Like most gaming laptop manufacturers Alienware has updated their line-up to take advantage of Nvidia’s excellent GeForce 10 series graphics chips. Significantly faster than their predecessors, GeForce 10 mobile chips are as capable as their desktop counterparts, which makes modern gaming laptops first-class citizens. If you’ve steered clear of mobile gaming machines in the past due to performance concerns, now is the time to jump right in.
For 2016-2017, Alienware has stuck with a simple gaming laptop selection which we appreciate. There are just three models on the market: the Alienware 13, the Alienware 15, and the Alienware 17. As you can guess, the key difference between these products is the display size, though the larger models tend to have more powerful internals as well.
Up for review today is the latest Alienware 15, which sits in the middle from both a size and price perspective. The Alienware 15 is fully configurable with a wide range of hardware, with prices ranging from $1,350 for the base model to $2,700 for the top-spec system. Regardless of what model you choose, you’ll be receiving the same chassis with a 15.6-inch display.
The model we received for testing is close to the basic model which is actually well equipped for the price. Inside is a Core i7-6700HQ processor, 16GB of RAM, a GeForce GTX 1060, and a 256GB SSD combined with a 1TB hard drive. The display is 1080p, although there is a 4K option. You can purchase this model for $1,574.99 from Dell.
For gamers who desire more performance in the same form factor, the Alienware 15 is also available with a GeForce GTX 1070 inside. This option adds $225 onto the price and should boost frame rates by around 40 percent.
Like many of Alienware’s past laptops, the Alienware 15 is a massive unit. At 25.4mm thick it’s similar in thickness to other 15-inch gaming laptops, however the interesting hinge assembly that’s set back several inches from the rear edge adds considerably to the size of the unit. The Alienware 15 is also very heavy: at 3.49kg (7.7 pounds) it’s more than 1kg heavier than its some of its competitors, and that’s partially due to a massive cooling solution and a larger-than-average battery.
The size of the Alienware 15 is immediately apparent in the amount of bezel around the 15.6-inch display, particularly along the bottom edge. This is a design trend that many other gaming laptop manufacturers use, but it’s not one I’m a fan of, as slimmer bezels create a more attractive design. With only a few minor alterations, the Alienware 15 could have included a 17-inch display in chassis that’s no larger.
The angular chassis is complemented by Alienware’s signature Y-shaped lid design, complete with the alien head logo. Aside from the silver metal lid, most of the Alienware 15 is constructed from soft-touch black plastic, which looks slick and gives the laptop a clean look. This is one of the better-looking gaming laptops I’ve reviewed, as Alienware has toned down the level of terrible ‘gamer style’ that tends to plague these systems. It is, however, a fingerprint magnet.
Of course, the Alienware 15 only lacks ‘gamer’ elements when you turn off the ludicrous amount of LED lighting around its body. This laptop features 12 multi-color lighting zones: four in the keyboard, four on the edges of the base and lid, one for each alien head logo, one for the large Alienware text, and one for the entire trackpad surface. You can customize each of these zones with whatever color you want, which allows for a decent level of personalization, and with so many LEDs you certainly won’t be left out of current PC gaming design trends.
While I’m typically not a fan of gamers just putting LEDs wherever they can possibly fit them, the Alienware 15’s LED lighting is mostly quite tasteful, so long as you use a decent color scheme. The laptop also looks great in a stealth mode of sorts, with all the LEDs disabled.
The Alienware 15’s heavy build is sturdy, and includes a smooth yet stable hinge that exhibits only slight wobble when tapped. There is a small amount of flex in the lid, however the chassis seems strong enough to resist damage from any transportation. For the most part, though, I expect this beast of a laptop will stay tethered to a desk.
To accommodate the beastly cooling solution in this laptop, the base sits several millimeters above your desk on plastic stands. Along the bottom of the Alienware 15 is a massive array of cooling vents that intake air, exhausting out through two large heatsinks along the rear edge. There are two additional vents to assist with cooling as well: an intake on the right edge, and an exhaust on the left edge. The front edge is occupied by above average but not spectacular laptop speakers; at least they are loud.
The ports on the Alienware 15 have been cleverly arranged for using this laptop primarily at a desk. Along the back edge are ports you’d normally leave connected, such as the proprietary power connector, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI 2.0, mini-DisplayPort 1.2 and the proprietary Graphics Amplifier port. There’s also a single USB Type-C port that supports Thunderbolt 3 on the rear.
The left side is where you’ll find an additional USB-C port, although this port only supports USB 3.0. There’s also a Type-A USB 3.0 port and two audio jacks on this edge, positioned for peripherals you might want more frequent access to. On the right edge is an additional USB 3.0 Type-A port, which leaves the Alienware 15 with only two full-sized USB ports. When combined with the USB-C ports this should be enough for most users.
There’s one other key feature on the Alienware 15 that makes it stand out from other gaming laptops: full Windows Hello support through a depth-sensing facial recognition webcam above the display. Windows 10’s facial recognition is fast and accurate, making this a fantastic way to secure your laptop. Raise the lid of the Alienware 15 and you’ll be logged in and ready for action essentially instantly.