Unbeatable gaming performance, but it's a hefty beast and boy do those fans roar.
- Incredible gaming performance
- Good screen
- Premium feel
- Fairly heavy
- Very noisy fans
Alienware has built a reputation for producing high-end, lavishly specced but powerful kit. If you're looking at an Alienware machine, the chances are you're not on a tight budget.
And this machine is certainly no exception. If you're hunting for budget gaming, you should probably look away now, because the Alienware 17 R4 is going to set you back over £2,000 for the configuration reviewed here.
So what do you get for the money?
The answer is, quite a lot. The unit we tested here boasted an Intel core i7 7820 HK CPU and an NVidia GTX 1080 graphics card. Both top of the range options providing brains and grunt. A 128GB SSD hosted the operating system (Windows 10 64-bit), with a further 1TB HDD providing the cheap real estate.
Which is all very nice, but that's not really what we meant when we suggested you get a lot for your money. Really there is a lot of ultrabook here. It's 17-inch for a start, which means it's never going to slot neatly into your satchel, but this dwarfs other laptops we've seen with that screen size.
If we're going to get technical, then it's 16.7 x 13.1 x 1.18 inches (or 42.4 x 33.3 x 3cm if you prefer), width, depth and height respectively. That's big and broad, but actually reasonably slim for its specs, thanks to a design note that Dell calls 'hinge forward', where the heat sinks sit at the machine's rear, rather than their usual spot below the keyboard.
That makes it slimmer than it otherwise would be, though it's a far cry from the svelte ASUS ROG Zephyrus with its NVidia Max-Q technology. Still, any reduction in size is to be welcomed in a beast such as this.
It's also incredibly heavy, so much so that the box's built-in handle broke while we were carting it about our office. It comes in at 4.42 kg. You won't be popping down to the local coffee shop with this nonchalently tucked under one arm, nor are you likely to be taking this on the plane for a spot of high-altitude Witcher 3.
And that's probably a good thing, because the Alienware 17 R4 is also loud to the point of incredulity. Fan noise is an affliction which largely goes with the territory when it comes to gaming laptops, but this device takes it to a new extreme, partly because of the design choice to shift the heat sinks to the rear. Make no mistake, when under any form of strain, this beast roars.
So, with those issues laid bare, we'd better hope it can pull some pretty sterling performance to compensate. There, we were certainly not disappointed.
Running the Time Spy benchmarking test from Futuremark, the R4 managed a superlative overall score of 6505. (Of the machines we've seen recently, its nearest rival, the aforementioned ASUS ROG Zephyrus was significantly behind with 5615).
That impressive 6505 broke down into 7073 for its graphics capability, and 4473 for its CPU. In lay terms, that means its CPU is ahead of most of its peers, and its ability to push graphics around a screen is basically unsurpassed by anything short of a Bond villain's wet dream.
To put it simply, you will struggle to find a quicker, more powerful ultrabook or laptop anywhere, and certainly nothing below its price can get close to it.
We also tested it with a real live game, specifically Forza Horizons 3. At 2560 x 1440 resolution with all settings at maximum, we had a beautifully smooth, at times almost photo-realistic experience. The frame rate was mostly in the mid 80s, dipping briefly to the high 60s in dense jungle roads, but certainly it was well above the range where our eyes could detect even the slightest choppiness.
Ergonomically the device is a winner too, with a pleasant, well put together keyboard, and a backlit trackpad which made us more excited than we feel comfortable admitting.
All in all we were left feeling that the Alienware 17 R4 is a bargain. You really do get a lot for your money, in every sense.