ALIENWARE 15 R3 (2017) Review

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In this article, I give you my Alienware 15 R3 (2017) review with specs included. I reviewed Alienware 15 R3 2016 model recently and since then Dell has refreshed it with Intel Kaby Lake seventh-generation CPUs. That previous model had 6th-generation Sky Lake CPUs. The full name of my model is Alienware 15 R3 AW15R3-10881SLV.

The overall design and many features are the same as in the previous generation but they did change a few things. For example, the display options that are available, the CPU generation change, and the updated heatsink designs. Particularly I was interested to see if it will run noticeably cooler and quieter. Well, things are looking good. This is definitely a nice generation leap.

Alienware 15 R3 2017 Left and Right Sides
Alienware 15 R3 (2017) Left and Right Sides

The Alienware 15 R3 2017 model has the same exact casing as the last gen. But anyway, in this review I do cover all the basic features of this laptop. First, let’s see those inherited things, and then I’ll get to what’s different, mostly thermals and performance.

The body has a nice soft-touch finish and it does pick up some fingerprints. A backlit trackpad is with programmable zone backlighting with any color scheme you want.

Alienware 15 R3 2017 Back Side
Alienware 15 R3 (2017) Back Side

On the left side of the keyboard are the macro keys. Next to the trackpad are soft-touch buttons which means it doesn’t take much to press them down. I personally like that and I leave it up to you as to whether you do too. Still, it’s a very good, accurate, and pleasant trackpad.

Likewise, I do like the keyboard feel. I know some people don’t like anything that doesn’t look like a chiclet or island-style keyboard with space between the keys but this is a dream to type on.

Alienware 15 R3 2017 Keyboard
Alienware 15 R3 (2017) Keyboard

Alienware 15 R3 (2017) is still very heavy thanks to the inner metal roll cage and the internal design features. This is the most organized thing and has sort of a subframe that gets in the way of upgrades but it’s very heavy as a result.

The Alienware 15 R3 (2017) is a gaming laptop that commands attention, both for its imposing presence and its formidable performance. In this in-depth review, we’ll explore every aspect of this gaming powerhouse, from its design and build quality to its display options, performance, and connectivity features.

Design and Build Quality:
Weighing in at 7.7 pounds or approximately three and a half kilograms, the Alienware 15 R3 is undeniably hefty, even by gaming laptop standards. However, this weight is not without purpose, as it contributes to the laptop’s robust and durable build quality. Despite its heft, the laptop feels sturdy, with minimal lid flex, showcasing Alienware’s commitment to quality craftsmanship.

Display Options:
The Alienware 15 R3 offers a range of display options to suit different preferences and budgets. The base model comes equipped with a 1080p IPS display, offering 300 nits of brightness and vibrant colors. While this display option may not be the most cutting-edge, it remains competitive within its price range, delivering a matte, non-touch panel with respectable color accuracy.

For those seeking a more premium gaming experience, Alienware offers a TN panel with a fast refresh rate of 120Hz. While this panel excels in delivering smooth, responsive gameplay, its weaker contrast levels may be a drawback for users who prioritize image quality. Additionally, Alienware provides a top-tier option with a sharp XO display, ideal for professional applications and graphic design work.

Design Elements:
The design of the Alienware 15 R3 remains largely unchanged from previous iterations, featuring a distinctive aesthetic with a fan hanging over the backside and all ports located at the rear of the laptop. While some users may appreciate this design choice for its minimalist aesthetic and unobstructed workspace, others may find it less convenient for accessing ports quickly.

Notable ports include the Alienware Graphics Amplifier port and Thunderbolt 3, offering users the flexibility to enhance graphics performance with external graphics cards. The Alienware Graphics Amplifier port, in particular, stands out for its affordability compared to alternative solutions like the Razer Core, providing a cost-effective option for future upgrades.

Under the hood, the Alienware 15 R3 packs a punch with its Pascal 10 series graphics cards, including options like the GTX 1050 Ti, 1060, and 1070. In our testing, the GTX 1070 model demonstrated impressive performance, effortlessly handling demanding games like Mass Effect: Andromeda at ultra settings and maintaining a smooth frame rate of 120 frames per second.

In addition to its powerful graphics capabilities, the Alienware 15 R3 offers killer Ethernet and Wi-Fi connectivity, ensuring low-latency online gaming experiences. The laptop also boasts upgradeable internals, with easy access to the SSD and memory via the bottom panel, allowing users to customize and optimize their system as needed.

The Alienware 15 R3 (2017) stands out as a formidable gaming laptop, combining robust build quality, versatile display options, and impressive performance in a sleek and stylish package. While its weight may be a deterrent for some users, its powerful graphics capabilities, upgradeable internals, and thoughtful design elements make it a compelling choice for gaming enthusiasts and professionals alike. Whether you’re conquering virtual worlds or tackling intensive graphic design projects, the Alienware 15 R3 is up to the task, of delivering a premium gaming experience with uncompromising performance.

When delving into the inner workings of the Alienware 15 R3 (2017), one immediately encounters a crucial aspect of its design: accessibility. Should one wish to delve deeper into the device’s internal components, such as the CPU and GPU, they’ll need to navigate through the labyrinthine layout of the laptop’s internal subframe. This subframe acts as a barrier to accessing other components within the device, making it necessary to disassemble additional layers to reach the desired components.

However, before diving into the intricacies of the device’s internal structure, it’s important to address a pivotal improvement introduced with this refresh. Prior iterations of the Alienware 15 R3, particularly the late 2016 edition, faced criticism due to heat sink issues. These issues stemmed from heat sinks that were occasionally uneven, resulting in poor contact with the CPU and inadequate heat dissipation. Additionally, the usage of ill-fitting thermal pads further exacerbated the problem.

