Alienware 17 review

Michael Passingham
5 Sep 2014
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT

Solid performance and superb build make the Alienware 17 a good gaming laptop


The Alienware 17 is a gaming laptop festooned with lots of lovely flashing lights. It also uses the high-end AMD R9 M290X graphics processor (GPU), which has a maximum clock speed 900MHz and 4GB of GDDR5 graphics memory. It doesn’t have the outright power to rival the mighty GeForce GTX 880M GPU, but it is cheaper. In our Dirt Showdown benchmark tests the Alienware 17 produced an average frame rate of 109fps at a resolution of 1,280x720 with graphics quality set to High; at a 1,920x1,080 resolution with graphics settings set to Ultra, the Alienware 17 managed 71fps. Both are very good scores.

In our Crysis 3 benchmark, with graphics quality set to High, the Alienware 17 produced an average 29fps. That’s just about playable, but we’ve seen better frame rates from laptops imbued with the GeForce GTX 880M, such as the Schenker XMG P504, which produced an average 45.2fps. However, it’s worth remembering that the Alienware 17 is a good £200 cheaper than the XMG P504.

The Alienware 17’s graphics benchmark results were most similar to those of the Scan 3XS Graphite LG156, which uses a GeForce GTX 860M. The Graphite LG156 produced frame rates of 104.7fps at a resolution of 1,280x720 with High graphics quality and 89 frames per second at 1,920x1,080 with Ultra graphics quality.

Our Alienware 17 review sample drew its processing power from a quad-core Intel Core i7-4710MQ, which has a base clock speed of 2.5GHz and a Turbo Boost speed of 3.5GHz. This was paired with 16GB of memory, which is more than ample for a gaming laptop. This is a good combination, and the Alienware 17 scored 95 overall in our PC benchmarks, which is a great result and only 5 points off the score of our reference desktop chip. This is a powerful laptop that’ll run video- and photo-editing applications just as well as games.

The Alienware 17 is a handsome machine, too. While its glaring lights might not be to everyone's taste, they do give the laptop a unique look, and you can turn them off if you dislike them. Two lights can be found on the silver lid, and around the edge of the chunky chassis there are two more lighting strips which taper off at the front edge. Each of the lights can be customised using Alienware's extensive Command Center application. The only light which can't be changed is embedded in the charger, which stubbornly remains blue no matter what settings you've applied to the rest of the laptop. This will undoubtedly irritate aesthetically conscious gamers, especially those who are representing clan colours.

Four USB3 ports are present, with two on the left and two on the right. There are also HDMI and Mini DisplayPort graphics outputs, too. Three 3.5mm audio jacks can be found on the left, with an input, an output and a combined headset jack. There’s a built-in Wi-Fi adaptor, as you’d expect, but the Alienware 17’s is an 802.11ac adaptor, which means you’ll benefit from higher Wi-Fi speeds if you connect to a compatible router. Should you prefer a wired connection to your network there’s also a gigabit Ethernet port.

Optical drives are increasingly uncommon on all laptops, even gaming laptops, so it’s good to see a DVD writer installed on the Alienware 17, although we think it should’ve been a Blu-ray drive considering the price. It’s a slot-loading model, though, which is neat and a real bonus for us. A 3-in-1 SD card reader completes the Alienware 17's set of ports.

Sadly, our review sample only came with a 500GB hybrid hard disk rather than an SSD or a combination of drives, although you can specify a separate SSD and a mechanical hard disk should you prefer such a setup. Opting for a more expensive model with an SSD would be a wise choice if you want to ensure peak performance and quicker loading times.

Overall, the chassis’ build quality is faultless, which is a rarity even among the most expensive gaming laptops. Our only complaint is that while the device does get slightly thinner towards the front edge, it's still thick, which means your wrists are elevated off the desk by at least 3cm.

The backlit keyboard is also worthy of praise. Each key is ever so slightly cratered which aids accurate button presses, and the tactile feedback is excellent. The touchpad, which will rarely find use among gamers, is also fairly responsive, although it doesn't support two-fingered scrolling by default; you must enable this via Control Panel or the Alienware Command Center.

The Alienware 17’s 17.3-inch, Full HD display is excellent too, and it performed well in both our subjective viewing tests and our calibration tests. Images are sharp and bright and, thanks to 90 per cent sRGB gamut coverage, colours are vivid. We measured a contrast ratio of 755:1, which is lower than we’d like, but overall image quality was pleasing and certainly above average for a laptop.

Battery life will be a minor concern if you’re buying a gaming laptop, but even so, the Alienware 17 lasted for a respectable four hours in our battery test, which is tremendously good for such a machine.

The Alienware 17 is an exceptionally well-built laptop that oozes quality throughout. This quality comes at the expense of a little performance, though, and the Alienware 17 isn’t hugely more powerful than cheaper laptops such as the £900 Scan 3XS Graphite LG156. However, the Alienware 17 does have a bigger screen than the 3XS Graphite LG156, a better chassis, a longer-lasting battery and a one-year next-day onsite warranty. If you want to save money and can live with a 15.6in screen, then get the Scan 3XS Graphite LG156. Otherwise, the Alienware 17 is a desirable laptop that’ll make many users very happy.

Core specs
ProcessorQuad-core 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-4710MQ
Memory slots (free)2(0)
Max memory32GB
Sound3.5mm microphone, headphone and headset ports
Pointing deviceTouchpad
Screen size17.3in
Screen resolution1,920x1,080
Graphics adaptorAMD Radeon R9 M290X
Graphics outputsDisplayPort, HDMI
Graphics memory4GB
Total storage500GB hybrid hard disk
Optical drive typeDVD writer
Ports and expansion
USB ports4x USB3
Networking802.11ac Wi-Fi, gigabit Ethernet
Memory card readerSD, SDHC, MMC
Other portsNone
Operating systemWindows 8.1
Operating system restore optionRestore partition
Buying information
Parts and labour warrantyOne-year onsite
Price inc VAT£1,449
Part numberN00AW702