Dell Alienware 17 r5 : A Gaming Beast

Dell Alienware 17 r5, or the fifth rendition of the Alienware 17″ gaming laptops.

It is Alienware’s most powerful laptop, released in 2018. Dell Alienware 17 r5 is a device that combines aesthetics of the past with the future for a unique blend. But it’s not just what’s on the outside. The Intel Core i9 8950HK 6-Core, which can be clocked up to 5 GHz, and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 OC with 8 GB GDDR5X make it a beast for gaming. 32 GB of DDR4 RAM only adds to its power. Now add a 2560 x 1440 G-Sync display with 400 cd/m2 brightness, and a 120 Hz refresh rate to the mix for a truly fantastic gaming experience. Colors are vivid, frame rates are high, and the gaming experience is superb – with the Alienware 17 r5.
Coming to the storage, this amazing machine has a 256 GB PCIe SSD along with 1 TB of Hard Drive, giving you enough space for everything. You can even add storage, both in SSD and HDD, but the price will go up – so keep that in mind. All of this is powered by a big battery of 99 Wh, which can last for up to 3+ hours, depending on the usage.

Before I start going into details about each component and how well it fares, let me first give you a brief note on whether Alienware 17 r5 is worth the price tag or not.

The simple answer is Yes, if you’re an avid gamer or if you’re in the market for a powerful device for intense graphic-related work. But it’s not everyone. Dell Alienware 17 r5 isn’t your day-to-day laptop that you can throw in your backpack and take wherever you do. It weighs around 9.74 Lb / 4.42 kg and is a bit larger than a regular 17″ laptop because of the design, which we’ll discuss in a bit.

So buy it –if you want to replace your gaming PC. But if you’re looking for a day-to-day laptop, this isn’t it, chief. With that out of the system, no pun intended, let’s start breaking down this beast of a laptop.

An Alien Design

Although the Alienware design has undergone prominent changes since its inception, the Dell Alienware 17 r5 is one of the more “Alienware” laptops we’ve seen. 
The techy black color of the system is accentuated by the customizable LED zones. The hinge-forward design makes this rendition of the Alienware 17 slimmer than its predecessors.
Lights. Customizable lights everywhere. On the back, the logo, the keyboard, and even the big touchpad. Alienware understands its audience and delivers on it by making the device look futuristic and techy.
At 9.74 pounds, this isn’t a throw-in-your-backpack laptop. Its big size of 16.7 x 13.1 x 1.18 inches doesn’t help either. But it is still lighter than the majority of the competition in the same spec range and slimmer than the previous 17 models. With this weight and size, you’d be tempted to ask if the device is nothing but a desktop PC in disguise. And I’ll say, yes. It is just that. You shouldn’t disturb this beast and let it work its magic in total peace.
On a serious note, this additional size does have an advantage. The extra space aids with the thermals of the system and keeps the device cool.
The 17.3″ panel is inside a beautiful chassis, right above the Tobii Eye Tracker. The metal frame houses a full-size backlit keyboard and a wide touchpad with a custom lighting option.
Coming to the ports, we have 2 USB 3.0 ports, positioned on either side of the laptop. There’s also a USB Type-C port, headphone and mic jacks, and a Lock slot.
That’s just the side; on the back, we have even more ports. A Mini DisplayPort, Thunderbolt 3, HDMI 2.0, Ethernet adapter, the proprietary Alienware Graphics Amplifier port, and the power port.

Great Display

Alienware doesn’t compromise on its displays, and it shows here. The display is a huge upgrade to the last version. And I’d argue this screen is better than the ISP panels on other Alienware devices. The 17.3″ QHD (2560×1440), 120Hz refresh rate screen is what you’d expect from a laptop of this caliber. The viewing angles are great. Colors are accurate in games, videos, and graphics. Reds are reds, blacks are deep blacks. One thing that bugged me a little was the matte finish. Although it helped reduce unnecessary reflections, removing it would’ve added an extra crispiness to the graphics. I’d argue that a reflective screen wouldn’t have hurt this device because you aren’t taking this device in the sun anyway. Oh did I mention that the Dell Alienware 17 r5 display supports support for Nvidia G-Sync, so there’s that too.

Loud Audio

The additional room, because of the hinge-forward design, allows for one of the better speaker systems in gaming laptops. The design now includes 2 internal smart amplifiers to regulate the speaker thermals for optimal sound, even when you turn the volume to max.
For you, headphone enthusiasts, Alienware 17 r5 has dedicated jacks for mic and headphones – so don’t worry 🙂 When using good headphone, you can be sure that there won’t be any delays with a crisp hearing experience. I’d suggest that you use noise-cancelling headphones for a truly immersive experience, more on this later.

Big Touchpad and Comfortable Keyboard

An amazing keyboard is what the Dell Alienware 17 r5 has. Keys feel good to touch with a 2.2 mm travel. The steel-reinforced TactX keyboard is sturdy and is made to last, especially when you’re playing an intense game or typing furiously.
The touchpad is 4 x 2.1-inch in size. There’s plenty of space for fingers and to use multiple-finger gestures. For example, the 2 finger flick. And the touchpad lights up when you flick it or glide your finger – a nice touch (pun intended).