Fortunately, with the Skylake Edition, Alienware made significant redesigns to rectify these issues, ensuring that subsequent iterations, including the Kaby Lake models, incorporated these fixes from the outset. The impact of these improvements is tangible and significant.

Previous models suffered from excessive noise levels, particularly during intensive gaming sessions, which raised concerns among enthusiasts, myself included. While core temperatures remained within acceptable limits, the noise levels were often disruptive, detracting from the overall gaming experience.

However, with the latest refresh, Alienware has successfully addressed these concerns, resulting in a marked reduction in noise levels. The laptop now emits a more subdued rush of air during gaming sessions, a stark contrast to the intrusive noise levels experienced with previous models. Core temperatures remain stable, with minimal fluctuations even under demanding conditions. In fact, during rigorous benchmarking tests, core temperatures seldom exceeded 81 degrees Celsius, a testament to the efficacy of Alienware’s thermal management improvements.

With these critical improvements in mind, let’s delve into the pricing and configuration options available for the Alienware 15 R3. The base model, priced at $1,200, features a modest configuration comprising a Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a GTX 1050 Ti GPU, along with a 1TB 7200 RPM hard drive. While this configuration may suffice for casual users, it lacks the firepower required for serious gaming enthusiasts.

For those seeking a more capable gaming experience, the GTX 1060 model presents a compelling option. Equipped with a Core i7-7700HQ processor and 16GB of DDR4 RAM, this configuration offers significant performance gains, allowing users to enjoy smooth gameplay at high settings across a wide range of titles. Moreover, the inclusion of a PCIe NVMe SSD, such as the Samsung PM961, ensures rapid data transfer speeds and seamless multitasking capabilities.

For enthusiasts craving even more power, the GTX 1070 configuration provides the ultimate gaming experience. With a starting price just shy of $2,000, this configuration boasts formidable specs, including the GTX 1070 GPU, capable of delivering unparalleled gaming performance. While the price may seem steep, the investment is justified by the superior gaming experience and future-proofing capabilities offered by this configuration.

The Alienware 15 R3 (2017) stands as a testament to Alienware’s commitment to delivering top-tier gaming experiences. With its robust build quality, improved thermal management, and powerful performance capabilities, this gaming laptop offers a compelling option for enthusiasts seeking uncompromising performance and reliability. While the device may carry a premium price tag, the investment is justified by the unparalleled gaming experience and longevity offered by the Alienware 15 R3.

The Alienware 15 R3 (2017) presents itself as a formidable contender in the gaming laptop arena, despite its relatively compact dimensions. Measuring just one inch thick, or 25.4 millimeters, it strikes a balance between portability and performance. One notable aspect of this device is the choice between two battery options: a 68-watt-hour battery or a larger 99-watt-hour variant.

The battery life of the device varies significantly depending on the configuration chosen, with the larger battery offering extended usage time. Opting for a higher capacity battery may be advisable, especially considering the laptop’s already substantial weight. However, the battery life also hinges on other factors, such as the display type selected.

For instance, the model featuring the IPS 1080p display with Optimus and G-Sync switchable graphics offers the best potential battery life for less graphically demanding tasks. This configuration can deliver impressive battery longevity, ranging from six to eight hours for light workloads. On the other hand, configurations lacking Optimus technology, particularly those with a 4K display, tend to consume more power, resulting in shorter battery life. Thus, users must carefully consider their priorities when selecting the display and battery options that best suit their needs.

Moving beyond battery considerations, the Alienware 15 R3 offers a range of features designed to enhance the user experience. Notable inclusions are the Windows Hello camera for convenient login authentication and Tobii eye tracking technology, although the latter may have limited practical applications, particularly in gaming scenarios.

The device also boasts an Alienware TactX keyboard with multi-zone backlighting, providing customizable illumination options for users. Additionally, connectivity options such as HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.2 contribute to the device’s versatility, catering to a wide range of peripheral devices and external displays.

In terms of performance, the Alienware 15 R3 demonstrates significant improvements over its predecessors, thanks to enhanced thermal management solutions. These improvements translate to robust performance across various computing tasks, with benchmark results reflecting notable gains compared to previous models.

Despite incremental advancements in CPU performance—attributed to the inclusion of an Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor—the device’s GPU remains unchanged from previous iterations. Nevertheless, the laptop’s improved thermal efficiency allows for sustained peak performance, ensuring smooth gameplay and responsiveness across demanding gaming titles and professional applications alike.

Regarding upgradability, the internal layout of the Alienware 15 R3 remains consistent with previous iterations, facilitating easy access to key components such as the CPU, GPU, RAM, and storage drives. The device features two RAM slots, accommodating up to 32GB of memory, as well as multiple storage options, including a 7200 RPM hard drive and PCIe NVMe SSD. This expandable design allows users to tailor the device to their specific needs, whether it be for gaming, content creation, or productivity tasks.

While the Alienware 15 R3 (2017) retains its trademark durability and robust build quality, its weight remains a point of contention for some users. Weighing in at 7.7 pounds or 3.5 kilograms, it is undeniably hefty, making it less than ideal for frequent travelers or users seeking a more portable gaming solution. However, this weight is a testament to the device’s solid construction, ensuring resilience and longevity in various environments.

In summary, the Alienware 15 R3 (2017) delivers a compelling blend of performance, versatility, and upgradability, making it a top choice for gaming enthusiasts and professionals alike. While its weight may deter some users, its impressive battery life, robust performance, and expandable design make it a worthy investment for those seeking a powerful and reliable gaming laptop.

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Alienware 15 R3 (2017)
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    Performance - 94%
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    Price - 93%
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    Value - 94%