Externally and internally, the Alienware 17 covers the expected specifications for a top gaming laptop. Our review unit was based on Dell’s midrange configuration and built with a 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-4710HQ processor and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M graphics card.
The GTX 980M demonstrated its credentials as a reliable dedicated graphics card during benchmarking from our colleagues at Laptop Mag. In “BioShock Infinite” at Ultra graphics settings and a resolution of 1920 x 1080, the review unit had an average frame rate of 70 frames per second (fps). During graphics benchmark 3DMark Fire Strike, the laptop produced a score of 8,234 points. Usually, games need a frame rate of at least 30 fps in order to be playable without visual slowdown, and as such, the 980M has the overhead to handle standard gaming at high-definition graphics settings without performance issues.
Dell’s graphics upgrade options provide additional flexibility for the gaming laptop. For more demanding buyers, Alienware’s Graphics Amplifier is an optional peripheral that includes a desktop-level graphics card and additional connectivity options. The Amplifier’s dimensions of 16.1 x 7.3 x 6.8 inches potentially limit the Alienware’s portability, but it can be a useful add-on for professional users and enthusiast gamers.
Our laptop’s 1920 x 1080 display performed consistently in our benchmarking. The screen’s brightness mark of 253 nits was close to our category average of 276 nits, and it handled games and basic web browsing with ease. The laptop’s Core i7 processor also produced marks in line with comparable high-end Intel processors in benchmark test Geekbench 3.
Physically, the Alienware isn’t the most portable laptop, but its build quality is relatively consistent. The laptop’s rubberized interior and customizable LED lighting give it a durable feel, and the body has none of the flex typically found in cheaply made computers. Still, in Laptop’s hands-on testing, heat circulation was a concern for the Alienware. After 15 minute sessions of video streaming and gaming, the middle of the keyboard had respective temperature marks of 102 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Alienware 17 doesn’t necessarily have much of a wow factor, but its strengths lie in its consistency. With solid specifications and graphics card options, the Alienware has the performance ceiling needed to reliably handle demanding PC games.