That’s one small step for gamers, one giant leap for Alienware. All right, maybe the Alienware M17 (starting at $1500 and got up to $3300) isn’t as monumental as the moon landing, but decked out in the company’s new Legend design, the latest iteration looks downright intergalactic. This system is more than elegant good looks, however; an overclockable Intel Core i9 CPU and Nvidia RTX GPU make the M17 a certified powerhouse. Just be prepared to spend big to get the best gaming performance.

The company’s sleek m17 is back with its R2 revision, and Alienware is ballyhooing it as its thinnest 17-inch laptop to date.

And Alienware is right. The laptop is surprisingly portable given its internal hardware, which includes up to a Core i9 CPU and a  powerful RTX 2080 graphics. Unfortunately, its conservative design and very high price of over $2,000 for our review unit makes it a tough sell for those on a budget. Still, if you’re willing to pay a premium, the m17 is one of the best gaming laptops available for those who want big power in a small design.

Alienware M17 R2

We’ve spent a week with the Alienware M17 as our daily play-toy. Here are our thoughts. 

Alienware m17 price and configurations

The Alienware m17 starts at $1,449, which gets you an Intel Core i5-9300H processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and Nvidia 1660 Ti graphics. If you want to step up to RTX power, a $1,849 configuration nets you an Intel Core i7-9750H CPU and an RTX 2060 GPU. 

We reviewed Dell Alienware Area 51M Laptop, 17.3″ FHD (1920 x 1080) 144Hz G-Sync Tobii Eye, 9th Gen Intel Core i7-9700K, 16GB RAM, 2 X 256GB SSD (R0) + 1TB SSHD, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070, Windows 10

What we liked at Alienware m17?

Survival of the thinnest: Defeat every opponent with a machine that’s engineered to be our thinnest and lightest 17” gaming notebooks yet. Manufactured with strict build tolerances and high-end materials, it ensures optimal performance without ever sacrificing power.

Bigger visuals: The m17 is designed for total immersion and maximum portability, with a larger 17.3 display to take you even deeper in the game.

alienware m17 r2

Gaming at a premium: Built with high-end industrial materials like magnesium alloy, one of the lightest structural metals in the world, the Alienware m17 is meticulously designed for a performance-driven user experience. Magnesium alloy improves rigidity, steel ensures tactile comfort and copper in the thermal module keeps the graphics and processor cool.

Kick performance into high gear: Engineered with 9th Generation Intel Core i7-9750H processor, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 with 6GB GDDR5 graphics, and 16GB of 2666Mhz DDR4 memory, the Alienware m17 possesses powerful performance for uninterrupted gameplay and other activities.

Optimal storage experience: Enjoy faster load times and a quieter system thanks to storage of 512GB PCIe M.2 SSD.

Seamless graphics: Smooth fast-motion graphics are crucial when the pressure is high. That’s why we created a stunning and immersive in-game experience with an 17.3″ QHD (2560 x 1440) display and a refresh rate of 120Hz, for incredibly high frame rates.

Alienware m17 display

alienware m17 r2

One of the best things about using a good gaming laptop is seeing how smoothly the mouse cursor moves across the screen. The m17 has a 144Hz display that can reach 300 nits of brightness, which is good for gaming screens. However, the m17 maxes out at 1920 x 1080, and a 1440p option would be nice given its size and hardware. When playing games, even with anti-aliasing cranked up, it was hard not to notice some jagged edges.

As for color reproduction, I couldn’t help but notice dark corners of the video game Control being washed out. This is to be expected on a non-OLED panel, especially one that’s aiming for speed over exact color science. And I’ve noticed matte screens in general tend to wash out some of the color as well. Watching Netflix or YouTube were fine, but I couldn’t help but compare it to my Microsoft Surface, which has a more vibrant and color-accurate display.

The screen itself isn’t edge-to-edge in the same way that Dell’s other top-end laptops are, but it does cover a substantial amount of real estate. There is a webcam up top, as well as an array of cameras for Tobii eye tracking, which can be used in games such as Ghost Recon Breakpoint and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. There’s also some flex to the screen when torqued, so it’s definitely not as rigid as a MacBook.

The m17’s display reproduces 72% of the sRGB color gamut, which isn’t bad for a 144Hz display. But for creatives, this might not cut it for photo and video editing.

Alienware m17 keyboard and touchpad

alienware m17 r2

The keyboard on the Alienware m17 is excellent. The low-profile mechanical-like design feels great to type on. Writing this review was a breeze, and the rainbow wave patterns — thanks to the laptop’s full RGB lighting array — are mesmerizing. We do wish Alienware’s Command Center software was more intuitive, as trying to figure out how to set the rainbow pattern was a pain. Eventually, through some frustrating trial and error we got it to work.

But turning on a light switch should never require 10 tries. There’s some flex to the keyboard deck, but only when pressed with some force. So, it’s not as rigid as a milled aluminum MacBook.

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Loading up a game like Devil May Cry 5 was a breeze for the m17. We cranked up everything to Ultra, with all of Nvidia’s PhysX effects on, and there was seldom a drop in the frame rate. Granted, at 1080p, even with a game that lacked proper optimization like Devil May Cry 5, this was to be expected.

Frame rates were solid across a number of titles as well. On the high end, Hitman (1080p, Max settings) yielded 111 fps and Metro: Exodus (1080p, Max settings) strained the system at 50 fps.

Temperatures while playing Devil May Cry 5 were high, but not insane. The processor would reach 284 degrees Fahreheit, while the GPU hovered around 167. It’s to be expected on such a tight package. But seriously, while playing demanding games, you will feel the heat around your fingers. 

alienware m17 r2

Performance remained good when I jumped over to a more recent game in Control. While Control’s clean sci-fi world isn’t filled with giant Assassin’s Creed-style bustling cities or Tomb Raider-like lush forests, there were still some hiccups at Max settings. But even with RTX on high, Control largely ran well, mostly staying between 60 and 70 frames.

Sometimes it did dip below those frame rates, but it was tolerable, nonetheless.

What is Alienware m17 battery life?

Battery life isn’t great, but not terrible, either. Our tests yielded 4 hours of battery usage with the screen at 150 nits of continuous web browsing. It’s totally manageable to unplug it for a bit and take it to a different part of the house to watch some YouTube videos. But anything more intensive will require you to bring its large power brick. It’s still much better than the Lenovo Legion Y740 and MSI GS75, which came in at a paltry 2:30.

Our final thoughts …

Alienware has pulled off something impressive with the m17 R2. It’s a relatively slim package that’s packing a major punch in performance, and it doesn’t look too bad, either. The white soft-touch finish is classy and the keyboard is a dream to type on. The glossy plastic around the screen and speaker grill does look a little cheap, however, and will scratch over time. 

At your next LAN party, when there are water-cooled gaming rigs and increasingly crazier – looking laptops such as the ASUS ROG Mothership or the HP Omen X2 S, you might wonder why you dropped over $3,000 for something that looks so conservative. But if you prefer a gaming laptop that’s clean and minimal and don’t mind paying the premium, the Alienware m17 is one of the best gaming laptops out there.

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