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The Alienware X17 R2 is the company’s latest offering in the high-end gaming division, and you’ll find plenty to like here as soon as you unpack the machine from its box. On the outside, it sports the same sleek, 0.84-inch-thick extraterrestrial design of the beast Alienware X15 R2 beast we reviewed last month.
The design is still a stunner, and the optional mechanical Cherry MX keyboard feels as satisfying to type on as some of the best gaming keyboards we’ve used. Perhaps the only downside with this design, as far as I’m concerned, is that still, all ports are at the back. But hey, that’s not a dealbreaker at all.
On the inside, though, is where the x17 R2 packs a punch. For the latest models, Alienware has updated its configuration options, adding both Intel’s new top-of-the-line 12th Gen Core i9-12900HK, as well as Nvidia’s new flagship mobile RTX 3080 Ti, but that configuration will leave you with around $1 in change from $5,000. That’s how much you’ll spend if you decide to configure your rig to the hilt.
The cheapest iteration in this lineup costs around $2,500 unless you buying it on a sale, and comes with a 12th Gen Intel Core i7 processor, Nvidia RTX 3060 GPU with 6GB of vRAM, and 16GB of system RAM. Our review unit (AWX17R2-7341WHT-PUS) sits almost in the middle. It boasts a Core i7-12700H 14-core chip, a GeForce RTX 3070 Ti GPU, 32GB of system RAM and 8GB of vRAM, a 360Hz Full HD screen, and a membrane keyboard. For the price, this sounds like a beast of a machine, and I feel out of the available configurations, this is the model I’d buy.
The obvious competition comes in the form of the Asus ROG Strix Scar 17, which for around the same price, will get you an Alder Lake Core i9 processor, Nvidia RTX 3070 Ti GPU, 2TB of storage, and a 2,560 x 1,440, 170ppi display. That will save you around $500 over the most closely comparable Alienware x17 R2, and Asus also gives you a mechanical keyboard. Well, that’s not to say the Scar 17 is a standout over the x17 R2 nor is it as thin, but it’s lighter and has a decent battery life for the class.
Alienware x17 R2 Specifications
|CPU||Intel Core i7-12700H|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce GeForce RTX 3070 Ti|
|Storage||1TB PCIe Gen 4 M.2 SSD|
|Display||17.3-inch, 1920 x 1080, 360 Hz|
|Networking||Killer Wi-Fi 6E AX1675i, Bluetooth 5.2|
|Ports||Thunderbolt 4, USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, Ethernet, microSD card reader, HDMI, mini DisplayPort|
|Power Adapter||330 W|
|Operating System||Windows 11 Home|
|Dimensions (WxDxH)||15.72 x 11.79 x 0.84 inches / 399 x 300 x 21.4 mm|
|Weight||6.82 pounds / 3.09 kg|
Design and Build Quality
As mentioned above, the new Alienware x17 R2 has the same design as last year’s Alienware x17 R1, but that’s not a bad thing because the R1 was gorgeous. At just 0.82 inches thick, the x17 R2 is impressively thin for a top-tier performance laptop, and the aluminum and magnesium casing feels luxurious and premium as well.
While the design remains a personal taste, I think the x17 is fantastic and is futuristic without being out of the roof. I especially love the Lunar Light (black and white) color scheme. That said, the R2 isn’t the smallest or lightest of machines around. At 6.82 pounds, it’s heavier than the Razer Blade 17 and the Asus ROG Scar Strix, and is pretty large, too, with a footprint of 11.79 x 15.72 inches being the largest in the pack.
We’ve seen Asus and Lenovo put some of the ports around the back of their gaming laptops, and Alienware puts them all at the back. This feels like taking things too far, and I’m not a fan of rear-mounted ports but having at least one, maybe an extra Type-A port on the side would make things easier when it comes to plugging in a thumb drive. The only two ports Alienware has put on the side are the 3.5mm audio jack and the DC-in power socket, both of which should have been at the back.
