say it – this screen is completely beautiful! It’s not only an IGZO IPS screen with excellent viewing angles, it’s also full gamut, covering 100% of the sRGB spectrum. The colors look absolutely amazing and I officially get back most of my prior opinions on full gamut screens being overkill. That is my new favorite panel.
Looking closely, I couldn’t find any dead pixels or perhaps a hint of backlight bleed. That’s not saying it’s extremely hard though, because a handful of buyers on the forums have complained about minor bleed in the corners. The screen is indeed darned bright though, therefore i can see right now some that are overly sensitive to it could complain a little.
It’s hard to complain about other things though, but easily had to choose anything to improve, I assume it might the matte finish. It’s much less bad as on other Dell monitors I’ve observed in days gone by but it’s still pretty thick. Much less bad as where in fact the image becomes distorted or anything – so don’t worry about this. It’s similar to it’s at the high limit of my safe place.
Again, the display quality is just about the best I’ve seen on a UHD laptop, having exceptional colors right out of your box and good contrast. I took some measurements using my colorimeter and the gamut, of course, measured to be 100% sRGB, 95% NTSC and 99% aRGB. Other specs I measured was a contrast ratio of 640:1, which began to break at around 30-40% brightness not to mention gets crushed at 0% brightness.
Talking about brightness, Dell advertises the panel to be 400-nits. My measurements were pretty close however, not quite that high. It may be the matte finish or the accuracy of the instrument, but I’m still impressed with the results. The utmost brightness measured out to 355 nits and blacks, at that brightness, measured at .56 nits. Outdoors, the screen is correctly viewable in the sunlight, with only minor color washout. I could make make use of it on my pool deck at 1pm without glare issues.
I also checked the brightness distribution, that you can see below. This panel is approximately as evenly lit as I’ve ever measured, so no complaints here. Again, the max was 355, not 400, but it’s still plenty bright enough.