Notebookcheck

Alienware 17 R2 Notebook Review

Sven Kloevekorn, Stefanie Voigt (translated by Martina Osztovits), 05/01/2015

Alien lightshow. Alienware, who are very popular among gamers, jumped on the Maxwell bandwagon and presented their first notebook with the new and extremely fast Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M. Numerous manufacturer specific special hardware and software features should fulfill all wishes of gamers. It is just too bad that precisely the core units did not work flawlessly.

For the original German review, see here.

The gaming hardware specialist Dell acquired in 2006 was slow in releasing the successor of the Alienware 17 (GTX 880M), which most recently achieved a great rating in May 2014 (87%) in our review. At the time of testing, there are four models of the new Alienware 17 R2 on offer. The base configurations can partly be configured for extra cost and are priced from 1599 Euros (~$1790) to a steep 2499 Euros (~$2798) at Dell. You can select an Intel Core i7-4710HQ (4x 2.5-3.5 GHz, Hyper-Threading, TDP 47 W) or an even faster i7-4980HQ (4x 2.8-4.0 GHz, Hyper-Threading, TDP 47 W), an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M with 3 GB or a GTX 980M with 4 GB GDDR5-VRAM, and 8 or 16 GB RAM. All models are equipped with a conventional hard drive with 1 TB. The most expensive model additionally features a 512 GB SSD. It is also possible to add an SSD with 128 to 512 GB to the three cheaper models.

All other features like case and IPS display with Full HD resolution are not different. The model reviewed by us features an i7-4980HQ, 8 GB RAM and a GTX 980M and an SSD with 256 GB in addition to the hard drive. This powerful high-end hardware is currently state of the art in the mobile range. Dell put it in a representative chassis which is reminiscent of the much heavier and bulkier predecessor. Again, the configurable light effects are its most striking feature. However, the proprietary port for the not included external graphics amplifier is new. It can be used to connect a desktop graphics card to the system via PCI Express.

We compare the test model to two 17-inch laptops which also use the cutting edge GeForce GTX 980M and are similarly priced. The first one is our gaming winner from 2014, namely the Asus G751JY-T7009H, which is about 500 g heavier at 4.16 kg and almost 2 cm higher than our test device.  The Asus features an i7-4710HQ and a big RAM capacity of 24 GB RAM, while the mass storage solution is comparable to our test model's. The One K73-5N completes the trio. It ranks in between the Alienware and the Asus in terms of height and weight and we reviewed a model with the Intel Core i7-4790K (4x 4.0-4.4 GHz, Hyper-Threading, TDP 88 W) desktop CPU, 16 GB RAM and a 500 GB SSD. Compared to the other two contenders, the GTX 980M has double the dedicated memory here. However, the Full HD panel is the only one not based on the IPS technology in this comparison group. It uses the cheaper TN technology, which brings several disadvantages.

Alienware 17 R2 (17 Series)
Graphics adapter
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M - 4096 MB, Core: 1038 MHz, Memory: 5000 MHz, GDDR5, ForceWare 344.73, Nvidia Optimus
Memory
8192 MB 
, DDR 1600 MHz, dual channel, 2 RAM slots, both used
Display
17.3 inch 16:9, 1920 x 1080 pixel, LG Philips LGD0459 / 173WF4 (Dell P/N: CV69H), IPS, glossy: no
Mainboard
Intel HM87 (Lynx Point)
Storage
Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G, 256 GB 
, M.2 + 1 x Seagate ST1000LM024 HN-M101MBB 1 TB @ 5400 rpm
Soundcard
Creative CA0132 @ Intel Lynx Point PCH - High Definition Audio Controller
Connections
4 USB 3.0 / 3.1 Gen1, 1 HDMI, 1 DisplayPort, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: Audio in 3.5 mm + Audio out 3.5 mm, Card Reader: 9-in-1, 1 port for the Alienware graphic amplifier
Networking
Qualcomm Killer e2200 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet Controller (10/100/1000MBit), Killer Wireless-n/a/ac 1525 Wireless Network Adapter (a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth 4.1
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 34.4 x 430 x 292 ( = 1.35 x 16.93 x 11.5 in)
Battery
96 Wh Lithium-Ion, or 93.3 Wh?
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 8.1 64 Bit
Camera
Webcam: Full-HD (2 MP)
Additional features
Speakers: 2.1 Klipsch, Keyboard: classical, Keyboard Light: yes, Recovery USB drive, Alienware Command Center (AlienFX, AlienFusion, AlienAdrenaline, Alienware TactX), 12-48 Months Warranty
Weight
3.68 kg ( = 129.81 oz / 8.11 pounds), Power Supply: 646 g ( = 22.79 oz / 1.42 pounds)
Price
2308 Euro
Note: The manufacturer may use components from different suppliers including display panels, drives or memory sticks with similar specifications.

