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I recently reviewed the ridiculously powerful new Alienware x17 gaming laptop, equipped with a 4K display and an Nvidia RTX 3080 GPU. It was, quite frankly, insane and a total dream machine. And yet, if I could have any gaming laptop today, I’d take this Alienware x15.
It isn’t just a matter of cost. Sure, the 15-inch device is cheaper by default, and we have a slightly lower spec version with an RTX 3070 graphics card instead of the 3080, making this $2,549 unit almost $1,200 cheaper than the x17. But it’s not the lower price that won me over, it’s how the x15 balances performance and design near flawlessly, making for a more versatile laptop.
The insanely powerful x17 feels like a desktop PC replacement that would likely only leave my desk on special occasions, like if I took it on vacation with me. Conversely, the x15’s significantly lighter and more slender profile makes it a better daily laptop.
The x15 is a high performance gaming laptop that’s thin and light enough to be usable on the move, and yet when pushed hard, it puts out amazing numbers without breaking a sweat. And there are at least two more reasons why I prefer the x15. Let’s talk about it.
Alienware x15 Gaming Laptop Technical Specifications
11th Gen Intel Core i7 11800H (up to 4.6GHz)
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 8GB GDDR6
512GB NVMe SSD storage
15.6-inch 2560 x 1440 resolution display
240Hz refresh rate
Nvidia G-Sync, HDR, 99% DCI-P3
Alienware X-Series thin keyboard
AlienFX RGB lighting
HDMI 2.1, 2x USB-C with DisplayPort and Power Delivery, USB Type-A, microSD, Aux
$2,549.99 as tested
It Goes Fast! Really Fast!
Let’s start with the obvious. Performance on the x15 is excellent. Our test unit packs an 11th Gen Intel Core i7 11800H, which is a powerful 8-core, 16-thread CPU that’s as great for multitasking and heavy productivity tasks as it is for gaming.
The 16GB of RAM is plenty (although not user upgradeable), and a 512GB internal NVMe SSD ensures fast load times without the expense of a larger drive, which is nice since storage can be upgraded later.
The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 does the heavy lifting during gameplay, and is a perfect match for the 1440p display spec’ed with this unit. In this configuration, high refresh rate gaming is easily achieved. Forza Horizon 4, for example, cruises along at over 110fps when set to the ultra preset, and it looks incredible.
DOOM Eternal achieves similar numbers on high settings, only dipping slightly when the action gets particularly chaotic. Benchmark scores from 3DMark TimeSpy range from 9,900 to 10,000, reinforcing its prowess. But we don’t need to run a dozen benchmarks to know that this is clearly a very powerful laptop. And everything looks silky smooth thanks to Nvidia G-Sync, which keeps every frame perfectly in step all the way up the display’s massive 240Hz refresh rate limit.
A Perfect Combination
That display is, in fact, one of the best reasons to opt for an x15 over its bigger sibling. The 1440p resolution is perfect for a mobile display. It doesn’t push your graphics hardware nearly as hard as a 4K screen, but still offers excellent sharpness, while also boosting battery life.
It’s nice to have G-Sync on deck, which is not included in the 4K display that comes with a fully loaded x17. And since there’s no 1440p display offered for the bigger laptop, you have to step all the way down to a standard 1080p option to get G-Sync on an x17, which isn’t ideal — advantage goes to x15.
The x15’s 1440p display isn’t just fast, it’s also a great all-round panel. With a 99% DCI-P3 color gamut, games really pop with color. And if you’re one for accuracy, you can tune the panel to be good enough for video and photo editing.
Of course, the full-size HDMI 2.1 port on the back means that you can also connect the x15 to a high-end external display or TV for 4K gaming at up to 120fps. With an Xbox controller connected, I enjoyed using the x15 like a hybrid console, placing it next to my TV and firing up Steam in Big Picture mode.
Beating the Heat
One of the biggest innovations of the new X-series of laptops is the revised cooling system, which employs the use of a gallium-silicone-based thermal compound and a large quad-fan copper cooling array.
The x15 squeezes this whole package into a much slimmer body than the x17, yet I found that it performs just as well. During extended gaming sessions, the CPU leveled off in the high 80s, and the GPU never went over 76 degrees Celsius.
With adequate ventilation, heat soak is simply non-existent. Crucially, this means I never saw a drop in performance, even when kept under load for long periods. The cooling system channels the heat effectively towards the back and sides of the laptop. So while the vents get considerably hot, the keyboard and other primary touch surfaces stay cool and comfortable to use.
Usually, I dare not touch overclocking in a laptop, but with cooling this stable, I felt confident giving the GPU clocks a small bump. And, in fact, when performing light tasks, such as writing this review, the fans can turn off completely, saving on battery life.
This is seriously impressive for a device with this level of performance crammed into a chassis that’s under 16mm thin. Finally, it seems, gaming laptops are starting to win in their perpetual battle with heat.
Smaller and Neater
The x15 shares its design with the x17, and I maintain that these are the best-looking gaming laptops available right now. But I’d argue that the 15-inch model looks better, not just for being the thinner, more compact version, but also for not having those large empty voids that exist on either side of the keyboard on the x17. The whole package just looks like a tighter design.
At around five pounds, it’s also significantly lighter. I could see myself carrying this laptop to work or class every day, versus the seven pound heft of the x17, which would have to stay at home looking pretty on my desk.
But it also suffers some of the same design quirks as its larger counterpart. With all the ports now located on the rear, I find myself having to do an awkward reach-around to use them, and the bright Tron-style light that surrounds the rear panel can make the ports hard to see in a dimly lit room.
The down-firing speakers are just as bass-less, and you’ll certainly need a pair of headphones to experience good audio from your games, music or movies on this laptop. If poor built-in audio is the price to pay for achieving a gaming laptop this thin, I accept it happily.
Should You Buy the Alienware x15 Gaming Laptop?
Gaming laptops are hard to make. They are, perhaps more than any other type of PC, an exercise in balance, fine tuning and ingenuity. The Alienware x15 is, in my opinion, one of the best examples of a near perfectly balanced gaming laptop.
It’s not trying to smash benchmarking records while being heavy enough to rip your arm off, or win slimming competitions at the expense of performance. Instead, it brings high-end gaming to an impeccably well-built and beautiful chassis that’s just lightweight enough to be carried around every day.
Also, the combination of an RTX 3070 with that excellent 1440p G-Sync display (not available on the x17) gets my vote for the best gaming laptop configuration in the Alienware stable.
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