Ever since Intel announced the Core i9 processors, manufacturers have started sporting the new hexacore processor in their laptops, especially the ones oriented towards gaming. With over 22 years in the gaming business, it’s right to say that Alienware is one of the best companies out there in the market, and as it happens, is also one of the first ones to adopt the i9 processor technology into their new Alienware 17 R5. Priced at Rs. 3,36,000 and powered by 32GB of DDR4 RAM and a Nvidia GTX 1080, the laptop sounds like a beast. And looks like a tank. But is it worth recommending? Let’s find out, as we review the Alienware 17 R5, Beebom style:
Note: We have the higher end i9 variant with us for review. There is, however, an i7 variant available as well, which comes with the Nvidia GTX 1070, and is priced at Rs. 2,20,000.
Alienware 17 R5 Specs
Before starting off with the actual review of the device, how about we discuss the kind of horsepower that the Alienware 17 R5 comes with. The Alienware 17 R5 packs in an 8th-gen i9 processor, coupled with 32GB of DDR4 RAM. There’s 1TB of SSD storage for super fast read/write speeds along with an extra 1TB of HDD storage. The 4K display has a refresh rate of 120Hz with support for Nvidia’s G-Sync technology. Below is the detailed list of the hardware powering the Alienware 17 R5:
|Dimensions||424mm x 29.9mm x 33332mm|
|Processor||8th Generation Intel® Core™ i9-8950HK (6-Core, 12MB Cache, Overclocking up to 5.0GHz)|
|Memory||32GB DDR4 at 2400MHz (2x16GB)|
|Storage||1TB SSD + 1TB HDD|
|Display||17.3 in QHD (2560 x 1440) 120Hz TN+WVA AG 400-nits NVIDIA G-SYNC|
|Graphics||NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1080 OC with 8GB GDDR5X|
|Wireless||Killer 1550 802.11ac 2x2 WiFi and Bluetooth 5.0|
|Ports||2x USB 3.0, 1x USB 3.1 Type-C, 1x Thunderbolt 3, 1x HDMI 2.0 Output, 1x Alienware Graphics Amplifier, 1x Mini-Display Port|
|Operating System||Windows 10 Home Plus Single Language, English|
Design and Build Quality
For a company that has been in the gaming laptop business for over 2 decades now, Alienware sure knows when to change their design language and when to not. The Alienware 17 R5 comes as a product of the latter thinking, and honestly, it works. The design isn’t as out there as it used to be in the earlier versions of the laptop, but it actually gives the device a subtle yet powerful look, all while looking (and costing) premium.
The Alienware 17 R5 features a super premium chassis made of anodized aluminum along with magnesium alloy. Yes, it is quite heavy, but then again, Alienware laptops, or for that matter, any 17-inch laptop isn’t designed for portability, but for efficient desktop replacement. With such high-grade materials on the body, the Alienware 17 R5 certainly looks its game and offers a build quality like none other.
If you’re a gamer, then you must be familiar with the #RGBEverything feeling, and boy is the Alienware 17 R5 what you’re looking for. The trend continues with this laptop, allowing you to customize literally everything you can, including the keyboard, the touchpad, the Alienware logo, the Alien head, and the light lines on either side.
The only thing letting this thing down are the rubberized palm rests, which might look premium, but that look lasts for only a couple of days. Or even less. The surface is prone to getting dirty, and what’s worse is that it is nearly impossible to get rid of the stains on this surface.
It’s 2018, and bezels aren’t exactly what you want in your laptop. Then again, it’s 17-inch mammoth aiming to replace your desktop, so bezels shouldn’t really be bothering you that much. I’ve reviewed the Alienware 15 R3 previously, and while the design is almost entirely same, one difference that I’ve noticed with the 17-inch variant is the hinge. This time around, the laptop’s screen does not go all the way to a 180-degrees.
All in all, Dell has done a fantastic job with the Alienware 17 R5. The design is still the same, and yet, it feels good. It’s not something that really needs any changes, except for a few flaws that I’ll be talking about in the sections that follow.
