Alienware 13 gaming laptop slims down, sharpens up (hands-on)

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Alienware, Dell's gaming brand, has introduced a new, smaller-screen gaming laptop, with the Alienware 13. As one might guess from the name, this is a system with a 13-inch display -- still a very uncommon size for a gaming PC.

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Dan Ackerman/CNET
Alienware currently makes a 14-inch model (as do several other gaming PC companies), and has previously made an 11-inch gaming laptop, but this 13-inch version is a new venture. We had a chance to get hands-on with a prototype unit in New York, and the system takes many of its industrial design hints from other current Alienware systems, including the backlit alien head on the back of the lid, and several custom light-up zones, which you can control from Alienware's onboard software.

The system felt thicker and heavier than most mainstream non-gaming 13-inch laptops, but it's certainly slim and light for a gaming system, and much thinner than the current 14-inch Alienware. Dell says it's one inch thick and weighs around 4.5 pounds.

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Dan Ackerman/CNET
The biggest change, spec-wise, from the 14-inch model to the 13-inch, will be the switch to ultra-low-voltage processors from the standard Intel Core i-series laptop processors in Alienware's larger systems. Those will be paired with the Nvidia GeForce 860M mobile GPU, the same card found in the popular 15-inch Lenovo Y50t gaming laptop. The system can be configured with up to 16GB of RAM and supports two SSDs. One forward-looking extra is 802.11ac wifi, still something of a rarity.

One other thing we did note from our hands-on time with the system was a better-than-HD screen resolution of 2,560x1,440 pixels on its IPS panel. Lower resolutions, including 1,920x1,080 and even 1,366x768 will also be available (although I can't imagine anyone wanted a low-res 13x7 screen on a sure-to-be-expensive gaming laptop). There's no plan for a full 4K display, perhaps because it would be overkill on a 13-inch screen.

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Dan Ackerman/CNET
Alienware isn't revealing exact spec, price, or release-date details at this time, but you can expect Intel's Core i7 and perhaps i5 processors and Nvidia graphics cards. While the GeForce 860M card was cited, the final specific parts may depend on the system's eventual release date, as both Intel and Nvidia are said to be planning new generations of products for release before the end of 2014.

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