- Stellar performance
- Good design and build quality
- Beautiful display
- Good keyboard and touchpad
- Excellent cooling system
- Glossy display surface
Quick TakeThe flagship of Alienware's fleet, the Alienware 18 sports an 18.4" IPS display, factory overclocked Intel Core i7 processor and dual Nvidia graphics cards. You'll have a hard time finding a more impressive gaming notebook ... and even more trouble finding one that's larger.
The largest notebook on the market, the Alienware 18 weighs an impressive 12.2 pounds and measures 2.2 inches thick. This notebook is all about performance; our review configuration includes a factory overclocked Intel Core i7 quad-core processor, 32GB of RAM and dual Nvidia GTX 780M graphics cards. Highlights of this notebook include its beautiful 18.4″ IPS display; performance supremacy for every kind of application; good keyboard and touchpad; AlienFX customizable lighting system; and finally its good speakers.
The Alienware 18’s angled exterior resembles a stealth aircraft. One aspect that stealthiness can’t hide is the physical size of this ‘notebook’ – it makes even 17.3″ notebooks look small. The chassis is 2.25 inches thick and all told weighs north of 12 pounds. It also can’t hide the three massive cooling vents that dominate the back of the chassis. The highest compliment I can give in terms of mobility is that this is still more portable than a desktop. However, the Alienware 18 looks ridiculously huge compared to a typical 13-inch notebook like a Lenovo Ideapad U310 (as pictured below).
Like other Alienware notebooks, the Alienware 18 features the AlienFX customizable LED lighting system. The notebook features several distinct lighting zones; the keyboard itself has four zones. Each zone can be set to pulse or morph between two colors. The system can be fully turned off if desired. It’s entertaining to use and a great way to personalize the looks.
The matte black surfaces have a soft rubberized coating that hides dust and fingerprints well. Aluminum is also used below the display and on the back of the lid. The lid is exceptionally strong with almost no flex; it should protect the lid well during transport. The chassis is also equally free of flex. Fit and finish is excellent; gaps between parts are even and all edges are smoothly finished.
Input and Output Ports
It’s expected that a desktop replacement as large as this one include all the ports you could possibly need. The Alienware 18 has everything from HDMI in/out to dual headphone jacks and a slot-loading optical drive. The font of the notebook is dominated by massive speaker grills while the back is loaded with equally massive heat vents. On the left side you’ll find a Kensington lock slot, AC power jack, HDMI in/out, mini-DisplayPort, two USB 3.0 ports, microphone jack, and two headphone jacks. Flip over to the right side and you’ll see a media card reader, slot-load optical drive, two more USB 3.0 ports and Ethernet.
Screen and Speakers
The standard 18.4″ display – the largest available on any notebook – has a FHD (1920×1080) resolution and glossy surface coating. It uses IPS (In-Plane Switching) technology which allows it to have unlimited viewing angles – the picture remains consistent even if you’re looking in from an angle. The picture quality is beautiful; lively, well-saturated colors and excellent contrast make looking at just about anything enjoyable, especially games and movies. The FHD resolution is great for playing games in high detail and for productivity, using two windows side-by-side.
The sole issue with the display is its glossy surface coating; it acts as a mirror and produces annoying reflections from nearby light sources (especially if they are behind you).
The Alienware 18’s built-in speakers are from Klipsch; they produce noticeably fuller and louder sound than we’re used to seeing on a notebook and even have noticeable bass. They’re certainly good enough to entertain a few guests watching a movie or for gaming. Other ways to get sound out of the Alienware 18 include HDMI, DisplayPort and its two headphone jacks.
The Alienware 18’s full-size keyboard includes a separate numeric keypad and an additional row on the very left side for programming game shortcuts. The keys have LED backlighting which is situated into five separate zones; each zone can be just about any color or turned off completely via the AlienFX lighting system. Like the LED lighting on the chassis, the zones can pulse or morph between two colors as well.
The keys have ample travel for good tactile feedback. They have a soft slightly rubbery feel and are quiet enough for use in an office or library. The actuation pressure to press a key is enough that resting your fingers on them lightly won’t cause a key press. Another positive aspect of this keyboard is their smooth anti-glare finish which should resist wearing well over time. The keyboard layout is as expected. There is no keyboard flex.
The large touchpad has an excellent anti-glare surface and two physical buttons. The buttons are cushioned and quiet with good tactile feedback. The touchpad is also a lighting zone; users can change the lighting color or turn if off via the installed AlienFX application.