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Alienware 17 R4 review: Worth its weight in performance

If there’s any gaming laptop as recognizable year-to-year as Razer’s Blade line, it’s probably Alienware’s. Following a redesign a few years back, the humbly named Alienware 17 has stayed pretty much the same ever since, at least on the outside.

And you know what that means: Time to hit the gym if you want to do anything with this laptop besides set it on a desk and forget about it.

The build: Bigfoot

The Alienware 17 R4 (currently priced at $2,549 on Amazon) is still so big. Just staggeringly huge. With so many following Razer’s lead and slimming down to actual laptop size as opposed to so-called “desktop replacements” proportions, I keep expecting Alienware to do the same.

But no. Year after year, Alienware’s laptops remain gigantic—the better to disperse heat, and therefore utilize the full (or fuller) potential of all those expensive parts inside.

IDG / Adam Patrick Murray

I get it. Really, I do. You’re paying for performance, you want that performance, and Alienware’s 17-inch laptop will give it to you. (More on that later.) But it’s damn near impossible to haul anywhere, so don’t buy this machine thinking you’ll use it like a laptop. Or put it on your lap at all, really.

During this review I had occasion to take the Alienware 17 out of the country, and here the absurdity of the situation really hit home. It didn’t even properly fit in the 17-inch laptop case I use for my Blade Pro day-to-day, so I just shoved the Alienware 17 in as best I could and prayed. And at just over 9.5 pounds, carrying it through the airport was a Herculean effort. I left it in my hotel for six days, and it was great for some late-night gaming, but phew. Never again.

Size aside, it’s quite a pretty machine. Alienware’s standard chrome-and-black color scheme is still one of my favorites—straddling the line between flashy and professional. Alienware also has an eye for the small details, from its understated type-logo underneath the display to the row of macro keys unobtrusively arrayed to the left of the keyboard.

IDG / Adam Patrick Murray

And if you love RGB LEDs, Alienware’s the competition to beat on that front. The keyboard is only zone-lit, which is a shame, but there are also RGB LED light strips embedded in both sides of the laptop and in the lid, as well as underneath the trackpad. That last bit is weirdly useful—I like a backlit keyboard, so of course I’d appreciate a backlit trackpad. The better to guide your fingers with, right? Again, flashy, but in that vaguely high-tech way only Alienware really attempts.

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