Ports and Connectivity
Oh, how I wish this thing could satisfy my thirst for ports. While the Alienware 17 R5 offers plenty of ports, there is still something lacking on this beast.
On the left side of the device, you get a noble lock port followed by an exhaust. It is further followed by a USB 3.0 Type-C port, a USB 3.0 Type-A port, and a microphone and headphone jack.
On the right side, there’s just a single USB 3.0 Type-A port, which is understandable, considering you’d have your mouse on that side. As such, you’d want as minimal peripherals on that side as possible
The rear side houses the RJ45-LAN port, a Mini-DisplayPort 1.2 port, an HDMI 2.0 port, a Thunderbolt 3 port, Alienware’s own Graphics Amplifier port, and a power port.
While all this sounds great, I cannot forgive Dell for not including an SD Card slot on this thing. I mean, that’s one of the most basic things you can add to your laptop, and you’ve skipped on that. And it’s not like they didn’t have space. The Alienware 17 R5 is huge, with plenty of space in every nook and corner. Almost half of the left side and more than half of the right side have been left blank, a section that could have easily accommodated an SD Card reader.
The 17.3-inch, matte anti-glare display delivers robust color and unrivaled brightness with generous viewing angles. And the numbers speak for itself. The Alienware 17 hit 110 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which surpasses the 100-percent minimum in panels.
The 2560 x 1440 panel is backed by Nvidia’s G-Sync technology, can deliver refresh rates of 120Hz, which makes things pretty smooth. However, the lack of a full 4K panel does make you question Alienware’s decision. It’s not bad by any means, but then again, for a device at this price, you want the frigging best, and the Alienware 17 R5 does not have the best display resolution out there as compared to its competitors.
Looking at color gamut, the Alienware’s display hits only 73 percent in AdobeRGB color space, which is decent for gamers, but not for someone who wants to buy it for professional use by looking at the i9 and the GTX 1080 hardware. What’s more is that the Alienware 17 R5’s display tops out at a contrast ratio of 560-to-1. All this is the case because Alienware uses a twisted nematic or TN display panel, and they’re typically not as vibrant as more common in-plane-switching or IPS displays.
All in all, the display is good or even great for gamers, who’ll definitely fancy the high refresh rates. That being said, the laptop’s display isn’t for everyone, and definitely lacks the accuracy one would expect from a device its price when even professional heavy duty laptops with i7 and a GTX 1070 offer better color accuracy.
As a writer and a gamer, the keyboard on the Alienware 17 R5 is truly amazing. The 17-inch variant packs in the numpad as well and leaves little to no room for any complaints.
The keyboard features matte-black, closely arranged and slightly rubberized keys which provide a typing experience like no other. There is no chicklet design here, which is something I admire, considering the fact that game on those switches is a nightmare. As for key travel, the keys feel great, for both typing and gaming purposes.
The keyboard comes with a total of 10 macro keys, with 6 on the left side of the keyboard and 4 on the right side. The only complaint I’ve had with the overall key placement is how Dell has literally cramped the Page up and Page Down keys on either side of the arrow keys. It may not make much of a difference to most users, but could really hamper the experience for others.
Oh, and how can I forget the AlienFX lighting on this machine. Thanks to the AlienFX installed on this device, there are hardly any limitations in terms of illumination, with four zones, dozens of colors, profiles, and modes. The illuminations are something that I find hard to get over, they’re just too good.
The touchpad on this thing is something that really left me wanting for more. No, it’s not bad. But it could have been better.
For starters, the touchpad lacks Windows Precision Drivers. Yes, Dell has its own touchpad drivers that help you simulate every gesture possible, but for some reason, it still lacks the smoothness of an actual precision driven touchpad.
Secondly, the 4 x 2.1-inch touchpad might seem massive to some, but here’s my issue with it. Considering the overall chassis of the 17-inch beast, there is a hell lot of space being wasted on the body. Sure, you’d want to give enough space for palm rests, but the issue with that is that both your hands are not distant from one another, with the right hand being stretched out a little more to the right-hand side. As a result, the touchpad does feel rather small in real-world usage. I mean, just take a look at it, and you can realize that Dell had a whole world of space to insert a bigger touchpad here.
