The Alienware 13 (See it at Dell) is a VR-ready 13-inch laptop that’s claim to fame is that it’s the first gaming laptop to hit the market with a 1440p OLED display instead of just a regular IPS or TN LCD. In case you’re not familiar with this technology, OLED is a next-gen display technology that’s been around awhile but never really blown up due to its high cost and premium design. OLED displays make the more common LCDs we mostly use today look like ancient technology, as OLED displays offer much richer contrast, allowing blacks that are inky and bottomless, and whites that look fantastic. They are breathtaking displays, but expensive, which should come as no surprise. For the Alienware 13, the company offers four configs ranging from $999 to $2,049, and the OLED is only offered on the most powerful and pricey configuration, which is what we received for testing.
Aside from the next-gen display, the other feather in the Alienware 13’s cap is that it supports the company’s Graphics Amplifier, which is an external box that lets you connect desktop graphics cards, similar to the Razer Core. The Alienware 13 also stands out a bit from the crowd thanks to its high-res (for this size of laptop) 2560×1440 display. However, at almost $2,000 it’s the most expensive gaming laptop we’ve reviewed recently, but it is definitely worth it.
Here are the specifications of the Alienware 13 sent to us for review.
- Display: 2560×1440 OLED Anti-Glare
- Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
- Processor: Intel Core i7-7700HQ 2.8GHz
- Memory: 16GB DDR4 2667MHz
- OS: Windows 10
- OS Drive: 512GB SATA SSD
- Optical Drive: N/A
- Ports: 1 Killer Networks e2500 Gigabit Ethernet Port, 1 USB 3.0, Type-A USB 3.0 with PowerShare technology, 1 Type-C USB 3.0, 1 Thunderbolt 3, 1 Alienware Graphics Amplifier, 1 HDMI 2.0, 1 Mini Displayport 1.2, audio out, headphone/mic
- Battery: 76 Whrs Lithuim-Ion Battery
- Wireless: Killer 1435 802.11ac 2×2 WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1
- Weight: 5.8 pounds
- Price: $2,049
The Alienware 13 is as much, or as little, as you want it to be. The base model comes with a Kaby Lake Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, a GTX 1050 2GB graphics card, and a 1366 x 768 display. In my opinion, that is barely a gaming laptop, especially with only 2GB of VRAM on tap. At the high end, however, Alienware offers an absolutely insane version with the same Core i7-7700HQ CPU, 32GB of DDR4, dual 1TB PCIe SSDs, and a GTX 1060 6GB graphics card for $3,249. The unit I tested is the base configuration for the highest-end model, sporting a Core i7-7700HQ CPU, 16GB of RAM, the aforementioned OLED display, and a GTX 1060 GPU with 6GB of RAM. This gives it plenty of power, although the GTX 1060 is more of a 1080p GPU, so running games at 1440p requires some trade-offs to maintain acceptable framerates.
Storage is good, but not great, as the lone 512GB SSD leaves is roomy enough for most people. However, if your Steam library is particularly full (and honestly, whose isn’t?), the 512GB will evaporate quickly. There’s no option for a second, slower HDD to handle things like file and music storage, and upgrading the SSD to 1TB adds $400 to the price. The Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 ports make using external storage less painful, but having the option to include a secondary HDD, even one running at 5,400 rpm, would be helpful, but obviously there’s only room on the motherboard for M.2 sticks. Still, there are cheaper SATA M.2 drives that could be used.
For networking, the Alienware 13 has a Killer Networks Ethernet port, because a wired connection is always better, but for times when it’s not available, or if you just don’t care, the wifi adapter is Killer Wireless-AC 1435, which allows for speeds up to 867Mbps. Your mileage will vary, of course, depending on router capabilities and other factors.
Alienware Graphics Amplifier
The GTX 1060 6GB graphics card in the model we tested is great for most applications, but if you happen to have, say, a GTX1080 kicking around, you can take advantage of it using Alienware’s optional graphics amplifier. The graphics amplifier supports both AMD and Nvidia cards, and plugging it in hands over the graphical heavy-lifting from the laptop to the GPU in the amplifier. It’s a pretty neat little system, giving you the best of both worlds. However, when plugged in, the amplifier does all the work, so you can’t pair the external graphics card to the GPU in the Alienware 13 for SLI, unfortunately.
For a 13-inch laptop, the Alienware 13 is a beast, both figuratively and literally, as it weighs 5.8 pounds. That’s more than some 17-inch laptops and its power brick is also huge, so be prepared for some back strain carrying everything in a laptop bag. The Alienware 13 feels as solid as it is heavy, thanks to its steel-reinforced aluminum body. The Alienware 13 is built so ruggedly it feels like it could survive atmospheric re-entry. The majority of its ports are located on the rear, so cables disappear from sight when the screen is open.
Speaking of the screen, the touch-enabled OLED 1440p screen on the Alienware 13 is stunning, and one of the best I’ve ever seen. Color reproduction is amazing, and the 1440p resolution helps everything look tack sharp. Blue skies look especially inviting on the Alienware’s screen, evoking feelings of warm summer days. The touch-screen itself is coated with a smudge reducing surface, but we rarely took advantage of the touch capabilities. As gorgeous as the screen is, it’s highly reflective, making it difficult to use in sunlight, near windows, or near any light sources.
The Alienware 13’s backlit keyboard is also fantastic. Keys have just the right amount of travel and are spaced perfectly. The wrist rest area has a coating that feels like hard rubber, keeping it from feeling excessively cold when you first begin typing, as is the case with all-aluminum laptops like the Razer Blade. It’s also very comfortable to use. The trackpad also feels great, but the mouse buttons aren’t as crisp as the regular keys, and have a softer actuation. Both the keyboard and the trackpad feature RGB lighting, and not just the border of the trackpad; the entire thing glows in whatever color you set it to in the Alienware FX software. It looks futuristic without being overly flashy.
To see how the Alienware 13 fares against some of its competitors we ran a few games and synthetic benchmarks on it. It has the same CPU and GPU as two other systems we recently looked at (the Razer Blade and MSI GE62VR), and the Asus GL702VM is also configured similarly, so it should be an interesting matchup.
When it comes to performance, there aren’t any surprises here. With its Kaby Lake Core i7-7700HQ, 16GB of RAM, and GTX 1060 6GB, the benchmarks are inline with similarly equipped notebooks. The Alienware did have a slight advantage in the 3DMark tests, coming out on top versus the ASUS Republic of Gamers GL702VM and the Razer Blade, two computers with nearly identical specs. At Ultra settings running at 1440p, Tomb Raider managed to hit 21fps, GTA5 ran at 25fps, and Hitman chugged along at just 15fps. Still, those framerates represent what the Alienware 13 can do at a better-than-HD resolution with every setting cranked to the extreme. Using the suggested settings in Nvidia’s GeForce Experience software puts the games at a level where the boost in resolution can be enjoyed at an acceptable frame rate.
The battery in the Alienware 13 is decent. Don’t expect to use it all day away from an outlet, however. In my stress test, running a 4K movie at 50% screen brightness with keyboard and other lighting off, the Alienware did quite well, coming in at 2 hours, 7 minutes before shutting down. Through normal use, surfing the web, watching videos, and listening to music, the Alienware lasted around 5 hours. For a 1440p gaming laptop that’s very good.
Although some Alienware machines are available on Amazon, the flagship Alienware 13 is only available on Dell.com for now. It isn’t always active, but the coupon code AW100 or AW150 can sometimes be used on Dell.com to save $100 or $150 on the model: