Review: Alienware 17 is perfectly good new wine, in a refreshed bottle

Alienware 17 laptops are now available in stores.

Alienware 17 laptops are now available in stores.

The annual refresh of the range-topping Alienware 17 laptop has now landed in stores, and it is a refreshing blend of the roots, with the modern bits generously blended into the mix. And what that results in is an even more improved benchmark device, for gamers.

Choices aplenty

The 2017 line-up of the Alienware 17 laptops available in India consists of three models, with varying specifications.

The entry spec variant runs the 6th generation Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor, 16GB RAM, 512GB solid stage drive (SSD) storage plus a 1TB hard drive, a 17.3-inch Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 resolution) display and the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 (8GB) graphics. This specification is no slouch at all, and is priced at Rs2,07,990 in stores.

The mid-range variant runs the 7th generation Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor, with all other specs remaining the same, and has a Rs2,18,990 sticker price. This is the variant that we are reviewing here.

Then there is the top-line spec, with a Rs2,68,990 price tag, which has even more powerful innards. The processor is the same Intel Core i7-7700HQ, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 (8GB) and the 17.3-inch Full HD display, but this also has 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD as well as a 1TB hard drive.

Graphics performance is where the Alienware 17 truly shines through.

Graphics performance is where the Alienware 17 truly shines through.

Is this the gaming laptop for you?

For starters, this is Alienware’s take on the whole debate about whether a gaming laptop should have a 4K screen or a Full HD resolution display is more than adequate—it is the latter, which still offers the best blend between performance and visual experience. The 17.3-inch display on the Alienware 17 has Full HD (1,920×1,080) resolution. It is bright and sharp, and offers good viewing angles too. This has the brightest display among its rivals, which include the Asus ROG series as well as the HP Omen gaming laptops. This is a very good display for gaming, with considerable amount of details being reproduced well. This IPS screen is expectedly very competent with accurate colour reproduction. There are times when you will feel that the black levels could have been a bit deeper, but that is a very minor observation in the larger scheme of things.

The Alienware 17 is no slouch when it comes to performance. The Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor is paired with 16GB RAM, and a very fast 512GB solid state drive for the operating system. For the rest of your data and game installations, there is a 1TB hard drive too. Windows 10 is preloaded on the device out of the box, and it takes mere seconds for it to boot and be ready for gaming.

Graphics performance is where the Alienware 17 truly shines through—after all, it’s a gaming laptop. It runs the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 (8GB) graphics chip, and this will allow you to play the latest gaming titles at the highest resolution settings and with special effects turned up to maximum, and still get the smoothest visuals and a great gaming experience. In fact, this configuration is capable of VR content, and will work with an Oculus Rift and HTC Vive virtual reality headsets.

When you buy a laptop, which costs this much, you want it to look the part too. Alienware laptops have never had any personality issues, and the 2017 edition of the Alienware 17 is no different. The design language that has always adorned and made Alienware machines look unique, is carried forward with the latest generation too. The gunmetal and grey colour combination remains very much a part of the very recognizable package. However, there are subtle changes which add a touch of modernity to a design that has otherwise been around for a while now. The edges are more rounded, and the lighting inserts on the sides of the lid and the base add some colour too.

A rather unique feature in the Alienware 17 is the Tobii eye tracking. A bunch of sensors sit near the display, and can be configured to let you control certain Windows tasks and be an additional control option for certain games. However, it is unlikely that you’ll regularly use these features just yet, simply because they don’t come naturally as a habit. Some of the games that Tobii works with include Watch Dogs 2 and Tom Clancy’s The Division—there are more than 40 games in total, just in case you want to show off something cool to your friends.

Alienware laptops have never had any personality issues, and the 2017 edition of the Alienware 17 is no different.

Alienware laptops have never had any personality issues, and the 2017 edition of the Alienware 17 is no different.

But what are the compromises?

For a full-fledged gaming laptop, weight is always an issue. This tips the scales at 4.42kg, which means it is nigh impossible to consider lugging this around daily. And the sheer footprint, thanks to the huge screen, just means this is a rather large machine to keep and use.

Battery life is never a strong point of laptops as powerful as the Alienware 17. That rule continues without any proof to the contrary here as well—this will barely last 2 hours on a single charge, if you are very careful with display brightness, for even simple web browsing, music playback, video streaming and document editing tasks.

Is it worth spending on this Alienware laptop?

It costs significantly more than its immediate rivals, but the Alienware 17 does have a lot going for it to justify that premium price tag. Irrespective of which specification you buy, you will get strong performance and certain amount of future-proofing that will hold this expenditure in good stead for the next few years.