We have seen a lot of gaming laptops in the last few years but in the end the experience is often quite a compromise when you compare it to a dedicated gaming desktop PC. The latest addition to the gaming market is the Alienware x17 R2 gaming laptop with a massive 17-inch display that promises to deliver a desktop-like gaming experience thanks to not only the large display but the high-end hardware inside.

We gamed on one for a couple of weeks to test out the experience and were surprised with how well it performed. Read on for our full experience.

Design

The Alienware x17 R2 laptop in the Lunar Light colour (the only colour variation available in Australia) is one of the best-looking gaming laptops I have ever seen in person.  The overall shape of it follows the design of the Alienware m15 Ryzen edition we reviewed last year with, aside from the larger laptop and display, is the colour change.  The white case is different and looks great once opened and turned on, with all the lighting on full.

The back of the laptop allows for easy connection to a multitude of ports such that cables connected to side ports may get in the way while gaming – in fast aside from the power socket on one side and a headphone jack on the other side at the very rear, there is not a single port (such as USB etc) on the side of the laptop.  The rear ports are: 

  • Type-C Thunderbolt™4 / USB 3.2 Gen 2 Port, with Power Delivery (5V/3A)
  • 2 x Type-A USB 3.2 Gen 1 Port, with Powershare
  • RJ-45 Killer™ Ethernet E3100 2.5G Port
  • Type-C USB 3.2 Gen 2 Port, with Power Delivery (5V/3A)
  •  HDMI 2.1 Output Port
  • MicroSD Card Slot
  • Mini Display Port 1.4

The Display

Open up the lid of the laptop and you are presented with a massive 17.3-inch display which in our case is a UHD 3840×2160 120Hz, 4ms LCD display with support for NVIDIA G-SYNC.  If you are buying a gaming laptop for fast-paced gaming then this may not be the laptop of choice given the 120Hz refresh rate, which, while decent, is not at the level on many other gaming laptops on the market.  You do have the option to choose a 1920×1080 160Hz 3ms 17.3-inch LCD or a 1920×1080 360Hz 1ms display, both of which are more responsive options – you save money choosing these options too.

The display is plenty bright, with not an issue viewing it in whatever lighting I used it in.  The colours also popped really well with what was great colour reproduction. The contrast seemed great too with deep blacks and colours popping – sure it’s not an AMOLED but this is a gaming laptop and an AMOLED just won’t cut it.

Around the display you have a relatively small bezel – larger than the small XPS bezel but still not massive.  Above the display is the 720P webcam which is just okay and, to be honest, with streaming so popular these days it surprises me they haven’t included a 1080P webcam.  I guess if you are going to be streaming you’ll have to carry your dedicated webcam with you.  The webcam though does support Windows Hello which is great and works fast and accurately and makes up for the lack of a fingerprint sensor anywhere on the laptop.

A Mechanical Keyboard

At first glance, the keyboard on the Alienware x17 R2 is a standard RGB backlit keyboard but use it for a moment and you will be pleasantly surprised.  The keyboard on the review unit is actually an Alienware xSeries mechanical keyboard with per-key RGB LED AlienFX lighting (although this is optional).  The keyboard was co-developed with Cherry and as such the mechanical keyboard delivers 1.8mm of travel with a gaming tactile sensation and sound. The keys are solid with very little wobble in them at all.  The low profile nature of the keyboard also made it relatively easy to type on for extended periods.  

Of course you pay more for the Cherry keyboard but if in doubt it’s only $100 more for it so I’d recommend going for it – it felt great.

As mentioned above you can also use the Alienware AlienFX lighting software to change the lighting of the keyboard on a per key basis – great for PC gaming, especially for me who isn’t dedicated to a single game and likes to have quite a few different games on the go at once.

The touchpad is not massive but it’s a gaming keyboard and how often are you really going to be using it?  It worked well with all the gestures I threw at it which is all you really need in this scenario anyway.

Other hardware

As you’d expect, Alienware’s flagship gaming laptop comes with the latest 12th Gen Intel Core chipset – either i7 or i9 – supported by up to 64GB of DDR5 RAM.  The review unit contained 32GB which in our experience with it was enough without any issues with the vast number of games I threw at it.

