Technology

Alienware X17 review: pretty pixels for a pretty penny

Alienware did it. Its newest 17.3-inch X17 gaming laptop computer can truly ship an fulfilling 4K gaming expertise.

The final time I checked in on how laptops have been faring with 4K gaming in 2019, issues weren’t trying so scorching. Nvidia’s last-gen RTX 20-series cellular chips couldn’t work laborious sufficient to easily run demanding video games at 4K with out a number of compromises to visible constancy. Happily, issues have modified for the higher this 12 months with the RTX 3080 — particularly, for the X17’s high-powered 16GB VRAM variant.

The X17’s 3080 has a most graphics energy stage of 165W and a increase clock pace of 1,545MHz. That’s actually highly effective for a cellular GPU and near the best quantity of energy that Nvidia permits for its cellular graphics chips. It’s definitely probably the most graphically succesful laptop computer that I’ve examined but.

I’ll get to the efficiency numbers in a sec, nevertheless it’s essential to notice close to the highest that that is one in every of Alienware’s greatest gaming laptops but, and never solely as a result of it whips at gaming. Its X-series design is new for 2021, leading to a slimmer and sleeker look that balances kind and performance higher than most different fashions which have related energy ranges with out foregoing ports (extra on that later). For gaming and different intensive duties, its cooling system is environment friendly, conserving this 17.3-inch 4K beast each cool and surprisingly quiet. And even whenever you’re doing different stuff, the clicky Cherry ultra-low-profile mechanical switches are enjoyable to sort on. It’s a heavy laptop computer that you simply in all probability received’t wish to lug round to many locations, however functionally, the X17 is sort of pretty much as good for work as it’s for gaming.

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Good Stuff

  • It’s so highly effective (but surprisingly quiet and skinny)
  • Loads of ports
  • Improved design over M-series

Unhealthy Stuff

  • The 4K config may be very costly
  • It’s heavy
  • 1440p is sharp sufficient for laptop computer kind issue
  • Trackpad is just too small

Regardless of these glowing remarks, in the event you have been to ask me if you should purchase this particular gaming laptop computer, I’d advise towards it until you’re dead-set on getting a highly effective 17.3-inch gaming laptop computer. It’s a robust promote at its $3,680 asking price, as configured. (I’ll be aware that this related MSI GS76 Stealth configuration prices a whole bunch greater than the X17, however has twice the quantity of RAM. Razer’s latest Blade 17 prices $3,699 and has a 4K/120Hz touchscreen and a extra succesful processor, however has much less storage, as configured, and its GPU isn’t as highly effective.) Additionally, since I obtained this unit for assessment, Alienware has paused on accepting new orders as a result of it must meet up with its provide chain backlog. A spokesperson mentioned Alienware intends to supply it for sale once more sooner or later within the close to future.

To check X17’s gaming efficiency, I ran some titles which have confirmed to be demanding at their highest graphical settings, beginning with Purple Lifeless Redemption 2. At native 4K with out Nvidia’s deep-learning supersampling (DLSS) tech that tends to provide video games a noticeable increase in body charge (by decreasing the render decision and utilizing AI to wash up the picture), it ran at 46 frames per second. With DLSS set to auto and no different settings adjusted, the body charge in 4K went as much as 60 frames per second. Personally, I at all times lean on DLSS as a lot as any recreation will enable me to for these few additional free frames.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s benchmark registered a mean of 55 frames per second with out ray tracing. Once I turned on ray tracing, DLSS dropped it barely to 49 frames per second. Then again, DLSS operating with out the taxing ray tracing bumped it as much as 64 frames per second.

Alienware X17

The design ID is much like the M-series, however the X17 seems extra elegant.

Alienware X17

Taking part in video games like Deathloop on its max graphical settings in 4K is a pleasure on the X17.

Picture by Cameron Faulkner / The Verge

The X17 delivered equally promising outcomes with Doom Everlasting and Deathloop. Each averaged round 55 to 70 frames per second with each doable setting switched to their highest choice. With every recreation’s respective ray tracing settings on, efficiency was nearer to round 50 frames per second, which remains to be phenomenal at this decision. The very best performing of the bunch at 4K was Doom Everlasting with out ray tracing, which typically sailed over 100 frames per second in smaller corridors, dropping to a regular 75 frames per second throughout frantic fights in bigger environments.

