UK price (as reviewed): £2,757.49 (inc. VAT)
US price (as reviewed): Reviewed specification currently unavailable
If the bulk of your typical high-end gaming laptop has put you off owning one then we do sympathise with you. Alienware in particular, has produced some monsters in the past, but the latest m17 is its thinnest design ever for this style of laptop. Even better is that the weight stands at just over 2.6kg, which is only a few hundred grams heavier than your typical business 15" laptop despite this being a high-power 17" gaming notebook.
It's clear, then, that the m17 has gone on a diet; the thickness of 23mm is only marginally higher than a similarly-specced model from any of Alienware's competitors. The result is that the m17 isn't totally adverse to being slung into a rucksack, and doing this shouldn't result in a need to see a physiotherapist afterwards.
That's not to say the m17 has lost all of the usual Alienware bravado, though, as there's still plenty to attract gazes across coffee shops or LAN party floors, and as usual you'll want to seriously think about physically locking this beast down given it's enormous price tag. There are numerous oversized vents in the chassis, although we doubt you could ever call laptop cooling excessive, and a side-to-side, 4"-wide set of vents in the bottom tray too. The Alienware logo on the lid illuminates as does the keyboard with your typical 16.8 million colours available to choose from via Alienware's software-controlled AlienFX hardware along with four-zone control.
The laptop certainly feels solid and scores highly on build quality (as you'd absolutely expect given the price), but there's no brushed aluminium, and what you see is either soft-touch or glossy plastic. The latter surrounds the screen and can be distracting, but the screen itself is anti-glare and non-touch so at least reflections are kept to a minimum. We do have another issue with the lid, though, which is that the hinges are far too stiff. Despite the reasonably hefty weight, raising the lid immediately lifts the entire laptop up from the front. The first time we did this, we nearly let go with the laptop raised six inches - clearly not ideal.
The touchpad and keyboard are pleasant enough to use, though and the backlit keys are bright but not garish. The touchpad is very similar if not identical to the ones used in Dell's 15" XPS laptop, but unlike the latter you get a full keyboard with numpad. We'd say the touch pad is just about big enough, but it could do with being a little larger to make gesturing and the like more comfortable.
The fan noise adds to the list of negatives; unfortunately it sounds like a typical airliner taxiing past at close range when they do spin up. This was drowned out to some extent from the speakers, though, which do a reasonable job but are still nowhere near as good as a half-decent set of stereo separates.
Popping the undertray off reveals a rather neat-looking cooling system sporting four large heat pipes and a pair of fans dealing with the Core i9-8950HK CPU and RTX 2080, with a separate heatsink cooling the 500GB SK Hynix PC401 PCIe NVMe SSD. There are two M.2 slots, with the second offering support for either a PCIe or SATA M.2 SSD, plus there's a vacant 2.5" slot too, so there's plenty of room for expanding the storage.
The CPU is a beast too, with six Hyper-Threaded cores providing 12 threads and a maximum Turbo Boost frequency of 4.8GHz and 12MB L3 cache. Both SODIMM slots are occupied, with our model sporting 16GB 2,666MHz DDR4, but this is configurable up to 32GB. There's a 60Wh battery included, but you can upgrade to a 90Wh model for a very reasonable £20.
April 12 2021 | 14:00