back to article Alienware assimilates Dell FROM THE INSIDE!

Gaming notebooks are a secret hobby of mine. I don't actually game that much – even my wife logs more hours than I do – but gaming notebooks are the only way to get the best of the best in a luggable form factor. Alienware is the name to beat in this space, but I've always wondered how they managed to survive the Dell …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Best? it's well known that laptops aimed at gamers or consumers tend to be more bleeding edge (and thus less reliable) than corporate machines.

    This was proven by us using consumer laptops from Dell where I work, almost all of them developed faults and had no end of main board replacements. We can only put this down to overheating as development machines are pushed hard for a long time. There were no such problems with the business devices.

    So unless you are gaming you probably are best with something a little less bleeding edge.

    1. Richard 81


      You'd hope gaming rigs would have damn good cooling. Consumer grade regular Dell machines are crap though.

      This thing I was bought for work overheats all the time. It had to be stuck in the server room to stop it from shutting down when I last reinstalled Windows.


        Re: Cooling

        Yeah the consumer stuff does tend to suck a bit.

        Have you reported the overheating fault to Dell.

        If you don't want to call them you can post a message on or send a message on twitter

        I had an overheating inspiron, got the fan and heatsink replaced ,all working fine now.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        Between my personal systema and the corporate deployments of these units, I've worked with over 2000 Alienware notebooks. There have been 3 RMA-class incidents (dead mobo), 2 stiff-hinge-death incidents, and a life lesson learned about AMD's inability to make good dual-GPU drivers.

        Compared to every other system I've worked with - the $400 Samsung netbooks my wife and I have being the only exception - these Alienware boxes have had the lowest incidence of "it's dead, Jim." Hardware or software. That includes Dell's disposable consumer goods, HP, Asus, MSI, Sager, Samsung, Fujitsu, Sony, Eurocom, Acer, Lenovo...

        I think I can speak from some experience on this one.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Sample Poll of One...

          >"[Alienware have] damn good cooling. Consumer grade regular Dell machines [not so much]"

          I can vouch for the latter! I'm typing this on a Dell Vostro, a few years old, bought for being a, able to run CAD software, and b, it was a cheap refurb.

          Its 1920 x 1200 16:10 screen is lovely, and its discrete graphics do the job. So I thought I'd answer the question "Does it run Crysis?" and the answer was yes- for about 2 minutes, after which it would freeze for a few seconds before continuing smoothly for 20 seconds, and repeat. It turned out my CPU was throttling itself because it was approaching its thermal limit of 109º (a Core 2 Duo T9550). After building a platform of books and carefully aiming a 12" desk fan at its base, it would run okay, but I thought sod it, if it makes this much noise I might as well just use the cheaper-to-replace Xbox for FPS malarikies.

          1. Lord Voldemortgage

            Re: Sample Poll of One...

            I've got (but no longer really use) a 17" Dell Vostro that runs, well, not sure about Crysis but it's fine with Far Cry which was the graphical tour de force of its day.

            No problems with over heating unless you put the laptop on any soft surface like, um, a lap. Or a bed or a cushion or any of the other things you night quite often use around the house.

            The cooling intake is on the base and blocks easily at which point the fans start whining and the 6800M will eventually start going haywire. On a table or a rigid laptop support it is fine.

            My next gaming laptop will be Alienware. I currently have an Asus G74SX-91131Z which has all the necessary power (including for 3D, gimmick though that may be) but it has broken headphone and USB ports where I've been slightly careless with mouse and headphones left in and stressed. The Dell never suffered in the same way despite the same treatment and if Alienware are as bombproof as the article suggests it seems that is what I need.

  2. M. B.

    Corporate evolution

    You see this approach a lot more on the enterprise computing side, Dell acquired many companies over the past few years but hasn't really gutted any of them, they simply operate as their own division under the Dell name (Compellent, EqualLogic, Force10, AppAssure, KACE, Sonicwall etc are now rebranded Dell:Compellent, Dell:EqualLogic, etc). I'm sure in traditional business areas (IT, finance, HR) Dell has probably consolidated those companies under their internal processes, but otherwise for the most part the companies seem to retain their identities and benefit from some collaboration with other divisions.

