With an incredibly stylish chassis, the Alienware m17 R4 is a compelling gaming laptop. This is the gaming laptop you purchase when nothing but the best is appropriate, which means that the price will possibly put some people off, quickly powering all the new AAA games with no compromises.
Quick Review: Alienware m17 R4 Gaming Laptop (2021)
Lately, it has been a big trend to make the best gaming laptops thinner and lighter, but gaming laptops like the Alienware m17 proved that the less-mobile powerhouses are not going anywhere fast. The Alienware m17 R4 gaming laptop uses the same precise chassis as the R3, with quicker innards, and who can argue about that?
We’re talking about the latest Nvidia GeForce RTX 3000 GPUs, specifically the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 and RTX 3080, based on Nvidia’s new Ampere architecture. Pair that with the latest 360Hz display and the market’s most powerful processors, and you have a gaming laptop that can manage all the latest games at a high framerate.
However, it does come at a high cost. The model tested here will set you back a whopping $3,359, even when you prefer the high specs on offer, making it one of the most expensive gaming laptops on the market. The Alienware brand and design, however, are part of that price. And the Alienware m17 R4 is a gorgeous laptop for a laptop in this class, usually based entirely on tangible results; you’ll have to pay for the privilege of showing it off on your desk.
This isn’t exactly a laptop you’re going to bring with you either. It weighs a whopping 6.55lb and comes with an adapter of 330W that weighs almost as much as the laptop itself. And, despite the paltry two and a half hours of battery life, the Alienware m17 R4 is a laptop that only transfers between LAN parties, rather than carrying it day-in and day-out in your backpack.
The Alienware m17 R4 is one of the most luxurious laptops in its class, rivaled only by equally beautiful machines such as the Razer Blade Pro 17, if that’s something you’re looking for, however.
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- CPU: 2.4GHz Intel Core i9-10980HK
- Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080
- RAM: 32GB
- Screen: 17-inch 1080p IPS, 360Hz
- Storage: 2TB SSD (RAID 0)
- Ports: 3x USB-A 3.1, 1 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 3, 1 x HDMI, 1 x MiniDisplayPort, 1 x MicroSD, 1 x ethernet, 1 x Alienware Graphics Amplifier
- Connectivity: Killer WiFi6 AX1650, Bluetooth 5.1
- Camera: HD Webcam
- Weight: 6.55lbs (2.97kgs)
- Size: 15.74 x 11.59 x 0.866 inches (399.8 x 294.3 x 22 mm; W x D x H)
Price and Availability – See on Amazon
The Alienware m17 is available for orders starting at $2,149 beginning January 26, 2021. You’ll get an Intel Core i7-10870H, 16GB of RAM, 256GB of SSD, and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070.
If you want to buy the model we’re reviewing here, you’re looking at an eye-watering $3,359 with an RTX 3080, a 2 TB SSD, and a Core i9 processor. And, you’re looking at $3,579 if you want a 4K OLED panel with the exact specifications, although that configuration only comes with 1TB of SSD room.
However, unless you plan to use this laptop to do some serious photo or video work, we would not suggest going for a 4K OLED display. The RTX 3080 is right here, but it’s still not nearly as powerful as the card’s desktop version. Sticking with the 1080p display option, you will have a much better gaming experience, whether you buy the 144Hz panel or the 360Hz panel that comes with the laptop we’re reviewing.
Anyway, with a luxury tag, this is a premium gaming laptop. In a cheaper gaming laptop somewhere, you would be able to find the same parts. But in much the same way, you won’t be able to find one that blends efficiency and design. If that is worth the extra cost, it is up to you, but we can see it going either way.
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Design: Alienware m17 R4 Gaming Laptop (2021)
For a couple of years now, Alienware has been using its latest “Legend” style, which is obviously why it’s sticking around. The Alienware m17 R4 is a beautiful gaming laptop, and while this design is not new, it still feels like a protest against the edgy gamer aesthetic that has dominated the gaming laptop’s room.
The model we’ve got for analysis is the stunning white Lunar Light colorway with a black band all around the back where the ventilation is. There is an RGB lighting strip along with the back vent, and it’s an iconic look at this point. You have a range of ports, including HDMI, Mini DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, power, and the proprietary Alienware Graphics Amplification port for an external GPU, between the two giant vents on the back of the laptop.
Along the side, too, there are more ports. You get two USB-A ports on the laptop’s right side and a microSD card reader at the laptop’s front. There’s another USB-A port on the left, along with an Ethernet and a 3.5mm audio jack pair.
The best fact about the Alienware m17 is getting all the display and extension ports on the laptop’s back. It means that you won’t have to struggle against a mess of cables to get the job done while you’re gaming plugged in (which will be all the time).
