- Great build quality and materials used
- Gaming at 1080p is great and colour reproduction on point
- Keyboard and trackpad very responsive
- Chunky rear to house cooling options
The Alienware R3 13 is a laptop designed and built by Dell’s premium gaming branch. It’s a small, 13″ portable gaming machine which goes toe to toe with the likes of the Razer Blade, and can actually perform at a pretty decent 1080p resolution on triple AAA titles.
All versions of the Alienware R3 13 from Dell are housed in exactly the same chassis, have the same track pad and excellent keyboard. Even the ports across the board are the same. What is different however are the internals, and prices start from £1,249 right up to £1,849 but more on this later.
Taking a look at the laptop itself, first thing I noticed is the fact it’s very heavy, and much heavier than other similarly designed and spec’d gaming laptops from Razer and Gigabyte. The all metal chassis feels like a chunk, and you’d definitely notice it if you want to stick it inside a bag and carry it around on your back.
But saying that, the materials used here feel incredibly premium, like you know this thing could survive a couple of knocks here and there. Everything is covered in a matte finish, and is very prone to fingerprints so regular wipe downs are needed to keep it feeling fresh. The little Alienware logo on top glows then the laptop is turned on, which I think is a nice little feature and makes it look that even more premium.
Dell have included a wide range of ports too including two USB 3.0, one USB-C and Thunderbolt Gen 3. There’s even a HDMI 2.0 and Displayport 2.1 here for external displays. What did surprise me as I’m quite new to these is the Alienware Graphics Amp proprietary connector. The Amp is a $199 box that basically boosts graphical performance on the laptop itself. Great for 4K stuff, but a beast to carry around.
I’m not a huge fan of the display ports and charge being on the rear of the laptop, but the good news is that things like the USB ports and headphone and mic jacks are down the sides. What I did find strange, and don’t quote me if I’m wrong, but I could not for the life of me find any kind of card reader which I think is a shame, as this laptop is great for things like Photoshop and Lightroom work on the go.
One of the biggest problems with its design however is the fact that the footprint sticks out quite a bit at the back. Inside are fans and cooling solutions, but having this extra bulk when you’ve got some lovely skinny laptops like the Razer Blade on the market make it hard to choose this for its portability.
Using the laptop however was wonderful. The keyboard, which Alienware are calling Alienware ‘TactX’ feels very robust, and the added steel plate underneath didn’t give any kind of flex. I am quite a heavy typist, and this laptop handled my key strokes. They’re not as responsive as using a mechanical keyboard, but they’re good enough for light taps during a game of something like League of Legends.
Everything here glows blue. The trackpad shines with subtle glow which isn’t an eyesore, and I adore the blue back lit keys. These can be customised using Alienware’s RGB colour changer, but they’re only solid colours rather than the for flashy fade-in/fade-out configurations on desktop RGB keyboards and mice. It’s a nice touch, but I felt blue was the best colour.
Each model comes with a different screen, but the model I tested for the past couple of weeks had a 13.3 inch QHD (2560 x 1440) OLED Anti-Glare 400-nits Display with Touch Technology. The blacks were very deep, and colour reproduction I thought was close to stunning thanks to the deep blacks, especially when watching some HD content online and even gaming. the 120Hz refresh rate also shone. This has got to be one of the best laptop displays I have seen in a very long time.
Again in Dell fashion, the different price tiers come with slightly better specs each time you go up in price. I was very impressed with the results that our benchmark tests gave us. Inside our review unit was a Intel Core I7-7700HQ processor paired with 16GB DDR4 RAM clocked at 2400mHz as well as a GTX 1060 graphics card. Running PCMark 10 I was given a score overall of 3,962 which for a laptop I thought was pretty good. Running a standard Fire Strike benchmark, the Alienware R8 13 produced a score of 9,435 and an FPS score of 53.54.
This is more than enough to get a decent graphical setting out of the latest AAA titles, but not enough to max the graphics out to 1440p. Don’t worry about that too much though. The screen size being smaller, and it still retaining a decent pixel density, I was hard pushed to find many faults with setting my graphics just below max. When I did play games though, there was a constant whirring sound from the fans in the back. It wasn’t too off-putting, as turning up the speakers drowned it out, but having the volume too loud on this laptop will cause some distortion.
In a nutshell, the Alienware R3 13 gaming laptop is a pretty good choice for gamers who are wanting to really customise their systems. Dell offer a great range of different price point spec’d models. However, it’s not the prettiest laptop in the world, and that large chunk at the back of the base is something you have to consider, if you’re going to be carrying it around with you. Having a 1440p screen and only a GTX 1060 makes me think there should be a GTX 1070 model available, but only time will tell I suppose with that one. If you would like more information on each model on offer, you can visit the Dell website.