Beastly Performance

You know the keyboard’s great. You understand the touchpad is awesome. But what about overall performance?
Well, we can safely say that the performance is as good as advertised. Personally, I’d be a bit disappointed if it were not. After all, it’s equipped with a powerful 2.9-GHz, 8th Gen Core i9-8950HK processor, that’s clockable up to 5 GHz. And then you have the 32 GB DDR4 RAM to really make this package a beast in its own right.
What does this computing power bring us? Multitasking. Let’s say you’re designing a 10-layer graphic on Photoshop, but you need to open 10, then 15 and then 25 Google Chrome tabs to do your research and find the right inspiration. With any ordinary laptop, it would’ve been very difficult. The laptop would’ve started heating up, and the system most probably would’ve frozen. But not here. When we tested this scenario on Dell Alienware 17 r5, the system ran as smoothly as a hot knife would through butter.
However, in terms of benchmarks, this beast fell behind a number of competitors. For example, the Alienware 17 r5 fell behind Titan and Aorus on Geekbench 4, where it got 20,890 in overall performance. Titan’s model with the same processing power got 22,754, and Aorus got 25,915. But stats aren’t everything, as we all know. It’s the real-life performance that matters, and Alienware delivers on that.

Better than expected Battery

Battery life isn’t the strongest point of any high-end gaming laptop. After all, every frame, every computation requires power, and the battery can only supply that much. The Dell Alienware 17 r5 lasts more than 3.5 hours when web surfing with normal brightness level. But the competition doesn’t even come close. The Titan and Aorus last 3 and 2.5 hours respectively. This relatively higher battery life is in part due to the efficient heat discharge, thanks to the extra chassis size.

Efficient Heat Discharge

The revamped cooling system, called Alienware Cryo-Tech v2.0, is responsible for keeping the system running at low temperatures even when you’re playing games. The revamped design allows for 50% smaller fans and adds a vapor chamber right on top of the CPU for an efficient, smaller cooling system that allows for a slimmer chassis.
If we’re talking about the fans, we need to consider the noise, and these are very quiet, especially when compared to the last rendition. At normal load, they were 45.8 dB while at max speed, these fans produced just over 50 dB.

Tobii Eye Tracker

I mentioned earlier a truly immersive experience with this laptop; well Tobii Eye Tracker makes it possible. It’s a niche product, for sure, but the technology is really cool. More than 100 titles support this technology. Basically, you can control where your character is looking at, with the movement of your eyes. Now combine that with a VR and you have an immersive experience where you will enjoy the games to their extreme.
Tobii technology isn’t limited to games, though. You can use it to unlock your Dell Alienware 17 r5, an eye-opening feature indeed. 

Quality Webcam

The 1080p webcam is a sharpshooter, and you can clearly see that Alienware put effort into making it good. Pictures we took were clear and of high quality. Unlike many, and I mean many, laptop webcams, this one has good clarity and even produced good quality videos with very slight graininess.
You can, if you want, use it for streaming with friends or attend calls. Or both.

Which configuration is for you?

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you read “the baller-ass configuration”? Because this is what Alienware is calling the high-end configuration of its R5 model. This is the configuration we’ve mostly talked about, in terms of features. Let’s talk about the features and compare those with the normal configurations. To start with, it has an overclockable, up to 5 GHz, 2.9-GHz Intel Core i9-8950HK processor and 32GB of DDR4 RAM. It also packs a 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD, a 1TB 7,200-rpm hard drive, a 2560 x 1400 display, and an overclocked Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPU with 8GB VRAM. The baller-ass configuration of Dell Alienware 17 r5 costs more than $3,000! And it’s not for everyone. The base model comes at $1,499 and has a relatively lower-end 2.2-GHz Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 8GB of DDR4 RAM, 1TB hybrid drive, and a 1TB with 8GB SSD, an overclocked Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU with 6GB VRAM and a 1920 x 1080 display. But we’d suggest going a little above this version because by adding a couple of hundred bucks, you can get a 2.2-GHz Intel Core i7-8750H processor. With that, you also get 16GB of RAM, 256GB PCIe M.2 SSD, 1TB 7,200-rpm hard drive, an overclocked Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU with 8GB VRAM, and a 1920 x 1080 display. So basically, you spend a little more and get what you need. If you can afford, definitely go for the high-end configuration. Accessibility and Upgradation If you don’t buy the high-end model out of the gate, you can still swap SSD, RAM, and other stuff by opening the back. Yes, it’s that simple. Inside, you have two RAM slots, two fans, a vapor chamber, and a WiFi adapter. It’s a relatively customizable and upgradable device. So even if you purchase the base model, you can upgrade it when it suits you. Here’s a breakdown of the Dell Alienware 17 r5 features in a table form –for an overview of everything that’s discussed above.



2.9 GHz Intel Core i9-8950HK 6-Core

Maximum Boost Speed

4.8 GHz

L3 Cache

12 MB

Memory Type

2666 MHz DDR4

Total Installed Memory

32 GB

Memory Configuration

2 x 16 GB

Memory Slot Type

260-Pin SO-DIMM

Memory Slots


Buffered Memory


ECC Memory


Graphics Type



NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 OC with 8 GB GDDR5X VRAM


Panel Type




Aspect Ratio



2560 x 1440





Maximum Brightness

400 cd/m2

Refresh Rate

120 Hz

Variable Refresh Technology


Storage and Expansion

Total Installed Capacity

1.256 TB

Solid State Storage

1 x 256 GB M.2 PCIe

Hard Disk Storage

1 x 1 TB 2.5″ SATA (7200 rpm)

Optical Drive




2 x USB Type-A (USB 3.1 / USB 3.2 Gen 1)
1 x Docking Connector

USB Type-C

1 x Thunderbolt 3 (Supports DisplayPort)
1 x USB 3.1 / USB 3.2 Gen 1


1 x HDMI 2.0


1 x 1/8″ / 3.5 mm Headphone/Microphone Input/Output
1 x 1/8″ / 3.5 mm Line Output

Built-In Speakers


Built-In Microphones


Media Card Slots


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