The laptop’s lid is white, with just the ’17’ number and an RGB Alienware logo. On the keyboard’s deck, which is all white and is breathtaking, this theme is replicated. The power button and the entire full-sized keyboard are shaped like the Alienware logo and are RGB.
That’s right, Dell took advantage of the extra space inherent in a 17-inch gaming laptop and included a number pad on the right side of the laptop. Numpad isn’t as helpful as they were in the past, but it’s good to have them, mainly if you work outside of just gaming, and let’s face it, our computers are far more critical than ever these days.
The keyboard is, luckily, excellent and easy to type on. Given that this is a gaming laptop, travel is not as deep as it may be. It doesn’t have a mechanical keyboard like the MSI GE75 Raider, but it’s certainly still good enough to do some gaming. However, pro-esports players will want to invest in one of the best keyboards for gaming.
It’s nice to type on this keyboard, but this is a laptop that weighs almost 7lb, so it’s not something you’re going to use all the time to type up papers on your lap.
However, the trackpad is probably one of the best we’ve ever used on a laptop for gaming. Perhaps because the laptop itself is so massive, it doesn’t look that large, but it’s more than big enough to get some movements finished, and pressing it down has a satisfying click that only Razer’s laptops compete with.
The display is out of this dimension, keeping with the theme the Alienware m17 is aiming for. You will be in trouble finding a game that you’ll reach that limit on, we promise, with a 17.3-inch FHD screen with a blinding-fast 360Hz refresh rate and G-Sync. At 300 nits, it also gets very vivid and reaches 100 percent of the sRGB color spectrum.
So, while the display is quick, the velocity does not come at the image quality cost. Even when you reach frame rates topping the leaderboards, your games will look clean, vibrant, and light.
The speakers are where, however, things falter a little. It is underestimated to say that the Alienware m17 R4 gaming laptop has space for top-mounted speakers, yet they’re still firing down on the surface you’re playing on. They sound okay, but they don’t seem good enough that you will soon have to forego a gaming headset.
However, not that it counts. The Alienware m17 R4 gets noisy when moved due to the hardware level on offer here. When gaming here, you will probably want to wear headphones because this laptop will sound like a jet engine when benchmarking or playing games.
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Performance: Alienware m17 R4 Gaming Laptop (2021)
Now, with an Intel Core i9-10980HK, 32GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080, this Alienware m17 R4 gaming laptop is packed with it goes easy.
This is a gaming laptop’s total powerhouse, pushing the silicon on offer to its absolute limit, which is also why the fan gets so noisy. The laptop version of the Nvidia RTX 3080 should be similar to what the desktop version of the RTX 3070 can do in terms of raw specifications. In practice, with this laptop, that’s what we need.
We can get reliable results worldwide, no matter what game we throw at it, ray tracing or no ray tracing. Even in Watch Dogs (Legion), which has trouble running on many full desktop gaming PCs, ray-tracing on ultra and DLSS on the ‘performance’ setting can reach a stable 75 fps.
You’re then looking at 78 fps with RTX and DLSS and 90 fps with RTX off in Metro Exodus. More than enough output, with all the eye candy allowed, to play these visually delicious games.
In reality, with all the settings maximized, every single game we throw at the Alienware m17 R4 can get more than 70 fps, which is something we’ve never seen on a gaming laptop, particularly when ray tracing has entered the equation.
Alienware laptops, as they’re a luxury item for gaming laptops, are costly to a fault. However, with this gaming laptop, you can be sure that you have the best possible results right now on a gaming laptop, even if it gets a little loud while doing it.
Battery Power: Alienware m17 R4 Gaming Laptop (2021)
There’s no way around that. The Alienware m17 R4 gaming laptop doesn’t have the perfect battery. This high-octane gaming laptop does not sacrifice performance, so it is just a prescription for disappointment to expect all-day battery life.
Still, over the last decade, we expect at least a little bit of change. The laptop only lasts 2 hours and 21 minutes on PCMark 10, simulating several real-world workloads.
The Alienware m17 R4 gaming laptop lasts just 2 hours and 28 minutes for media playback, looping 1080p video stored locally. It is possibly enough to get through a movie or a few YouTube videos, but you can only watch videos on it for hours on end, not exactly on a laptop.
Features and Apps
Since this is such a luxury device, there isn’t much in the way of bloatware mounted on this laptop when you take it out of the box.
You’re only going to see Dell’s driver update and backup service software and two programs: My Alienware and Alienware Command Center.
The former is just a portal that will connect you to tools to understand your laptop better. It’s like a FAQ with a dazzling UI, literally. On the other hand, the Alienware Command Center will be much more useful for a more extended period.
This is the software you’ll use from the inside out to configure the Alienware m17 R4 gaming laptop. Everything from RGB lighting to output is controlled here, and from this app, you will also be able to launch your games.
It’s effortless and light, and that’s just what we want to see on a laptop that costs a thousand dollars.