Last week, at E3 2019, I had the chance to take a look at a few new products from Alienware and Dell. Dell purchased Alienware in 2006 and has shifted their enthusiast products to the Alienware brand. Interestingly, I bought my first laptop in 2006: a Dell XPS 1710. At that time, , the XPS 1710 was their top of the line Gaming Laptop. It came with an Intel Pentium Core 2 Duo, an Nvidia Geforce 7800, 4 GB DDR2 667 RAM, a 100 GB Hard Drive, and a 1920×1200 panel. It also had a ginormous power brick and weighed around 7lbs. That thing was a monster. Fast Forward 13 years to 2019 – thinking about carrying that behemoth around fills me with dread.
My Current Rig:
I’m currently using an MSI GS65 Stealth. I bought it in April after some jackass broke into my car and stole my backpack. That unfortunate incident forced me to replace my previous laptop, an Asus ROG Strix, from late 2016. The Asus was running a 6th Gen i7, a Geforce 970m, 12 GB DDR4. I’d also upgraded to a 2TB hard drive. It was a great machine. The only issue I had with it was that the plastic around the hinges had started to crack a little. Other than that, it was a great machine.
My new system is an absolute beast, comparatively speaking. It’s running an 8th Gen i7, 16 GB RAM, and an RTX 2060. I can run just about anything on here. I only have two complaints about it. First, the touch pad isn’t the greatest. I’m constantly, accidentally clicking on things or moving the cursor across the screen. I’ve tried adjusting all the sensitivity settings I can think of and nothing seems to fix it. My other issue is with the storage. It came with a 512 GB SSD and has an additional M.2 slot for a second drive. The problem is the location.
In order to get to the slot, you have to basically completely disassemble the machine. While I’m sure I’d have no issues doing that myself, that’s quite a bit more work than just taking off the bottom and popping the new one in (like EVERY OTHER LAPTOP I’VE OWNED). I’m sure it somehow made sense because of airflow and other design specs, but frankly , it’s annoying and is the main reason I haven’t added an additional drive yet.
Alienware New M15 and M17:
Disclaimer. Before I start talking about the Alienware products, I need to mention that I did not have enough time with the machines to run them through a barrage of tests. That means everything I discuss here will be based off the few minutes I had to play with their new laptops and the information I’ve been provided. So now, if you’re still here, you’re probably wondering why I spent the first few paragraphs talking about what laptop I’m currently using. It’s because I wish I hadn’t been forced (by necessity) to have purchased the first laptop I saw that I liked.
Again, I really like the GS65 Stealth, but the new Alienware M series machines are gorgeous and appear to solve both of the issues I have with the MSI. To be fair, I typically use a mouse, so the touchpad isn’t a HUGE deal, but when I’m not using a mouse (like right now since I forgot it on my desk at the office), it’s cumbersome. The touchpad on the Alienware machines felt SO MUCH BETTER. The new Alienware machines feature a Precision Touch Glass Touchpad. Movement on it felt much more dynamic and a bit easier to control. The texture was also a bit nicer as well. That could be due to the glass feeling a bit more like using your phone.
The M15 and M17 also have great design. I’ve never really been one to call a piece of gear “sexy” but these computers are sexy as hell. They’re calling the new look “Legend Industrial Design”, taking inspiration from their original designs while updating the look for 2019. The two available colors are Lunar Light (white) and Dark Side of the Moon (Dark Gray/Black).
The lines are very sleek. Interestingly, though I typically don’t care for RGB lighting, the LED strip that circles the back adds a nice flair. I also really like the notches under the screen that gives the illusion of the screen being lifted a bit from the main body. One other design choice I like is that the power plugs into the back instead of on the side. On my MSI, the power plugs in on the right. Being right-handed, having the power on the right is a minor annoyance when I’m using a mouse instead of the touchpad.
Speaking about ports, these models come with all the typical connections you’d find on most current high-end gaming laptops:
- mini DisplayPort;
- 2 regular USB 3.1 ports; and
- 1 with PowerShare.
PowerShare allows you to charge devices via USB while the system is in low-power mode (like when it’s sleeping). It also sports either an E2600 or E3000 Ethernet port, a USB -C ThunderBolt 3 port, a combo headphones/mic jack, and their proprietary Graphics Amplifier port.
What Is a Graphics Amplifier?
The Graphics Amplifier Port is basically just an external PCIe slot. These have become fairly common appliances. While Razer has their own version, it connects via Thunderbolt 3. The AlienWare connection ties directly into the PCI bus. That means, if like us, you livestream from your laptop and use something like BlackMagic’s ThunderBolt Intensity Shuttle, you won’t be sharing the same connection, eliminating a possible bottleneck.
That being said, Razer’s new Core X Chroma does have a few advantages in its favor. The Alienware Graphics Amplifier only has a 460 Watt PSU, the Core X Chroma has a 700 watt unit. The Core X Chroma also supports up to a 3x wide card compared to a 2x wide on the Alienware. They both have 4 USB 3.1 ports, but only the Razer unit has an additional Ethernet port. Notwithstanding, since your laptop most likely has one as well, that’s not a huge advantage.
This difference is also reflected in the price. The Alienware unit will set you back $229 plus the cost of whichever GFX card you decide to purchase. The basic Core X with a 650 Watt PSU and no Ethernet or USB ports will set you back $299, the Chroma version ups the ante to $399. I should also mention that it looks like the Alienware Graphics Amplifier hasn’t been refreshed in a while, so it’s possible that the next version will close the gap a bit, but there’s no indication of if/or when that might be.
Both the M15 and M17 have essentially the same specs. The main difference is the display size. Both base models come standard with a 9th Gen i7, 16 GB RAM, an Nvidia RTX 2060 (upgradeable to the 2070), and a 512 GB SSD. Due to the larger display on the M17, this also provides the extra space needed to include a number pad.
As of right now, the website doesn’t offer much customization. While the spec sheet indicates that all models are offered with either a 60hz, 144hz, or 240hz screen, the only options for the M15 is the 60hz screen and the M17 is the 144hz screen. I’m also unable to select a different processor, RAM, GFX card, or Hard Drive. According to the support rep I chatted with on Dell’s site, additional options will be added in the next few weeks. I’ll reach out to our rep and see if I can get additional clarification on that.
One thing I didn’t really get a chance to examine was the webcam with Tobii Eye Tracking. I generally don’t use the webcam that’s built-in and I don’t really have experience using the Eye Tracking. If that’s something you’re interested in though, it comes standard on both models.
Ability to Upgrade:
Unlike their top-end Area-51m, which is basically just a portable desktop, there’s not much in the M15 or M17 that you can upgrade yourself. Like virtually every other laptop, you can really only upgrade the RAM and the Hard Drive. . . but compared to my current machine, it’s super easy. Unscrew the bottom of the laptop and you have access to both the SSD slots and the RAM.
The Area-51 on the other hand. . . you can also change out both the CPU and the GPU. You can upgrade the CPU with any Desktop class processor that uses the same socket type. The GPU is slightly more involved. It’s a proprietary format, so you’ll only be able to get upgrades from Dell. But like the M15 and M17, it also has the Graphics Amplifier Port.
The base models of the M15/M17 start ate $1,999 and $2,099 respectively. Once all of the upgrades are available you can probably expect them to top out somewhere between $2,500 and $3,000. If you’re in the market for a new high-end gaming laptop and/or a laptop that can chew through rendering in After Effects or Adobe Premiere, these should absolutely be on your list to check out. Take a look at the new offerings right here.
Make sure you keep checking back in with us here at That Hashtag Show for more coverage from everything we got to see at E3 2019.