I’ve had my share of gaming laptops over the years.
From the tank-like, thick and bulky behemoths to the MacBook Air-lookalikes, they all came in many shape and size. Each trying to stand out from one another with bells and whistles that half of the time does not contribute even an iota to the machine’s performance. In more recent times, some brands have incorporated features without realizing these additions were in fact, counter-productive to what they were trying to achieve with the product.
So what makes a good gaming laptop? What do people look for when they spend a small fortune equivalent to, if not more than their monthly paycheck? For starters, depending on one’s priorities, the answer is subjective and varies from one person to the next.
However, after spending some time with the Alienware 15, I can confidently claim that this device may very well occupy that top spot when it comes to leading gaming laptop models released in 2018. It ticks all the right boxes, delivers where it matters and most importantly, lived up its claims.
Form is Temporary, Class is Permanent
While the brand has been relatively quiet over the past few years, eclipsed by new competitors in the gaming laptop market sprouting left, right and centre, Alienware never really ‘left’ the scene. Just like how Ferraris are to supercars, you can never disassociate Alienware from gaming and this year, with their range of new i9 machines, may have effectively reclaimed the throne they once dominated.
Staying true to its lineage, the Alienware 15 is built like a tank. Everything from its chassis, to the keyboard and screen, felt premium. This isn’t something that is going to fall apart after a year’s use. No, no, no. Unless someone intentionally subjected the machine to extreme abuse (we are looking at you, Zack Nelson from JerryRig), or the klutziest person alive put it through a catastrophic drop, this is one machine that will run through the most extreme of usage.
There are many pretenders to the throne but the one thing that separates an Alienware from their competitors is the feeling you get when you pick one up. It is hard to describe, so allow me to use an automative analogy here. Compare the feeling when you shut the door of a Ferrari to that of a Lotus. You paid good money for one of these and boy does it make every single cent count.
Some may argue about the thick-ish build which does not toe the en vogue, waif-like silhouettes of other brands’ gaming laptop but it is a tradeoff for better cooling. Never once were we bothered by the heat emanating from the device, nor face issues of it throttling due to the extra work it was forced to do. It’s just a case of functionality over form and we don’t see Dell backing down anytime soon.
These guys know their stuff.
A staple of every Alienware gaming laptops are the light-up features. The 2018 Alienware range comes with tons of flashy lights which will make you the centre of attention whenever you prop your laptop – a formula which has been copied to death by other brands in the market to this day.
There are light up strips on either side of the frames as well as the back of it; all of which are customizable via the AlienFX program. While this feature adds zero effect to your gaming, it’s a nice addition to personalize your machine. Our minor gripe here would be that the keyboards aren’t individually lit but instead are controlled via specific sections. But as we mentioned earlier, these are simply aesthetics and to consign negativity upon the device solely based on this would be unfair.
In my personal opinion, the most important feature on a gaming laptop is its keyboard. Now before you lynch me for saying that – yes, I agree; the CPU, GPU and everything under the hood are essential components to make a gaming laptop perform at the highest possible level. But it all will be for nothing once you pair a dodgy keyboard to it. I’ve had the experience of handling powerful machines whose performance were nullified by subpar keys and poorly designed arrangements.
Not long ago, hardware makers jumped on the mechanical keyboard wagon and were regurgitating the whole ‘this is literally your desktop pc on the go!’ spiel. But do we really need mechanical keyboards for laptops? While it became the standard inclusion only in the last few years for some gaming laptop brands, luckily for us, Alienware stuck to their guns and to date, still offers the best feeling keyboard to not only slay people online, but a darn awesome one to type on.
My daily driver has always been a MacBook Air and I dare say, the most seamless transition from the Alienware 15 when it comes to typing. The keys are perfectly spaced, feels right to the touch; clicky but without feeling plasticky.
In case you are wondering, no, the screen does not have any touchscreen functionality. I know it’s a useful feature to some but come on – who buys a gaming laptop for touchscreen monitors? What do you plan to do with it? Play Angry Birds?
Under the Hood
The unit I reviewed had the Core i9-8950HK CPU @2.90GHz processor and a GTX1080 graphics card. Needless to say, this thing is buttery smooth and would take on anything you throw at it without a flinch. You can overclock the machine but to be honest, if overclocking is your thing, you’d be better off spending that money on a dedicated desktop setup.
Sound-wise, the two front-facing speakers are easily one of the better systems coming out of a gaming laptop and we don’t have anything to complain there. Both speakers offer punchy, hard-hitting sounds and if you’re high on audio-intensive games, you are in for a treat. We ran World of Warships on it and boy were we blown away by the roar of the main guns.
We count over twelve ports throughout the chassis; our favourite part of it all is that Dell decided to reposition the power ports to the rear. This decision not only reduce wire clutter, it also allows either side of the laptop for mouse use. Speaking of power, you’d be able to run the laptop solely on battery for at least four hours on normal usage before requiring to plug it in.
The available ports are as follows:
- Type-A SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Port
- Type-A SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Port with PowerShare Technology
- Type-C SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Port
- Killer Networks e2500 Gigabit Ethernet NIC
- Mini-Display Port 1.2 (certified) Output
- HDMI 2.0 Output
- Thunderbolt 3 Port
- Alienware Graphics Amplifier Port
- Power/DC-in Jack
- Noble Lock port
- Headphone 1/8″ Port (retaskable for Microphone/Line-In analog audio input) |
- Audio Out 1/8″ Ports (Compatible with inline mic headset).
There are few negatives we can point out regarding the Alienware 15, mostly related to its bulky frame and weight. Weighing approximately 3.5kg, this is one of the heaviest 15-inch laptops in the market. Top that with the power brick alongside other peripherals and you’re lugging at least five kilos on your back. You’d require a special bag to lug it around; don’t let the 15-inch screen size fool you.
Despite sporting a 15-inch screen, the laptop occupies the landmass of a small automobile. You would require either a specific Alienware backpack or a carrier tailored for 17-inch devices.
It is that huge.
+ Sturdy build all around
+ Still delivers the best gaming laptop keyboard in the market
+ Tons of ports; repositioned power jack is a godsend.
– Still bulky as always. But hey; where else are you gonna get your core workout from?
– It isn’t the cheapest option out there; but then again, so are Ferraris.
Full Score: 95/100
The Alienware 15 (2018) unit was loaned to Kakuchopurei.com for review from Dell Malaysia. Base tech specs are as follows;
- Processor: 8th Generation Intel® Core™ i9-8950HK
- RAM: 16GB, DDR4, 2400MHz; up to 32GB
- GFX: NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1080 with 8GB GDDR5X
You can purchase similar configuration via the local Dell Online store here.