 

Case

Alienware notebooks are easy to recognize because of their angular and futuristic design. Materials which appear high-end, several fancy design elements and - according to our tester - sporty lines, show much attention to detail and meet the high price. The colors black and silver dominate, which emphasizes the focus on male customers. Certainly, the numerous light effects which are configurable in several colors per segment are most striking. A screenshot in the input devices section will give you an impression of it. Overall, the design is - alike all predecessors' - quite rich. Those preferring a more understated design should consider other brands.

The lid, and maybe also the surrounding silver frame, appears to be made from matte aluminum. The rest of the case is made from black, high-end plastic. We especially like the uniform soft-touch surface on the top side of the base unit. Much to our surprise it hardly attracts fingerprints. The build quality cannot be criticized. The gaps are even and we could not detect projecting, sharp edges or other irregularities. The very stiff base as well as the pressure resistant lid, which can just be opened with one hand, left a very solid impression.

Connectivity

Interfaces

4x USB 3.0 ports are always nice to have. Thunderbolt and VGA (G751JY) are missing, but there is a mini-Display port instead. Just like the HDMI 1.4 port and the port for the graphics amplifier, it is located on the rear side. The other ports are perfectly distributed on the sides towards the rear. So, connected cables and USB drives will hardly disturb when using an external mouse. The Killer Network Manager allows prioritizing applications for example. Please refer to our screenshots for details.

left side: power-in, Kensington, 2x USB 3.0, audio in, audio out
left side: power-in, Kensington, 2x USB 3.0, audio in, audio out
right side: SD card, 2x USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet
right side: SD card, 2x USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet
rear side: graphics amplifier, mini-DisplayPort, HDMI
rear side: graphics amplifier, mini-DisplayPort, HDMI

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Communication

Opinions differ on the question whether the built-in Ethernet and WLAN modules of the Killer series ensure a low Ping. A placebo effect is also not to be despised. It is a fact that the Alienware supports "Gigabit-WLAN" (ac) as well as the not that heavily used 5 GHz band. In addition, the Killer Network Manager provides more than usual options and integrates Bluetooth 4.1.

Accessories

Apart from power adapter and cable, there are also security hints, a quick-start guide and a USB drive with Recovery media for Windows 8.1 inside the elegant, black box.      

Maintainability

Via the maintenance hatch, which is fixed with two screws, it is easy to get to the SSD, the hard drive, the WLAN module and the RAM modules, but not the fans and the battery hidden behind the bottom panel, which is fixed with more screws.

Warranty

Dell offers 12 months on-site service. The warranty period can be extended to up to four years. In addition, the statutory dealer warranty applies too.

Input Devices

AlienFX
AlienFX
TactX
TactX
Touchpad configuration
Touchpad configuration

Keyboard

Alike its predecessor and the One K73-5N, the Alienware 17 R2 uses a classic keyboard with immediately adjacent keys. The layout differs from the standard. For example, the Page keys are in an unusual place and there is an extra column and row on the far left and above the number block, which can be configured with key combinations, macros and shortcuts. The author feels that it is particularly unusual that the top left key is not the Escape key, which led to many accidental operations. The keyboard is divided into five segments with lights that can be configured separately in detail.

We liked the quality and typing experience of the keyboard very much. It features a sufficient key travel, a crisp pressure point, a very soft stop and it is pleasingly quiet while typing. We did not find any processing flaws. The construction can only slightly be depressed when unrealistic force is applied. The light of the properly labeled, slightly concave and anti-slip coated keys is even and can be dimmed in eight levels (!). Prolific writers who do not mind the soft stroke should get their money's worth.

Touchpad

If desired, the classic touchpad also shines in different colors. The gliding traits are not ideal, at least with slightly damp fingers. In particular, the finger stuttered when it was moved upwards. The driver e.g. allows configuring gestures with up to four fingers. The many configuration options should not leave many wishes unanswered. The buttons of the mouse replacement are soft and lack a crisp pressure point as well as a clearly audible feedback. We did not have issues with precision, responsiveness and drag 'n' drop.

Display

Full HD is supported by all current games, should be the resolution of choice for most games, and it is used by all notebooks in our comparison group. With a screen size of 17.3-inches (16:9), this gives a pixel density of 127 ppi, which is no longer great. From the usual viewing distance of about half a meter, this gives a sharp, yet not fine image like a QHD display's. Thanks to the IPS technology, you can expect wide viewing angles and good colors. Glare is reduced by the matte surface.

331 cd/m2 (in the middle) can be called a very good maximum brightness. The two competitors are similarly bright. The brightness distribution of 84% is rather mid-range. If you ignore the slight screen bleeding in the bottom left corner, black images appeared rather homogeneous to the tester. The Alienware 17 R2 is also available with a touchscreen.