Nevertheless, Alienware puts a generous number of ports into the x17 R2, although they are all recessed to the rear. There’s one Thunderbolt 4, one USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 and two USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 USB-A ports, an RJ-45 2.5 Gbits/sec LAN connector, a microSD card reader, HDMI 2.1 and mini-DisplayPort 1.4 video feeds, all bound by an LED light ring that encircles the back panel. Both the USB-C and Thunderbolt ports support power delivery.
Wireless communications come via a Killer 2.5GbE controller and a Killer Wi-Fi 6E modem that also supports Bluetooth 5.2.
Keyboard, Touchpad, and Webcam
The Alienware x17 R2 arrives with either a thin membrane keyboard or a low-profile mechanical keyboard using Cherry MX switches. Upgrading to the mechanical keyboard is only a ~$100 option, I don’t see many people opting for the membrane keyboard unless they want quieter typing action. Whichever option you choose, the membrane keyboard isn’t all that bad, with a crisp and precise action along with a decent amount (1.5mm) of key travel.
As expected, both keyboard options come with per-key RGB lighting, which is controlled via the Alienware Command Centre along with the color of the alien noggins on the lid and the keyboard deck and the ring light that surrounds the ports and vents in the rear panel.
Below the keyboard is a 112mm x 67mm, one-piece glass trackpad that’s rather petite for a 17.3in laptop and is slightly offset to the left to keep it in line with the spacebar. It works fine, and the click-action is decent and satisfying. Once you open the lid, you just notice how the Alienware’s keyboard is rather small relative to the deck: Alienware did that deliberately to prioritize space for vents ad speaker grilles, the latter being a wise approach given the overheating issues on the competing Strix 17.
Display and Audio
Previously, Alienware has had panels that were impressive to play games on or just binge on a movie or TV show. The x17 R2 and its 17.3-inch, 1920 x 1080 display and a 360Hz refresh rate is not any different. Considering the price, a 2,560 x 1,440 panel would be a better entry-level offering.
Still, in every other aspect, the Alienware x17 display does the job well. At 376cd/m2, it’s brighter than the Asus ROG Strix’s display and it’s just as colorful with 99.7% sRGB coverage and 117% sRGB volume recorded on a colorimeter. Also, the contrast ratio of 1,198:1 beats the Asus machine, too. The x17 R2’s true gaming strength, however, is the ultra-tear-free gameplay that comes thanks to the 360Hz refresh rate, 1ms response, and G-Sync frame synchronization.
Elsewhere, the stereo speakers are Dolby Atmos-certified and offer plenty of volume and bass. They measure 76dB and peaks of 84dB from a music source at a 1m distance, which is almost similar to the Strix 17. Its stereo separation is very good, which boasts directional awareness during gaming. That top-tier sound output can get a little brittle when playing some genres of music, but it’s not something to worry about.
Performance and Battery Life
The Alienware x17 R2 can pack flagship components with top-tier configurations. The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti in our review unit can deliver pretty impressive gaming performance courtesy of 46 Ray Tracing cores and 184 Tensor/AI cores with 8GB of memory and it can reach its peak power limit of 125W. If you’re ambitious enough, you can opt for the RTX 3080 Ti model that deploys its usual 7,424 stream processor, 16GB of memory, and can reach peak power limits of 175W. Whichever configuration you choose, gameplay in 1080p and even in 4K is fantastic.
On the processing side, Intel’s Core i7-12700H packs six hyper-threaded P-cores with base and boost speeds of 2.3GHz and 4.7GHz, and also eight E-cores that deliver speeds of 1.7Ghz and 3.5GHz, respectively. On the AWX17R2-7341WHT-PUS, this chip is paired with 16GB RAM and 1TB SSD storage. That’s enough muscle to run productivity suites when not gaming without any issues.
In gaming, the Alienware x17 R2’s RTX 3070 Ti performs quite well. At 080p, you’ll be able to play almost anything: the tough Assassin’s Creed Valhalla averages 74 fps with every setting ramped up, and in Red Dead Redemption 2, the Alienware averages 94 fps. Those speeds are easily high enough to make single-player games look buttery on this 360Hz display.