These are all very playable body charges, whether or not you resolve to go the ray tracing route or reap the benefits of DLSS in video games that help it. Additionally, because the X17 can run these demanding AAA video games at 4K/60 with out a lot of a wrestle, many different video games that aren’t as demanding ought to have the ability to take full benefit of its 120Hz refresh charge show in native 4K.

I received’t lie: I wasn’t anticipating this sort of dependable efficiency with this technique, not to mention with another type of thin-ish gaming laptop computer. I’ve seen related specs in motion earlier than in different fashions, and I used to be lower than impressed. Whereas Alienware isn’t the primary to make use of a 4K 120Hz show in a gaming laptop computer, or the aforementioned RTX 3080, it earns credit score for cramming all of it in a slim chassis that’s far more highly effective, but in some way quieter and cooler than a few of the competitors.

Alienware X17

The non-obligatory Cherry MX ultra-low profile mechanical switches are a worthy addition, because you’re already spending a ton of this laptop computer.

Digging extra into what the X17 can do with its highly effective parts, its efficiency in Adobe Premiere Professional is as spectacular as you may count on. Throughout our check the place we see how lengthy it takes to churn out a 5-minute, 33-second 4K video, the X17 took three minutes, 22 seconds to get by the export course of. For a extra intensive benchmark, the PugetBench for Premiere Professional scored competitively with equally specced gaming desktops, which is each to be anticipated (and that value) and spectacular. Funnily sufficient, Apple’s M1 Professional and M1 Max-equipped MacBook Execs every handily beat Alienware’s rating, as we famous in our assessment. These outliers apart, you’ll be hard-pressed to seek out this sort of efficiency in lots of different gaming laptops out proper now.

It goes with out saying, then, that the X17 didn’t see my normal workload as a lot of an impediment. I sometimes run about 20 tabs in Microsoft Edge, together with Spotify, Slack, and Affinity Picture, and the X17 didn’t miss a beat. I spotted as soon as that I by accident had round 40 tabs open in minimized Edge home windows, however not even that brought on a noticeable hitch or slowdown.

The Home windows Good day IR webcam right here is nice for logging in hands-free, however in the event you anticipate doing plenty of video calls, the picture high quality is mediocre. The video feed seems satisfactory in the event you’re in good gentle, nevertheless it proved unable to compensate for being rear-lit.

Alienware X17

The Home windows Good day IR webcam is nice at logging you in, however its 720p 1MP sensor doesn’t yield nice outcomes for video chats.

Battery life doesn’t appear to have been a excessive precedence for Alienware because the X17 is primarily geared toward quick desktop-class 4K gaming efficiency whereas plugged in. However it’s not the worst we’ve seen, averaging nearly 4 hours of blended use with the workload that I discussed above. It’d be robust for me to seek out a justification for lugging this heavy laptop computer away from its charger, although. It weighs about seven kilos, and its 330W charger is sort of the dimensions and weight of a literal brick. The excellent news in regards to the energy provide is that it recharges the X17 rapidly, taking simply over an hour to go from about 10 % to full capability.

This X-series chassis is new for 2021, as I discussed earlier than, and it’s typically a optimistic evolution of the bulkier M-series design. It has the corporate’s signature Alienware alien brand as its energy button, and its rear, the place you’ll now discover practically all the ports as a substitute of simply a few of them, seems just like the exhaust of a futuristic spaceship. That’s the place many of the scorching air from the X17’s quad-fan cooling system and the plentiful copper heatsinks is dispelled.

Alienware X17

The fashionable, honeycomb-patterned rear exhaust design derived from the M-series nonetheless seems pretty cool.

In slimming down, Alienware didn’t make any main omissions by way of ports. There are two USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 ports with PD charging (5V/3A), one in every of which is Thunderbolt 4. You even have two USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports, a 2.5-gigabit Ethernet port, an HDMI 2.1 port, a micro SD slot, and a mini DisplayPort 1.4. On the precise facet, there’s a lone headphone jack, and on the left, there’s a plug for the facility cable. Simply in case you have been curious, the X-series gaming laptops, together with the M15 R5 and R6 fashions, don’t have Alienware’s graphics amplifier port, although it ought to help Thunderbolt GPU enclosures — not that this X17 wants any assist in the graphics division.