307
cd/m²
315
cd/m²
313
cd/m²
315
cd/m²
331
cd/m²
299
cd/m²
304
cd/m²
296
cd/m²
279
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 331 cd/m² Average: 306.6 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 84 %
Center on Battery: 331 cd/m²
Contrast: 1103:1 (Black: 0.3 cd/m²)
ΔE Color 4.88 | 0.4-29.43 Ø6.2
ΔE Greyscale 3.63 | 0.64-98 Ø6.4
84.2% sRGB (Argyll 3D) 55% AdobeRGB 1998 (Argyll 3D)
Gamma: 2.17

In particular for an IPS display, the black value of 0.3 cd/m² is outstandingly low. Together with the high brightness, this gives an excellent contrast of 1103:1. The TN panel of the One can almost keep up with the Alienware in this aspect, while the Asus "only" achieved 700:1 because of a higher black value of 0.47 cd/m2. Subjectively, black appeared deep to the tester.

When comparing the DeltaE values (state of delivery) of the Alienware and the Asus with the One, it gets apparent once again that IPS displays bring superior colors. Certainly, the test model's values of 5 (ColorChecker) and 4 (gray level) are not yet perfect for (semi) professional image editing (target value below 3). However, graphics professionals would also not be satisfied with the acceptable 55% coverage of the big AdobeRGB Color space (84% sRGB). It is noteworthy that the One does not fall behind the competition is this aspect with 54%.

CalMAN gray levels without profile
CalMAN gray levels without profile
CalMAN ColorChecker without profile
CalMAN ColorChecker without profile
CalMAN color saturation without profile
CalMAN color saturation without profile
Alienware 17 R2 vs. AdobeRGB
Alienware 17 R2 vs. AdobeRGB
CalMAN gray levels with profile
CalMAN gray levels with profile
CalMAN ColorChecker with profile
CalMAN ColorChecker with profile
CalMAN color saturation with profile
CalMAN color saturation with profile
Alienware 17 R2 vs. sRGB
Alienware 17 R2 vs. sRGB
Alienware 17 R2
GeForce GTX 980M, 4980HQ, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
Asus G751JY-T7009H
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
One K73-5N
GeForce GTX 980M, 4790K, Samsung SSD 840 EVO 500GB
Alienware 17 (GTX 880M)
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-75JC3T0
Screen
-6%
-40%
-46%
Brightness middle
331
329
-1%
321
-3%
302
-9%
Brightness
307
326
6%
308
0%
284
-7%
Brightness Distribution
84
93
11%
86
2%
90
7%
Black Level *
0.3
0.47
-57%
0.31
-3%
0.49
-63%
Contrast
1103
700
-37%
1035
-6%
616
-44%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 *
4.88
3.95
19%
10.3
-111%
9.31
-91%
Greyscale DeltaE2000 *
3.63
3.36
7%
10.64
-193%
9.63
-165%
Gamma
2.17 101%
2.46 89%
2.74 80%
2.13 103%
CCT
6325 103%
5961 109%
13108 50%
10778 60%
Color Space (Percent of AdobeRGB 1998)
55
56
2%
54
-2%
57
4%
Color Space (Percent of sRGB)
84.2

* ... smaller is better

Alienware 17 R2 outdoors
outdoors
Alienware 17 R2 outdoors
outdoors

High brightness and matte display ensure that outdoor capabilities are good. Even on a sunny day, we could always find a position we could read from the display without problems. However, this is not possible without shade or with the sun from behind.

It is usual for IPS displays that there are only small brightness and contrast losses while colors remain almost unchanged when the viewing angle is only moved in horizontal or vertical direction. So, the user can move quite freely when looking at this display. Image shifts are significantly more apparent in unrealistic scenarios like in the corners of our viewing angle collage, which look even more disadvantageous than to the naked eye.

Alienware 17 R2 viewing angles
Alienware 17 R2 viewing angles

Performance

It is a general rule that mature gaming notebooks like the Alienware 17 R2 also bring more than enough performance for all other kinds of applications. Thanks to a fast quad-core CPU and the currently fastest single graphics card, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M, the notebook does not even reach its limits in most demanding and possibly highly parallelized programs like 3D rendering (see CUDA). Only the RAM capacity could be criticized: Nowadays, 8 GB is only sufficient for about 90% of all scenarios. 16 GB, which would have been more apt for the total performance and the price of the R2, would be certainly enough for 98%. The combination of fast SSD and big hard drive ensures very smooth handling and enough storage space for many games.

System information Alienware 17 R2

Processor

Clock rates during Cinebench R15
Clock rates during Cinebench R15

With the soldered Intel Core i7-4980HQ, Alienware decided to use one of the fastest mobile Haswell CPUs. Because of its high TDP of 47 Watt, it is hardly apt for notebooks smaller than 15-inches. Nominally, the Turbo technology can increase the base clock of 2.8 GHz to 3.9 GHz (two cores) or 3.8 GHz (four cores). The maximum turbo clock of 4 GHz can (seldom) be reached if only one thread is running.

In addition, it is noteworthy that this processor, which was introduced in the third quarter of 2014 and is processed in 22 nm lithography, brings one of the most powerful on-chip GPUs. However, this might not be that important in this Nvidia Optimus configuration.