But does the RGB lighting make up for everything? More or less, I guess. It still manages to make the entire surface look cool, and despite its flaws, the touchpad still feels much better than most options out there. Most gamers would anyway pick up an external mouse for their use, but the touchpad should be more than just sufficient for everyday use.
The Dell Alienware 17 R5 comes with a hinge-forward design that makes room for a seriously improved audio system. The design now includes a couple internal smart amplifiers that monitor audio waveforms (a graph that displays amplitude or level changes over time), and the system uses that to better regulate the speaker thermals for better sound.
What’s more is that thanks to the Alienware Sound Center, you can effectively tune literally every aspect of the audio quality. Based on Gaming or Media consumption, the software assists you in every way possible to get the best audio experience possible. Providing an immersive experience, that most other gaming laptops don’t, Dell hasn’t really compromised on the actual speakers up front.
The camera on the Alienware 17 R5 literally blew me away. Judging by my experience with most gaming laptops, including the Alienware 15 R3 itself, I wasn’t really expecting a lot from this device. But boy is the Alienware 17 R5 a breath of fresh air.
The camera on the Alienware 17 R5 is exceptionally great and offers true HD clarity. Additionally, it is equipped with the Tobii Eye Tracking software, the Alienware 15 R3 packs in an HD+IR presence detection camera which is also compatible with Windows Hello. It automatically dims the screen when you’re not looking at it, and brights it back up when you are.
The webcam should suffice for all your interests, be it the casual video call or the streaming night.
Alienware’s Bundled Software/Bloatware
Alienware is, after all, a laptop that comes from Dell, so there was bound to be a lot of pre-installed software on the device. That being said, I am so glad to say that it isn’t bloatware. Almost every software here has a designated role and one that it performs outrightly well. Unlike the earlier generation that had a different software for everything, Dell now couples the Alienware Command Center with its laptops that work well for everything, and I’d like to consider it as useful software instead as bloatware.
The Alienware 17 R5 comes with a copy of Windows 10 Home along with a copy of Microsoft Office 365. Obviously, you’d have to purchase a subscription for extended use, but depending upon your preferences, you might either like or dislike the inclusion of Office 365 as opposed to a copy of MS Office 2016.
Powered by the Intel Core i9-8950HK processor, the Alienware 17 R5 is a beast! Normal day-to-day tasks shouldn’t be an issue, such as web browsing, watching a movie, working with office documents and more, which the Alienware 15 handled pretty well.
Considering that it is backed by the i9 processor, I was really interested to see how well it handles heavy tasks such as Photoshop and Premiere Pro, and truth be told, the performance is more than great. The device was able to render a full-fletched 4K video that you see on your YouTube channel in under 40 minutes, which is pretty good.
Packing in an Intel Core i9-8950HK processor with 32GB DDR4 RAM at 2400MHz and a full-fletched NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 with 8GB GDDR5X, the Alienware 17 R5 already sounds like a beast on paper. In games, it performs just how you’d expect it to. In all of my tests, I ran the games at 2560×1440 resolution and maxed out graphics quality, running settings labeled as Very High, Ultra, Extreme etc. And honestly, the results were just amazing.
As you can see from the list above, the Alienware 17 tamed the so-called stress testing benchmarks, and easily pushed above 100FPS on 1440p without breaking a sweat. Even on the most demanding of games such as Metro Last Light, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and The Witcher 3, the GTX 1080 was easily rendering frames above 80 FPS while being on the highest of settings. The relatively newer Far Cry 5, which has been critically acclaimed for being well optimized, was running at a stable 95 frames per second, which is just sick. And then there’s the fan favorite game, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), which the laptop was able to run at a comfortable 125 FPS. Also, I tried playing DOOM on it, the Vulcan beast, and the game was once again rendering at an easy 100 FPS mark.