    It's not a bad approach, and it looks like the same was done with Alienware.

  3. StuCom

    ... Sorry. Did I misread this as an article or piece of news?

    Looks like a paid ad to me.

    1. Aaron Em

      A Reg hack actually liking something?

      Perish the thought!

    2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: ... Sorry. Did I misread this as an article or piece of news?

      One of the cool parts about writing for El Reg is that you get to talk to the people wbo make the products you use. Sometimes I talk loudly and with great irritation. Sometimes I have to restrain the fanboy.

      Alienware is one of the few "brands" I like; and I like them not because they pay me to, but because they make great stuff. I'm odd that way.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Agree entirely

    The article exactly mirrors the decision making process I went through when buying my last mobile workstation (Alienware M17xR2). Almost ready to start speccing up a new one.

    Trevor, do you have any experience with Eurocom machines as they are on your home turf? Was very tempted by them but as a UK buyer I'd heard a couple of reliability horror stories from a few years ago so went for the safer bet of Alienware as Dell seemed to offer better international support in the event of developing a problem.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: Agree entirely

      Eurocom. Man, I remember those. There were a corporate staple notebook for us in the early aughties. Then Canadian distribution channels dried up and we started shipping Asus Republic Of Gamers boxes. Those things were awesome. I miss them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Agree entirely

        Thanks for the feedback. As one of the few things I've found that can knock the Alienware gear for six spec-wise at the top end of the range, I'll try and get some first-hand experience with one before the next upgrade.

  5. Steve 13

    XPS extinct?

    The Dell XPS still exists, I'm typing this on one now, and it's got very similar specs to an Alienware of the same vintage (it's about 18 months old). The only differentiator at the time was that this didn't come with an SSD, so I added that myself.

    It's the 2nd Dell laptop I've personally had, the 1st one (>6 years old now) is still alive and kicking at a relatives house. So I'm not sure on where the reputation for throwaway products comes from or how an Alienware badged machine can last any better than that.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: XPS extinct?

      You're joking, right? Modern XPS notebooks have almost nothing in common with their elder brethren, nor are they even close to Alienware specs. X40/X450- class video cards? Single hard drive? These aren't "gaming class notebooks," they're abominations that don't fit anywhere. They aren't "just business" - Intel i tegrated is fine for that and uber-casual gaming - and they aren't gaming rigs either.

      No, the modern XPS notebooks do not deserve to bear that proud name.

    2. easyk

      Re: XPS extinct?

      I bought an XPS earlier this year based on the reputation of the the old good XPS that is still running fine after many years in the lab. I sent it back the next day. The build quality was pure crap, not the fine machine my previous experience indicated it would be.

  6. Si 1

    "the closest thing you can get to indestructible"

    I'm not sure I'd describe an Alienware laptop as indestructible. My first m15X has had the hinges replaced three times already and the current hinges are on their last legs. My first M11X also had hinges that disintegrated with normal use. Only my current M11X R3 is still working without problems but I treat it with kid gloves. They seem to be made from 99% plastic and just don't last very long.

    Given the premium pricing of Alienware's systems I'd like to see a move towards the build quality of Apple. In fact the 15" Retina Macbook Pro with its overclocked Geforce card certainly looks like it could be quite a decent gaming system once you put Windows on there...

    My M11X R3 has been fantastic as a gaming laptop. It's small yet powerful and the i7 CPU and discrete Nvidia 540M mean it can run just about everything I throw at it with a decent frame rate. It's been a perfect portable console replacement, running Arkham City, Mirror's Edge, Mass Effect, GTAIV, Saint's Row, etc with everything usually set on max details. It's only running at 720p but that's plenty for a laptop screen and I prefer 60fps over something that will bog down trying to fill a 1080p display.

