GAM­ING LAP­TOP Alien­ware 13 /£

SUP­PLIER www.alien­ware.co.uk

Custom PC - - CON­TENTS - MIKE JEN­NINGS

Alien­ware’s big-sell­ing ma­chines are of­ten crit­i­cised for be­ing gar­ish, heavy and ex­pen­sive, but while the firm’s lat­est 13in model isn’t cheap, Alien­ware has reined in the ex­cess. Its ex­te­rior is hewn from an­odised alu­minium and mag­ne­sium al­loy in black and a shade of gun­metal grey that Alien­ware de­scribes, with hubris, as ‘Epic Sil­ver’.

Metal cov­ers the lid and un­der­side, and the lid has an il­lu­mi­nated Alien­ware logo and some sub­tle slashes. Matt ma­te­rial sur­rounds the key­board, while the screen has a glossy fin­ish. Mean­while, the cool­ing gear is shoved into a large sec­tion at the rear that rises with in­dus­trial-look­ing vats. This de­sign pushes the screen for­wards, closer to the key­board, mak­ing the 13.3in panel ap­pear larger in front of you.

The 13’s bot­tom half sports clean lines, while light­ing is com­par­a­tively sub­dued; the Alien­ware logo and power but­ton light up, and there’s key­board and touch­pad back­light­ing, but that’s it. The usual USB 3.1 ports sit around the ex­te­rior, and on this ma­chine, they’re joined by a Thun­der­bolt socket and a con­nec­tor for Alien­ware’s ex­ter­nal Graph­ics Am­pli­fier. The RGB LEDs can also be fully cus­tomised in soft­ware, with dif­fer­ent zones and pat­terns.

Build qual­ity is stun­ning too. The wrist rest and base don’t move, even when you ap­ply pres­sure, and the screen is al­most as sturdy. The 2.6kg weight and 26mm thick­ness are both high com­pared with other small gam­ing lap­tops, but the Alien­ware is stronger than many of its com­peti­tors. Its key com­po­nents are a GeForce GTX 1060 6GB, a 2.8GHz quad-core Core i7-7700HQ and a solid 16GB stack of 2400MHz DDR4 mem­ory. Stor­age is a lit­tle dis­ap­point­ing though. There’s a 256GB M.2 NVMe Toshiba SSD, which is fine for Win­dows and few apps, but you ide­ally want more stor­age to ac­com­mo­date to­day’s large game in­stalls.

You can add more solid state stor­age with Alien­ware’s on­line con­fig­u­ra­tion op­tions, but it isn’t cheap, and there’s no room for a hard drive ei­ther.

Mov­ing be­yond the in­ter­nals, Alien­ware is one of the last com­pa­nies to rely on tra­di­tional keys for its gam­ing lap­tops. The Alien­ware’s keys are larger than most chi­clet keys, and they have more travel. The keys are fast, with a con­sis­tent ac­tion, which makes them bet­ter for gam­ing than shal­low chi­clet key­boards, al­though they’re a lit­tle soft. The Re­turn and Space keys are large, and the cur­sor keys are full-sized and set apart from the rest of the keys. The touch­pad suf­fers from soft­ness too though. The sur­face is fine, but the but­tons feel spongy in ac­tion – you’ll want to use a USB mouse where pos­si­ble.

We’ve re­viewed the prici­est Alien­ware 13 model, but there are three other SKUs. The cheap­est is a £1,249 model with a Core i5, GTX 1050 and a mea­gre 1,366 x 768p screen – an ex­tra £100 will get you a 1080p screen. Mean­while, the midrange £1,499 model boosts the in­ter­nals with a Core i7 and a GTX 1050 Ti. All th­ese ma­chines are all cov­ered by a one year re­turn to base war­ranty as stan­dard, which isn’t par­tic­u­larly gen­er­ous com­pared with the two or three year deals from some British sys­tem builders.

It’s near-silent when idle, and not loud when run­ning games

Per­for­mance

The GTX 1060 han­dled most games at the Alien­ware’s na­tive 2,560 x 1,440 res­o­lu­tion, though only just. Its min­i­mum frame rates of 29fps and 28fps in Fall­out 4 and The Witcher 3 are bor­der­line playable, al­though it dropped to 23fps in Deux Ex: Mankind Di­vided. Our game tests are very de­mand­ing, though, and drop­ping Deus Ex down to High set­tings saw its min­i­mum rise to 30fps. The 13 runs games fine at 1080p though.

CPU per­for­mance is de­cent for this ma­chine’s size too. The 13’s over­all ap­pli­ca­tion re­sult of 95,488 shows it has enough power to run most of to­day’s de­mand­ing soft­ware and avoid se­ri­ous bot­tle­necks in games. Like­wise, the Toshiba M.2 NVMe SSD hit read and write speeds of 1,391MB/sec and 864MB/s, which is much faster than any SATA drive, al­though faster M.2 drives are avail­able.

Mean­while, the 76Wh bat­tery lasted for around 90 min­utes in a gam­ing test, which is much bet­ter than many gam­ing lap­tops, but you’ll still want to be near a mains socket for gam­ing where pos­si­ble.

The 13 is re­ally quiet too – it’s near-silent when idle, and not loud when run­ning games. In th­ese tests, the CPU and GPU delta Ts of 63°C and 56°C are fine, and the ex­te­rior re­mained cool. Run­ning a stress test, though, saw those delta Ts jump to 68°C and 64°C. The noise didn’t change, but the base of the ma­chine be­come al­most too hot to touch. Of course, no one will be stress-test­ing this ma­chine on their

lap in the real world, but larger lap­tops can cope with this level of work with­out get­ting so hot – it’s a com­pro­mise you make if you want a small, pow­er­ful lap­top.

One big plus point, though, is the 13’s sharp and glossy OLED screen – a rare tech­nol­ogy in a gam­ing lap­top. OLED pan­els ef­fec­tively use pix­els to pro­duce light, rather than a back­light, so the pix­els can cre­ate a broader range of colours – in­clud­ing true blacks, vivid tones at the top of the scale and sub­tler vari­a­tions than nor­mal back­lit screens. The per­fect con­trast is bol­stered by a solid bright­ness level of 249cd/m2, and the OLED im­pact is im­me­di­ate – we’ve rarely seen a gam­ing lap­top with a screen this vi­brant. Its uni­for­mity is good, with less than 10 per cent bright­ness vari­a­tion across the panel, and we recorded 100 per cent sRGB cov­er­age.

The colour tem­per­a­ture of 6,797K is also solid, and the mid­dling delta E mea­sure­ment of 4.47 is our only com­plaint. Even then, the Alien­ware’s panel re­mains one of the best on any gam­ing lap­top. The speak­ers are good too. They’re loud, and the sound is con­sis­tently clear – es­pe­cially at the high end, where voices are de­fined and not tinny.

Con­clu­sion

Alien­ware’s 13 has smart looks and solid build qual­ity, and its high price is jus­ti­fied by the OLED screen and in­ter­nal com­po­nents, rather than just by its brand­ing. That panel de­liv­ers a su­perb gam­ing image, and the GTX 1060 can just about han­dle 2,560 x 1,440 gam­ing.

The key­board is good, bat­tery life is fine and the speak­ers are punchy. It’s pos­si­ble to get this per­for­mance for less cash, of course, but not with this level of sheen. The 13 is ex­pen­sive, sure, but its qual­ity is su­perb.

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