Alienware X17 Gaming Laptop Review – Nip tuck

The all new Alienware x17 gaming laptop looks a hell of a lot like its predecessor the m17 R4 went to the best plastic surgeon in town and got an excellent nip tuck in all the right places. Every line straightened, corner sharpened, booty tightened to make one of the most gorgeous gaming laptops ever created. 

Starting at $3,400 AUD, the x17 makes no compromises in spite of its slimmer appearance. You get the latest 11th Gen Intel CPU’s, Nvidia GeForce RTX-30-series, a ton of ports, mesmerizing RGB lighting and possibly the best mechanical keyboard on a laptop. 

Alienware x17 Gaming Laptop Review

If you’ve seen any of Alienware’s recent laptops, then the x17 will be instantly recognizable. As I said, it looks like the m17 but better in every way. The differences are subtle but noticeable. The x17 is just a little bit thinner at 0.82″ and the profile is now flat compared to the m17 which was thinner at the front and thicker towards the back. This makes the x17 look much slimmer than it really is. 

The chassis is built from the same high-quality materials but weirdly enough, the x17 is slightly heavier than the m17. The other notable difference is in the color scheme. Unlike the m17, the x17 comes in only one two-tone colorway; Luna light on the outside with black sides and interior keyboard deck. I love the way this looks as it gives the x17 a classy, futuristic vibe (if it didn’t already look futuristic)

One unwelcome change is the removal of all ports from the sides of the chassis. Instead, all IO is at the back of the x17 surrounded by the signature oblong RGB strip. The sides now have exhaust vents that take up almost half of each side and while this looks really sexy, it got rather frustrating constantly getting up to reach around the back all the time just to plug in a USB device or cable. 

A great selection of ports lives on the slimmer rear end of the Alienware x17

Even more annoying is the power port is on the side of the laptop instead of the back which makes for some horrendous cable management and placement scenarios. Why Alienware didn’t keep it on the back with the rest is beyond me. And rightfully so since the back is packed with great variety of ports including 2x USB Type-C, 2x USB Type-A, HDMI 2.1, Mini-DisplayPort 1.4, a Micro SD Card and RJ 45 Ethernet. 

Looking at the inside, Alienware has changed a few things from the m17, the most notable being the all-new Cherry MX mechanical keyboard. The new keyboard drops the number pad which some might miss. I personally hate those keyboards which are cramped to make room so the x17 is fine for me. Typing on the x17 was a revelation for me. I’ve used a few other laptop mechanical keyboards and they all sucked. 

This one is way, way better. The keys are delightfully crispy to type on and produce that click we all associate with mechanical keyboards. Despite being low profile, it has 1.5mm of key travel which feels responsive and satisfying with each press. to type on. The m17 had always been my favorite laptop keyboard and yet somehow, Alienware has managed to outdo that one. 

The touchpad also has customisable RGB lighting now

Of course, the keys are all individually backlit by Alienware’s excellent AlienFX lighting and you can customise it all you want via the Alienware Command Center. But one caveat here is that even with this great lighting, Alienware chose to leave out illuminated secondary key functions which is a nightmare when trying to use it in the dark. 

The touchpad is fine. I’ve been ruined by the massive, magical wonder that MacBook Pro touchpads are and this one could have been bigger given the size of the x17. It’s responsive enough but most people will immediately plug in an external. And if you get the x17 with an RTX 3080, you’ll also get the RGB illuminated touch pad which I can’t see why anyone would need for any practical purpose but I can’t deny it’s pretty damn cool.

Other welcome features are the webcam and IR camera for Windows Hello support. Using your face to log is always nice but I found the x17 too hit and miss in recognizing me. But then again, I was too lazy to rescan my face and besides, entering a 4-digit pin isn’t terribly hard. 

Looking up at the screen, you get the option of a 17.3″, FHD 165Hz or 360Hz and a 4K UHD IPS panel. Surprisingly, no QHD 165Hz panels which is a downright atrocity in my mind. My review unit came with the FHD 360Hz which I still think is pointless for most games as even the 160W Nvidia Geforce RTX 3080 GPU can’t achieve those framerates in most modern titles. There are a few exceptions like Valorant or CS:GO that will reach those framerates though.

In any case, the G-Sync compatibility ensures everything remains crystal clear with no stuttering or ghosting during play. Even though the display is rated for only 100% sRGB, to my eye colors were vibrant and pleasing. If you want the best picture quality, you’ll have to pay the piper for the 4K panel which boasts HDR, 500-nits of brightness and 100% Adobe RGB.

Performance as expected

The name Alienware is synonymous with performance and that remains true with the x17 which chewed through all my tests with ease. My test unit was configured with a Core i9-11900HK, a 160W RTX 3080, 32GB of DDR4X memory and a fast 1Tb SSD in RAID 0. The charts below spell it out but suffice to say, you won’t be complaining about everyday performance. 


The same carries through to games where the x17 enthusiastically run all my games at the native 1080p with highest settings well above 100fps and over 60fps with RTX On. That’s still way under the screens native refresh of 360Hz and I’d much prefer a sharper QHD 165Hz panel at this 17″ size. 

The slimmer x17 does get hot under sustained load where I recorded temperatures averaging in the low to mid 80’s for both CPU and GPU which isn’t too bad for a gaming laptop. Alienware says they improved the design of the cooling system with better fans and thermal compounds but my x17 was clearly hotter than the m17 which averaged mid 70’s. This also meant very loud fans but I never noticed any degradation in performance over time. 

Speaking of power, the x17’s battery is unfortunately unable to keep the laptop alive for more than two hours of normal use. This is to be expected with a laptop running such a high refresh display with G-Sync. But even manually deactivating the Nvidia GPU didn’t result in better numbers during my testing so you will have to keep the obnoxiously large power brick nearby. I swear that thing weighs as much as the laptop.

Verdict

So back to where we started. The Alienware x17 is in many ways a better machine than the m17 but the two are not supposed to compete with each other. It seems Alienware took a leaf from Razer with its Blade 15 Base and Blade 15 Advanced models. You pay premium for the slimmer model with higher specs but ultimately, I’m not sure you should. I love the x17 and would take it over a similarly spec’d m17 if the prices matched. However, I suspect most people will end up buying the cheaper model which isn’t a bad thing because either way, you get a fantastic laptop. 

Alienware x17 R1 Gaming Laptop
LIKE
Absolutely stunning Alienware design
Unquestionable gaming performance
Fantastic mechanical keyboard
Still one of the best laptop RGB implementations
DISLIKE
Lacking ports on sides makes for inconvenience
Abysmal battery life
Absurdly heavy power brick
9
Nip, tuck, awesome

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Kizito Katawongahttp://www.medium.com/@katawonga
Kizzy is our Tech Editor. He's a total nerd with design sensibilities who's always on the hunt for the latest, greatest and sexiest tech that enhances our work and play. When he's not testing the latest gadgets or trying to listen to his three whirlwind daughters, Kizzy likes to sink deep into a good story-driven single player game.

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