Alienware 18 review

A gaming laptop with not one, but two of the best GPUs around

Alienware 18 review
Alienware 18 review

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The Alienware 18 represents the pinnacle of mobile PC gaming. You'll be hard pressed to find another laptop that can deliver the same amount of performance – let alone one of the same size or that supports dual video cards. One of the few boutique manufacturer-made laptop frames capable of a SLI setup includes Digital Storm's aptly-named Behemoth. Otherwise, there are a few other lesser known brands, like Sager here in the states and 3XS in the UK, that will build a system with a dual GTX 880M setup.

We liked

Having 16GB of video ram split between two video cards in a laptop is bonkers. But I can't say that it does not produce results. Normally, I have to spend the first couple of minutes playing any game tuning it for the right balance between fidelity and frame rate. With the Alienware 18, I felt confident setting everything to "ultra". It's liberating to that know your machine can run almost everything at a full clip, and it better for the scratch.

The Alienware 18 is a statement of high-performance inside and out, with looks that are unique to Alienware's line of machines. There's no way that this rig will be ever mistaken for an oversized workstation or regular laptop. Yes, some of the lights and extra plastic are a bit superfluous, but I must hand it to Alienware for its meticulous craftsmanship.

We disliked

Though there are plenty of things to commend the Alienware 18 for, it isn't perfect. Gamers want to buy a high-end laptop because it will work straight out of the box, and the 18-incher fails in this regard. I had to dive into the settings to enable SLI, a key feature and main reason for buying a machine such as this in the first place. Annoyances also extend to the screen and touchpad. After a week with the machine, I feel Alienware's inputs could use a bit more polish.

The laptop's gargantuan size also makes it nearly impossible to carry without a special-made backpack. After dragging the unit around in a duffel bag – the only thing I had that could fit it save for some rolling luggage – for a just a few hours, I never wanted to take it out ever again.

It's power needs also make it practically unusable for anything other gaming. Beyond the short battery life, the gaming machine's equally massive power brick requires large amounts of voltage, enough to cause sparks to shoot out of every outlet I plugged it into. On one occasion, I was not even able to draw power from a public powerstrip due the the Alienware's extreme energy demands. This is the definitive desktop replacement laptop. (Outside of bringing it to LAN parties and gaming competitions.) And it costs over four grand – that cannot be overstated.

Final verdict

More so than the Alienware 17 and Origin EON17-S, or any gaming laptop in existence, users should think long and hard before picking up an Alienware 18. There are just far too many more affordable and sensible options out there. For roughly the same price, you can build a desktop around an Nvidia Titan part (or two even) and still have enough leftover to build a beastly gaming machine.

At half the price, both of these listed competitors serve up more than enough graphical horsepower to play most games out today. You might have to spend your first moments in-game toning down the settings for the optimal experience, but a more affordable option will leave you with more money in the bank to spend on monitors, peripherals, Doritos or whatever else tickles your fancy.

But those still dead set on getting the most amped up Alienware 18 configuration won't be disappointed. Save for a few easily fixable issues, this 18-inch gaming rig can plow through just about any game you can throw at it. The Alienware 18 remains one of the world's most powerful gaming laptops, but at a prohibitive price.

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.