What’s more is that despite the high graphics fidelity and continuous hours of gaming and testing, the laptop never broke a sweat, and never heated. Like literally! As such, I was really intrigued to see the how Dell has managed the thermals on this thing.
A lot of companies make gaming laptops, but few offer thermals like the Alienware 17 R5. Thanks to its revamped cooling system, dubbed Alienware Cryo-Tech v2.0, the Alienware 17 R5 manages to stay cool even under the heaviest of loads. The company managed to reduce the thickness of its fans’ blades by 50 percent and added a vapor chamber on top of the CPU to help keep things cool.
In my experience, the laptop was running at a decent 40-degree Celsius mark on normal usage. Pushing things higher with gaming didn’t affect the system much since it has been designed for this load. The max temperatures that I managed to hit were 70-degrees, which is exceptionally great, considering this is a gaming laptop that we’re talking about, and that too, after rigorously gaming for upwards of an hour.
Gaming laptops don’t tend to last long on a charge, and this one didn’t either, though it lasted slightly longer than others. The laptop packs in a 99 Wh battery which should last you for about 3-3.5 hours on medium usage, with the screen at maximum brightness. Add a little more load to it, such as gaming, and the laptop should last you for just about an hour.
As for charging, the 240W power brick was able to completely charge the device in under 140 minutes, which seems to be decent enough for a device this big. The Alienware 17 R5 has the power but it lacks the display and the battery life for your productivity laptop. If you’re a graphics designer or a video editor, you probably should consider your options, since the Alienware 17 R5 is purely a gaming beast.
Alienware 17 R5: Would I Still Recommend It?
Available at a price of Rs. 3.36 lakhs, you get yourself a fully unlocked 8th-gen i9 processor with clock speeds up to a massive 5.0 GHz. There are no compromises in the hardware with 32GB DDR4 RAM and 1TB storage of SSD as well as HDD. The 17.3-inch 120Hz display on the device is great and comes with support for Nvidia’s G-Sync technology as well. All this comes inside a good build and premium looking chassis. On the whole, the Alienware 17 R5 offers a premium device, with a great built quality and performance, which is any gamer’s dream laptop. That being said, if you’re someone who is looking for a value for money product, there are better options out there in the market. Here’s why:
See, at this price point, the Alienware 17 R5 is probably one of the few laptops offering an i9 variant. However, the i9 variant will only be actually required for professionals relying on the core power for their video rendering or 3D modeling tasks. Sadly, the Alienware 17’s display, despite being good, lacks the color accuracy required for that. As for gamers, an i7 variant with the same GPU would work pretty much the same, and you’d actually get better value for money, unless you’re a streamer. That being said, if you’re hell-bent on going the i9 route, you can also go for the MSI GT75 Titan (Rs. 3.35 lakhs) or the Acer Predator Helios 500 (Rs. 2.5 lakhs), which offer a great balance between gaming and content creation. The MSI one offers a better display and an even better cooling system at roughly the same price. The Predator Helios 500, on the other hand, offers a cheaper build quality and GTX 1070 but costs quite less. Personally, the Alienware 17 R5 looks like a product that would sell for its signature looks and the Alienware brand name in itself, for its competitors offer a better value for money overall.
- 120Hz G-Sync Display Works Really Well
- Exceptionally Great Performance
- Camera is Amazing
- Manages to stay cool under heavy loads
- Touchpad feels small
- Display is still QHD and lacks professional-grade accuracy
- Unjustifiable Value for Money
Buy Alienware 17 R5 from Dell Store: (Rs. 3,36,000)
Alienware 17 R5 Review: The Alien God Amongst Beasts
The Alienware 17 R5 in itself is a great option, but should only be chosen by gamers who prefer the Alien brand. If I were you, I’d put my money on the MSI GT75 Titan, since it offers a complete package, with a 4K 17.3-inch display and better color accuracy, sports a mechanical keyboard from SteelSeries, and features an even better cooling system. The only thing going for the Alienware 17 R5 is the supreme build quality and premium looks, that is still unmatched.