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Alienware 17 review: Beauty and beast in one gorgeous gaming notebook

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal | June 12, 2014
Dell completely redesigned its Alienware gaming laptop line in 2013, debuting new, sleek-looking chasses at E3. The Alienware 17 sports curves where there used to be lines, lines where there used to be nothing, and steel-gray, anodized aluminum and magnesium alloy where there used to be rubbery plastic. This machine also has a customizable 10-zone lighting system, which is a huge draw for visual nerds like me.

Dell completely redesigned its Alienware gaming laptop line in 2013, debuting new, sleek-looking chasses at E3. The Alienware 17 sports curves where there used to be lines, lines where there used to be nothing, and steel-gray, anodized aluminum and magnesium alloy where there used to be rubbery plastic. This machine also has a customizable 10-zone lighting system, which is a huge draw for visual nerds like me.

Granted, we saw this redesign last June. We'll forgive the retread, though, because this is a gaming notebook, and it's what's on the inside that really counts.

On that score, this 2014 Alienware 17 is one of the first laptops to ship with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 880M graphics card, which has 8 — yes, 8GB of GDDR5 memory. That's 8GB of dedicated RAM just for your graphics card. And that's not all: Nvidia's 800M series GPUs also have several new gamer-oriented features, including Battery Boost and ShadowPlay. Battery Boost is a battery-saving mode that can reportedly extend your gaming time up to twice as long. ShadowPlay is game-capture software that lets you record your best battles.

Like any high-end gaming laptop, the Alienware 17 is packed with other sweet specs, including a fourth-generation Intel Core i7-4910MQ processor (overclocked to 4.1 GHz), 16GB of DDR3/1600 memory, a 256GB solid-state boot drive for fast startup, and a 1TB/5400rpm hard drive for mass storage.

The notebook also has built-in Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, and a gigabit ethernet port, as well as a slot-loading Blu-ray reader and four USB 3.0 ports. Our review model came with Windows 7 Home Premium. You can order a Alienware 17 with Windows 8.1 on Dell's website, but be aware that this unit is not equipped with a touchscreen.

As configured, our review model cost $3385, with online discounts reducing it to $2968. That price tag puts it about in the middle of the pack of high-end gaming notebooks, with Origin's EON 17-S going for $3480 (same GPU, an Intel Extreme Edition processor, 16GB of memory, and dual SSDs in RAID), and MSI's GT60 Dominator Pro priced at $2400 (same GPU, a slightly slower CPU, and 16GB of RAM).

Performance: Excellent

The Alienware 17 performed very well in our tests, blowing away most of the laptops we've tested, and holding its own in the desktop realm. The notebook delivered a Notebook WorldBench 9 score of 122, meaning it's 22-percent faster than our base testing model (Dell's XPS 15, which is powered by an Intel Core i7-4702HQ processor and Nvidia's GeForce GT 750M).

That makes the Alienware 17 the best performer we've tested so far on WorldBench 9. It's almost 13 percent faster than our second-best performer, the Asus G750JH Gaming Notebook, which has an i7-4700HQ processor, 16GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 780M graphics card.

 

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