The results of the single-core test of the Cinebench benchmarks are not surprising, but that the actually slower Core i7-4710HQ in the Asus does not perform much worse in the multi-core benchmarks is unusual. This is caused by the clock rates of the i7-4980HQ immediately hovering around 3.2 to 3.3 GHz (on battery: 3.1 GHz), which is below the specified Turbo clock of 3.8 GHz. The Turbo clock of the i7-4710HQ is 3.3 GHz and the Asus G751JY-T4009H is able to constantly use it in the same scenario. The i7-4980HQ is only insignificantly faster with single-core load, but this is negligible in practice. In view of this, it would have been wiser for Alienware to have put in more RAM instead of a faster CPU. However, you can also take one of the R2 models with i7-4710HQ.

Cinebench R15
CPU Single 64Bit (sort by value)
Alienware 17 R2
GeForce GTX 980M, 4980HQ, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
155 Points ∼71%
Asus G751JY-T7009H
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
136 Points ∼62% -12%
One K73-5N
GeForce GTX 980M, 4790K, Samsung SSD 840 EVO 500GB
175 Points ∼80% +13%
Alienware 17 (GTX 880M)
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-75JC3T0
133 Points ∼61% -14%
CPU Multi 64Bit (sort by value)
Alienware 17 R2
GeForce GTX 980M, 4980HQ, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
670 Points ∼15%
Asus G751JY-T7009H
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
661 Points ∼15% -1%
One K73-5N
GeForce GTX 980M, 4790K, Samsung SSD 840 EVO 500GB
836 Points ∼19% +25%
Alienware 17 (GTX 880M)
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-75JC3T0
643 Points ∼15% -4%
Cinebench R11.5
CPU Single 64Bit (sort by value)
Alienware 17 R2
GeForce GTX 980M, 4980HQ, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
1.74 Points ∼71%
Asus G751JY-T7009H
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
1.52 Points ∼62% -13%
One K73-5N
GeForce GTX 980M, 4790K, Samsung SSD 840 EVO 500GB
1.94 Points ∼80% +11%
Alienware 17 (GTX 880M)
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-75JC3T0
1.51 Points ∼62% -13%
CPU Multi 64Bit (sort by value)
Alienware 17 R2
GeForce GTX 980M, 4980HQ, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
7.28 Points ∼27%
Asus G751JY-T7009H
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
7.22 Points ∼27% -1%
One K73-5N
GeForce GTX 980M, 4790K, Samsung SSD 840 EVO 500GB
9.13 Points ∼34% +25%
Alienware 17 (GTX 880M)
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-75JC3T0
6.96 Points ∼26% -4%
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
5812
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
20150
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Single 64Bit
1.74 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
7.28 Points
Cinebench R15 CPU Single 64Bit
155 Points
Cinebench R15 CPU Multi 64Bit
670 Points
Help

System Performance

The PCMark 7 and 8 benchmarks not only evaluate the CPU performance but also the graphics performance, the RAM performance and especially the performance of the mass storage. Our One K73-5N not only profits from its superior desktop CPU here but also from the outstanding performance of its SSD in reading small, fragmented data blocks (4k read). Since it has the weakest CPU in our comparison group and an SSD, which does not perform much better than the Alienware's, the Asus got third in most tests. Only in sequential reading, which is important for loading big games, does the Asus perform much better thanks to its PCIe-x4 technology.

All things considered, all three notebooks reached very high levels in our tests. Thus, our test model loads programs almost without delays and performs cold boots very fast.

PCMark 7
Productivity (sort by value)
Alienware 17 R2
GeForce GTX 980M, 4980HQ, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
5708 Points ∼52%
Asus G751JY-T7009H
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
5397 Points ∼50% -5%
One K73-5N
GeForce GTX 980M, 4790K, Samsung SSD 840 EVO 500GB
5921 Points ∼54% +4%
Alienware 17 (GTX 880M)
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-75JC3T0
5242 Points ∼48% -8%
Score (sort by value)
Alienware 17 R2
GeForce GTX 980M, 4980HQ, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
6622 Points ∼77%
Asus G751JY-T7009H
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
6325 Points ∼74% -4%
One K73-5N
GeForce GTX 980M, 4790K, Samsung SSD 840 EVO 500GB
6860 Points ∼80% +4%
Alienware 17 (GTX 880M)
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-75JC3T0
5464 Points ∼64% -17%
PCMark 8
Work Score Accelerated v2 (sort by value)
Alienware 17 R2
GeForce GTX 980M, 4980HQ, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
5097 Points ∼78%
Asus G751JY-T7009H
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
5041 Points ∼77% -1%
One K73-5N
GeForce GTX 980M, 4790K, Samsung SSD 840 EVO 500GB
5468 Points ∼84% +7%
Alienware 17 (GTX 880M)
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-75JC3T0
4408 Points ∼68% -14%
Home Score Accelerated v2 (sort by value)
Alienware 17 R2
GeForce GTX 980M, 4980HQ, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
4402 Points ∼72%
Asus G751JY-T7009H
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
4854 Points ∼80% +10%
One K73-5N
GeForce GTX 980M, 4790K, Samsung SSD 840 EVO 500GB
5353 Points ∼88% +22%
Alienware 17 (GTX 880M)
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-75JC3T0
3451 Points ∼57% -22%
PCMark 7 Score
6622 points
PCMark 8 Home Score Accelerated v2
4402 points
PCMark 8 Work Score Accelerated v2
5097 points
Help

