Price Analysis & Conclusion
The Alienware 15 marks the second laptop we've tested with both a 7th generation Kaby Lake processor and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070. Considering how well the Asus Strix GL502VS-DS71 fared, we expected at least similar performance out of the Alienware unit, and it matched our expectations. Its synthetic and gaming performance don't particularly impress us, especially for the price, but its build and features place it a cut above the Asus Strix.
Performance in our synthetic benchmarks is about what you can expect from an Intel Core i7-7700K and GTX 1070. CPU-based benchmarks such as Cinebench and PCMark's Adobe Creative and Microsoft Office suites illustrated similar results to the Asus Strix and EVGA SC17, which was to be expected considering their similar configurations. The same story can be told for the GPU-based tasks. The Alienware's only clear win is during the IOMeter storage tests; the 512GB Samsung PM961 M.2 SSD demonstrated outstanding 4K random speeds and rivaled the EVGA's Toshiba XG3 in 128K sequential speeds. The Alienware has the upper hand in this case due to having the highest storage capacity out of the four laptops.
You can expect similar gaming performance between the three GTX 1070-based laptops as well. Notable titles to look out for are DiRT Rally, Metro: Last Light Redux, and The Division, where the GTX 1070 makes all the difference in whether a system can achieve 60+ FPS. These titles are fairly strenuous, and the GTX 1060-equipped Sager NP8165 couldn't quite achieve 60 FPS unless the graphical settings were tweaked. Also, in Alien: Isolation and Bioshock Infinite, we witnessed the Alienware 15 produce frame rates that could take full advantage of its 120Hz refresh rate. However, more taxing games such as Ashes of the Singularity, Grand Theft Auto V, and Rise of the Tomb Raider still pose a challenge to the top three systems in this roundup, so you're going to need at least a GTX 1080 if you wish to tackle them without compromise.
In all, solid performance across the board, but nothing stands out in particular, except storage.
Thermal performance was impressive, to say the least. You'd think that a laptop with a ton of heft and a rather restrictive interior shell would impede thermal dissipation, but that wasn't the case for the Alienware 15. At idle, the Alienware ran at 46°C-47°C, which is a lot warmer than most systems, but the situation quickly flips after a 15 minute Furmark torture test, where the Optris thermal image camera detected temperatures close to 70°C. Our AIDA64 log found the GPU maxing out at 65°C, which was only a smidgen higher than the EVGA SC17's max temperature, and much lower than the Asus Strix's max of 76°C.
Out of the four laptops in this comparison, the Alienware 15 manages to outlast the competition in battery life, albeit by a handful of minutes. You can achieve a good 1 hour and 40 minutes of uninterrupted playtime, which should be adequate for short flights, train rides, and the like. The extra 5-10 minutes that the Alienware boasts over the Asus Strix and EVGA SC17 might make the difference between reaching a save point or losing your progress. However, the GTX 1070 is a fairly power hungry component, so you shouldn't expect extensive playtime in the realm of two hours or more, which laptops with GTX 1050s and GTX 1050 Tis are capable of.
The Alienware's display performance is a mixed bag. For one, the display is rated at an impressively bright 400 nits, and in our testing we found that the maximum white luminance surpassed this. In addition to including G-Sync, the Alienware display also has a 120Hz refresh rate, which is excellent in games where this laptop can achieve sufficient frame rates. But this comes with the tradeoffs of a TN panel, which doesn't produce an accurate viewing experience. The contrasts are too low because of the high black luminance, the RGB balance is skewed heavily in favor of blue tones, and the grayscale and overall color accuracy is incredibly low, to the point where it's easily noticeable.
You can't review an Alienware system without commenting on its aesthetics and build quality. The Alienware 15 has the company's distinctive extraterrestrial branding and aesthetic. With the extensive LED lighting, the laptop might look more like a UFO than an actual laptop, and very rarely will you find this level of customization in a gaming laptop; some may have lighting accents on the lid, an RGB keyboard, or even an accented touchpad, but the Alienware has all of that and more. As for the build quality, the laptop is a bit heavy for a 15" system, but with that added heft comes peace of mind. The Alienware 15 is built like a rock, and you're unlikely to damage it accidentally.
The Alienware 15 sports incredibly build quality, impressive performance, decent battery life, great thermal dissipation, and a 120Hz display, so it should be the clear winner, right? Well, not exactly. The biggest drawback is the price, and believe us when we say this drawback is major. The configuration we received is available for $2,450, which is pretty expensive even for a GTX 1070-based laptop. For comparison, you can grab the Asus Strix for $1,700, with similar gaming performance and battery longevity. You'll have a slower SSD with less capacity and a 60Hz display.
As of now, the EVGA SC17 costs about $2,250 and rocks similar performance, but EVGA hasn't updated this laptop to a current generation, overclockable Core i7 yet; when and if an i7-7820HK-based SC17 appears, it could easily cost more than the Alienware 15. You'll have to consider whether the added features and built quality are worth it, or if you value the best bang for your buck. Its high price prevents us from giving the Alienware 15 our Recommended award, but the laptop is certainly worthy of our Approved recognition.
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