There’s enough power to game 4K, too. On Forza Horizon 5 it averages 47 fps with every graphics setting activated to high, but it still plays the game smoothly on most occasions – the 30 fps minimum means you’ll only see modest, occasional performance dips. The Alienware hits 39 fps in Riders Republic and an impressive 49 fps in Guardians of the Galaxy.
You’ll only have to dial back the graphics settings a little if you want to hit a consistent 60 fps in QHD on the trickiest titles – and in less demanding games you won’t have to do anything, as a 63 fps average in Far Cry New Dawn shows.
- 17.3-inch FHD 1920x1080, 480Hz, 3s with ComfortView Plus, NVIDIA G-SYNC and Advanced...
- 12th Gen Intel Corei9-12900H 14-Core Processor (24M Cache, up to 5.0 GHz Max Turbo...
- 16GB (2 x 8 GB) 4800MHz DDR5, dual-channel, 1TB M.2 PCIe NVMe Solid State Drive
The x17 R2 performs well in other situations, too. If you activate DLSS in supported titles, you’ll only need to make modest graphics reductions to ensure consistent performance with some ray-tracing effects. The mobile RTX 3070 Ti will tackle VR headsets, too, when needed.
Finally, there isn’t a huge difference between the core i7 and Core i9 chips, so an upgrade is only worthwhile if you’re desperate for every drop of content-creation power. And, that’s not to say the i7-12700H is slow: it’s already powerful enough to handle intensive multi-tasking, photo, and video editing, and heavy content creation workloads, and you’ll only get a significant improvement if you move to a proper desktop.
The only discernible negative is battery life. A standard battery rundown test puts the lights out on the Alienware x17 in just 4hrs 31mins with the Wi-Fi radio, keyboard backlight and Nvidia GPU all turned off, which is pretty underwhelming. Luckily, the power brick is light and compact, because you’ll need to carry it wherever you go.
Should you buy the Alienware X17 R2?
While it’s certainly expensive, especially if you opt for the highest specs, the Alienware x17 R2 is a powerful system, especially considering its sub-1-inch thickness – and shockingly it doesn’t get overly loud under load.
Combine the overall excellent (though not always best) performance with a mechanical keyboard that feels great, all packed inside a gorgeous-looking thin chassis and there’s a lot to like about the Alienware x17 R2. Some will not like the fact that all ports are in the back, but if that’s an issue for you, the MSI GE76 Raider is an excellent alternative, with more ports spread across three sides.
Does the Alder-Lake Alienware x17 R2 dethrone the Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 as our top pick for the Ultimate Gaming Laptop? It does, only if you opt for the highest configuration. All that is due to the stunning looks and the effortlessly cool and quiet performance, but that doesn’t correct the terrible battery life and excessive adherence to the Alienware orthodoxy of putting all data ports at the back.
However, the cheapest models are best avoided – a Full HD 165Hz panel is a tad low for a machine this class and the RTX 3060 only comes with 6GB of vRAM – so make sure you’re investing in the 360Hz panel with either the RTX 3070 Ti (our review unit) or Alienware x17 R2 with 3080 Ti GPU. Do that and you’ll have the finest large-screen gaming laptop on the market, albeit at a price.
Alienware X17 R2
The Alienware X17 R2 (AWX17R2-7341WHT-PUS) is a high-end gaming laptop that packs top-end intel and Nvidia components in the nicest-looking gaming laptops in the market, then adds an impressive mechanical keyboard option that feels great.
- Sleek, beautiful design
- Powerful overall and gaming performance
- Excellent audio
- Super expensive
- Middling battery life
Last update on 2023-09-22 at 13:49 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
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Alienware X17 R2 VR Ready Gaming Laptop - 17.3-inch FHD 360Hz 1ms Display, Core i7-12700H, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070Ti 8GB GDDR6, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi 6, USB-C, Windows 11 Home - White
$1,927.88 in stock