Alienware 18 Review
Now before I start my review of the Alienware 18 I should probably explain that I’m a console gamer, I always have been and always will be. I don’t care if game prices are lower on the PC, if the graphics are better or that they have back compatibility, I just prefer consoles and I don’t think that is going to change. Don’t ask me why either as I honestly can’t explain the reasons and I don’t want to get caught up in some argument where I am accused of being a console fan boy because I’m not. There is the obvious point I could highlight which is my PS4 and XBOX One together cost me somewhere in the region of £750 and the laptop I’m currently reviewing starts around the £1800 mark (and that’s the current reduced price). However, I’d be stupid to do so as this would instantaneously be thrown back in my face because admittedly there are much cheaper alternatives available such as the ASUS G75VW that still deliver the power to play games at the highest level. I suppose I am just set in my ways and I like what I like. That’s not to say I couldn’t be converted though, and if there was ever a gaming machine that could come close to turning me to the dark side I’d expect the Alienware 18 to be a contender.
My first impressions were a mixture of positives and negatives; I opened the box and sitting there in some serious padding was the laptop. At first glance from above it looked great, then I went to pick it up and quickly realised I had underestimated how big and heavy the thing was. I mean I expected it to have some extra width from what I’m used to, after all it does have an 18.4” WLED FHD TrueLife display, but what I never expected was that it was so bulky and much heavier than any of the laptops I’ve previously owned. This made gaming on my lap quite uncomfortable when being used for a prolonged period of time, so I ended up having to place it on a desk and using it as more of a compacted desktop. I suppose that is what the Alienware 18 really is though, it is a compact and portable gaming desktop more than something you would use on your lap, and to fit so much hardware inside, it is always going to be weighed down.
Those negatives aside, when looking at the entire laptop opened up in all its glory it did look beautiful with it’s almost alien-like and futuristic design. The outside aluminium clad casing was something that resembled a UFO through its smooth, sloping design and bright glowing lights. Round the back is probably the least aesthetically pleasing part of the Alienware 18 as it just contains the exhaust vents which allows air to flow through the laptop preventing it from overheating, something this laptop does outstandingly. You’ll also find on either side of the laptop several inputs and outputs which consist of the below:
- AC power jack
- Ethernet port
- 4x SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports (one with PowerShare technology)
- Mini-display port
- HDMI – 1.4 Output/1.3 Input
- 7-in-1 media card reader
- 2x Audio out ports (one compatible with inline microphone headset)
- Line in microphone port (retaskable for 5.1 analog audio output)
- Kensington security lock port (cable and lock are not included)
- Slot-loading dual layer DVD burner or Blu-ray reader (depending on personal choice)
The inside has been designed well too with a soft rubbery material across the surface, making it look nice and feel comfortable to rest your wrists on but it’s also easy to get dirty as it clearly shows your bodily fluids such as the natural oils your skin produces and sweat. Just to be clear, at no time did I use this laptop for porn so I have no idea how badly semen stains it and nor do I recommend jizzing on an Alienware 18 to find out. But the best bit of the inside’s design is its backlit keyboard and touch pad which just pops at you and makes you go “WOW!”. All the lights on the outside and inside known as AlienFX Lighting Zones can be customised as well, with “10 unique programmable zones with up to 20 distinct colours providing over 10 trillion lighting combinations” allowing for gamers to really make this laptop unique to the individual who owns it.
As for the display and sound of the laptop, they’re both top quality, though you’d expect that when the minimum you’d be paying for a new Alienware 18 is currently around £1800. As mentioned above it comes with a large 18.4” WLED FHD TrueLife display with 1920×1080 resolution allowing you to play games and watch the latest film releases in glorious high-definition. Images are sharp and colours vibrant though arguably my Panasonic plasma screen does a better job with blacks, that is just my own opinion though. The only issue I came across with the display is one I found online when researching the Alienware 18 before it arrived, which unlike its predecessor, had a matte coating which helped reduce glare, this newer model however came with a glossy coating that apparently reflected light. Now I never had this problem myself, but I did use my NoScope gamer glasses the majority of the time I was playing games which are designed to combat glare and eyestrain etc.
The sound is powered by Klipsch Speakers and boy do they deliver some top notch audio to your ears. My own HP laptop comes with Beats audio and honestly, I think the deal with HP was more of a name thing to help them justify a hike the price rather than about having quality speakers as they weren’t great. On the other hand, with the Klipsch speakers and the Alienware 18’s Dolby home theatre software v4 you can really feel the quality in the audio with the bass on this bad boy being better than anything I have experienced on another laptop, it really made my time playing Battlefield 4 so much more enjoyable. The Dolby software doesn’t just help optimise sound through the laptop speakers though, it also helps enhance your audio experience on your headset as well, meaning that if you have to plug in due to complaining relatives you aren’t going to lose sound quality, unless your headset came from somewhere like Poundland.
