Alienware 17 Gaming Notebook Reviewby Dustin Sklavos on September 6, 2013 12:00 PM EST
Alienware has gone back and radically redesigned the chassis of their entire mobile lineup, and it's a difference you can see and feel. Their motif was to capture the difference between the 90s idea of alien technology which informed the previous designs and the modern pop culture idea of alien technology, and amusingly I do think they've found it. The base of the new 17 is bevelled and extends up and out, and illuminated lines ring it.
The lid and much of the shell is now aluminum; there's color-configurable illumination of the Alienware logo and two slits in the panel, as well as an aluminum trim surrounding the body of the notebook. Open it up and the interior is still the same soft touch black plastic we're used to from Alienware.
Gone is the group of shortcut buttons above the keyboard, with media controls now shifted to Fn key combinations. The keycaps and keyboard layout are also changed; the caps are a bit more subtle and still very comfortable, but the keyboard layout is a step back, I think. The document navigation keys have been moved (but are still dedicated, thankfully), replaced with a row of four configurable keys above the number pad. I feel like the essential problem with this placement is that it's not something you even see on desktop gaming keyboards; the old and more traditional layout was, I think, superior.
The new touchpad surface is comfortable and we still have dedicated buttons, but I'm not keen on having the touchpad itself backlit. Alienware went through the trouble of having the backlighting in the keyboard become less obtrusive, so why undermine that decision with a big fat backlit rectangle? It only lights up when you touch it, and it can be disabled entirely (along with all of the configurable lighting as is traditional), but it seems like a waste in the first place. The highlighted touchpad trim on the old chassis was more attractive and more sensible.
The interior of the Alienware 17 remains as sensible as ever, though. The battery is no longer easily user-replaceable, but notebooks like this one seldom spend much time off the mains in the first place. We still get a dual fan cooling system that isolates the CPU and GPU from one another. Honestly, this internal design remains relatively easy to service and upgrade independently, but remember that Dell/Alienware has a bad history of generationally updating BIOSes. There's no reason why the M17x R3 can't use a 680M or 780M, for example, or even an Ivy Bridge CPU, but a lack of BIOS updates made all but the 680M impossible, and that chip requires modified drivers.
Ultimately I'm fond of the Alienware 17 redesign, especially the switch from a glossy display to matte, but I feel like there's still a void in the market where a sleeker, more sophisticated and frankly adult design could exist. Razer is halfway there, but by being unwilling to produce a thicker machine, they're prevented from using the highest end mobile hardware. This redesign is fine and arguably an upgrade from the old chassis, but there's honestly a lot of room for improvement. Alienware really needs to find the happy medium between form and function.
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ddriver - Friday, September 6, 2013 - linkWhat defines being the "king"? I guess it is not performance, since there appear to be faster products?
nathanddrews - Friday, September 6, 2013 - link... and not styling, since Alienware tends to build the ugliest notebooks without fail. That alien head just looks dumb, always has. That is my opinion.
edwd2 - Friday, September 6, 2013 - linkWell, it‘s designed for usually immature, enthusiast gamers who probably would think of it as cool anyway.
bad_code - Monday, September 9, 2013 - linkMust be plenty of immature gamers out there because most people I see are impressed with the looks and lights. Many are older and lots of them younger.
Wolfpup - Tuesday, September 10, 2013 - linkIt's designed for people that want an actual high end notebook (remember those?) that's reliable and can actually be pushed without dying.
macov44 - Sunday, September 8, 2013 - linkTheir success proves you are wrong.
Panickd - Friday, September 13, 2013 - linkBoth Voodoo (tragically bought by HP) and Falcon Northwest were better builders of gaming laptops that Alienware ever was (even before Dell came sniffing around). If I have the money to spend I am spending it with Falcon Northwest everytime. Smaller vendors tend to have a handle on what their buyers want and are more attentive when it comes to service. Plus getting a laptop painted any color you want is just hyper-cool.
Kumouri - Friday, September 6, 2013 - linkI believe in general the king of products would be the one that sells the best, that the most people have.
ddriver - Friday, September 6, 2013 - linkDunno... to me "king" also implies exclusivity, rarity, premium that is usually not the best selling product most of the people have.
kogunniyi - Friday, September 6, 2013 - linkDurability, fit-and-finish, features, and cooling, I imagine. It's not so much that Alienware is particularly competent as that the competition is incompetent.