It’s described as “Alienware’s most powerful 17-inch gaming laptop”, one that’s specifically “designed for VR.” But what does that actually mean? What do you get inside a machine that, at its cheapest, has a £1,600 price tag?
As with most Dell machines, the Alienware 17 is customisable — you can specify the GPU, screen resolution, amount of RAM, and so on. There are four off-the-shelf models in the UK you can use as a starting point, all of them powered by a 7th generation Intel® Core™ i7-7700HQ processor (clocked at up to 3.8GHz with Intel® Turbo Boost).
While the entry-level Dell Alienware 17 comes with a 17.3 inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS display, you can upgrade it in two ways. You can add Tobii Eye-tracking to its high-def talents, a technology currently supported by over 100 games including Elite: Dangerous and Assassin’s Creed: Origins. Or you can upgrade to eye-tracking and boost the resolution, opting for an Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) IPS panel.
“For games and movies, the screen on the Alienware 17 R4 looks fantastic from every angle,” writes TechRadar in its review, “largely as a result of the the anti-glare, ‘matte’-style glass used on the display. It’s crisp and colorful and doesn’t appear as washed out as other panels like it.”
Looking under the Alienware 17’s magnesium alloy hood, the Core i7-7700HQ CPU can be paired with up to 32GB of DDR4 memory plus storage options that range from a basic 128GB M.2 SSD and 1TB HDD combo to a 3TB triple-play that puts together a 1TB PCIe SSD (boot), 1TB PCIe SSD and a 1TB SATA HDD (both for storage).
In terms of graphics, your choices start at a 6GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 and go all the way up to an 8GB GTX 1080. Either will be powerful enough to play the latest games and power VR experiences like Star Trek: Bridge Crew and Vacation Simulator.
Taking its cues from a desktop PC
Taking its cues from a desktop PC, most of the key connections are located at the back. These include the Mini DisplayPort, HDMI 2.0, Thunderbolt 3/USB-C and the Alienware Graphics Amplifier interface (allowing you to plug in any single full-length, double-wide, desktop graphics card.) Three USB 3.0 slots are located on the laptop’s left and right edges.
As you might expect, the Dell Alienware 17 isn’t a small machine. It measures a chunky 29.9 x 424 x 332 mm and tips the scales at 4.42 kg. A 68Whr battery (99 Whr is available as an optional upgrade) can support up to 10 hours of battery life. But this machine also shines elsewhere too. In this case, literally…
Glowing alien heads…
“The TactX keyboard and software give you a decent amount of control over the keyboard zone lighting, racing stripe illumination, and of course the glowing alien heads,” says CNET, “which adds the visual zip. More important, the updates over the previous model include more venting and better airflow, necessary given the components you can stick into the top-end model.”
Fast, powerful, flexible and customisable (the AlienFX lighting system uses 20 different colors to create over 80 quadrillion unique themes…), the Dell Alienware 17 is serious bit of kit with a serious price tag to match. It’s arguably worth every penny.