    Sadly Alienware seem to be abandoning the smaller gaming form factors. The M11X hasn't been updated this year and the next smallest system the M14X doesn't have a particularly competitive graphics chip. It's only when you look at the 17" and 18" systems that you can start to get higher end components. I really don't want to drag something as massive as the M17X or M18X around. 15" is the maximum size I'd consider buying and even then it would need to be closer to the Retina Macbook Pro's form factor for me to contemplate it.

    I reckon my M11X will still be useful until the next generation of consoles arrives some time next year, but after that I'm not sure what I'll be replacing it with. At present it probably won't be an Alienware. :(

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: "the closest thing you can get to indestructible"

      The M11X was something Frank was really proud of. I suspect it will return, probably with Haswell's launch.

      As to my "indestructable" claim: the new, magnesium-alloy-case ones pretty much are. That m18x of mine has taken a beating; it is bordering on "as much punishment as my XPS gen 2." Yeah, the older m15x and m17x systems had hinge issues. As the article says, however, they are good about replacements. Brand means more to them than recouping costs on 3-4% dead units. That's an attitutde I can get behind; few tech vendors care.

      1. Si 1

        Re: "the closest thing you can get to indestructible"

        Thanks for the reply. If the M11X is coming back I will be over the moon! Squeezing that much high-end kit into such a small casing really is something for them to be proud of.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Article reads like Paid Corporate Blogging and at odds with the comments on Dell's website!!

    To the author: Did you not get the memo? Only Dell could kill a brand like Alienware, and the brand has now firmly imploded. You need to read the comments on As another commenter wrote, WEAK HINGES are a major problem for starters! For example, Alienware are now a completely overpriced POS compared with the Samsung Series 7.

    This article is like paid corporate blogging. If also failed to address the frequently weakest link in a gaming laptop, namely the video card. Vendors are rushing their laptops to market too early in order to beat each other. The cost to the customer is unproven video cards with beta drivers.

    For example, I have gone through several Asus G75 3D Laptops in recent months, all due to the Nvidia 670m which is a POS! Rushing to market is the problem. The Samsung Series 7 is far better than the Asus or Alienware and is the cheapest too. I wish I had bought it, but I didn’t like the casing, and that fickle decision cost me dearly! The reviews on all three manufactures are very telling!!!

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: Article reads like Paid Corporate Blogging and at odds with the comments on Dell's website!!

      I've worked with - and continue to - every single brand of "gaming notebook" out there. They all have issues with the video drivers. That can't be laid at the vendor's feet; nobody is immune. If it makes you feel better, Alienware tries very hard to bring Dell's influence to bear on video card vendors to get them to fix their buggy crap. Some times they are more successful than others.

      Overall, howevrer, Alienware has been a far more solid brand than any other I've worked with.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Article reads like Paid Corporate Blogging and at odds with the comments on Dell's website!!


        I don’t doubt that you are one of the satisfied. But unanswered questions remain, and the comments from unhappy people on the Dell website concerning Alienware are proof. I did consider them, but the comments added to the fact that Dell burnt me with an XPS 1210 without a graphics card they promised kept me away.

        Your comment regarding video cards is fair, and I was taking issue more with the author alluding to a gaming machine as always being a solid PC. It isn’t when the machine is rushed with an unproven video card, that only brings a whole world of hurt!

        The latest Samsung Series 7 has an Nvidia 67Xm series card as does my Asus G75. However, users aren’t reporting Samsung problems with regular video freezes. So is it a motherboard + video card compatibility issue? I don’t know. But what this shows is that the same video card series behaves very differently in different hardware, and that makes discussion of Video card problems on gaming machines quite a grey area..

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: Article reads like Paid Corporate Blogging and at odds with the comments on Dell's website!!

          So you are basing your entire argument here off the fact that "only angry people post on a company website." Well holy crap, batman! Talk about a fundamental aspect of human nature! People complain loudly whenever they feel slighted, but most don't take the time out to heap praise upon a working product!

          So yeah, I expect that if I say anything nice about any product, it would go against the bulk of the reviews written about it, especially in that company's forums. To say nothing of "why the hell are we discussing reviews on Amazon for a product that almost always ships from the website?"

