[Review] Alienware 17 gaming notebook (Part 1): Design & build, key features

Alienware 17
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Alienware 17
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Alienware is a name synonymous with gaming hardware since 1996 and has been a brand of choice for many gamers both casual and hardcore. In June 2009, Alienware introduced the M17x, its first gaming product since the Dell acquisition. Now Dell’s premium gaming brand, Alienware has continued to churn out gaming notebooks and PCs with its distinctive alien-themed industrial design.

In 2013, Alienware refreshed the M17x with Intel “Haswell” processors and NVIDIA 7 Series GPUs and marketing it as Alienware 17 (M17XR5). Courtesy of Dell Malaysia, I lugged home this high performance gaming notebook, subsequently becoming my gaming companion for several months. Here’s a review.

Alienware 17
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Size comparison to a 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Design and build

Alienware products have always been cutting-edge, over-the-top and loud. And the Alienware 17 is no different. At first glance, it’s a behemoth of a product. In a what-the-hell-is-that-is-that-really-a-notebook sort of way. It’s unmistakably huge. Customers will certainly not complain about it having lack of presence.

Its muscular chiseled lines exude a stealth look that will no doubt up your macho-ness factor several notches. The design language can only be described as an acquired taste. Certainly not boring.

On another note, the Alienware 17 is rock solid in build quality. The magnesium allow chassis holds the anodised aluminium shell steadily together. It’s literally built like a tank, or at least looks the part. You won’t need to worry breaking any part of the notebook due to rigorous gaming because it just feels ‘reinforced’.

Which may also explain its heft. At 4.15kg, it’s a back breaker. I wouldn’t imagine lugging it around on a daily basis. But if you were the Muscles from Brussels, perhaps that wouldn’t pose a problem.

The exterior sports a matte finish, decorated by the trademark glowing alien head on the display lid, accompanied by LED streaks.

In fact, there are LED lights everywhere. Specs show that it has 10 distinctive lighting zones that can be customised with one of 20 colours giving you over 10 trillion lighting combinations. This can be managed by the bundled Alienware Command Centre and AlienFX software. More about this later.

So, the lights are standard feature on the lid, sides, keyboard and entire surface of the large trackpad.

The Alienware 17 has a dual front-facing speaker configuration offering 5.1 performance with Dolby Home Theatre technology as standard.

On the left side of the chunky notebook are two USB 3.0 SuperSpeed ports, HDMI, Mini DisplayPort, 3.5mm audio jack for line-out and line-in for microphones.

On the right is a slot-loading optical drive, 7-in-1 multi-format memory card reader, RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet port and two additional USB ports.

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Key features

There are three available configurations for the Alienware 17.

The display is a 17.3-inch WLED FHD (1920×1080) anti-glare matt display rated at 300 Nit. For around RM500 more, you can opt for a 17.3-inch 120Hz WLED FHD TrueLife 400 Nit display with 3D bundle.

Powering the gaming notebook is none other than the latest 4th Generation Core i-4900MQ processor with 6MB cache, and up to 4.0Ghz with Intel Turbo Boost. Dell has not skimped on RAM, packing in 16GB of dual-channel DDR3L RAM rated at 1600Mhz.

For storage, a single 750GB 7,200rpm SATA (6Gb/s) drive and 80GB mSATA for SSD caching comes as standard.

In terms of graphics, the review unit came standard with a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M with 4GB GDDR5. Not complaining.

While we see this less and less in notebooks nowadays, the Alienware 17 includes a slot-loading dual layer Blu-Ray drive (BD-ROM, DVD-RW, CD-RW). It also packs a Full HD 2MP camera with dual digital microphones.

Audio is a two-speaker setup powered by Klipsh.

The keyboard is a conventional keyboard with numeric keypad, separated into four zones with multi-coloured RGB lights controlled by AlienFX. There are additional four user-programmable keys providing personalised functions per application or game.

The trackpad is backlit with all-points addressable (APA).

Software wise, the Alienware 17 comes with Windows 8.1 (64-bit) and also bundled with a suite of Alienware software to customise your Alienware experience.

[button link=”http://www.vernonchan.com/2014/03/review-alienware-17-gaming-notebook-part-2-performance-pros-cons-verdict/”]Continued in Part 2[/button]

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