The 2-toned physique design is a small however appreciated tweak, as are a few areas across the laptop computer the place Alienware softened its look. It rounded off the laptop computer’s corners that have been beforehand angular and, frankly, leaning a little too laborious into the “alien” aesthetic. Although in the event you didn’t just like the look earlier than, your emotions is probably not modified right here.

Alienware X17

Some might dislike that you simply’ll have to succeed in to the again of the X17 to succeed in its ports.

Alienware X17

Alienware will get credit score for cramming a lot of energy into the skinny part of its chassis.

You may normally rely on gaming laptops to deliver the facility, a good show, and perhaps ports, too, however you possibly can’t at all times rely upon getting a good keyboard to go along with it. This model of the X17 contains the ultra-low-profile Cherry mechanical key switches that have been first launched on the M-series, and so they really feel improbable to sort on. They’re quiet for mechanical keys, however they’ve a far more satisfying “thock” really feel than membrane laptop computer keyboards. I’m impressed by what number of highly effective parts Alienware was in a position to cram into the thinnest part of its chassis, which is slightly below 16mm thick (its rear part shoots as much as 22mm), with room to spare for a mechanical keyboard.

The important thing format is intuitive, although some could also be upset that the numpad is lacking. I did encounter the occasional difficulty with the keyboard’s responsiveness. Typically, my first key press wouldn’t register, so I’d have to attempt once more. It didn’t really feel like an n-key rollover difficulty — just a few unusual latency with accepting the primary enter right here and there. There have been different instances when the keyboard would all of a sudden cease accepting any enter in anyway, requiring a restart. It felt just like the type of factor that may be addressed with a patch, nevertheless it’s not an encouraging signal that I’m experiencing it a number of months after this laptop computer grew to become obtainable.

Alienware X17

I’d reasonably have a greater trackpad than one which lights up, nevertheless it’d be higher to have each.

Alienware X17

The X17 lacks the angular edges discovered on the M-series, giving it a extra toned-down look.

One bizarre inclusion with the RTX 3080 is the light-up trackpad that illuminates whenever you contact it, although the sunshine goes out after a few seconds of inactivity. It’s simply for present, however however, it’s a primary trackpad with help for Home windows Precision drivers and gesture customization in Home windows. I’d prefer to see Alienware comply with in Razer and MSI’s footsteps and implement greater trackpads as a substitute of superfluous options like trackpad backlighting. This present one is a little too small, nearly seeming to sign that you must use a devoted mouse as a substitute, which is normally my recommendation with most gaming laptops anyway. Talking of equipment, seize a gaming headset, because the built-in audio system aren’t something particular.

Earlier this 12 months, I heralded the arrival of QHD screens as “the most effective factor to occur to gaming laptops” as a result of I felt a future the place 4K gaming on a laptop computer was commonplace nonetheless appeared far off. I used to be excited as a result of decreasing the decision from 4K to 1440p would imply that video games would nonetheless look superb, but extra moderately priced parts would have the ability to run them, thus driving down the full value of laptops. We now have a rising quantity of highly effective, absolutely featured QHD choices which might be cheaper than 4K laptops and effectively value the associated fee.

That leaves the Alienware X17 in a robust spot. On one hand, there’s nothing like gaming on a large 17.3-inch display screen. The marginally smaller 16-inch 16:10 facet ratio QHD screens that we’re fortunately seeing extra of come shut however don’t fairly really feel as immersive. In that means, there’s definitely a lot of enjoyable available with the extreme display screen actual property and energy provided by the X17.

Moreover, it simply proves its capacity to play 4K video games with finesse and that Alienware’s a little extra critical about enhancing its chassis design. All of that progress is essential, and in the event you’ve been ready for a large, well-designed gaming laptop computer that delivers on the promise of 4K gaming on the go, that is it.

However for most individuals, it’s finally simply too costly. Plus, for the huge quantity of energy and cooling required to energy 4K video games, I simply don’t assume it affords that significantly better of an expertise to warrant the associated fee versus extra inexpensive, but no much less competently designed, laptops with sharp QHD shows. Pocket the remainder of your cash for video games, a headset, a mouse, or a gaming monitor.

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