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A boxier but better Alienware 15

It lacks some of the rakish angularity of its predecessor, but that's a small tradeoff for better airflow and build quality.

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LoriGruninNewHeadshot.jpg

Lori Grunin

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Alienware 15 (2016)
1 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Redesigned

There are a lot of enhancements to the Alienware 15 over the previous models, both for style and substance. Especially substance -- it's got lots more metal.

Alienware 15 (2016)
2 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Less angular

The big angled edges have been replaced with a "front-forward" hinge.

Alienware 15 (2016)
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Back

The cover's essentially the same (although the reflection of the crossword in the alienhead here is a little freaky looking). Alienware has swapped some connectors and moved them around; in this case, more are on the back where they're less likely to get tangled up with your corded accessories, like the mouse. 

Alienware 15 (2016)
4 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Back connectors

We've lost the SD card slot. instead, there's a dedicated connector for the Alienware Accelerator, the company's external GPU unit. The Mini DisplayPort connector supports an external G-Sync monitor.

Alienware 15 (2016)
5 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Left side connectors

This USB-C/Thunderbolt connector supports an external display, though not with G-Sync. There's also a second Type-A USB 3, microphone and headphone/headset connectors.

Alienware 15 (2016)
6 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

Side

Now the right side has just a single USB port.

Alienware 15 (2016)
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Same keyboard layout

However, it's now steel reinforced with better travel and more flexible programmable lighting. It's really quite nice to use for both gaming and writing, though it feels more membrane than mechanical.  And it seemed to handle concurrent input for running, jumping, firing and eviscerating pretty well.

Alienware 15 (2016)
8 of 27 Sarah Tew/CNET

New display

We tested the model with the 120Hz, G-Sync compatible TN+WVA HD display, which is bright and fast, with a tested 93 percent coverage of the sRGB color gamut.

Alienware 15 (2016)
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Glowing edges

It also retains the light-up strips along the sides.

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Alienware 15 (2016)
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Alienware 15 (2016)
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Backlit touchpad

It's not an atypical or new feature, but it's one of my favorites since I work and play in the dark.

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Alienware 15

It weighs a hefty 7.8 pounds/3.5kg. 

Alienware 15 (2016)
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VR ready

With its processor and GTX 1070 GPU, the laptop is VR ready. However, it doesn't have quite enough USB Type-A ports for the gear. You can use USB-C to Type-A adapters for that, though.

Alienware 15 (2016)
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Input

There's a built-in mic, IR camera for Windows Hello and a 75-degree 1,280x720 webcam. In addition, an IR emitter is used for sensing, and the Tobii Aware software uses it to detect your presence and change power-saving settings when you're not in front. The 15-inch doesn't have Tobii Eye Tracking, though; only the Alienware 17 does.

Alienware 15 (2016)
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Backlighting

The Alienware TactX software and keyboard supports more zones, and customizable profiles for supporting software.

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Touchpad

The touchpad is about average for a gaming laptop; that is, it's hit-or-miss for sensing gestures.

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Macro keys

LIke a lot of gaming laptops, the Alienware 15 has a set of programmable macro keys down the left side of the keyboard. 

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Travel

The keys are flat but still provide a decent amount of travel and bounce.

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Thick

Because it houses a full GTX 1070, it's a bit thick and requires a lot of airflow.

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Speakers

The front-firing speakers are more powerful than the earlier model's.

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Lappable

It never got too hot to put on my lap.

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More airflow

The updated model has a lot more venting for better airflow. The company also says it's been treated to resist fingerprints and smudges.

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Power button

It retains the alienhead power button.

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Alienware 15 (2016)
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