Alienware 17 (2015) review

Getting the gaming laptop-desktop hybrid right

Alienware 17
Alienware 17

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The Alienware 17 is an impressive refinement for this series of gaming laptops. Not only is it thinner, it's more powerful, thanks to a new Nvidia Maxwell GPU. At the same time, Alienware has knocked its first gaming laptop-desktop hybrid out of the park with a machine that's only boosted by its GPU box buddy, not set up to rely on it.

We liked

Although you're looking at spending $3,049 (£2,581, AU$4,547) for the full experience, the Alienware 17 is one of those few outrageously priced gaming laptops that's actually worth it. It comes with a high-end configuration with two of Nvidia's best graphics modules and, most importantly, it just works right out of the box.

The Alienware 17 is a fully capable gaming machine and, with the added power of an Nvidia GTX 980 inside the Amplifier, you won't run into a game you can't play on Ultra settings for a long time. And when you do, you can easily swap out the desktop GPU for a newer model. Alienware even says they're working on adding support for Nvidia's latest monster card, the Titan X.

We disliked - subhed

For all the added flexibility Alienware has added by going with a proprietary connection, the Graphics Amplifier simply does not bring the same level of added performance as MSI's GamingDock for the GS30 Shadow.

It seems the four-pin connector simply does not offer the same graphical throughput as a traditional 16-pin connector. Alienware also seems to still be working out some bugs, especially with GPU driver updates so be prepared to run into situations in which you can't run games or times when you will need to diagnose your system.

Final verdict

Alienware has done the gaming laptop-desktop hybrid right with an even leaner 17-inch monster and its accompanying Graphics Amplifier. The laptop itself is a completely self-contained gaming machine, and things only get even better with connecting the GPU box. The ability to use the screen, plus not needing to plug in a keyboard and mouse makes it a much more sensible solution than the MSI GS30 Shadow. And if you're looking for something smaller, the Alienware 13 also works with the Graphics Amplifier.

The Aorus X7 Pro proves to offer just as much, if not more performance into a tighter package, thanks to its dual Nvidia GTX 970M chips. But in the long run, Alienware 17 owners will be able to upgrade the desktop GPU inside of the Graphics Amplifier for years to come. With the X7 Pro, what you bought is what you'll have until you ultimately upgrade to another laptop. Alienware also trumps Aorus' thin 17-inch laptop with a more attractive screen, longer battery life and quieter fans.

Over 3,000 bucks is a lot to pay for a gaming laptop, and you can just as easily build a killer desktop for the same amount of money. But the Alienware 17 is an equally amazing portable package than any serious gaming PC of today could hope to be. It's one of the best 17.3-inch gaming laptops I've ever tested, and the Graphics Amplifier opens up the system to even more demanding games and upgrades for the future.

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.