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Alienware m17 review

Alienware m17 review

Alienware m17 01The Alienware m17 is the latest addition to this famous brand’s range – and, as usual, this laptop is eye-catching and not cheap. This rig will set you back $2,699 in the US and £3,009 in the UK, which makes it one of the most expensive gaming laptops we’ve seen.

Is the Alienware m17 worth the huge price, or is this Dell-made machine just too much to be worthwhile? Delve into our Alienware m17 review to find out.

Alienware m17 Review – Design

Alienware laptops are always some of the boldest-looking machines on the market – and that’s no different with the m17.

Alienware m17 07Much of the machine is finished with a soft-touch, matte magnesium alloy that looks and feels superb, and the lid has a smart Alienware logo that lights up with RGB LEDs. The rear is dominated by honeycomb air vents that are surrounded by a thick band of RGB LEDs. The honeycomb pattern returns above the keyboard, in the speaker grilles.

Alienware’s machine is not as garish as previous generations. However, the m17 is still one of the most striking notebooks around at the moment – and it’s available with both black and white finishes.

The design is bolstered by excellent build quality. The base section is very strong, and the lid is pretty robust. The panel does have movement, like any laptop screen, but it doesn’t move much and the desktop itself isn’t affected.

Alienware m17 08The Alienware m17 is strong enough to survive life on the road. However, we’d still recommend using a sleeve – just to protect this expensive machine from surface scuffs and scratches.

Alienware’s machine weighs 2.6kg and is 21mm thick, and both of those figures are good for a 17.3in machine. Even so, the sheer size of a 17.3in machine is going to take up plenty of space in any bag.

The Alienware looks fantastic, feels great, and has solid connectivity. The m17 has three USB 3.1 ports, a Thunderbolt 3 connection, HDMI and mini-DisplayPort output alongside an Alienware Graphics Amplifier connector.

On the inside, it’s got Killer Gigabit Ethernet that runs at a rapid 2.5Gbps – a rarity in gaming laptops and a boon for esports. It’s also got dual-band 802.11ac wireless.

Click here to read our verdict on the best laptops in 2019 for gaming, work and home use!

Alienware m17 Review – Components

Alienware m17 09The Alienware m17 reviewed here relies on an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q graphics core. It’s a version of the chip with reduced clock speeds in order to reduce heat and improve efficiency.

The RTX 2080 Max-Q has the same 2,944 stream processors and 46 ray-tracing cores as the full-power mobile GPU, and it retains the 8GB of memory. However, the original base and boost clocks of 1,380MHz and 1,590MHz have been reduced to 735MHz and 1,095MHz for this version.

It’s still a huge amount of graphics power, and the rest of the specification is impressive. The six-core i7-9750H runs at base and Turbo speeds of 2.6GHz and 4.5GHz, and it’s a known quantity – it’s used in virtually every high-end gaming laptop. That’s no surprise: it has enough power to avoid games bottlenecks with ease and to handle tough work software and everyday applications.

The specification is rounded out by 16GB of memory running at 2,666MHz and a 1TB boot drive that’s actually build from two SSDs in RAID 0.

Of course, Alienware machines are sold with lots of options, so there are many alternatives available for gamers in the US and the UK.

In the US, the model reviewed here costs $2,699. The only model that’s more expensive costs a mighty $4,229, and it includes an eight-core i9-9980HK processor and a 4TB SSD array. It’s enormously expensive and only worth investigating if you need a machine for workstation-level productivity tasks as well as games.

The three additional US models have prices that range between $1,349 and $1,829. They include GTX 1660 Ti graphics cards and RTX 2060 GPUs alongside Core i5 and Core i7 processors. They’re not particularly good value – it’s easy to find laptops with the GTX 1660 Ti and RTX 2060 for less than $1,000 and $1,400 respectively.

UK buyers have eleven different models to choose from. Prices start at £1,449 for laptops with the GTX 1650 GPU, £1,749 for GTX 1660 Ti graphics cards and £1,899 for the RTX 2060. As with the US models, these Alienware m17 rigs are expensive. You’re always going to be able to find these GPUs for less elsewhere.

However, cheaper machines won’t have the same build, screen or ergonomic quality as the Alienware. If that’s important to you, then you may be willing to pay extra for an Alienware.

