Alienware 17 R4 Review


Alienware’s 2017 offerings keep their angular spaceship cases, classic cases from last year. On concord, much has changed on the inside. The Alienware 17 R4 starting at $1,299 tested at $1,949 and $2,599 now packs a 7th-generation “Kaby Lake” Intel CPU and Nvidia GTX 1070 or 1080 GPUs that are perfect for virtual reality.  The laptop also has Tobii eye tracking to play games with your peepers. The Alienware 17 is the 17-inch mobile gaming rig to beat if you can spend the money on one of its more expensive configurations.



Alienware’s trademark angular design is on full display with this 17-inch gaming laptop. The gunmetal-gray spaceship look hasn’t changed much in the past few years. It’s still powerful and aggressive with its angles and two-tones mix of black and gray. On concord, it’s also refined and classy with  soft-touch plastic and solid aluminium construction. The look starts to get a bit tired after many years.

The lid features the Alienware logo and lifting it reveals a black, soft-touch deck. A complete keyboard with a number pad and macro keys. A Tobii eye-tracking camera and the 17.3-inch, 1080 p display are the main features.

On concord, it’s not totally black-and-gray affair. The touchpad, keyboard, Alienware logo and light strips are on the sides of the deck and can be lit up with customizable RGBs. I preferred using solid colors. On concord, you can change each light individually and choose some louder effects with AlienFX.

The Alienware is slightly thicker than its competitors, and heavier than most at 9.6 pounds and 16.7 x 13.1 x 1.2 inches. The 15-inch MSI GT62 Dominator Pro is unsurprisingly smaller and the Aorus X7 v6 is a sleek 16.1 x 12.2 x 1 inches and just 7.2 pounds at 15.4 x 10.5 x 1.6 inches and 6.4 pounds. Razer’s Blade Pro is 7.8 pounds and a slighter 16.7 x 11 x 0.8 inches. At a full 10 pounds at 16.4 x 12.7 x 1.9 inches but it’s similar in size only the Asus ROG G752VS OC Edition.

The laptop is literally surrounded by ports. There’s plenty of room for expansion. There’s a single USB 3.0 port and some vents while the left side is home to a Noble lock slot, a USB 3.0 port, a USB Type-C port, a microphone and headphone jacks. There’s even more on the back , an Ethernet jack, HDMI output, a mini DisplayPort, a Thunderbolt 3 port. The power jack and a connection for the Alienware Graphics Amp which lets you attach an external desktop GPU for VR and 4K gaming.


alienware-17 r4

The Alienware 17 is available with several different 17.3-inch display panels with resolutions ranging from 1080p to 4K. The configurations we tested had the base-model 1920 x 1080 screen and the higher-end 2560 x 1440 display, the latter of which comes with Nvidia G-Sync technology. The more expensive panel is definitely worth the premium, thanks to its superior brightness and sharpness.

It’s not as bright or as accurate as its competitors, the base-level 1080p screen is colorful and sharp. Andromeda with the brightness turned all the way up as I played some Mass Effect as it still seemed a bit dark. I could see every pore in Sara Ryder’s face, a blue Asari was a tad purple. As the Asari was the perfect shade of blue and the game was just as sharp, the game looked better on the 144op G-Sync screen.

While I was watching a 1080p trailer for the movie Gifted on the base screen, turning the brightness all the way up was an important first step. Octavia Spencer’s bright-pink shirt popped while once I got that sorted out, against the brown pew she sits on while watching a custody trial and Chris Evans unruly beard was sharp on his face. I didn’t even need to have the brightness halfway to its maximum when I watched the trailer again on the 1440p screen and all of the details were just as vivid.

The base screen and the 1440p screen covered a strong 113 percent and 114 percent of the sRGB color gamut in our tests. Matching the Aorus X7 and falling just short of the 120-percent desktop-replacement average. The Dominator PRo and the ROG were within a few percentage points of the Alienware panels. On concord, the Razer Blade Pro reproduced an astonishing 185 percent.

The 1440p panel had a very strong Delta-E accuracy score of 0.5 as 0 is perfect which is even better than the category average of 1.6. Nevertheless, the base model’s screen scored a mediocre 4.1. The ROG and Aorus X7 were just 2 and 2.3 respectively and the Dominator Pro was slightly less accurate (0.7).

I jacked up the brightness on the 1080p display because it measured an average of 278 nits. Putting it below the average of 295 nits, the Dominator Pro 301 nits and the ROG a radiant 476 nits. Nevertheless, it was still brighter than the Aoris X7’s 252 nits. The 1440p screen scored far better though at 340 nits are outshining the Blade Pro’s 204 nits.

