The brand practically a synonym for “gaming PC,” Alienware puts out some of the most powerful—and most expensive—laptops you can buy. This year’s refresh of its 17-inch flagship, the Alienware 17 R5 (starts at $1,559.99; $3,974.99 as tested) fits that profile on both fronts, especially the souped-up configuration we tested. Our unit includes an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 graphics chip and a Core i9 processor, top-grade components with dollar signs to match. This machine’s configuration options scale down well, though, with some nicely priced midrange options. If a less-expensive Alienware is all you can afford, you can find a sweet spot between price and power while still getting this classic machine’s well-built chassis, hefty storage allotment, and nice extras. Between the pure power and premium features of the high-end model we tested, and the solid value proposition of the lesser ones, the Alienware 17 R5 earns an Editors’ Choice.

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The Design: A Familiar, Yet Alien, Look

Though the Alienware 17 R4 was beyond a doubt big and heavy, I liked the design. Clearly, Alienware found that its customers did, too, because the same chassis is back for the R5. The body is all black aside from the lid, which is a metallic grey. Lighting strips adorn the sides of the enclosure and the lid, with more customizable lighting on the alien-head lid logo, the keyboard, and even the touchpad. The side lights look futuristic and sleek, and the accent lighting makes the laptop look high-tech.

The Alienware 17 R5 measures 1.18 by 16.7 by 13.1 inches (HWD) and weighs 9.77 pounds, identical to the previous model. Its size and weight firmly make it a desktop-replacement gaming laptop that you can move, in theory, rather than something you’ll tote with any frequency. Even among other 17-inch-screen laptops, it’s on the heftier side: The Razer Blade Pro weighs 7.72 pounds, the HP Omen 17 is 8.23 pounds, and the Origin EON17-X comes in at 8.6 pounds. You can find heavier examples (the Acer Predator 17 at 9.4 pounds, the EON17-SLX at 12 pounds), but quibbling over a pound or so is pointless with this class of laptop; none of these systems is meant to move around much.

What all that size does get you, in addition to thermal headroom for today’s most powerful PC components, is a roomy 17.3-inch display. Our test unit bears a QHD (2,560-by-1,440-pixel) native resolution, a 120Hz refresh rate, and support for Nvidia G-Sync. It’s also available in Full HD (1,920 by 1,080) at 60Hz, and in 4K at 60Hz (both without G-Sync). The panel has an anti-glare coating that cuts down on annoying reflections, though the screen loses a little luster for it. Still, the picture is clear, and I noted deep blacks and vibrant colors.

Eye Tracking and Power Parts

If you choose one of the two higher-resolution screens, you automatically get Tobii eye tracking via a camera embedded in a bar beneath the display…

You can also opt for Tobii with the 1080p screen, if you like. You can use Tobii generally within Windows—the camera will dim the display, saving power, if it doesn’t see you using the screen, and you can log in via facial recognition.

But the main appeal of Tobii is in supported games. It works with more than 100 titles, tracking your eyes to move the camera in the direction you’re looking, letting you select objects by staring at them, and more. I’m not sure it’s a must-have for most folks, but it has some neat applications if you want one of the higher-resolution screens to begin with. Just know, it does add to the cost.

Almost every other component is configurable, as well. Our test unit includes an Intel Core i9 processor, the overclocked Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 chip, 32GB of memory, and a 512GB solid-state drive (SSD), plus a 1TB hard drive. You can get the system with a Core i7 CPU; a GeForce GTX 1050 Ti, GTX 1060, or GTX 1070; and 8GB or 16GB of memory. For storage, you can get just a 1TB hard drive as the boot drive (not recommended), or pair that drive with a boot SSD from 128GB up to 1TB (much better). Our model is on the higher end of the cost spectrum, but you’re free to put together something a little more budget-friendly.

The keyboard, meanwhile, is one of the few things you can’t change. It isn’t mechanical, but it’s very satisfying to type on, with responsive and just-bouncy-enough keys. You get a column of macro keys, a dedicated number pad (as befits any 17-inch laptop), and, as mentioned, customizable backlighting. The touchpad is also responsive, and the unique lighting is a fun addition. The system’s speakers can get plenty loud, and they offer better bass than average, even if you’ll end up using a headset while gaming.