Storage Devices

On top of that, it has to be mentioned that the total score of the Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G is only below average compared to other gaming notebooks reviewed in the previous twelve months, since there are many RAID-0 systems among these. If you consider comparable results in the 4k Read and 4k-64 read test (multiple threads), the SSD is mid-range. The additional 1 TB hard drive has a good, yet not outstanding performance.

AS SSD (SSD)
AS SSD (SSD)
CrystalDiskMark 3.0 (SSD)
CrystalDiskMark 3.0 (SSD)
HD Tune (HDD)
HD Tune (HDD)
CrystalDiskMark 3.0 (HDD)
CrystalDiskMark 3.0 (HDD)
Alienware 17 R2Asus G751JY-T7009HOne K73-5NAlienware 17 (GTX 880M)
AS SSD
35%
18%
Score Write
362
342
-6%
449
24%
4K-64 Read
345.34
405.62
17%
335.98
-3%
4K Read
29.14
28.96
-1%
42.22
45%
Seq Read
481.78
1104.26
129%
515.3
7%
CrystalDiskMark 3.0
32%
21%
-46%
Read 4k QD32
360.7
322.3
-11%
398.7
11%
273.7
-24%
Read 4k
31.76
31.54
-1%
45.46
43%
20.49
-35%
Read Seq
485.9
1005
107%
534.7
10%
108.2
-78%
Total Average (Program / Settings)
34% / 33%
20% / 20%
-46% / -46%
Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
Sequential Read: 485.9 MB/s
Sequential Write: 414 MB/s
512K Read: 367.9 MB/s
512K Write: 391.4 MB/s
4K Read: 31.76 MB/s
4K Write: 66.36 MB/s
4K QD32 Read: 360.7 MB/s
4K QD32 Write: 328.2 MB/s

Graphics Card

Currently, only SLI systems are faster. If you compare single graphics cards, the cutting edge Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M, which features 4 GB dedicated VRAM here, is the unrivaled performance leader. Apart from the core clock of 1038 MHz plus Turbo and many optimizations compared to the previous Kepler generation, especially the high memory throughput of the GDDR5-VRAM, which effectively clocks at 5000 MHz and the 256-bit memory bus ensure high performance.

In view of the features, the 980M reflects the state of the art, too. For example, it supports DirectX 11.2, DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 2.0, can drive up to four active displays simultaneously and it features the VP6 video processor, which can hardware decode H.265 videos up to 4K.

Compared to current gaming notebooks with the same graphics card, the Alienware 17 R2 got the last place with an acceptable backlog of up to 8% in the graphics scenarios of 3DMark 11 and 2013. This might be due to the fact that we could observe a varying throttling of the GPU clock down to 886 MHz during heavy load with Furmark, although the GPU temperature never exceeded 72 °C. On battery, the clock rate even fell 200 MHz more.

3DMark
1920x1080 Fire Strike Graphics (sort by value)
Alienware 17 R2
GeForce GTX 980M, 4980HQ, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
9441 Points ∼23%
Asus G751JY-T7009H
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
9819 Points ∼24% +4%
One K73-5N
GeForce GTX 980M, 4790K, Samsung SSD 840 EVO 500GB
9884 Points ∼24% +5%
Alienware 17 (GTX 880M)
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-75JC3T0
5825 Points ∼14% -38%
1280x720 Cloud Gate Standard Graphics (sort by value)
Alienware 17 R2
GeForce GTX 980M, 4980HQ, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
67881 Points ∼37%
Asus G751JY-T7009H
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
68315 Points ∼37% +1%
One K73-5N
GeForce GTX 980M, 4790K, Samsung SSD 840 EVO 500GB
67376 Points ∼37% -1%
Alienware 17 (GTX 880M)
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-75JC3T0
38938 Points ∼21% -43%
3DMark 11 - 1280x720 Performance GPU (sort by value)
Alienware 17 R2
GeForce GTX 980M, 4980HQ, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
11915 Points ∼23%
Asus G751JY-T7009H
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
12981 Points ∼25% +9%
One K73-5N
GeForce GTX 980M, 4790K, Samsung SSD 840 EVO 500GB
12767 Points ∼25% +7%
Alienware 17 (GTX 880M)
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-75JC3T0
8114 Points ∼16% -32%
3DMark 11 Performance
11122 points
3DMark Cloud Gate Standard Score
19882 points
3DMark Fire Strike Score
8185 points
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Gaming Performance

Despite throttling, the frame rate does even not fall below the 40 fps limit, which is important for shooters, with highest graphics presets in all games apart from Company of Heroes 2 (from 2013!) and Assassin's Creed Unity, which are known for their hardly understandable performance hunger. Even the smart Ryse: Son of Rome almost achieved 60 fps. So, the GTX 980M should also be future-proof in the long run. Inconspicuously, some notebooks are slightly ahead in the benchmark comparison below.

