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Alienware X17 review: Beautiful Pixel for a pretty penny

Alienware X17 review: Beautiful Pixel for a pretty penny

Alienware did. Its latest 17.3-inch X17 gaming laptop can deliver a truly enjoyable 4K gaming experience.

The last time I looked at how laptops were performing with 4K gaming in 2019, things weren't looking so hot. Nvidia's previous-generation RTX 20-series mobile chips couldn't work hard enough to smoothly run demanding games at 4K without making many compromises with visual fidelity. Luckily, things have gotten better this year with the RTX 3080 — specifically, for the higher-powered 16GB VRAM version of the X17.

The X17's 3080 has a maximum graphics power level of 165W and a boost clock speed of 1,545MHz. It's really powerful for a mobile GPU and Nvidia has the highest power for its mobile graphics chips. It's definitely the most graphically capable laptop I've tested yet.

I'll get to the performance numbers in a second, but it's important to note near the top that this is one of Alienware's best gaming laptops, and not just because it whips up gaming. Its X-series design is new for 2021, resulting in a slimmer and sleeker look that performs better than other models that have similar power levels without the foregoing port (more on that later). For gaming and other intensive tasks, its cooling system is efficient, keeping this 17.3-inch 4K beast cool and surprisingly quiet. And even when you're doing other stuff, clicking on the Cherry ultra-low-profile mechanical switch is fun to type. It's a heavy laptop that you probably won't want to put in many places, but functionally, the X17 is as good for work as it is for gaming.

Despite these glowing comments, if you were to ask me whether you should buy this specific gaming laptop, I'd advise against it unless you're ready to get a mighty 17.3-inch gaming laptop. As configured, it's a tough sell at an asking price of $3,680. (I'll note that the similar MSI GS76 Stealth configuration costs hundreds more than the X17, but has twice the amount of RAM. Razer's latest Blade 17 costs $3,699 and has a 4K/120Hz touchscreen and a more capable processor, but It has less storage as it's configured, and its GPU isn't as powerful.) Also, ever since I got this unit for review, Alienware has stopped accepting new orders because it's not your supply. Need to capture chain backlog. A spokesperson said Alienware intends to offer it for sale again in the near future.

To test the X17's gaming performance, I've proven a few titles at their highest graphical settings, starting with Red Dead Redemption 2. at native 4K without Nvidia's deep-learning supersampling (DLSS) technology that gives games a noticeable boost. In frame rate (by lowering the render resolution and using AI to clean up the image), it ran at 46 frames per second. With DLSS set to auto and no other settings adjusted, the frame rate in 4K increased to 60 frames per second. Personally, I've always relied on DLSS as much as any game will allow me those few extra free frames.

Tomb Raider's benchmark without shadow ray tracing averaged 55 frames per second. When I turned on ray tracing, DLSS slightly lowered it to 49 frames per second. On the other hand, running DLSS without ray tracing increased this to 64 frames per second.

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