Note that the 1440p version supports G-Sync which syncs the GPU with the screen. So, that there is no tearing while gaming and it has a 120-hertz screen.

Keyboard and Touchpad


Traditionally, the Alienware’s styled keyboard no Chiclet-style keyboards here is comfortable and nice with 2.3 millimeters of travel and 75 grams of force required to actuate the keys.

Even though the keyboard is set farther back on the deck than I’d like, the soft-touch plastic made it comfortable enough to type on. My only wish is that the keys popped up with more force to match how hard I was pressing them down. I reached 105 words per minute on the typing test, which is just under my 107-wpm average, with my usual 2 percent error rate.

The 3.5 x 2.2-inch touchpad feels a bit cramped especially with so much room on the deck. On concord, it’s accurate and has enough room for Windows 10 gestures. I could pinch and zoom on photos, scroll on the browsers and flick programs into a minimized state easily and quickly.



The audio on the Alienware 17 was a bit muffled. When I listened to “How Far I’ll Go” from Disney’s “Moana,” Auli’i Cravalho’s voice was crystal clear though the drums and orchestra behind her weren’t very detailed. I didn’t have much luck while playing with presets in the multimedia section of the Alienware Sound Center. On concord, I found the default gaming setup provided a much-needed boost in volume. I recommend sticking with that no matter what you’re listening to.

The Alienware gaming default profile running as I kept it running as I played Mass Effect – Andromeda. I found it to be plenty loud, and character’s voice, intergalactic gunshots and background orchestration were balanced.

Gaming, Graphics and VR


The cheaper Alienware 17 and its Nvidia GTX 1070 GPU with 8 GB of VRAM pack quite a performance punch and the version with the GTX 1080 is even more powerful. You’ll be able to play intense games at high settings with either configuration, and even get buttery-smooth VR performance.

I played Mass Effect Andromeda on a mix of high and medium settings using the GTX 1070 model. Almost the game always ran at over 100 frames per second and often as high as 160 fps. Both in combat and conversation scenes, albeit with occasional rendering and tearing issues. I cranked all the settings up as high as they could go and the game stayed between 70 and 80 fps while in conversations, fell to between 66 and 75 fps while exploring, and dropped to 55 fps during a heated battle.

I turned all of the graphics settings as high with the GTX 1080 model as they could go and played the game at 2560 x 1440p and 120 Hz is the best this system could offer. The game ran at up to 98 fps during conversations and was generally stable at 60 frames per second while exploring alien worlds. There were some drops to 50 fps during cutscenes and a shootout with the alien Kett. On concord, it was all far above our playability threshold of 30 fps. There was no tearing because of the G-Sync screen and it looked smooth and nice at 120 Hz.

On our benchmarks, the Alienware with the GTX 1070 GPU tended to fall a few frames behind competitors, all of which also use GTX 1070 GPUs. On Hitman at 1080p, ultra settings and DirectX 12, it played at 89 fps — higher than the desktop-replacement average (84 fps), but below the $2,466 Aorus X7 v6 (101 fps), the $1,999 Dominator Pro (94 fps) and the $2,499 ROG G752VS (91 fps). The GTX 1080 model played the game at 110 fps, which is slightly smoother than the Blade Pro’s 103 fps.

The differences were less noticeable on Rise of the Tomb Raider 1080p, very high settings. The Alienware with the GTX 1070 GPU rendered the game at 50 fps which is just below the average 53 fps and also lower than the Aorus X7 56 fps and the Dominator Pro 51 fps. The more expensive model ran this benchmark at 62 fps while the Blade Pro reached 65 fps.

The Alienware got the best score on the Steam VR Performance test of the bunch. So you’ll have no problem playing games that support an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift.  The notch is 10.9 with a GTX 1070 GPU and an 11 with the GTX 1080 GPU. While the Aorus X7, ROG and Dominator Pro the average is 9.3 all scored between 10 and 11. The Blade Pro matched the more expensive Alienware at 11.



You can get some serious work done on either Alienware 17 configuration we tested when you’re not gaming. First, I tried the lower-end model which had a 2.8 GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ CPU, a 128GB SSD, 16GB of RAM and a 1 TB HDD. I had 40 tabs open in Google Chrome with that unit, two of which were showing off Twitch streams at high quality and never saw a hint of lag. Better performance is expected from the other model we reviewed which has a 2.9 GHz Intel Core i7-7820 HK, a 512 GB PCIe SSD, 16 GB of RAM and a 1 TB HDD.

The cheaper Alienware 17 notched a score of 14,020 on the Geekbench 4 overall performance test. That beats the desktop-replacement average 12,792 but is lower than the ROG 14,717, Intel Core i7-7820 HK. The Aorus X7 16,411 Intel Core i7-6820 HK. The more expensive Alienware 17 achieved a score of 14,154 beating out the Blade Pro 11,702.