Dragon Age: Inquisition
1920x1080 Ultra Graphics Quality AA:2x MS (sort by value)
Alienware 17 R2
GeForce GTX 980M, 4980HQ, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
46.1 fps ∼27%
Asus G751JY-T7009H
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
49.5 fps ∼29% +7%
One K73-5N
GeForce GTX 980M, 4790K, Samsung SSD 840 EVO 500GB
47.2 fps ∼28% +2%
1920x1080 High Graphics Quality (sort by value)
Alienware 17 R2
GeForce GTX 980M, 4980HQ, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
62.3 fps ∼36%
Asus G751JY-T7009H
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
69.2 fps ∼40% +11%
One K73-5N
GeForce GTX 980M, 4790K, Samsung SSD 840 EVO 500GB
69.2 fps ∼40% +11%
GRID: Autosport
1920x1080 Ultra Preset AA:4x MS (sort by value)
Alienware 17 R2
GeForce GTX 980M, 4980HQ, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
105.48 fps ∼70%
Asus G751JY-T7009H
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
101.34 fps ∼68% -4%
1920x1080 High Preset (sort by value)
Alienware 17 R2
GeForce GTX 980M, 4980HQ, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
159.98 fps ∼80%
Asus G751JY-T7009H
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
131.32 fps ∼65% -18%
Thief
1920x1080 Very High Preset AA:FXAA & High SS AF:8x (sort by value)
Alienware 17 R2
GeForce GTX 980M, 4980HQ, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
56.7 fps ∼40%
Asus G751JY-T7009H
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
61.6 fps ∼43% +9%
Alienware 17 (GTX 880M)
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-75JC3T0
38.8 fps ∼27% -32%
1366x768 High Preset AA:FXAA & Low SS AF:4x (sort by value)
Alienware 17 R2
GeForce GTX 980M, 4980HQ, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
90.9 fps ∼62%
Asus G751JY-T7009H
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
86.8 fps ∼60% -5%
Alienware 17 (GTX 880M)
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-75JC3T0
46.1 fps ∼32% -49%
Company of Heroes 2
1920x1080 Maximum / Higher / High AA:High (sort by value)
Alienware 17 R2
GeForce GTX 980M, 4980HQ, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
36.9 fps ∼55%
Asus G751JY-T7009H
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
41.14 fps ∼61% +11%
1366x768 High AA:Medium (sort by value)
Alienware 17 R2
GeForce GTX 980M, 4980HQ, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
77.3 fps ∼100%
Asus G751JY-T7009H
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
63.38 fps ∼82% -18%
Crysis 3
1920x1080 Very High Preset AA:2xSM AF:16x (sort by value)
Alienware 17 R2
GeForce GTX 980M, 4980HQ, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
42.4 fps ∼35%
Asus G751JY-T7009H
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
43.4 fps ∼36% +2%
1366x768 High Preset AA:FX AF:16x (sort by value)
Alienware 17 R2
GeForce GTX 980M, 4980HQ, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
98.8 fps ∼72%
Asus G751JY-T7009H
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
95 fps ∼69% -4%
BioShock Infinite
1920x1080 Ultra Preset, DX11 (DDOF) (sort by value)
Alienware 17 R2
GeForce GTX 980M, 4980HQ, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
91.2 fps ∼34%
Asus G751JY-T7009H
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
89.93 fps ∼34% -1%
Alienware 17 (GTX 880M)
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-75JC3T0
55.6 fps ∼21% -39%
1366x768 High Preset (sort by value)
Alienware 17 R2
GeForce GTX 980M, 4980HQ, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
185.8 fps ∼53%
Asus G751JY-T7009H
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
179.12 fps ∼51% -4%
Alienware 17 (GTX 880M)
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-75JC3T0
122.4 fps ∼35% -34%
Tomb Raider
1920x1080 Ultra Preset AA:FX AF:16x (sort by value)
Alienware 17 R2
GeForce GTX 980M, 4980HQ, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
100.4 fps ∼36%
Asus G751JY-T7009H
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
104.6 fps ∼38% +4%
Alienware 17 (GTX 880M)
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-75JC3T0
72.2 fps ∼26% -28%
1366x768 High Preset AA:FX AF:8x (sort by value)
Alienware 17 R2
GeForce GTX 980M, 4980HQ, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
241.3 fps ∼48%
Asus G751JY-T7009H
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
246.9 fps ∼49% +2%
Alienware 17 (GTX 880M)
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-75JC3T0
163.3 fps ∼32% -32%
low med. high ultra
Crysis 3 (2013) 98.842.4fps
Tomb Raider (2013) 241.3100.4fps
BioShock Infinite (2013) 185.891.2fps
Company of Heroes 2 (2013) 77.336.9fps
Thief (2014) 90.956.7fps
GRID: Autosport (2014) 159.98105.48fps
Risen 3: Titan Lords (2014) 34.935.144.4fps
Ryse: Son of Rome (2014) 62.158.656.6fps
Dragon Age: Inquisition (2014) 62.346.1fps
Battlefield Hardline (2015) 98.965.4fps