In addition, on both sides of the pond, components inside these machines can be customised further – if you want more storage or memory, or a different screen, it’s possible.

However, it’s also worth examining how much it would cost to get the same specification as our review model from a different manufacturer – especially if you want the RTX 2080 Max-Q. In the US, there are equivalents available for under $2,500, and in the UK you’re looking at less than £3,000.

Need more news on the latest kit? Click here to check out the latest headlines.

Keyboard and Trackpad

The Alienware m17 has a chiclet keyboard, just like most gaming laptops – and it’s one of the best examples of the form.

The Alienware’s buttons are large, with per-key RGB LEDs, a clear font and anti-ghosting. The keyboard has a numberpad, and it even has four dedicated macro keys – a rarity on a gaming laptop.

The buttons have 1.7mm of travel. That’s a little more than most gaming laptop keyboards, and therefore the buttons hammer down with speed and consistency. They feel rigid and the base is sturdy. Teans the Alienware is easily up to the task of coping with tough, fast-paced gaming.

The only way you’re going to get a keyboard with more travel, speed and rigidity than this is by seeking out a rare machine with mechanical hardware. Even then, however, the difference between the two will be minimal.

The Alienware has a good trackpad too. The buttons are snappy, with a fast, crisp action, and they don’t move down too much. The surface is large and accurate. The Alienware’s pad can be used for gaming, but however a USB mouse remains a better option for anyone who takes their gaming seriously.

Click here for all of our in-depth graphics card reviews – including the RTX 2080 Ti, RTX 2080, RTX 2070 and RTX 2060 and all of the Super cards!

Gaming Performance

1080p gaming benchmarksThe RTX 2080 Max-Q is a very fast GPU that easily trades blows with the full-power RTX 2070 that’s found in many gaming notebooks.

The Alienware’s 1080p minimums across our eight games ranged between 54fps and 84fps. That’s excellent pace. Therefore, It means that any current single-player game will run smoothly on this panel. Therefore, you’ve got enough speed for several years into the future. It’s also enough speed to make sure that any esports game will run at 144fps. That means you’ll get maximum smoothness from the 144Hz panel.

The RTX 2080 Max-Q inside the Alienware m17 also has enough grunt to output to 1440p panels. Therefore it’ll handle VR headsets and some widescreens at lesser resolutions, too. However, you may have to tone down some graphics settings to get the toughest games running smoothly.

What can’t it do? The RTX 2080 Max-Q won’t run a lot of top-tier single-player games at framerates beyond 100fps unless you tone down their graphics settings. That’s a compromise you’ll have to consider if you want to run the toughest games at 144Hz properly. However, it’s not unique to the Alienware m17 – there are virtually no gaming laptops that’ll run every game at those speeds without any graphical adjustments. It won’t handle 4K output either.

The Alienware compared well to the HP Omen 15 and its full-power mobile RTX 2070. The Alienware m17 was a little faster in most benchmarks. It fell behind in a couple of games, and its biggest deficit came in Battlefield V with Ray-Tracing enabled.

The Alienware and its RTX 2080 Max-Q are generally a little quicker than the RTX 2070, although if you’re particularly concerned about Ray-Tracing then we’d advise you opt for a full-power GPU rather than a Max-Q variant.

Head right here for a primer on Ray-Tracing!

Application Performance

application benchmarks

The Alienware opened a lead over the HP Omen 15 in most benchmarks. That HP is the last high-end gaming laptop we saw. However, it paired the same Core i7 CPU as the Alienware with a full-power RTX 2070 mobile GPU.

In Geekbench 4 the Alienware returned single- and multi-core scores of 4,978 and 21,609 – the former score is a little behind the HP, while the latter is faster.

In the newer Geekbench 5 test the Alienware scored 1,154 and 5,937. Both of those results were ahead of the HP machine, with the latter result more than 15% quicker.

The Alienware was quicker in both Cinebench R15 and R20. However, it fell behind in PC Mark 8 and PC Mark 10.

The Alienware m17 isn’t as quick as the HP machine in less-demanding benchmarks. Howewer, in these situations the differences don’t really matter. Therefore, when it comes to Office applications and web browsers, both machines are going to be easily capable.