Storage options are either 512GB or 1TB M.2 PCIe NVMa SSDs or a 1, 2TB RAID 0 (2 or 4 x 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSDs).  Our laptop had 1TB which is perfect for a review laptop given I normally install a multitude of games to put it through its paces but for everyday use, most people only have a couple games on the go at once (at most) and in that case 512GB should be enough.  The difference in pricing between the two is only $120 upgrading to the 1TB.

A gaming machine is no good if the graphics card is not up to the task.  In the Alienware x17 R2 case there are a few choices of graphics cards, with none of them being a slouch.  Our review unit came with a 16GB NVIDEA GeForce RTX 3080 Ti laptop GPU installed.  Those who don’t need this much power can opt for the 3060 or the 3070 to save on overall pricing.  Each skip in card adds approximately $100 to the price so choose carefully.

The 16GB NVIDEA GeForce RTX 3080 Ti laptop GPU in the review laptop performed as expected with decent benchmarks on those we tested out.  Real world gaming was great without any stuttering or shearing of graphics.

The speakers included are stereo speakers with 2 x 2W tweeters and two woofers at 2W each, 8W in total.  They were loud enough with a fairly good stereo effect.  They would certainly do if you forgot your headphones or didn’t have room to transport them.

The Alienware x17 R2 got hot while gaming on it so I wouldn’t recommend gaming on it on your lap while wearing shorts — who does that anyway?  There are four (loud) fans underneath along with a “gallium-silicone thermal interface material” included along with many options in the Alienware software to limit heat production but if you run this laptop at full power for a fast-paced game then it is going to get hot.  The heat seems to be standard for all gaming laptops I’ve tested so this is nothing out of the ordinary.

Alienware makes it easy to change the lighting of each RGB element in their laptops and the Alienware x17 R2 is no different.  The ease at which you can alter the lighting to suit not just you but the game you are playing is great – you can set specific scenes for different games too if that is your want.  

Battery life

Gaming on a gaming laptop is going to be a struggle if you try and use it on battery power.  While gaming we managed to get around 90 minutes only while under load.  Web surfing etc was obviously better but this beast is a battery hog so don’t expect ultrabook type battery performance out of it – take your charging brick with you wherever you go.

Performance

The Alienware x17 R2 is for gaming, simple as that, and it does that very well.  Benchmarks mean some things and for what it’s worth you can see some results of those below but in everyday use the gaming was smooth and easy.  No matter which game I threw at it, even with the UHD display, it performed without missing a beat.  Once again if I was buying it I would have opted for the lower resolution but 360Hz refresh rate and 1ms response time display – in the hope that my skills would eventually become such that I would notice a difference! 

As you would expect, everyday use and multitasking is a breeze so if using it for things other than gaming you won’t have a worry in the world.

It’s not cheap but is it worth it?

Gaming laptops are not cheap — decent gaming desktop PCs are not cheap either so you need to ask yourself: Where will you be using your gaming rig most? If it is on the road, at friend’s houses, at a hotel or just away from home AND you are serious about gaming then I think it is worth it.

The possibility of a 17-inch 360Hz, 1ms 1080P display coupled with high end graphics, a CherryMX mechanical keyboard and some cool RGB lighting and you have a great “mobile” gaming rig. If you tend to game at home though it may be more sensible to invest in a desktop PC and a high-end gaming monitor as that will cost you a lot less.

The Alienware x17 R2 laptop is a great update on their x17 gaming rig with updated hardware along with a great clickety mechanical keyboard. At the lower end of the specs of the Alienware x17 R2, with the 6GB NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 graphics card, 165Hz 3ms display and just 512GB of storage the cost comes out a tick under $3,900. Those who are both rich and incredibly serious about their gaming will want to spec it up to the full $8,300 mark (I’m considering the 360Hz 1ms display better than the 120Hz 4ms UHD display for gaming).

Having used this review laptop which is mostly in the mid-range of specs available I can say that most who buy this will sit in that mid-range at $4,000. For more information and specs head on over to the Dell Alienware website.