When it comes to playing games, I've always preferred consoles to computers. Building (or buying) a custom gaming rig can be fun, but I need a dedicated laptop. And gaming laptops can definitely bring the power, but often with a size and battery-life trade-off that would make it impossible to use in any non-gaming scenario. So it used to be that if I wanted to game, it was easier to for me to spend money on an Xbox One S or PlayStation 4 Pro, rather than messing with PCs. But the new Alienware 13 is changing my mind about gaming laptops.
Honestly, for Alienware, this design is quite understated
The configuration I tested is pricey, running nearly $2,100 (which yes, is much more expensive than a console). It has an amazing 2560 x 1440 OLED display. It also includes a quad-core Intel Kaby Lake i7-7700HQ processor, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and Nvidia's GTX 1060 graphics card with 6GB of RAM. That's plenty of power for most gaming.
I powered through Civilisation VI, Resident Evil 7, and Forza Horizon 3, and the Alienware 13 managed to keep up without a problem. In Forza, I had to drop down to 1080p for the graphics to work at 60fps, but that was actually impressive given that the PC port of Forza has a reputation for being terrible. With Resident Evil 7, there was sometimes a tiny delay in new areas appearing as I travelled through the game's maps at 60fps at the highest resolution. Dropping some of the textures back totally solved that problem. The computer is fast enough that it should even be able to handle some VR games, though nothing too visually taxing like Elite Dangerous.
Battery life while gaming isn't going to be stellar. Not even the lower power requirements of a Kaby Lake processor is going to get the computer past the two and a half hour mark. But when used for everyday tasks, like watching video or doing browsing the internet, I managed to eek out almost seven hours. This kind of battery life is very impressive on a laptop with this much power
Also impressive is the 2560 x 1440 OLED touch display. This screen is one of the best I've ever seen on a laptop, with blacks that practically disappear into the bezel, a great view from almost any angle, which is a problem for some other gaming laptops, and wonderfully vivid colours. Even the blue-emblazoned Alienware logo can't keep me from loving this screen.
Check out the arse on this thing!
But the price to pay this laptop's excellence its hulking size. At 3kg, it's way heavier than any of the best 33cm laptops I've reviewed over the last six months, and even heavier than it's closest competitor the 3.75 pound MSI GS43. This is not a laptop you want to lug around all the time, and people will absolutely mock you for the giant back end of the laptop — though it does give you room for a plethora of ports, including USB-A, USB-C, mini-DisplayPort, HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet and that mostly useless Alienware Graphics Amplifier port (I mean, if you want to buy a whole other graphics card and the $US200 ($263) amp to try and soup up your games than be my guest...).
The OLED screen is one of the best I've ever seen on a laptop.
But you know what, the laptop is so good in all the ways that count, I don't even care! As a person who never considered a gaming laptop, the Alienware 13 has me filled with longing. At $2,099, this configuration is a lot more expensive than my Xbox One S setup, but it's capable of playing PC games, doing VR, and the battery life in on-gaming scenarios is good enough for actually getting shit done. If you're in the market for a good gaming laptop that can also be used as an actual portable computer, the Alienware 13 should be on your list.
- This thing gets loud. Playing through Resident Evil 7 or Forza Horizon 3 causes the fans to spin with furor. The machine is hot and loud. But it's a quad-core processor and a very nice mobile GPU shoved inside a 33cm frame, so I guess this is to be expected.
- I had occasional problems with the wi-fi while playing games. That is, if I was trying to play a game and download another in the background, wi-fi would sometimes shut-off. I'm not sure the laptop or Windows 10 is to blame, but regardless it was frustrating.
- Again, the OLED screen is just fantastic.
- The keyboard and trackpad are both very good, not just for gaming, but for typing and getting shit done, too.
- Other than the trackpad lighting up and the keyboard having some backlight, this thing doesn't even look that much like a gaming laptop. Like, it doesn't scream it like some of Razer's designs do.
- The power brick is enormous because it is 180 watts. If you are going to travel with this thing, be aware of that added size and weight.
- You can configure much cheaper options that lack the 1060 graphics and the stunning OLED display and still get a good performing laptop.