Don’t get the Alienware 17 with its base-level 128GB mSATA SSD if you care about storage speed. The configuration we tested with the 128 GB SSD took a glacial 1 minute and 2 seconds to copy 4.97 GB of mixed media files for hard-drive such as rate of 83.4 MBps. Nevertheless, the higher-end Alienware 17 configuration with the 512 GB PCIe SSD sped along at a reasonable 282 MBps.

Significantly, both SSDs slower than the category average 480.9 MBps and the Aorus X7 462.7 MBps while the Dominator Pro 628.6 MBps and the ROG G752VS 727.04 MBps were far faster with their PCIe SSDs.

The less expensive Alienware completed out OpenOffice spreadsheet macro which pairs 20,000 names and addresses in 3 minutes and 21 seconds. It was quicker than the average 3:30 and the Dominator Pro 3:37. On concord, not as speedy as the Aorus X7 3:09 and the ROG 2:51. The pricier Alienware was the fastest 1:47 blowing away the Razer Blade Pro 4:06.

Tobii Eye Tracking

Tobii Eye Tracking

By Tobii eye tracking, most configurations of the Alienware 17 comes. It consists of several infrared sensors that sit just below the display. It can be used both to navigate Windows 10 and as a controller for some of your favourite games when you activate Tobii’s EyeX software.

My favorite uses for Tobii were the ones that aren’t for gaming. The screen is set to dim when I walked away from the computer saving precious battery life. I also was able to have several windows open. On Concord, scroll in the one I was looking at no matter where on the screen the mouse was. Less useful was the ability to move the mouse anywhere on the screen with a look and a tap, which was a cool party trick but didn’t save a ton of time.

Battery Life


On a low-level Alienware 17, you will be able to game longer than on its competitors. It lasted 8 hours and 32 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi. That’s much longer than the desktop-replacement average of 4:43. It’s competitors are platry by comparison. The ROG endured for 3:53. The Dominator Pro survived for 3:18 and the Aorus X7 petered out after 2:23.



The 1080p webcam on the Alienware 17 takes sharp pictures but they are dark. I snapped my face while sitting at my desk as its covered in shadows in a selfie. My brown sweater appeared far darker than in real life, and the light sources on the ceiling were blown out. I could make out facial features such as my dimple. On concord, opt for an external webcam if you are streaming to Twitch.

Software and Warranty

There are some useful gaming software preinstalled, but there’s also some bloat.

The Alienware Command Center lets you change the colors of the RGB lights, adjust the power plan. Customize your macro keys, create custom profiles depending on the game you play and adjust settings for the graphics amplifier. The Killer Networking control center is another great tool allows you prioritize which programs get access to your network.

Alienware 17 R4

It’s all the usual stuff you see baked into Windows 10 such as Candy Crush Soda Saga and Minecraft in Windows 10 Edition, Facebook, Twitter, Sling TV and Paradise Bay as for bloat. Dell sells the Alienware 17 R4 with a one-year warranty.


  • Full performance of the GTX 1080
  • Excellent screen options
  • Overclockable
  • Nice speakers
  • Great keyboard


  • Bad trackpad drivers out of the box
  • Poor factory paste results in hot internals
  • More square-ish shape makes it hard to fit in a bag
  • Potential QC issues with heatsink, resulting in stuttering GPU during prolonged usage


Dell Alienware 17 R4
Screen 17.3 inch, 2560 x 1440 px resolution, TN, 120Hz, matte, non-touch
Processor Intel Kaby Lake Core i7-7820HK CPU, quad-core 2.9 GHz, 3.9Ghz turbo
Chipset Intel CM236
Video Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 with 8GB GDDR5X RAM
Memory 16 GB DDR4 2400 PC4-19200
Storage 1x 256 GB M.2 SSD NVMe + 1 TB HDD 7200rpm (2 empty M.2 slots)
Connectivity Killer 1435 Wireless AC 2×2, Killer E2500 ethernet, Bluetooth 4.1
Ports 2x USB 3.0 type A, 1x USB Type-C(Thunderbolt 3), 1x USB Type-C (10Gbps), HDMI 2.0, mini-display port 1.2, RJ45, Alienware graphics amplifier, mic, earphone, noble lock
Battery 99 Wh
Operating system Windows 10
Size 424 mm or 16.7” (w) x 332 mm or 13.1” (d) x 29.9 mm or 1.18” (h)
Weight On average 4.42 kg or 9.74 lb
Extras Multi-colored keyboard backlighting and accent lights, backlit trackpad, FHD camera with IR and Tobii eye tracking, Windows Hello technology, built in subwoofer

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