Alienware M17 R3 Review: Fast, Lag-Free Performance

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If I were going to compare the Alienware M17 R3 to a car, it would be a hypercar. With a hypercar, the first thing that strikes you are the looks, then the performance, then the price. And it takes a little while of living with it yourself for the downsides to start showing up. The Alienware M17 R3 is the hypercar of gaming laptops… let me explain why.

So first, the most striking thing about the Alienware M17 R3, the way it looks. It doesn’t look like any other gaming laptop out there. It looks better. The designers really have done a fantastic job with this one. They’ve toed the line of extravagant and classy as well as they possibly could have. Everything about the way the M17 R3 looks are things I didn’t think I’d ever want in a laptop, but now I know I do. I wouldn’t pick the colour, I don’t particularly like white gadgets as I usually find them a bit too flashy, but I wouldn’t want the M17 in any other colour. I don’t usually like a lot of lights on a gaming laptop, as I think it can make the product look a bit cheap; but I wouldn’t want the M17 without the futuristic-looking oval-shaped customisable light on the back. This theme runs through all the design decisions taken when making the M17, I wouldn’t have designed it to look like that myself, but I’m very glad someone else did. 


The most unique part of the Alienware M17 R3’s design is the huge vent that sticks out of the back of the laptop. When the lid is closed you can’t even tell it’s there, but when it’s open it’s the most prominent part of the design. Alienware knows this and have owned it by using a customisable RGB light to highlight it. The Alienware logo on the back is also RGB and can be customised, as is the Alienware logo that doubles up as a power button, and the entire keyboard – which can be customised on a per-key basis. Design-wise every little thing has been thought of, and if you ever take this laptop out with you, in the same way that a Ferrari or Lamborghini will, it will absolutely turn some heads. 

The build quality of the Alienware M17 R3 is exceptional. It has a magnesium alloy finish that not only looks excellent, it also feels excellent and doesn’t show fingerprints at all. Everything feels either like it should or better, which you expect for such a high price, but rarely is the execution of a product like this quite this spot on. The hinge feels fantastic and solid, and while the laptop itself is big and heavy, it’s not so big and heavy that it’s impossible to move around. The keyboard and trackpad are also excellent. With most of the gaming laptops I’ve tested the trackpads tend to be a bit of an afterthought. Because it’s a laptop designed for gaming most gamers will be using a mouse, so the trackpad gets seen as an unimportant extra, and ends up being pretty crap. This isn’t the case with the M17 R3. It’s a large trackpad that is clickable all over and feels great to use.

The keyboard is also one of the best I’ve used on a gaming laptop. Keyboards on gaming laptops tend to be pretty good in general, but this one in particular is excellent. It has a 1.7mm key travel which makes it feel very tactile and great to type and game on. One area of the build which disappointed me slightly was the complete lack of upgradability with the machine. The motherboard is upside down in the device, and when you take it out and flip it over you’ll find that the RAM is soldered in place. This is a pain for a few reasons, if you ever want to upgrade it with either more, or faster RAM you can’t. And if the soldered in RAM ever fails, and you’re past the warranty period, you’re going to get hit with a pretty pricey repair bill.


Now let’s talk about the most important thing, the performance. The model I tested was fitted with an Nvidia RTX 2070 Super, an Intel i9-10980HK, and 32GB of RAM. As you’d expect with those specs, it was extremely fast. This didn’t come as a surprise to me, and it shouldn’t to you. It was easily maxing out almost every game I played on its 1080p 300Hz display. This configuration stayed above 60fps running even the most demanding games like Metro Exodus and Red Dead Redemption 2 at 1080p. And thanks to the speedy 300Hz display, esports games like Counter Strike and Dota 2 run like a dream. What did come as a surprise to me though was just how well this laptop handled cooling.

At no point during my time gaming did I ever see the temperatures get anywhere near any number that would have been cause for concern. This exceptional cooling ability really lets the powerful GPU flex its muscles, wherein any other laptop with a more regular cooling solution thermal throttling would be inevitable. I’d even go as far as to say the 2070 Super in the M17 R3 could be meaningfully overclocked and a bit more performance could be squeezed out of it, the cooling is that good. The fan does get quite loud during gaming sessions, but it’s nothing that a headset can’t fix. 

The absolute worst thing about the Alienware M17 R3. The battery life (on the 300Hz model) is abysmal. Because it’s a 300Hz display the PC is always using the high-powered RTX 2070 Super GPU and isn’t able to use the CPU’s integrated graphics. This means a lot of power is always being drawn from the battery when it’s not plugged in, which results in shocking battery life. If you have the screen set to full brightness you will be lucky to get all the way to the end of a 2-hour film on battery power alone. Yes it’s a 17-inch laptop, so you’re not going to be moving it about an awful lot. But I still expected a bit better than this.


Finally, the last thing about this laptop that reminds me of a hypercar. The price. It is extremely expensive. The model I tested would set you back £2,999. Yes, you can get a laptop with these specs for less than £2,999. But when you actually see and use the Alienware M17 R3, it makes it easier to understand why it costs that much. You won’t get a laptop with these specs that looks as good, that runs as fast, and that’s built as well as the M17 R3 for less than £2,999. And it’s because of the way these aspects marry so perfectly together that, as long as you have £2,999 to spend on a laptop, the Alienware M17 R3 is easy to recommend.

Topics: Technology, Laptop, Review

Jonny Lee
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