If you're looking for a laptop that's handy for multi-threaded content creation then the m17 makes a good argument for itself. It was the fastest laptop we've tested in HandBrake, bettering Intel's Core i5-8600K and coming within a fraction of the time we recorded with the Core i5-9600K as well as matching AMD's stock speed Ryzen 5 2600. Plugged in, the laptop is able to offer speeds on par with popular desktop CPUs.
Cinebench leaned even more on the CPU's additional threads, and here the m17 outstrips the Core i5-9600K by a sizeable margin; even overclocking the latter couldn't match the Core i9-8950HK's result, which once again matched the Ryzen 5 2600.
Strangely, the screen refused to offer up a resolution of 1,440p, so we were left with 4K and 1080p testing. Deus Ex is still a tough challenge for a PC, never mind a laptop, but the m17 managed a respectable minimum frame rate of 25fps with the average sitting at 31fps at the native resolution of 4K, so in most other games it'll be hitting between 30 and 60fps (or more).
If you prefer higher frame rates then the minimum more than doubled when we dropped to 1,920 x 1,080. This laptop is available with both 1080p and 1440p panel options, and the 1440p one is the most gaming-centric since it has a 120Hz refresh rate as well. The 4K and 1080p ones are both limited to 60Hz and none of the options sport variable refresh rates.
Battery life wasn't stellar, lasting less than an hour while gaming before the built-in battery management kicked in and frame rates slowed to a crawl. In our productivity test it was 139 minutes, which is reasonable for such a high-end system, but you'll likely see a little more time if you limit your work to word processing.
The SK Hynix SSD performed reasonably well, topping the sequential read speed chart, but its write speeds and random tests in CrystalDiskMark were poor compared to Samsung PCIe SSD-equipped laptops we've tested.
The 17.3" IPS screen was excellent, though, with 100 percent coverage of both sRGB and AdobeRGB colour spaces, reasonable colour accuracy, and a peak brightness of 333cd/m2 that was easily high enough to allow outdoor viewing, especially as the screen isn't touch-enabled.
While some things have changed compared to an Alienware laptop you could pick up two years ago, the latest m17 still demands a slightly bonkers price tag. The difference today, though, is that not only are you getting a capable gaming machine that can manage playable frame rates at its native 4K resolution, but the six-core CPU is a mobile powerhouse too, matching Intel's latest desktop six-core options, which means that the m17 now has a two-core advantage over many other high-end laptops out there and is just as much about portable content creation as it is gaming. Of course, quite a few game titles now benefit from more than four cores too.
Compared to the PC Specialist Recoill II (RTX) we looked at recently, the £1,100 price difference is undeniably massive. However, this Alienware configuration is faster in both the CPU and GPU departments, has a higher resolution and higher quality panel, and a better (albeit not perfect) chassis, all of which are key considerations when buying a laptop. This machine still won't win awards for value, but it's important to keep in mind the price tag hasn't been pulled from thin air.
We would still like to have seen more storage in our review sample given the price, but there are options to add more when buying or even afterwards yourself. We also feel that given many people would be using the m17 as a desktop replacement, more USB ports would be handy too.
We will, of course, suggest you splash this kind of cash on a desktop PC if you can, as you'll get a lot more for your cash or alternatively similar performance for less, but if owning a full-size PC isn't an option or you're regularly on the road and have a big enough wallet, the m17 is an absolute beast. Thankfully, unlike its predecessors, the same isn't true for its dimensions and weight.
September 18 2020 | 18:30