Dell Alienware M17 [Review] – Glorious Gaming Goliath

Dell Alienware M17 [Review] – Glorious Gaming Goliath

Gaming rigs these days are veering towards larger and bolder looking designs that come with an almost gratuitous amount of RGB backlighting to the point of resembling a mobile neon-hued disco ball of gaming . Fortunately, Dell’s Alienware M17 dials back on the gaudiness and bar the distinctive logo on the top lid, it looks surprisingly classy while still packing  respectable hardware that ensures its role as the apex portable gaming notebook at whatever gaming match you plunk it down at.

The Alienware M17 gaming notebook intended for the Malaysia market comes in a variety of configurations that have the same external chassis, keyboard and thermal dual-exhaust airflow cooling though they differ in terms of RAM, storage solutions, processor and what graphics card it carries. Prices start from RM7,999 with our review unit coming with the top of the line that tip the price tag close to the RM16,000 mark.

ALienware M17 front

For the lofty price of RM15,999 you’re getting a top of the line 17.3-inch UHD (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) 60Hz display that can display 100% of the sRGB colour space, an 8th generation Intel Core i9-8950HK processor, 16GB 2,666MHz DDR4 RAM split across 2 SODIMM slots, an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 8GB GDDR6 VRAM with Max-Q Design GPU which is one of the most powerful cards you can bung into a gaming laptop and a 512GB PCIe M.2 SSD paired with a 1TB (with 8GB SSHD) hybrid drive.

M17 top lid

Belying all this gaming goodness, the M17 weighs a reasonable 2.63kg which is modestly light as far as gaming notebooks go and on the borderline of man-portable without being tiresome to carry about all day but the power brick itself is a fairly weighty and chunky affair.

Externally, the Alienware M17 eschews gaudy bling save for a backlit Alienware logo up top and a brushed aluminum metal top lid contrasted by what is otherwise a matte black chassis.. The finish on the entire notebook is somewhat fingerprint resistant which helps to mitigate the need for frequent wipedowns. Build quality here is excellent the notebook incorporating a magnesium alloy chassis for some weight savings. There’s flex or play in the top lid at all and the solidly constructed hinges are built like a tank with no wobble whatsoever allowing you to deploy the display to a nearly flat position shy of 150-degrees if needed.


Flipping the lid open reveals a full sized backlit keyboard that includes a numeric keypad on the right, a quartet of programmable macro keys and a power button in the form of the Alienware head logo. In terms of port layout, Dell has come up with a smart way of going about it with most of the ports that you’d likely not use on a regular basis placed at the rear with the power cable, a HDMI 2.0 port, a mini-display 1.3 port and a Thunderbolt 3 port located in a row. The rear also has a Alienware Graphics Amplifier port if you happen to have one of Dell’s Alienware Graphics Amplifier external GPU housings around to offer some extra gaming oomph.

M17 rear

 The left side comes with a pair of USB 3.1 Type-A ports while the right has a Killer Networks E2600 Gigabit Ethernet port, a USB 4.1 Type-A port and a 3.5mm audio jack while the right of the M17 has a pair of USB 3. 1 Type-A ports for peripherals as well as a lock slot. This ensemble of ports covers all the bases for most gamers with relatively sound placement. Add in the slim design and understated finish and you have one of the best gaming rigs to have come from their foundries this year.

Alienware M17 performance

The Alienware M17 is VR capable and as far as performance is concerned, the M17 was capable of taking on all comers with synthetic benchmarks that blaze ahead of the pack and actual field performance that lets you confidently tackle the most demanding games dialled in at 1080P resolution. 

In terms of benchmarks, the M17 got a CPU score of 2,402 points in Cinebench R20. Which is pretty darned good all things considered. In VRMark’s Orange Room test which tests for VR readiness, the notebook yielded a very respectable 5,111 points with an average 111.41fps which makes it VR ready if you happen to have an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive lying around.

