Recommending the Alienware m17 R4 is both easy and difficult for me. As much as I love the idea of having all this gaming performance in a portable and relatively small package, its price veers into "you can get more with a desktop" territory. That feeling is intensified by the laptop's short battery life, which limits its usefulness as a mobile device. I mean, if you're going to be tethered to a power cord anyway, it's just one more reason to get a desktop.
On the other hand, the m17 R4 is a complete package -- right down to its clicky Cherry MX mechanical keyboard. It's slim, it looks fantastic and the components will keep your frame rates high for years. If you're looking for something for travel but not to necessarily use between points A and B, it's a fantastic choice. And if you've got no room for a desktop in your life, the choice is even easier.
- Top-notch gaming performance
- Stylish design
- Lots of component options
- Poor battery life
- Cherry keyboard costs extra
A lot of options, none of them cheap
Anyone who's shopped for a gaming laptop knows these aren't cheap machines, especially if you're looking for top gaming performance now and for several years into the future. You can certainly get a decent gaming laptop for $1,000 or less. But it won't have the build quality, features and components found in the Alienware m17 R4, which starts at just under $2,000 (AU$2,774, £2,899).
Sadly, the m17 R4 I tested with the GeForce RTX 3080 and Core i9-10980HK is in limited supply. However, if you're not able to get the m17 in this configuration, the recently released Alienware x17 offers similar performance (if not better with 11th-gen Intel processors), the same displays and the option of a Cherry MX mechanical keyboard. Also, models with the RTX 3060 and RTX 3070 are available.
Alienware m17 R4
|Price as reviewed||$3,610|
|Display||17-inch 1,920x1,080 display, 360Hz refresh rate|
|PC CPU||2.4GHz Intel Core i9-10980HK|
|PC memory||32GB DDR4 2933MHz|
|Graphics||16GB.Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080|
|Storage||512GB SSD + 1TB RAID 0|
|Ports||USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A (x3), HDMI 2.1b with HDCP 2.2, Mini DisplayPort 1.4, Alienware Graphics Amplifier Port, Thunderbolt 3 USB-C, 3.5mm combo jack, microSD card slot, Gigabit Ethernet|
|Networking||Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.1, Gigabit Ethernet|
|Operating system||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (20H2)|
|Weight||6.6 pounds (3 kilograms)|
So no, the m17 R4 isn't a bargain, but I wouldn't call it overpriced. The build quality is better than you're going to get from some of its less-expensive competitors. It feels good in your hands and looks amazing on your desk.
This is also the first Alienware to offer a mechanical keyboard designed in collaboration with key switch-maker Cherry. The clicky switch is made from stainless-steel components with 1.8mm of travel and has a self-cleaning mechanism to keep them dust-free. If you've always wanted a tactile keyboard on your laptop for typing and gaming, this is your dream come true: It's a great laptop keyboard. It also adds $150 to the configuration, which is irritating, but very Alienware.
Among the various configurations, you'll find multiple 17.3-inch display options, including a UHD panel with 100% AdobeRGB gamut coverage and the FHD panel on my review laptop that covers 100% sRGB color gamut and an esports-caliber 360Hz refresh rate. Plus, with an HDMI 2.1 out, a Mini DisplayPort out and a Thunderbolt 3 port, you have multiple connections for external displays.
Thin and (not so) light
It's amazing that Alienware and other gaming laptop makers are now able to make models like the m17 R4 so thin. It's thicker than your average midrange productivity laptop, but not by much. Although the back requires a little more room than a typical 17-inch laptop, you can still easily fit this in a regular backpack. Don't let the thinness fool you, though: At 6.6 pounds, the m17 R4 is heavy if you're planning to regularly carry it on your back.
That weight doesn't include the laptop's power supply either, which brings the carry weight up over 10 pounds. And you're going to need the power supply. On our streaming video battery test, I was only able to eke out 2 hours, 6 minutes of battery life. While gaming laptops aren't designed to be power-sipping, this is still surprisingly short.
No surprises with performance
Put in high-end components and get high-end performance. This m17 R4 is a screamer and, again, it's amazing that it has such good performance in a body so thin. For however good the configuration is, though, the 10th-gen Intel i9 CPU can't keep up with the AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX in the Asus ROG Strix Scar 15 we recently tested. The m17's performance is by no means disappointing, although it does make me wish an AMD CPU was an option on the m17 like it is on the m15 R5.
Keeping the m17 cool is Alienware's Cryo-Tech cooling system. Under load, there is of course the constant whir of fans. They're loud but there's no high-pitched whine. With so many vents, though, hot air seemingly pours from all around. And still, the keyboard can get uncomfortably warm. Directly under the WASD keys isn't too bad, but I occasionally rest my fingers on the sides, and both left and right sides of the keyboard can get toasty.
Regardless of what's in it, the Alienware m17 R4 is a strong pick if you're looking for an attractive, big-screen gaming experience, portable workstation or both. It offers desktop-like gaming performance in an all-in-one package that fits in a backpack -- and that's something you can't easily do with a desktop, monitor, mechanical keyboard and mouse. You'll just have to keep telling yourself that when you pay for it.
|Alienware m17 r4||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (20H2); 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-10980HK; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,933MHz; 16GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 512GB SSD + 953GB RAID 0|
|Razer Blade 15 Advanced (early 2021)||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (2009); 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-10875H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,200MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Max-Q; 1TB SSD|
|Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition (G513QY)||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (21H1); 3.3GHz AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,200MHz; 12GB AMD Radeon RX 6800M; 512TB SSD|
|Asus ROG Strix Scar 15 (G533QS)||Microsoft Windows 10 Pro; 3.3GHz AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,200MHz; 10GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080; 1TB SSD|
|Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (20H2); 4.4GHz AMD Ryzen 7 5800H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,200MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060; 512GB SSD|