There’s a reason Alienware is one of the most desirable gaming brands on the planet. There are many reasons, actually. Chief among them is the outstanding standard of quality that Alienware ensures with their pre-built systems and gaming notebooks. They’re pricy enough to reduce even the sturdiest of wallets to a heaving pile of sobs and tears, but when you remove an Alienware product from its box, it’s immediately obvious that you’re laying your hands on something that’s dedicated to the ideal of being second to none. The Alienware 15 is no different.
Physically, it’s a chunkier, heavier gaming notebook than most, especially for a 15-inch model. Alienware clearly isn’t too bothered with delivering an ultra-slim, lightweight design, but I don’t mind the thicker chassis at all. It feels incredibly solid, like it’d withstand a good amount of punishment, and the various bits of carbon fibre and aluminium that provide extra support and rigidity help reinforce this notion.
The Alienware 15 naturally looks incredibly attractive, even before you turn the thing on. Once you do and all the lighting kicks in, there’s no mistaking it for anything other than what it is: a high-powered, highly expensive gaming notebook, one that’s guaranteed to attract attention no matter where you use it. The 15 is covered in a number of different LED lighting zones, and each one of these zones can be individually customised using the preloaded, easy-to-use AlienFX software. It’s not limited to simply changing the colour of the LEDs either – there are different lighting effects (like a breathing mode) and an events system which can be used to have the lights commence a certain behaviour at the desired time, like when you have an unread email waiting for you. The lighting options are obviously purely superficial, but it looks great and the customisation options let you tag your 15 with your own style.
There’s not much to say about the 15.6-inch anti-glare IPS display. It’s not the best notebook display I’ve ever encountered (I’d say it could stand to be just a touch brighter), but overall it’s an excellent offering with an impressively wide viewing angle. I’ve said it before that I prefer 17-inch gaming notebooks, but if 15 is more your thing, you’ll love this display. The keyboard is a pleasure to use for both gaming and general use, and if you don’t have a gaming mouse handy, the trackpad is one of the best I’ve ever encountered. It’s indented to clearly distinguish it from the rest of the chassis just using touch, and the trackpad buttons are similarly distinctly marked. The trackpad also lights up during use, which is a nice touch.
And then there’s the performance. The 15 is easily one of the most powerful gaming notebooks on the market. Or, at least, the specific hardware configuration we received is. The combination of Core i7 6700HQ, 8GB GTX 980M, 16GB of DDR4 RAM and the superfast Samsung NVMe SSD make the 15 brilliantly responsive during general use and highly capable when playing demanding games. 3DMark’s Fire Strike test awards the 15 a score of 8,225, which is a fantastic result for a gaming notebook. Even the most power-hungry games out there will run smoothly at high settings – although you may have to do a bit of tweaking here and there in certain titles to get the perfect balance of performance and beauty.
One of the most surprising features of the 15 is the audio it produces. Thanks to the grouping of Klipsch speakers and Creative’s SoundBlaster X-Fi tech, the Alienware 15 generates unexpectedly rich audio. I think MSI still wears the crown for best audio in their gaming notebooks, but the 15’s sonic capabilities caught me completely by surprise.
Elsewhere, the Alienware 15 is packed with excellent value-adds. Dynamic overclocking, Killer networking, HDMI 2.0 output (which’ll allow you to connect an external 4K display, although you shouldn’t expect stellar performance using this for gaming) and a USB Type-C port – which is also a DisplayPort and Thunderbolt port. The 15 also supports those fancy Alienware Graphics Amplifiers, should you opt to get one. I’ve never seen them in action, but I’m assuming they’re lovely and will change your life forever. I hear they also dispense free chocolate and foot rubs on demand.
I’m thoroughly impressed by the Alienware 15 unit we received. The price is intimidating, sure, but you’re getting a ton of bang for your hard-earned buck. The hardware performance is exceptional, the built-in audio suite is significantly better than most, and the feature set adds considerable value to the entire package. If you’re hunting for a high-end gaming notebook, add this one to your list of possible choices right now.