The ports are much more universal, and you get plenty of them on this sizable chassis, on the two sides and across the rear…

The selection includes two USB 3.0 ports, a USB Type-C port, another USB Type-C port with support for Thunderbolt 3, an Ethernet jack, HDMI and mini-DisplayPort outputs, and a proprietary port for connecting to the Alienware Graphics Amplifier eGPU box. That’s just about everything you could hope for in terms of video output and data transfer, and if for some reason you’d like to connect an even better graphics card to this powerful laptop, that option is open to you. (Of course, the GTX 1080 is pretty close to the GPU ceiling, as it is.)

The R5 also includes dual-band Wi-Fi with Bluetooth 4.1, and is protected by a one-year warranty.

Maximum Price, Maximum Power

While I can only speak to the speed of our loaded-up test configuration, its performance was absolutely ripping. You’d expect as much for the price, but the six-core Core i9 tore through every benchmark test we threw its way. Its 3,620 points on the PCMark 8 Work Conventional trial is among the best to date, and this test doesn’t even maximize its multithreading capability.

The media tests serve as a better measure of its full capacity under load, and few models to date can match what I saw…

Alienware 17 R5 BM

The R5 finished the Handbrake test in 48 seconds, wrapped up the Photoshop test in 2:30, and broke the 1,000-point barrier on the CPU-stressing Cinebench R15 trial. While the Photoshop test doesn’t stand out against similarly priced competition, the Handbrake and Cinebench results were both better than most, beating the Razer Blade Pro, Origin’s EON17-X and EON17-SLX, and the beastly Aorus X9. To make a long story short, while you may be mostly gaming on this machine, this highly configured model is more than up for professional media tasks, as well.

The overclocked GeForce GTX 1080 was no slouch, either…

Alienware 17 R5 BM

Gaming is, of course, Alienware’s meat, and so it is for the R5. Its results on the 3DMark Cloud Gate and Fire Strike Extreme tests topped the charts for single-card performance, beating the EON17-X, Predator 17, and Blade Pro. This translated to very solid frame rates while gaming, as exhibited by the results on the Heaven and Valley tests. Even at the native 1440p (2,560-by-1,440-pixel) resolution, the Alienware 17 R5 averaged 73 frames per second (fps) and 80fps on these benchmark tests at ultra-quality settings. That’s comfortably over the ideal target of 60fps, but if you want to ensure that your frame rate never dips below for the most demanding games, dropping the resolution to 1080p should do it; when I did, I saw frame rates above 100fps.

However you prefer to play, the Alienware 17 R5 won’t leave you worrying whether you can run a game at full settings, which—yes—you would expect for the price. But even lower-configured versions of this laptop look to offer good value: There’s a GeForce GTX 1070-bearing version with an eighth-generation Core i7 processor and 16GB of memory and lots of storage that manages to stay under $2,000. You aren’t required to spend a fortune for a powerful version of this laptop if you don’t want to, and the fact that that’s one of the better values for money (and from a company that has a bit of a reputation for being pricey) is commendable.

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As for battery life, the Alienware 17 R5 lasted for 3 hours and 56 minutes on our rundown test. That’s decent for a big laptop with a high-resolution screen, though it won’t provide you with a ton of time off the charger (especially if you do any gaming). Still, it improves on the Alienware 17 R4, edges out the Blade Pro, and comfortably beats the Origin EON17 laptops.

Configuration Is King

As we have it configured, the Alienware 17 R5 is a very powerful, very expensive laptop. At this price point, chart-topping performance is nearly a given, so it’s too easy to simply point to the speed as a reason to justify spending four grand. If you can afford that and like what you see in the design, I can endorse it—you’re getting a well-built laptop with nice extras, a high-tech display, and plenty of storage.

Most people won’t quite be able to afford that, but that doesn’t mean they should look away from this line altogether. In fact, the Alienware 17 R5 scales quite well at lower configurations. The less expensive one mentioned earlier is one of the better deals for a GeForce GTX 1070 with a fresh CPU, and it comes in the same nice chassis. You could easily spend the same amount on a more portable, less powerful 15-inch laptop, so you’re getting strong value out of the Alienware 17 R5 if you like the design and the sheer size. It’s one of the more reasonably priced 17-inch laptops in the mid-tier, while this top-end model beats the similarly priced competition on performance. As such, the Alienware 17 R5 earns an Editors’ Choice among high-end gaming laptops, just as the R4 did before it. It shares this distinction with the Origin EVO15-S, our pick for a slimmer, more portable high-end gamer.



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