A couple weeks ago I decided to purchase a 13 inch Alienware I thought the latest model looks pretty cool and much thinner than the older ones. On paper the machine packs quite a bit of a punch, for example it has 2GB dedicated NVidia GTX 960M and 4 cores i5 processor as well as 8GB of RAM. I wonder though, was it a good purchase?
In this article today I will compare mostly against my 13inch MacBook pro as that is my other trusty laptop for serious works including software development and photography. Granted the MacBook Pro is much older, but it’s still a pretty good machine and being the entry model, the price was the same with the Alienware.
As soon as I power up the machine I installed Dreamfall Chapters, one of my favourite games. In my macbook pro this doesn’t even render properly and in my PC I can only play it with medium settings (the PC is new but does not have powerful gpu as it is mainly for web development).
When the installation has been completed, I changed the graphic settings to “awesome” and start a new game. Just as I expected everything is rendered beautifully, there is still a bit of lag on the opening scene, but I think it might be something to do with the game itself. Gameplay rendering was extremely smooth with all shadows and dynamic lighting turned to max.
Another game that I tried was Tomb Raider (2013), set at ultimate quality at full HD resolutions. The result was quite stunning, the game was very playable with decent frame rates.
I think in terms of graphics performance this laptop is a really good buy.
Screen quality is one of the things that I’m really picky about. Obviously almost nothing beats Apple’s retina display screens, but a full hd monitor at 1920×1080 on a 13 inch dimension is already good, so resolution-wise I’m not too fussed about.
The viewing angle of the Alienware is relatively good as well, I can view the screen from a decent angle and the colours were still pretty good. It’s not as good as the Mac but it’s definitely one of the better ones.
Colour vibrancy is one of things that the Alienware won, comparing this with the Mac it’s obvious that this machines has higher vibrancy while the Mac leans towards natural colours. I guess this screen is really build for gaming.
Despite all the vibrancy and good viewing angle though, there is something about the screen that gets my eyes tired quicker, especially when I’m using it to type an article like this one. Perhaps it’s the way it’s backlit or the fact that it has higher vibrancy. I can’t quite pinpoint it but there’s definitely something lacking in terms of screen “comfort”. Again, I suspect this is because the screen is geared up for gaming and not for looking at boring documents files. In a way it’s like comparing a Ferrari with a Rolls Royce with the Mac being the Rolls.
After using this laptop for a while for both gaming and serious work, I can definitely confirm the the build quality of this laptop is amazing. Although the entire body is made of plastic, unlike the aluminum MacBook Pro, there is no creaky plastic sound to be heard. The body is not made of flimsy plastic like most laptops of this price point (I’m looking at you Samsung, Toshiba, etc…) instead it felt really solid.
In addition to the great build quality, the inner body is also covered with black matte coating. Which looks great, but I hope it won’t peel off anytime soon.
If you are like myself, I take laptop keyboard quite seriously. So far one of the best laptop keyboards is the MacBook Pro keyboard, the chiclet keys are great to use and the back light is always a plus. Compared to the Mac though, the Alienware keyboard feels almost like the old MacBook Pro pre uni-body keyboard. Each keystrokes are very silent and smooth, yet the keys feels quite tactile when pressed and depressed. In addition, the key sizes are good as well, feels like using a normal sized keyboard.
Of course as you may have seen Alienware is very generous with their LED backlight offering. So if you really like backlit keyboard, then you’ll be even happier to use this keyboard as you can change the colours to whatever you want, even with different colours per zone.
After using a MacBook Pro for a number of years, I’m so used with its brilliant touchpad and its gestures. This is the only real negative point of the Alienware, without tuning the settings using the preloaded Synaptics driver, it’s a nightmare to use the touchpad. The cursor would jump as you press the touchpad because it registers the movement, two finger scrolling doesn’t always work (especially on Chrome).
The main thing to do to ease the pain is to not use the physical click, instead get used to tapping all the time.
The Alienware as you might have guessed is not a slim machine, however it’s still pretty good compared to their previous models, which were impossible to carry without a backpack even if they were the 13 inch models. As you may have noticed from the picture, the Alienware laptop is a tad thicker and wider than the 13inch MacBook Pro. In my opinion thought it’s still quite okay.
I think when it comes to gaming laptops, this is as portable as you will get. There may be other gaming laptops with smaller footprint, but I would doubt if it has a solid built like the Alienware.
In conclusion I think the Alienware is a good buy if you wish to have a very decent gaming machine which are totally portable. In addition to that, this machine will not have any trouble running any development environment as even the lowest models have more than enough computing resource to instantiate vagrant servers and IDEs, well, perhaps invest on the 16GB stick if you want to stay on the safe side. If you can get over the annoying touch pad via driver settings and don’t mind a slightly harsh screen or you used the machine mostly for entertainment, then this laptop is for you. This laptop is a personal, portable entertainment system, geared towards having fun and less boring office type works.alienware, gadget, gaming, laptop, Review
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