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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Alienware 13 R3 (OLED) review:

With OLED and VR support, this is a 13-inch gaming laptop with almost everything

That means when I hooked up the Oculus Rift, I needed one port for the headset, one for the camera, and one for the Game controller (in this case the wireless adapter for my Xbox One ($325.00 at Amazon.com) controller). That's one more traditional USB-A port than the system has, so I needed to get creative.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

I tried a couple of different USB-C dongles and experimented using them on different ports and with different devices until I found a combination that worked. The Xbox controller wireless adapter, for example, didn't play nice when attached via a USB-C dongle, so I eventually used that for the Rift sensor, and finally got everything working. Once I did that, VR was no problem, but I was left with an awful tangle of wires and adapters cluttering the workspace.

Nvidia's new 10-series GPUs are a big step forward, as they merge the previously separate desktop and laptop versions, getting rid of the lower-performing "M" series of laptop graphics chips. The 1060 is the new entry-level card, works with VR headsets, and is also a strong performer in everyday 2D gaming (although not on the same level as the new 1070 and 1080 GPUs).

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Sarah Tew/CNET

I loaded up the brand-new Battlefield 1 from EA, and it played very smoothly at the native 2,560x1,440-pixel resolution and medium detail settings. It also looked great on the OLED display, which helped with its deep blacks and bright colors.

As we said of the OLED Alienware 13 from a few months ago, compared to the best OLED big-screen TVs, the colors on the Alienware display look oversaturated. The greens are too green, the blues too blue. The glossy screen also picks up a good amount of room glare. You're getting a great-looking, punchy image, but at the expense of color accuracy.

Brightness, however, is excellent. Blacks are very close to true black and the contrast is phenomenal.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

This new Alienware 13 also gets a big application performance boost over the previous model, largely because it jumps from a low-voltage Core i5-6500U processor to a more powerful Core i5-6700HQ. Battery life, however, take a step back, possibly for the same reason. The newest Alienware 13 ran for 3 hours and 46 minutes on our streaming video playback test, while the older U-series model ran for more than double that time. If you're gaming while unplugged, good luck getting more than an hour or so of playtime.

Hard to resist

With its fantastic OLED display, very good (for a 13-inch laptop) graphics performance and support for VR headsets, this redesigned Alienware 13 is a great all-around gaming laptop if you want something less bulky than a big 17-inch model. But it's not perfect. My handful of issues, from short battery life to fewer full-size USB ports than needed, may sound like nitpicking, but they're important, especially in a laptop that costs more than $2,000.

However, Alienware deserves credit for hitting the major points on my imaginary gaming laptop wish list, and once I figured out how to juggle my dongle-and-port problem, it quickly became my favorite current system for PC games.

Note that in the performance charts below, this new version is referred to as the Alienware 13 R3, while the model we reviewed earlier this year is the R2 version.

Multimedia Multitasking test 3.0

Alienware 13 R2 (OLED)
555
Razer Blade (14-inch, 2016)
205
Alienware 13 R3 (OLED)
195
HP Omen
184
Origin PC Eon-17X
131

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Geekbench 3 (Multi-Core)

Origin PC Eon-17X
18961
HP Omen
13362
Razer Blade (14-inch, 2016)
13130
Alienware 13 R3 (OLED)
13093
Alienware 13 R2 (OLED)
6779

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Streaming video playback battery drain test

Alienware 13 R2 (OLED)
416
Razer Blade (14-inch, 2016)
341
HP Omen
270
Alienware 13 R3 (OLED)
226
Origin PC Eon-17X
121

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

Bioshock Infinite gaming test

Origin PC Eon-17X
214
HP Omen
137.56
Alienware 13 R3 (OLED)
116.69
Razer Blade (14-inch, 2016)
86.5
Alienware 13 R2 (OLED)
64

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

Origin PC Eon-17X
4919
HP Omen
3816
Alienware 13 R3 (OLED)
2609
Razer Blade (14-inch, 2016)
1742
Alienware 13 R2 (OLED)
1383

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

System Configurations

Alienware 13 R3 (OLED) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2400MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060; 512GB SSD
Alienware 13 R2 (OLED) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U; 12GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M; 256GB SSD
Razer Blade (14-inch, 2016) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2133MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M; 256GB SSD
HP Omen Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2400MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070; 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Origin PC Eon-17X Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); (oc) 4.5GHz Intel Core i7-6700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 512GB SSD

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