Alienware has gone back and radically redesigned the chassis of their entire mobile lineup, and it's a difference you can see and feel. Their motif was to capture the difference between the 90s idea of alien technology which informed the previous designs and the modern pop culture idea of alien technology, and amusingly I do think they've found it. The base of the new 17 is bevelled and extends up and out, and illuminated lines ring it.

The lid and much of the shell is now aluminum; there's color-configurable illumination of the Alienware logo and two slits in the panel, as well as an aluminum trim surrounding the body of the notebook. Open it up and the interior is still the same soft touch black plastic we're used to from Alienware.

Gone is the group of shortcut buttons above the keyboard, with media controls now shifted to Fn key combinations. The keycaps and keyboard layout are also changed; the caps are a bit more subtle and still very comfortable, but the keyboard layout is a step back, I think. The document navigation keys have been moved (but are still dedicated, thankfully), replaced with a row of four configurable keys above the number pad. I feel like the essential problem with this placement is that it's not something you even see on desktop gaming keyboards; the old and more traditional layout was, I think, superior.

The new touchpad surface is comfortable and we still have dedicated buttons, but I'm not keen on having the touchpad itself backlit. Alienware went through the trouble of having the backlighting in the keyboard become less obtrusive, so why undermine that decision with a big fat backlit rectangle? It only lights up when you touch it, and it can be disabled entirely (along with all of the configurable lighting as is traditional), but it seems like a waste in the first place. The highlighted touchpad trim on the old chassis was more attractive and more sensible.

The interior of the Alienware 17 remains as sensible as ever, though. The battery is no longer easily user-replaceable, but notebooks like this one seldom spend much time off the mains in the first place. We still get a dual fan cooling system that isolates the CPU and GPU from one another. Honestly, this internal design remains relatively easy to service and upgrade independently, but remember that Dell/Alienware has a bad history of generationally updating BIOSes. There's no reason why the M17x R3 can't use a 680M or 780M, for example, or even an Ivy Bridge CPU, but a lack of BIOS updates made all but the 680M impossible, and that chip requires modified drivers.

Ultimately I'm fond of the Alienware 17 redesign, especially the switch from a glossy display to matte, but I feel like there's still a void in the market where a sleeker, more sophisticated and frankly adult design could exist. Razer is halfway there, but by being unwilling to produce a thicker machine, they're prevented from using the highest end mobile hardware. This redesign is fine and arguably an upgrade from the old chassis, but there's honestly a lot of room for improvement. Alienware really needs to find the happy medium between form and function.

Introducing the Alienware 17 System and Futuremark Performance
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  • arthur449 - Friday, September 6, 2013 - link

    Based on these comments, I feel it would be a good idea for AnandTech write an article describing the current state of notebook gaming PCs.

    Is performance closer than it has been in the past to desktop parts? Price?

    Apart from Optimus and Enduro, are there any recent software or hardware trends that may change this in the future?
  • inighthawki - Saturday, September 7, 2013 - link

    Thanks so much!
  • Pneumothorax - Friday, September 6, 2013 - link

    Anyone else underwhelmed by Haswell with the exception of ULT version? Sad thing is we're stuck with this generation till 2015....
  • andykins - Friday, September 6, 2013 - link

    Only the ULV SKUs, or 40 EU graphic SKUs (with or without Crystallwell) are any improvement over last gen.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, September 6, 2013 - link

    Power/battery life is almost universally better on laptops, as long as we're not looking at full blown gaming laptops like the Alienware 17, Clevos, etc. The MSI GE40 for instance posts some pretty awesome battery life results.
  • warezme - Friday, September 6, 2013 - link

    I would label it disappointing. The redesign looks like a compromise in quality over the previous generation in an attempt to increase profits. The screen a TN panel, while matte is good, the lack of glass insert that went over the entire surface was classier even if more reflective. The missing control panel on top, also a cut in cost by eliminating extra buttons and and an extra controller, the integrated battery slot, etc. It looks cheaper without the benefit of a lower price.
  • ilkhan - Friday, September 6, 2013 - link

    Any chance of a GTX770M notebook review? This is the 3rd or 4th GTX780M review but nothing down-market.
  • Relaxe - Friday, September 6, 2013 - link

    M. Sklavos,

    I have an Alienware M17xR3 since early 2012. At first, I had some troubles with games being "choppy"... investigations made it clear that the GPU and CPU hit the thermal derating ceiling very fast....
    Please, consider integrating OCCT from OCBase in your testings. This test demonstrated very clearly how thermally limited my Alienware was.
    After this, I repasted the GPU and CPU with a cheap but well revied thermal paste... and now I do not hit the thermal limits at all (even at full load).
    I am still baffled by Dell putting such a low-grade paste in such a premium product...
    Maybe this has something to do with the inconsistent result you had.
    Also, It would be nice to have a thermal picture of the bottom of the laptop under load.
  • Khenglish - Friday, September 6, 2013 - link

    I wish clevo and AW would pay more attention to battery life. With optimus there is really no reason for a gaming laptop to have significantly worse battery life than GPUless laptops. The MSI GE40 with just a 65Wh AND a dGPU is incredible compared to clevo/AW.
  • landsome - Saturday, September 7, 2013 - link

    No reason except for significantly larger screen, larger and often better equipped mobo, sometimes dual hdd's of which one mechanical, typically a bit more power-hungry CPU, more mem, an optical as well - these things end adding up.

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