Alienware M17 front

In PCMark10, which is a measure of a notebook’s ability for productivity purposes, it earned an impressive score of 4,271 points. On the pure gaming front, it scored 4,119 points in 3D Mark’s Port Royal benchmark which tests for its ability to handle real-time ray-tracing in games that support it which is on par with other rigs packing an RTX 2080 with Max-Q design GPU. In Time Spy, it got a very respectable score of 7,234 points which paints it as a very capable gaming rig indeed.

alienware M17 pc mark

alienware m17 port royale test

Alienware M17 pcmark test

Alienware M17 orange room VR

 

Under practical field conditions, the Alienware M17 did not disappoint and tore through the latest AAA gaming titles like a hot knife through butter even with everything dialled to maximum and at 1080P resolution with the likes of Far Cry 5, Far Cry New Dawn and Apex Legends running with an average of about 80-90FPS. You’ll have to dial things back if you play things at 4K resolution for more resource intensive games like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey which averaged around 50fps on ultra high settings but it’s still quite playable for non-competitive gaming with simpler games like DOTA running at 130fps on ultra settings though it’s the gaming equivalent of blatant overkill. 

Alienware M17 Cinebench R20 test

The only quibble here is that the M17 tends to run on the warm side of things and can get a bit noisy when it’s dual cooling fans ramp up in speed to manage the heat build-up but it’s a given seeing the power of the hardware that they’ve crammed here and it manages to do so effectively to allow it to perform at its full potential.

The 17.3-inch 3,840 x 2,160 pixel display was a thing of beauty with pin-sharp details and beautiful colour reproduction befitting its lofty price tag. This combination of delightful features also makes the M17 an absolute delight for watching movies on. Binging on Netflix, with the M17 proved to be a pleasantly distracting endeavour. Unfortunately, the quibble here is the 60Hz refresh rate on the M18’s UHD panel. It’s more than enough for casual gaming though there are no options for a 1080P 144Hz panel and more competitive FPS players will likely tick this option off as a mandatory prerequisite.

Fortunately, they haven’t skimped out on the speakers here and the bottom firing front-facing speakers offered excellent volume and a fair amount of detail and sound staging with your choice of eight alternative audio presets via their Alienware Command Centre to tweak your sound to taste depending on what game genre you’re playing or what task you’re working at with a choice of Com, Movie, Music and either Strategy, Shooter, RPG and Racing as options though the default settings were more than sufficient to see us through a rewatch of Stranger Things and John Wick without any muddled dialogue and sufficient sonic punch.

Alienware M17 display movie

The provided keyboard was fast and responsive with the 1.4mm key travel allowing for nimble touch typing with an average of 110wpm when tested. The touchpad which is emplaced slightly left of the centre was a bit on the small side but was more than serviceable for basic work; you’ll likely need a mouse for more intensive gaming though.

Alienware M17 Price and Conclusion

While the Alienware M17 is relatively man-portable as gaming notebooks go, it alas doesn’t quite resolve the age-old conundrum of middling battery life as all that high-end hardware tends to drain juice fast. If you’re gaming away from the mains, you’ll average less than 3 hours of practical use before you need to find a power plug, making it more appropriate as a gaming desktop replacement.

As it stands, the Alienware M17 is one of the most powerful gaming rigs that money can currently buy with an understated, classy design that is a touch above the majority of gaudy gaming rigs out there. If cash is no object and you’re looking for a gaming rig that can smoothly tackle the best gaming titles available, the Alienware M17 won’t let you down.

What we liked Crisp and vibrant 4K display, impressive specifications for superb gaming experience, excellent keyboard
What we didn’t Fans get a bit loud under full loud, poor battery life
We say  The Alienware M17 is one of the most powerful gaming notebooks currently available in Malaysia that boasts of immense gaming performance and a stylish yet understated design that still bears the distinctive hallmarks of the brand while looking suitably classy. If cash is no object, this comes highly recommended.

Specifications
Price RM15,999
Display 17.3-inch UHD 60 Hz IPS LCD, 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, 400-nits
Processor Intel Core i9-8950HK 2.9GHz
OS Windows 10 Home
Memory 16GB DDR4 RAM / 512GB PCIe M.2 SSD + 1TB hybrid drive
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 8GB GDDR6 with Max-Q design
Size/Weight 292.5 x 410 x 18.5mm / 2.63kg
Review unit courtesy of Dell Malaysia. Available for purchase online at the official Dell Malaysia website here.

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