The Alienware machine opened a lead in trickier tests, like Geekbench 5 and Cinebench. This bodes well. It means that the Alienware will be better in trickier scenarios – like gaming, and tougher work tools like photo- and video-editing software.

The large chassis means that the Alienware well set-up for handling thermal demands. The CPU and GPU peak temperatures of 89°C and 69°C are fine. Therefore the m17 never produced much noise – it churned out a low fan rumble, but that was it. A headset will easily handle it.

Don’t expect much battery life from this machine, however– its application longevity of nearly four hours is reasonable, but it only made it to seventy minutes during a gaming test. Therefore, if you want to get anything serious done on this machine, you’ll have to plug in.

Head here for our full guide to AMD Ryzen 3000 and AMD X570 motherboards

Screen and Sound

The Alienware has a 17.3in screen with a Full HD resolution and a 144Hz refresh rate. That’s a good specification – it’s sharp enough to make games look crisp, and the refresh rate means that single-player games and esports titles will look smooth.

The only thing missing is Nvidia G-Sync, but that’s being used less and less on laptops these days – it’s just not essential when it comes to smooth gameplay.

Alienware’s screen has excellent colours. The panel’s average Delta E of 1.97 is great – it means that human eyes just won’t be able to detect where shades aren’t accurate. The colour temperature is solid too; its 6,818K is close enough to the 6,500K ideal to avoid any problems. And the panel renders 95.2% of the sRGB gamut – more than enough for any game.

That’s great, and the panel’s brightness level of 395cd/m2 is impressive – high enough to handle bright lights and outdoor gaming.

However, the Alienware’s black level of 0.46cd/m2 is too high, and it means that the Alienware’s panel only returns a contrast ratio of 858:1. That means the m17’s panel doesn’t have as much punch or depth as other screens.

It’s not a ruinous issue, however – the brightness, accurate colours and 144Hz refresh rate mean that games look great. It’s just a shame that the contrast isn’t higher, because the Alienware’s panel would have been even more vibrant.

The screen is paired with some of the best speakers available on gaming laptops right now. There’s too much bass initially, but this can be toned down in software – and, once that’s done, the Alienware produces well-balanced, crisp audio with good clarity and volume. A headset will be better, but the speakers here are easily good enough for gaming.

Click here to read all of our latest reviews – including graphics cards, PCs and laptops!

Alienware m17 Review – Conclusion

In conclusion, the Alienware m17 is a high-quality laptop in almost every department. The RTX 2080 Max-Q delivers huge gaming power, the rest of the components are very fast, and the m17’s cooling copes well. The Alienware has a great keyboard and trackpad, outstanding physical design and powerful speakers.

As ever, the Alienware review reveals downsides. The screen contrast isn’t high enough, and in some scenarios the mobile RTX 2070 is faster. As usual, the Alienware is very expensive – if you want these core components and are willing to compromise on design or ergonomics, you can save hundreds of pounds or dollars.

If you do want excellent design and high-quality design throughout, though – and if you’re willing to pay for it – the Alienware m17 is a superb large gaming notebook.

The machine in our Alienware m17 review costs $2,699 in the US and £3,009 in the UKDiscuss our Alienware m17 review on our Facebook and Twitter pages. And, if you need some more inspiration after reading our Alienware m17 review, check out our guide to our favourite laptops or go deep with our ultimate guide to 4K monitors – covering the technology, the terms and our top recommendations!

The Good

  • Fantastic gaming speed
  • Market-leading physical design
  • Good speakers and ergonomics

The Bad

  • Very expensive
  • Not the fastest GPU for Ray-Tracing
  • Screen contrast is too low

The Specs

CPU: 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-9750H
Memory: 16GB 2,666MHz DDR4
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q 8GB
Screen: 17.3in 1,920 x 1,080 IPS 144Hz
Dimensions: 400 x 296 x 21mm
Weight: 2.6kg
Connectivity: Dual-band 802.11ac WiFi, 2.5Gbps Ethernet, Bluetooth 5
Ports: 3 x USB 3.1 Gen 1, 1 x Thunderbolt 3/USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C, 1 x mini-DisplayPort, 1 x HDMI 2.0, 1 x audio jack, 1 x Alienware Graphics Amplifier
Storage: 1TB M.2 SSD
Warranty: 1yr RTB

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Alienware m17

About Author

Mike Jennings

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