The Alienware 18 isn’t all about looks though; performance is the key thing with the minimum spec for this laptop being fitted with a 4th generation Intel core i7 processor with 6MB cache reaching up to 3.5GHz thanks to Intel’s Turbo Boost technology. Thus proving that this gaming laptop truly is a beast of the gaming world, in fact, it reminds me slightly of Germany (post WW2 of course, it doesn’t kill Jews. That said, if you whacked someone across the head it would cause severe damage). Just like the German national football team it is the embodiment of efficiency, like most German cars it has been assembled chock-full of power and finally like German beer and sausages you’ll be hard-pressed to find any better. I mean it is so powerful and efficient thanks to its minimum 8GB of RAM at the lower end of the range and its combination of the STD and SSD that it takes mere seconds to boot up and reach your desktop screen. It was practically too efficient for my liking because I then had to wait approximately a further 30 seconds to connect to my wifi network so that I could browse the web or connect to Origin and Steam to play some of my games online. That is just a mere taste of what this machine can do though, as it’s not until you put it to full use that you unlock its true power.
I played many different games using this laptop, installing everything from AAA titles like Battlefield 4 to some of my favourite indie games like Darwinia and the results were very impressive. I mean, if you consider Battlefield 4 is obviously a much bigger game than Darwinia and also more graphically demanding, well you wouldn’t have guessed so playing it because the Alienware 18 treated them the same, it didn’t break a drop of sweat. I put all the graphical settings in the game to the highest level in the hope I could push this machine to its limits; surprisingly It remained as cool as a cucumber thanks to the three exhaust vents that push air through its copper heat sinks to provide the best possible cooling solution for the system. It wasn’t just cool to the touch though it was almost as quiet as a mouse as well, which compared to my laptop that sounds like a mini hair dryer at times was very impressive when it was being pushed to its limits.
It wasn’t just about the ability to play graphics at the highest level for me though, as the one game I play the most on the PC isn’t really known to be a graphics blockbuster, I am of course talking about football manager. Now normally on any laptop I have played this game on I can get away with picking two or three top league systems such as the ones from England, Italy and Spain coupled with a couple of smaller league structures such as Scotland and Wales, any more and the game begins to start running unbelievably slow. However, the Alienware 18’s quality shines through again here as I was able to select all of Europe’s top leagues as well as some international ones like Brazil and South Africa with a medium sized database hat contained over 40,000 players before the game speed dropped from 5* to 4*. Despite the apparent drop though I saw no decline in performance as the game ran smoothly without any lagging and once again the laptop remained cool and quiet during game time with no signs of that changing.
This machine also comes equipped with an 8-cell lithium ion (86 wHr) battery which I also decided to test out. While being used to play games in the laptop’s highest performance level possible the Alienware 18 lasted just under 2 hours from being unplugged after a full charge. Obviously, if you’re only using this to browse the web, respond to work emails and maybe writing some reviews like me it will last significantly longer, but this is a gaming laptop so I doubt anyone is going to buy it just for occasional use. The charger pack that comes with this, like the laptop itself, is quite bulky and has some weight to it compared to other laptop chargers I’ve seen, but luckily its design is wider than it is thick, meaning it slots nicely into tight gaps for you to be able to store it round the back of or under your desk.
So is this laptop worth it with everything it can do? Well, like I said earlier you will be pushed to find better and more future proofed systems in fairness, however you can find alternatives to the Alienware that can reach high performance levels but at a massively reduced cost. That said, they may not handle the performance and provide such an efficient cooling system the way the Alienware 18 does; that is, unless you opt for a gaming desktop which gives you more space to fit better hardware in. The other downside is the laptop’s size and the fact it weighs over 5kg which is a lot for something that is classed as a LAPtop; it should be re-labelled a portable desktop with built-in monitor because you really do have to use it on a surface other than your legs unless you have some fetish where you like being in discomfort. Therefore, if you have the money or are looking to buy something that could well last you up to 10 years and still enable you to game at such a high performance level this is definitely worth a purchase. For me though the price goes against it so unless someone wants to purchase one for me, I won’t be grabbing one myself and will instead be wiping tears away from my eyes as I watch the delivery man come and collect it to return it back to the Alienware HQ. I wonder if they’ll notice if I put my laptop in the box….
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.