A few years back, Dell’s Alienware R18 gaming laptop had a nickname that stuck since the early days of the brand’s presence on the internet; “mothership” perfectly described a notebook that was in excess in every direction, both in size, weight, hardware selection, and build quality. Dell retired the R18 temporarily after it was last updated with an Intel Ivy Bridge processor and Nvidia Kepler mobile graphics, and its since been unavailable. 18-inch laptops aren’t really necessary or needed in today’s market, but Dell seems fairly sure that the time is now to bring back an old legend. Along with the R18 announcement, Dell also announced other changes to their product lineups and some updates to Intel’s new Skylake hardware. Hit the jump to catch up on it all.
The R18 features the same anodysed aluminium and magnesium lid and underbody as the current Alienware lineup and ships with a 18.4-inch TN 1920 x 1080 display with a matte finish. Its a bit odd to see this display in this kind of product, especially when other brands are putting in high-resolution displays that sometimes reach into the territory associated with UltraHD 4K panels. Being TN means that the ideal viewing angle will be more or less dead-on, which isn’t bad for a laptop, but a poor showing otherwise. No G-Sync and no IPS is weird to see on a laptop that costs as much as R61,000 fully configured.
Hardware-wise, Dell offers configurations ranging from a Intel Core i7-4710MQ and dual NVIDIA Geforce GTX 970M 6GB graphics cards all the way to an overclocked Core i7-4940MX with 32GB of RAM and dual GTX 980M 8GB graphics cards in SLI. Despite being so large, the R18 only offers a slot-loading Blu-Ray drive, space for a single 2.5-inch hard drive and one mSATA SSD, which isn’t even NVME compatible. The R18 weighs in at 5.5kg fully loaded and is 57mm thick.
Watching the video announcement is optional. Its exceedingly cringey, if you like that sort of stuff.
Skylake arrives on the X51
You might remember the X51, Dell’s small-form-factor gaming desktop that’s about the same size as an Xbox 360. Dell began ditching the cheaper options for the X51 as they moved to launch the Alienware Alpha instead, which is their Steam Machine product as well.
The X51 now gets updated to include support for Skylake and starts with the Core i5-6600K overclocked to 4.3GHz, a Geforce GTX 745 4GB DDR3 graphics card, 8GB of DDR4-2133 memory and a 1TB 7200rpm hard drive. It tops out with the Core i7-6700K overclocked to 4.4GHz, a Geforce GTX 960 2GB GDDR5 or an AMD Radeon R7 370 4GB GDDR5, 16GB of DDR4-2133 memory and options for a 2TB hard drive with various PCI Express SSDs in 256GB or 512GB sizes. The OS on offer is either Windows 8.1 or Windows 10, and SteamOS or any Linux variant is unsupported at present.
Overclocking on Alienware laptops
Dell also made updates to the rest of the Alienware laptop family, offering support for the Alienware Graphics Adapter once more and “Dynamic Overclocking”, which is essentially a Turbo mode you can enable for specific applications that might benefit from more horsepower. There is an override function for this feature as well, allowing users direct access to options to overclock the processor on select models. There’s also support for USB 3.1 Type C, Thunderbolt 3.0 and HDMI 2.0, and PCI Express NVME-compatible storage.
The Alienware R15 also now has the AMD Radeon R9 M395X 4GB GDDR5 graphics card as a configuration option. This is rather interesting, because the codename for the R9 M395X is “Amethyst XT”. That’s the same codename for Tonga XT, a fully-enabled variant of the desktop R9 380 which is fully unlocked to 2048 stream processors. If AMD is now selling that GPU to vendors other than Apple, we’ll likely get to see it leap over on to the desktop soon. With Dell offering HDMI 2.0 support, that also means that the version AMD is selling them is a custom model with a Displayport 1.2 to HDMI 2.0 chip thrown in.
Dell also announced that touch displays were no longer an option on their laptops because consumers weren’t buying them. Instead, the Alienware 13, 15, and 17 will all have a UltraHD 4K IGZO panel as an option over the standard 1080p display. On the Alienware 15 and 17, the standard displays are now IPS instead of TN. Sadly there aren’t any G-Sync options here either, but that may come at a later date, possibly with new firmware and drivers if we’re lucky.
One G-Sync and one curved monitor
Finishing off the round of product updates, Dell also announced the S2716DG which is a 27-inch 2560 x 1440 resolution TN panel that supports NVIDIA’s G-Sync variable refresh rate technology (VRR) at frequencies up to 144Hz. Retailing for $800 (approx. R10,500 today) starting on 10 October 2015 in the US, Canada and Europe, its quite a steep price for a display that will only have one Displayport 1.2a port, HDMI 1.4a, as well as a four port USB 3.0 hub attached.
Dell also announced the SE2716H which is a 27-inch curved 2560 x 1440 display that has a maximum refresh rate of 60Hz, but the upside is that it has an IPS panel and support for Displayport, HDMI and DVI connectors. This model will ship starting 15 September 2015 in the US, Canada and Europe at $400 (approx. R5200 today).