- Great design and lighting system
- Excellent performance
- Good keyboard and touchpad
- Respectable battery life
- Touchpad surface could be firmer
The Alienware 17 features a new design and the latest technology – a fourth-gen Intel “Haswell” quad-core processor and Nvidia’s new flagship graphics card, the GTX 780M. The 17’s exterior has been redesigned and features a revamped AlienFX LED lighting system. There’s little not to like about this notebook; our full review details all the ins and outs.
Design is a huge selling factor of Alienware notebooks; the M17x has been the definition of futuristic since its inception in 2009. This fifth-generation variant has a redesigned exterior which captures the essence of the previous models while still being every bit Alienware. The first noticeable difference is the front of the chassis; strangely I don’t miss the jet intake-style speaker grilles. The chassis still retains the angles that give Alienware notebooks their “stealth” aircraft appearance.
The design features a number of aluminum additions; the original M17x had plenty of metal, but successive generations have been mostly plastic (although lighter weight). The Alienware 17 has a metal edge around the base of the chassis, a strip below the display and more or less the entire back of the lid.
The rest of the chassis has a “soft touch” rubberized finish which seems to hide dust and fingerprints well. The build quality is as strong as we can imagine; the chassis doesn’t flex period. The lid has plenty of strength; no ripples show when applying pressure to the back of the display. I also like how the display hinge is very stiff; it prevents the display from wobbling when moving the notebook around.
The Alienware 17 is hefty at 9.14 pounds starting and just under two inches thick; it should be managable with the right backpack or bag however.
The AlienFX lighting system has been rethought for the Alienware 17. A variety of LED accents have been added to the back of the lid, the touchpad surface, and there’s even a wraparound LED surrounding the base of the chassis. I think I could write several pages on the extent of customization possible with the AlienFX lighting system. There are dozens of available colors; each lighting zone has its own settings (the keyboard alone is four different lighting zones). The lights can be set to one color or to morph between two colors; even the time it takes to morph between colors is configurable. Different profiles can be set for different games. Overall I’m quite impressed and would certainly make use of it, if only this notebook were my own …
Input and Output Ports
The Alienware 17 is a true desktop replacement; it has everything from USB 3.0 to DisplayPort. The only thing it lacks is an ExpressCard slot, but it’s hard to imagine the need for one given how many ports are included. All picture descriptions are left to right.
Screen and Speakers
The Alienware 17 has a 17.3-inch widescreen display; the model on our review unit has a 1920×1080 resolution and [finally] an anti-glare surface. The picture can change depending on the angle you’re looking at it, as this is an inherent quality of a TN display panel; IPS panels don’t have this problem. Nonetheless the Alienware 17’s display looks great, with good color reproduction and contrast. The anti-glare display surface is especially appreciated – it prevents the annoying glare that glossy displays exhibit. The 1920×1080 resolution shows plenty of detail in games and allows the use of two windows side-by-side.
There are two stereo speakers located below the palm rest; they get plenty loud to entertain a few people in a small room and do so without much distortion; an impressive feat for notebook speakers. There’s noticeable bass as well.
The Alienware 17 features a full-size keyboard with separate numeric keypad. It’s backlit – what color, you ask? How about colors – the keyboard has four distinct lighting zones courtesy of the AlienFX lighting system. The lighting can of course be turned off completely. This keyboard is traditionally-styled and has a great feel; key action is relatively light and has a soft, cushioned feel. Keys make little noise, certainly something that can be appreciated in a meeting or classroom. The keys have a rubberized anti-glare surface which should wear well over time and nicely hides fingerprints and dust. There’s no noticeable flex when pressing keys.
The touchpad is appropriately-sized for a 17.3-inch display. I like the fact it has two physical buttons as opposed to the trendy but hit-and-miss ‘clickpads’ where the entire surface is clickable. The buttons have good action and make almost no noise. The touchpad surface is completely backlit which looks great – it’s the first thing I saw when I initially powered on the Alienware 17. The touchpad’s accuracy is good but not as good as I expected. There’s a slight give in the touchpad surface which means it helps to press down a bit firmer than usual for good tracking.