Emissions

System Noise

While idle the two fans of the Alienware 17 R2 are hardly audible. When load is applied, they start to increase their speed smoothly and continuously. At maximum speed, you'll hear a rather bright and intense, slightly disturbing noise without annoying sound. It can be seen that a bigger case makes a quieter cooling possible since the Asus G751JY's noise is 15% or about 8 dB lower under load. Note: A plus of 10 dB means that the noise seems to be about twice as loud.

Noise Level

Idle
29.4 / 30.8 / 35 dB(A)
HDD
31.2 dB(A)
DVD
0 / dB(A)
Load
43.4 / 51.6 dB(A)
  red to green bar
 
 
30 dB
silent
40 dB(A)
audible
50 dB(A)
loud
 
min: dark, med: mid, max: light   Voltcraft sl-320 (15 cm distance)

Temperature

Clock rates during Prime95
Clock rates during Prime95
Clock rates during Prime95 + FurMark
Clock rates during Prime95 + FurMark

In 3D mode, the surface temperatures exceed the critical 50 °C level in some spots. In addition, it might not be wise to cover the fan grilles on the underside during gaming. You'd better use the big and heavy notebook on a firm flat surface rather than on a blanket or on your lap. You won't face heat problems there, since the palm rests do not exceed an uncritical 30 °C.

We have already criticized that the CPU cannot optimally use its Turbo before. Under permanent full load (Prime95) it even slightly throttles since the clock rates hover around 2.7 and 2.8 GHz in this scenario. It got really strange when we added GPU stress with FurMark: Periodically, the clock switched from 3 GHz @ ~82 °C to 800 MHz (!) @ ~74 °C and back. By the way, during the first stress within our pre-measurements, the battery discharges although the notebook was plugged in and the notebook shut down after a while during the test. Apparently, there is either a problem with our test sample or a general problem, which we were unable to pinpoint.

Max. Load
 49.2 °C
121 F
46.9 °C
116 F
50.8 °C
123 F
 
 42.6 °C
109 F
46.4 °C
116 F
43.7 °C
111 F
 
 27.6 °C
82 F
30.6 °C
87 F
30.3 °C
87 F
 
Maximum: 50.8 °C = 123 F
Average: 40.9 °C = 106 F
47.5 °C
118 F
48.7 °C
120 F
42.5 °C
109 F
45.9 °C
115 F
45.9 °C
115 F
44.1 °C
111 F
29.1 °C
84 F
35.8 °C
96 F
28.5 °C
83 F
Maximum: 48.7 °C = 120 F
Average: 40.9 °C = 106 F
Power Supply (max.)  50.5 °C = 123 F | Room Temperature 24 °C = 75 F | Voltcraft IR-900
(-) The average temperature for the upper side under maximal load is 40.9 °C / 106 F, compared to the average of 32.9 °C / 91 F for the devices in the class Gaming.
(-) The maximum temperature on the upper side is 50.8 °C / 123 F, compared to the average of 39.3 °C / 103 F, ranging from 21.6 to 68.8 °C for the class Gaming.
(-) The bottom heats up to a maximum of 48.7 °C / 120 F, compared to the average of 41.7 °C / 107 F
(+) In idle usage, the average temperature for the upper side is 28.1 °C / 83 F, compared to the device average of 32.9 °C / 91 F.
(+) The palmrests and touchpad are cooler than skin temperature with a maximum of 30.6 °C / 87.1 F and are therefore cool to the touch.
(±) The average temperature of the palmrest area of similar devices was 28.7 °C / 83.7 F (-1.9 °C / -3.4 F).

Speakers

SoundBlaster Pro Studio
SoundBlaster Pro Studio

Dell touts the Alienware 17 R2 with its "Klipsch and Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi technology," which actually works well. The screenshot on the right shows an overview of the numerous configuration options with the tried and tested Creative Tweaks like the Crystalizer or the Scout mode, which makes opponents heard earlier in games.

The sound system shines with a good maximum volume as well as a rich, present, fairly natural sound, which is partly too heavy on mid tones and highs. The subwoofer ensures good dynamics in low frequencies for a notebook. Unfortunately, bass heavy metal music sounds slightly distorted and mushy at high volumes with small volume fluctuations in some titles.