          Any product is going to have DOAs. Any product is going to have bad components. The relevant questions are "how many," and "how do they deal with them?" With Alienware, the answers are "low single digits of shipped units" and "excellently."

          Remember also that Dell's consumer side has nothing at all to do with Alienware. They have different support teams, different corporate ethos, different build qualities and so forth. That is the entire point of this article: Alienware kept it's corporate ethos, but gained all of Dell's corporate oomph, supply chain, etc.

          Their success and profitability by doing exactly what Dell themselves don't do is starting to turn heads at Dell and make people look at different approaches.

          If you go out of your way to find something bad about a product or company, you'll find it. If you objectively compare Alienware to the competition, however, you'll find that they are first-class.

          I'm glad you like your Samsung; first hand experience with them has taught me that they have awful customer service for that line of products. RMAs are like pulling teeth and I've had ~10% dead after one year. I think you might be engaging in some post-purchase rationalisation here, whereas I am attempting to discuss gaming notebooks as a function of sheer volume of units shipped and the helpfulness of support.

          Anyone can have a bad experience or two. How a company handles those bad experiences is what determines their value as a supplier.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Article reads like Paid Corporate Blogging and at odds with the comments on Dell's website!!


            I mentioned Amazon because its a useful central review post .It gets a lot of traffic and one doesn’t have to buy products from there in order to add reviews. BTW: You read my post too quickly. I have an Asus G75 not a Samsung, and Asus have been woeful!

            Without reliable data i.e. knowing true sales versus true returns, its impossible to know which brand is really delivering. It wasn’t the complaints as such on the Dell site, it was the ferocity of the criticism. I’ve followed Alienware reviews for quite a while as I often thought about spoiling myself, but I just couldn’t afford to splash out.

            My take on the negative reviews is that a departure is taking place in passion for the brand. Alienware have a lot of disciples so I was surprised to see that. If you want an example of the criticism, the Hinge problem comes to mind.

            You’re very touchy about Alienware, you’re clearly passionate about the brand, and I’m happy for you. I’m just wishing for a gaming laptop that is always reliable, so I can spend maximum time gaming / designing and not troubleshooting the damn thing!

            1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              Re: Article reads like Paid Corporate Blogging and at odds with the comments on Dell's website!!

              I don't think I qualify as "passionate about the brand." I like it because I don't have to fix the fucking things. Look, I do computers for a day job, right? The last bloody thing I want to do when I get home is futz around with some computer that's acting up. I want my video games to just work. I want my media to just play. I want all the little bits to work, out of the box, and keep doing that for years.

              That's why I buy Alienware.

              If I am passionate about something - other than abject lazyiness, which is a very important topic for me - it is the bullshitology of "consumer reviews." The hard science of the matter is that people bitch easily but rarely pay a compliment. If you are seeing a bunch of positive reviews about a product amidst the frantic whinging, then pay attention. This means either heavy astroturfing, or people who actually like the product so much they are overcoming the inertia of human nature to say nice things about a product.

              I don't care if that's Alienware, Apple, Windows 8 or Science Barbie. There are entire PhDs full of science about group dynamics, cognitive dissonance and various individual cognitive biases. I'm not making this crap up (check Wikipedia for an actually decent overview,) but I do study this stuff.

              It's part and parcel of being interested in journalism. If I am going to offer objective an impartial news, reviews or analyses, I need to be aware of the various research into cognitive bias and be able to spot it in myself. (Self examination on this level borders on stumbling into Dunning-Kruger, but we'll bypass that for now.)

              At the end of the day who is doing the reviewing matters far more than the volume, pitch or tone of the review. Is the individual capable of making judgements about hardware, software, etc? Do they have the expertise and experience, or – as per true Dunning-Kruger – do they lack the experience, but in lacking that experience also lack the knowledge to identify their own lack of knowledge?

              What about business decisions? Are these people capable of understanding representative samples, making judgements about failure rates, total cost of ownership and so forth? Or are you seeing – as I deeply suspect – people deep in buyer's remorse, having overextended themselves and wished for something magical that never truly can be?

