My 2015 Alienware 17 R3 Experience
This will be a short review of the laptop and how it performed during the last 3-4 days I've had it.
Okay so the machine arrived 10 days after the order was initiated, which isn't too bad by Dell standards. In the package you see the laptop and a little bit of documentation. Above the laptop in a closed compartment is the charger.
Upon switching the laptop on, you are greeted by this Alienware text logo and a windows 10 style loading circle just below it. That stays on for like 3 minutes... (lol pci-e speed) but okay I thought well it's first time set-up technically it should take a bit. Once it eventually loads, you are asked to configure your Windows 10 and then you are in. It came with all the drivers, and dell/aw apps installed as well as the likes of Steam and Skype. I checked all software and made sure it was up to date, checked windows too and that was fine. Okay so far so good, now lets play a game on it!
Initiating a download of Witcher 3 and went to make tea. When I came back after about 15 minutes, the game was almost downloaded however there was an error to do with .NET Framework and the program that brought up the error was AlienFX lol I was like err okay, I couldn't actually click anything though as it had frozen the system. A quick reboot later, and I had the game downloaded and ready to play. I thought, well for the sake of testing, let me download GTA V, BF4 and Mad Max so I can compare the games' fps to my old desktop system which had an evga gtx 980 classified.
So once all the games are done I launch the Witcher 3 and get straight into the settings, putting everything to Ultra apart from the likes of Blur, hairworks and AA settings, all those are off. I get in game, expecting somewhat good results, and errr I was wrong. Basically the average fps it was getting was like 35... which is really bad I think. I mean it might go up to 40 in some areas, but usually it was in the 30s. The worst thing about it, it was actually really jittery and cutty, like as if you are playing a really sped up slideshow.
I thought alright, that game is demanding, maybe too demanding (even though my PC got over 60 on that no problem), so I thought the gtx 980m needs something with less juice requirement. GTA V was next, with good settings (not ultra, I used the GFE to optimize it) and that was okay, till you realise that if you get in a police chase or go offroading, your fps sky rockets down to the 35 range again. In the city it managed to maintain 60-80, but if something big happens and it shoots down. I noticed that the actual CPU never reached the claimed 4.14ghz of "dynamic overclock" either... I have a cooling pad on the machine and it's in a nice cool room, average temp of CPU was 72 and GPU never went above 65, so not sure what was going on there.
Okay next was BF4, probably one of the games I was actually happy with the way it ran, but then again it's 2 years old now... This game I maxed everything, as per GFE instruciton , including 4xMSAA and the nvidia special AA it applies through control panel. I am easily able to average 60fps, sometimes a lot higher (depending on map and player count) but most importantly, it never went below 50. Good.
Next up was Mad Max, another game which was flawless, everything was maxed out and out and about when driving i was averaging 75-80fps. It did get to low 40s at some points when you are in heavy combat and it is usually night with some sort of fog, but that was rare. Again, a very good game and flawlessly run by the machine.
I played a few other games too but you get my point, basically it runs game which are not very gpu heavy pretty well, but anything with good eye candy is just a lag fest. I mean I consider things in the 30fps not playable, different folks see it as fine, but that's them. Forking out £2000+ on a machine you expect smooth gameplay you know 🙂 Now to talk about the actual laptop and it's features.
Okay so starting off visually the machine is great, all the lighting is awesome and reasonably bright, and I love how customizable it is. Only downside to that is there was no white colour in AlienFX ? Apparently you can edit the theme file in notepad and add it in but it doesn't look right. The laptop seems to be coated in a nice rubbery surface which is very very nice on the fingers however it does also get very dirty from fingerprints and general dust buildup, so a clean every couple days is recommended imo.
Then we have the cooling, which is to be honest rather good. The fans are not too loud and the temps are usually good (between 60-75) With the cooling pad this further improves by 5C or so.
Now on to some bad bits once again, my WiFi seems to have issues staying connected to a network. Basically after twenty minutes of staying connected, it goes into "Limited" mode and won't open any web page. I checked the network adapter settings in Windows and it shows itself as Disabled. Trying to enable it does nothing. The only way to fix it is to restart Windows. I tried reinstalling the latest drivers, even using a different third party driver with no luck.
Then the next bad thing, playing games with the touchpad. Now I know nobody will probably play games with a touchpad but I just wanted to test it out. On Mad Max, I can't actually walk and use the touchpad at the same time. It seems like it won't allow me to use more than 2 buttons on the keyboard and the touchpad at the same time?
Then we get to the speakers, which I heard very good things about. Now I spent about an hour testing all of the settings to make them sound somewhat descent but got nothing.. They were either too dull and bassy, or when the crystallizer is turned up they just sounded way too amplified and crackly.
Also did I mention the boot time? Restarting the machine takes over 2 minutes.... wtf? On a PCI-E SSD? Not sure what it's doing, is it some sort of checks or failing to load a certain driver, but this was not acceptable by any means.
Also it kept having memory leaks... like playing BF4 and using 12gb/16gb?!?! Was using 14gb when on Witcher 3 lol.
The camera quality however was amazing, spent about 4 hours on skype with my girlfriend and she said the Mic and Camera were outstanding compared to my old laptop.
So yeah, basically my experience with dell summed up in a few key points:
- My order was messed about, then cancelled, then delayed, and eventually through hours of terrible customer support I was able to get the machine to me with the right spec
- Expected a lot more than what I actually got. I mean if this really is the performance of a 980M and a skylake mobile cpu running at 4ghz, then mobile gaming is light years behind any remotely good PC
- Bad WiFi, Bad touchpad, mediocre speakers, AlienFX crashes every now and then with .NET Framework errors
My long awaited dream of waiting to own an Alienware turned more like a complete nightmare and a headache. Oh well, I've sent a return form so will be giving it back to Dell and building myself another custom PC and just buying a cheap £500-£600 laptop to do design work on. I don't think "desktop replacement laptops" actually exist yet, they are just not good enough for the money you pay.
This is a totally honest review guys, I am not trying to hate on Alienware or Dell. I am giving you things just as they are, the good and the bad. Any comments and discussion are welcome.
Thank you for reading,