Alienware 17 review

Does Radeon do a gaming laptop good?

Alienware 17 review
Alienware 17 review

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Save for the latest and greatest mobile GPU from AMD, there is nothing different between this version of the Alienware 17 and its Nvidia-toting counterparts. So, its bag-bulging dimensions and weight should surprise exactly no one.

You're looking at one beast of a mobile gaming rig here, measuring 16.3 x 11.8 x 1.8 1.9 inches (W x D x H) and weighing a hefty 9.15 pounds. The Asus G750JX comes in at an equally wide (but thinner) 16.15 x 12.5 x 0.66 1.9 inches, but tips the scale at 10.5 pounds. Naturally, the MSI GS70 Stealth is the slimmest of the bunch, at 16.5 x 11.3 x 0.85 inches and 5.7 pounds.

Keep in mind that the MSI model lacks the Blu-ray drive found in both the Alienware and Asus units. But lets see what Alienware manages to squeeze into such a bulky 17.3-inch laptop, compared with the slightly slimmer competition.

Alienware 17 review

This is the Alienware 17 configuration sent to TechRadar:

Spec sheet

  • CPU: 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-4700MQ (quad-core, 6MB cache, up to 3.4GHz with Turbo Boost)
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon HD R9 M290X (4GB GDDR5 RAM); Intel HD Graphics 4600
  • RAM: 16GB DDR3L (2x 8GB at 1600MHz)
  • Screen: 17.3-inch, 1920 x 1080 WLED, Anti-Glare Display
  • Storage: 256GB mSATA SSD; 1TB HDD at 5400 rpm
  • Optical drive: Slot-loading, Blu-ray reader (9.5mm, dual layer)
  • Ports: 4 USB 3.0 ports (one with PowerShare), HDMI 1.4 (1.3 input), RJ-45 Ethernet, mini-Display Port, 2 ⅛-inch audio out ports (one compatible with inline mic headset), ⅛-inch line-in Microphone port (available for 5.1 analog audio output), Kensington security lock slot
  • Connectivity: Broadcom 4352 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.0
  • Camera: FHD, 2-MP webcam
  • Weight: 9.15 pounds
  • Size: 16.3 x 11.8 x 1.8 1.9 inches (W x D x H)

This is just about the base configuration available for the AMD variant of the Alienware 17, and it calls for a steep $2,449 (about £1,457, AU$2,644). That might seem like a borderline insane amount of cash to drop even on a product this jam-packed with high-end hardware, but consider what else you're paying for. (You can swap in a 500GB, 5400 rpm hard drive with an 8GB solid-state cache to knock the price down to a base $2,149, or about £1,279, AU$2,320.)

Alienware crafts one of the most premium builds in the gaming laptop world, and offers one year of phone support – plus in-home servicing – for its machines. Asus supplies a year of 24/7 phone support, whereas MSI provides neither (though, it does throw you a 2-year warranty).

Alienware 17 review

The most photogenic laptop ever? It's damn close, at least

Both the GS70 Stealth and G750JX are Nvidia-based systems, but since AMD isn't terribly common in the mobile PC gaming world, I'll have to make due. (Plus, it makes for an interesting comparison.) First up is Asus, which can sport comparable components for $2,274 (about £1,353, AU$2,455) – or $175 less than this Alienware 17 – on Amazon.

That gets you a near-identical 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-4700HQ chip, a whopping 24GB of RAM and a similar 128GB SSD coupled with a 1TB mechanical drive alongside an Nvidia GeForce GTX 780M with 4GB of video memory behind an FHD panel. This setup also nets you a Blu-ray drive for parity with the Alienware at hand, but you're also stuck with Windows 8.1. (Alienware offers the choice of either Windows 7 or 8.1; this unit came running the former.)

As for MSI, a similarly configured GS70 Stealth – also available on Amazon – goes for even less at $1,805 (around £1,074, AU$1,948). That price nets the exact CPU found in this Alienware, 16GB of RAM, a lower-power GeForce GTX 765M with 2GB of video RAM, and a similar 256GB SSD (two 128GB units in RAID) and 1TB, 7200 rpm HDD combo. This is all behind an FHD screen as well, but again, no Windows 7 option.

Alienware 17 review

What the Alienware 17 has above both of these systems is 802.11ac networking, which could prove vital in the coming years, especially in online gaming. But let's see how well this Alienware fares pushing the present's pixels first.

Joe Osborne

Joe Osborne is the Senior Technology Editor at Insider Inc. His role is to leads the technology coverage team for the Business Insider Shopping team, facilitating expert reviews, comprehensive buying guides, snap deals news and more. Previously, Joe was TechRadar's US computing editor, leading reviews of everything from gaming PCs to internal components and accessories. In his spare time, Joe is a renowned Dungeons and Dragons dungeon master – and arguably the nicest man in tech.