              I have worked with hundreds of models of gaming notebook from about a dozen suppliers over the past 15 years. The Alienware systems coming out of that company today are the best of the lot I've ever had the pleasure to use, with the possible exception of those old Gen 2 XPSes.

              You can try to call me "passionate" about a brand if you want. You'd be wrong. What I am passionate about is separating signal from noise. Amazon – no matter how invested you may be in it for your personal decision making – is nearly all noise. The statistical analysis you need to do on that site to extract signal is mind warping.

              Far better to find people who shift these units in the hundreds and thousands and start talking about deployment strategies, failure rates and so forth. You get a far clearer picture, not only of the product and brand, but of human nature as pertains to bitching about things on the internet.

  8. NickTs
    Thumb Down

    Flawless operation? Not a chance...

    I'm absolutely delighted this columnist enjoyed their Alienware experience. Mine couldn't have been worse.

    Back in 2006 I spent a not insubstantial amount of £1800 on an Alienware m9700 laptop. When it arrived it was Dead On Arrival. Sometimes it would switch on, other times it wouldn't. It went back within 48 hours.

    A month later, when it returned, all was good. Until it started BSODing all the time a few months later. Multiple clean installs of Windows failed to cure the problem, so back it went to Alienware/Dell where it was fitted with what was now its third motherboard.

    Back it came. All was good until the 12 month warranty ran out and it started exhibiting the same old BSOD issues. Fortunately Alienware / Dell agreed to repair it out of warranty for free (after some badgering).

    Motherboard number 4!

    Within a couple of months the WUXGA screen started playing up with vertical lines showing on the right side, then the BSODs started returning. Then the laptop stopped turning on altogether.

    At the time, my wife was having some pretty serious health issues so I didn't have the time to waste badgering Alienware / Dell again. When I did eventually try contacting them I received no response, so the laptop to this day remains sitting in my IT room, broken, non functioning. A seriously good looking, but ultimately useless £1800 paperweight that didn't even give me a year of flawless operation.

    I won't be making that mistake again.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: Flawless operation? Not a chance...

      m9700 sounds like a rebadged Clevo. Designed and deployed before the merger. Alienware didn't quite have the resojrces then that they do now. It sucks you had a bad experience, but that would have been 6 years ago. If you want to bear a grudge forever, you'll run out of vendors, eventually!

      They are worth another look.

      1. NickTs

        Re: Flawless operation? Not a chance...


        Prior to my m9700 (which was a rebadged Clevo IIRC) I had an Aurora desktop of some sort, which was excellent, and which influenced my decision to spend the money on an Alienware laptop.

        Whether or not they had the resources then that they have now is moot. I bough my laptop and quite literally within weeks I read they'd been acquired by Dell. But that solves nothing. They sold me a piece of rubbish with inherent design / heat transfer issues (how else can you explain it going through 4 motherboards in less than a year?) and never fully rectified the problem.

        So where did that leave me? £1800 down and having to use a Compaq Mini netbook as the Alienware laptop I'd purchased spectacularly failed to fulfill its one role in life.

        Defend them if you will, I'm really pleased you had a great experience with them - but I won't be buying another Alienware. If they want to make up for the terrible product they sold me and finally swap out this defective lump I have then let them get in touch and I'll gladly review their current offerings. But we both know that won't happen as they didn't care then and they certainly won't care now.

        They won't be getting any more money from me.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Flawless operation? Not a chance...

          2006? Wasn't that around the time that lots of people had issues with lead-free solder? (see Xbox RROD, see legislation forcing immature technologies on to market)

          I'm sorry to hear that personal circumstances prevented you from demanding a full refund as per your statutory rights... life can be like that. I've been distracted from pursuing such things myself.

          You post represents an interesting point about the purpose of brands. Say I've had several Kiwi Co. computers and they've always been good; long battery life, not too noisy and the speakers are better than average, reliable... I would then associate Kiwi Co. with the sum of good qualities that aren't expressed in tables of figures about CPUs and HDDs. I might even think I would't mind paying a premium over similarly spec'ed machines for these qualities.

