Alienware 17 (2015) review

Getting the gaming laptop-desktop hybrid right

Alienware 17
Alienware 17

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Going with a thinner design hasn't just given the new Alienware 17 a sleeker profile measuring 16.93 x 11.49 x 1.35 inches or 430 x 291 x 34 mm (W x D x H), it's also helped cut the weight down to 8.33 pounds (3.78 kg). Comparatively, the 2014 model weighed in at 9.15 pounds (4.15 kg) and came in at 1.9-inches (48 mm) thick. However, no matter how thin this new 17-inch laptop is, slinging around a device of such considerable size will still require you to pick up a new bag from Alienware or a third-party company such as Slappa bags.

Gigabyte has outdone itself squeezing in an immensely powerful gaming laptop into a 0.9-inch (22 mm) frame with the Aorus X7 Pro. The X7 Pro still has a considerably large footprint that measures 12- by 6.85-inches (304 by 173 mm), but at 6.6 pounds (2.99 kg) it's much easier to carry around.

The MSI GS30 Shadow is in a whole other size category, being a 13-inch mobile computing rig, but if portability is what you seek than this 2.65-pound (1.2 kg) machine is your best bet. Just keep in mind that while it has a small 12.59 x 8.93 x 0.77 inch (319 x 226 x 19 mm) frame, this machine can't truly game on its own with just the on-board Intel Iris graphics.

Alienware 17 review

Here is the Alienware 17 configuration given to TechRadar for review:

Spec sheet

  • CPU: 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-4710HQ (quad-core, 6MB cache, up to 3.5GHz with Turbo Boost)
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M (4GB GDDR5 RAM), Intel HD Graphics 4600
  • RAM: 16GB DDR3L (1,600MHz)
  • Screen: 17.3 inch, 1,920 x 1,080 IPS anti-glare display
  • Storage: 256 GB M.2 SATA SSD + 1TB HDD (7,200 rpm)
  • Ports: 4 x USB 3.0 ports (1 x with PowerShare Technology), SD card reader mini DisplayPort, HDMI, Headphone jack, Microphone jack, Ethernet, Alienware Graphics Amplifier Port
  • Connectivity: Killer 1525 802.11ac 2x2 WiFi + Bluetooth 4.1
  • Camera: 2MP Full HD webcam
  • Weight: 8.33 pounds (3.78 kg)
  • Size: 16.93 x 11.49 x 1.35 inches (W x D x H) (430 x 291 x 34 mm)

And here is the Alienware Graphics Amplifier configuration given to TechRadar for review:

  • GPU capacity: PCIe x16 Slot for desktop graphics card
  • Graphics: PNY XLR8 GeForce GTX 980 with 4GB GDDR5
  • Power supply: Alienware 460 Watt Multi-GPU Approved Power Supply
  • Ports: 4 x USB 3.0, Alienware Graphics Amplifier to Notebook Port
  • Weight: 7.71 pounds (3.5 Kgs.)
  • Dimensions: 7.3 x 16.12 x 6.83 inches (W x D x H) (185 x 409 x 173 mm)

What you're looking at here is an Alienware 17 with a completely bumped up configuration that calls for a steep $3,049 (£2,581). This is no doubt a huge purchase, but keep in mind this price tag includes a faster processor, headier GPU, more storage and RAM, plus the cost of the Graphics Amplifier as well as a Nvidia GTX 980 graphics card.

Oddly enough, the Amplifier does not come as a discounted bundle in Australia. So users living in that region will end up having to for over the full AU$349 price for the Amplifier, plus another AU$699 for an Nvidia GTX 980 card, which brings up the final total to an insane AU$4,547. (Keep in mind this is an example; these GPU boxes can work with Nvidia's more affordable cards like the Nvidia GTX 960.)

Alienware 17 review

Without the optional GPU box, the Alienware 17 with the configuration above rings up for a slightly saner $2,299 (£1,782.19, AU$3,499). For the amount of power you're getting alone, that's actually a sweet deal. The Alienware 17 also starts at $1,499 (£1,298, AU$2,499) for a base configuration consisting of the same processor, a lower-end 3GB Nvidia GTX 970M, 8GB of RAM and only a 1TB hard drive spinning at 5,400rpm.

For what it's worth, the MSI GS30 Shadow is a more affordable gaming laptop-desktop hybrid solution, ducking below the 2,000 clams mark with a $1,899 (£1,200, AU$2,699) price tag. But, keep in mind this price does not include a desktop GPU, though, so you'll have to source your own. Also, be prepared to add a few extra peripherals including a keyboard, gaming mouse and a monitor before you can even think about playing games on the GS30 Shadow.

Aorus X7 Pro is a much simpler, self-contained laptop that comes in one configuration for $2,599 or £2099 (about AU$3,320). The unit offers plenty of power for the price, including a higher-end processor (that the MSI GS30 also comes sporting), dual Nvidia GTX 970M cards working in SLI, plus a massive 512GB SSD and 16GB of RAM.

Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee was a former computing reporter at TechRadar. Kevin is now the SEO Updates Editor at IGN based in New York. He handles all of the best of tech buying guides while also dipping his hand in the entertainment and games evergreen content. Kevin has over eight years of experience in the tech and games publications with previous bylines at Polygon, PC World, and more. Outside of work, Kevin is major movie buff of cult and bad films. He also regularly plays flight & space sim and racing games. IRL he's a fan of archery, axe throwing, and board games.