Alienware 17 review

Does Radeon do a gaming laptop good?

Alienware 17 review
Alienware 17 review

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Before even opening the lid, it's crystal clear that this Alienware 17 is just as premium of a machine as the first edition that released summer 2013. The sole difference here is that shiny Radeon GPU, which is no doubt a powerhouse … after fiddling with switchable graphics and driver issues for hours.

But the onus is on AMD to fix these problems, and it's tough to knock this product down a peg for bugs that could easily be fixed by the time you read this very review. (Though, they're not yet on AMD's list of known issues for its Catalyst software.)

Price per part is the real roadblock that this gaming laptop faces. Sure, you're getting a premium product for that price. But at a back-bending 9.15 pounds, you won't be carting this rig around all too much. Plus, if you're ready to drop over $2,000 on PC gaming, and space is a concern, you might want to consider whether a micro gaming PC is a better path to get there.

We liked

Make no mistake, this is undoubtedly the complete package and then some, offering the glitz and glamor of a boutique gaming PC in the laptop form factor. Not to mention that this AMD graphics chip inches dangerously close to desktop-level performance.

Once past AMD's switchable graphics and driver issues, the differences between this mobile GPU and comparable desktop chips are negligible at 1080p. And that 1920 x 1080 anti-glare panel is a colorful dream of a screen. Set at 300 nits, the panel's brightness came in great handy while hiding from far better pilots in the darkest corners of Titanfall.

Alienware not only designed a gorgeous (if a bit gaudy) machine, but put its immense dimensions to excellent use. On top of a vast selection of inputs, the Alienware 17 keeps its cool quite well while gaming. Thanks in no small part to two massive vents placed in the rear of the device's base, I only felt the area closest to the hinge flare up during play.

We disliked

At the high end, this Alienware 17 will be the most affordable by a long shot for some time, with the GTX 860M-toting model starting at $2,499. Yet I can't help but question the asking price amidst the myriad space-saving desktop options, including Alienware's own X51 desktop. Also, there's a incoming legion of Steam Machines to consider.

While they're issues that are up to AMD to resolve, the company's switchable graphics and driver support solutions are simply not competitive. But again, because they're fixable, in theory, it's tough to punish this device too harshly for that.

Finally, the laptop's gargantuan size makes it tough to type on. Unless you somehow tweak your desk or chair to compensate for the inch-high keyboard deck, you'll be stuck bending your wrists uncomfortably to hit those WASD keys. Slap this laptop on a stand and hook up your own keyboard and mouse if you value your hands.

Final verdict

Save for some nagging (but ultimately fixable) problems, the Alienware 17 is one of the best gaming laptops money can buy. From its sharp metallic and soft-touch build to a host of powerful components, this is a one-stop shop for getting into PC gaming with a single click.

That said, over $2,000 is a fat wad of cash to put up in hopes of avoiding the perceived hassles of PC gaming. And again, if space is a concern, there are plenty of options that offer more power for less, given this isn't a laptop you'll want in your backpack for long.

Given that a 17.3-inch laptop, gaming or not, is a terribly niche product, consider every path before paying over two grand for the toll. Regardless, it's undeniable that this is the best-built mobile gaming PC around. If the fast lane to high quality PC gaming is what you seek, then the Alienware 17 will not steer you wrong.

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.