On a rainy Thursday night, up on the third floor of a pub in Sydney’s CBD, Dell introduced the newest additions to the Alienware range to a few of Australia’s gaming media and bloggers. Previously only seen at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in California, the 14, 17 and 18 inch gaming laptops were playing code from Ubisoft’s upcoming Splinter Cell: Blacklist. We weren’t actually allowed to film or photograph the game but we did get a hands-on with Alienware’s hi-performance gaming laptops.
Here’s the Alienware pitch; three laptops designed for three consumer markets. All three of the laptops boast new designs, anodised aluminium shells, magnesium alloy bodies (over 60% of which are metal) and feature Ethernet technology by Qualcomm’s Killer networks, Klipsch speakers and Dolby Home Theater v4 audio. Inside sit quad-core 4th generation Intel Core i7 processors, DDR3L memory and NVIDIA GeForce 700 series graphics. Though already quite impressive, it’s the difference between the three models that really separate the Alienware laptops from the rest.
The smallest of the three, the Alienware 14, is designed to serve the mobile gamer. It’s lightweight and compact, designed to fit into a backpack or a laptop case for easy travel, and still give the high performance required of a gaming rig. Having been to university as a media student I can vouch that the off-the-shelf laptops with enough grunt to handle graphic and video editing are mighty heavy, but this doesn’t seem as bulky as alternatives on the market.
The specs aren’t too bad either. The 14 inch model features an anti-glare LCD display that, although the lighting conditions weren’t ideal for testing it out, seems to do the job quite well. While playing Blacklist, the graphics were gorgeous, with vivid contrast between light and dark and the game ran pretty smoothly. While the 14 inch screen might not do justice to the type of games you’d play on a dedicated gaming PC, this model seems pretty solid as an on-the-go supplement to your home gaming PC.
The mid-range Alienware 17 will probably prove to be the most popular, designed for the gamer wanting a desktop experience on the go. Specs-wise, it’s comparable to a higher-than average desktop computer, though it’s definitely not as powerful as a gaming rig built from the ground up for the same money. Both the 17 and 18 inch models are capable of supporting four storage drives but apart from an optional 3D panel, there’s really not much to say about this mid-range model.
I played Blacklist with an Xbox controller plugged into the Alienware 17, but tapping away on the keys felt solid; they didn’t feel as plastic as most keyboards do. The whole package feels like it has some weight; the lines look cool and the finish doesn’t feel cheap. Although I’ve always hated using the touchpad, this is a laptop that could probably take some punishment.
Finally, the Alienware 18 is the high-performance beast that (unless you’re super keen) probably won’t leave your house. It’s designed to be the pro-gamer solution to gaming on the go but it feels better suited to being an alternative to a desktop when you just don’t have the space. The Alienware 18 is the heftiest of the three by far and it seems better suited to sitting plugged-in on a desk waiting for you to splice together a screaming goat version of Kanye’s Yeezus album.
The Alienware 18 is not in any way disappointing, in fact, it’s quite impressive what’s gone into the base of this five-and-a-half kilo package. The 18.4 inch display is full high-definition with PLS wide viewing-angle technology to pull the most out of the (standard!) NVIDIA SLI Dual Graphics tech and overclocked CPU option with max speed of 4.3GHz.
Although I didn’t get to push the limits of the hardware, the specs are better than some of the comparable laptops on the market. It’s arguable how often you’ll actually use the bundled Command Centre software to change up your colour scheme although the AlienFX integration that lets games take control over the coloured lights under your keyboard does add a little immersion to your night-long gaming sessions. Overall, the Alienware 18 seems a good choice if you’ve got a thirst for hardcore gaming, not a lot of space for a desktop PC and a little extra cash to burn.
Pricing for the new range includes The Alienware 14 starting from $1499, Alienware 17 from $2499 and Alienware 18 from $3299, all of which are now available online at www.Dell.com.au and will be appearing mid-month at select JB Hi-Fi stores across Australia.