Energy Management

Power Consumption

Among the notebooks in our comparison group, the Alienware 17 R2 is most frugal with sometimes big differences while idle. This might not be surprising if you compare it to the One K73-5N with its desktop CPU, but at a first glance the bigger power consumption of the actually comparable Asus G751JY is. The answer is simple: Optimus support is deactivated in the Asus. As a result the relatively power hungry 980M has to remain active all the time.

The values measured under medium load are not that easy to explain. However, the bigger power consumption of the G751JY under maximum load might be due to the fact that it can better use its Turbos and does not reduce the clock of the graphics card.

Alienware 17 R2
GeForce GTX 980M, 4980HQ, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
Asus G751JY-T7009H
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
One K73-5N
GeForce GTX 980M, 4790K, Samsung SSD 840 EVO 500GB
Power Consumption
-48%
-123%
Idle Minimum *
8.9
22
-147%
35.2
-296%
Idle Average *
16
27
-69%
41.3
-158%
Idle Maximum *
26.6
32.6
-23%
47.3
-78%
Load Average *
124
93.3
25%
144.2
-16%
Load Maximum *
165.8
212.8
-28%
275.9
-66%

* ... smaller is better

Power Consumption
Off / Standbydarklight 0.1 / 0.4 Watt
Idledarkmidlight 8.9 / 16 / 26.6 Watt
Load midlight 124 / 165.8 Watt
 color bar
Key: min: dark, med: mid, max: light        Voltcraft VC 940

Battery Life

In our comparison group, the Alienware 17 R2 has the most powerful battery with a capacity of 96 Wh, but it cannot be easily reached. The Asus comes with an 88 Wh and the One's battery is rated at 82 Wh. These small differences cannot explain why the 17 R2 lasts 168% longer than the G751JY while idle. This is caused by the latter lacking Optimus support. The results of the realistic Wi-Fi tests cannot directly be compared to each other since we changed the test procedure in the meanwhile. All things considered, the 17 R2 belongs to the 17-inch gaming notebooks with the longest battery lives.

Alienware 17 R2
GeForce GTX 980M, 4980HQ, Lite-On IT L8T-256L9G
Asus G751JY-T7009H
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ, Samsung SSD XP941 MZHPU256HCGL
One K73-5N
GeForce GTX 980M, 4790K, Samsung SSD 840 EVO 500GB
Battery Runtime
-38%
-47%
Reader / Idle
729
272
-63%
161
-78%
WiFi
345
220
-36%
Load
100
85
-15%
84
-16%
Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
12h 9min
WiFi Surfing
5h 45min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 40min

Pros

+ expressive design (a matter of taste)
+ looks like high-quality materials are used
+ largely resistant to fingerprints
+ stable, well-crafted case
+ light effects as only offered by Alienware
+ future-proof thanks to the optional graphics amplifier
+ Recovery USB drive
+ keyboard with great haptics and quality with spectacular illumination (Alien FX)
+ extra buttons, which can be configured
+ bright, high-contrast IPS display
+ runs more than smoothly
+ fast enough for all games in highest settings
+ acceptable sound system with subwoofer
+ relatively long battery life

Cons

- no access to fans and battery without disassembly
- unusual keyboard layout
- suboptimal use of the Turbo technology
- GPU throttles slightly under load
- very loud in extreme scenarios
- during the stress test: throttling and clock rate changes erratically

Verdict

Alienware 17 R2
Alienware 17 R2

Alienware significantly shrunk the new device compared to its predecessors and accepted slightly louder fans in return. Unfortunately, the performance suffers from not optimal use of the CPU turbo, minor throttling during the stress test and slight throttling of the GPU clock under load. During real-world gaming, the performance loss is small, but since gamers are usually fond of technology, they might feel that this is a disadvantage compared to the bulkier Asus G751JY-T7009H.

That being said, there is not much to complain about in the Alienware 17 R2. The case is convincing in all aspects, but we would have appreciated if it were easier to reach the battery and fan. We liked the keyboard very much, and the touchpad also does not need to hide behind competitors. Further pros are the bright and contrast-rich display, the sound system and the relatively long battery life. Finally, the manufacturer also preinstalled several programs especially tailored to gamers such as the Killer Network Manager, AlienFX and TactX. These are partly unique features of Alienware.

Alienware 17 R2 - 04/09/2015 v4(old)
Sven Kloevekorn

Chassis
87 / 98 → 89%
Keyboard
88%
Pointing Device
83%
Connectivity
74 / 81 → 91%
Weight
52 / 10-66 → 75%
Battery
86%
Display
88%
Games Performance
99%
Application Performance
96%
Temperature
82 / 95 → 86%
Noise
72 / 90 → 80%
Audio
80%
Add Points
-2%
Average
76%
87%
Gaming - Weighted Average

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Alienware 17 R2 Notebook Review
Sven Kloevekorn, 2015-05- 1 (Update: 2018-05-15)