          1. NickTs

            Re: Flawless operation? Not a chance...


            You raise a very valid point about the 360s and their RROD habit. I had a Day 1 360 and finally, when it was well out of warranty it RROD'd. Microsoft swapped it out for free, no quibbles. The replacement also RROD'd and one again MS did a no quibble replacement.

            At the same time as I had my m9700 a colleague had a Rock gaming laptop. He experienced problems with it, much the same as I was having with the m9700. His laptop went back to base a few times, like mine did. Rock eventually identified the design issue and swapped his laptop out with an improved chassis version which cured his issues and left him as a happy customer.

            The OP may think I'm being prejudiced in my decision to not purchase an Alienware again, but I think that's a totally blasé comment. I paid (very) good money for a (very) poor product. Yes, I was looked after in the warranty period (and a month or so outside of it) but the support after that when it was clear the goods were not fit for purpose disappeared, and the customer experience was far less than I received from other companies (Microsoft) and what I witnessed being given to colleagues (from Rock).

            Experiences and actions build loyalty, and had Alienware looked after me properly and provided me with a functional product then there's every chance I'd still be buying them today.

    2. easyk

      Re: Flawless operation? Not a chance...

      We bought 3 alienware lappies in about 2005. They used P4 chips that got so hot when rendering data they became uncomfortable to type on. Putting them on a lap would be spermacidal.

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        Re: Flawless operation? Not a chance...

        @easyk: 2005 was 7 years ago. Also, everyone had problems with Pentium 4s back then. You can hang on to predjudice if you'd like, but I think you're cutting out a good supplier for no reason excepting pride.

        1. easyk

          Re: Flawless operation? Not a chance...

          @ seiñor pott I do posess the ability to subtract 2005 from 2012 :-) it goes <windows key>+r and then "calc"

          We have since purchased another alienware for the lab, I think 2 years ago. I have not used it as it ended up in the hands of one of my managers and I never saw it again. I think it performs just fine.

  9. Prof Denzil Dexter

    I just bought a custom build gaming rig. Or at least a fairly bleeding edge Crossfire GPU'd bit of kit for video editing that should last me a few years.

    I was seriously considering buying an Alienware desktop. Its just... well my desktop PC is in a corner of the living / dining room. Which means, people might actually see its ugly, LED'ed childish chassis. If they would just provide one case option for the over 18's that would be very lovely indeed.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      I like my LEDs. And they ship with a control panel software widget to turn them off...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I referenced Alienware's industrial design the other day in post about those laptops (Asus? Samsung?) designed by women for women. Many people thought the concept was perhaps patronising, but one poster made a good point about the opposite, overtly 'masculine' styling in computer hardware being fairly common and thus hardly noteworthy.

        Mr Pott, glad you like your LEDs, and I like that fact that you have participated in the forums after having written the article. However, I think matey's comment might have been based on the idea that he wouldn't like house guests to see an Alienware laptop on his desk. If you are advocating Alienware as being a good machines for design professionals (which I think your post did), then a more sober case design would be good since your clients will see you with it.

        I enjoyed your article, I didn't think you were being a paid puppet since I wouldn't rush out and buy an Alienware without doing due process, and nor would I expect any Reg reader to do so for any brand.

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          You know, the 2005/2006 Alienwares were gaudy. I agree with you wholeheartedly that they needed to "grow up." But I have zero qualms about my Alienware M18X as regards "professional" appearance.

          Have you honestly given the new lineup a look?

          I wouldn't be ashamed to be seen using an Alienware X51 with the lights off:

          Personally, I rather like my M18X compared to most 17" notebooks:

          With the lights off, I just don't understand what doesn't look "professional" about them. So yes, I advocate them for professionals. Case design and all. Tastes, of course, will vary.

          1. aikae

            "I advocate them for professionals"

            No mention of Dell's top end mobile workstation? C'mon, Alienware is clearly for the gamers. When I want a reliable, high performance, no compromise mobile computing platform I put down the MacBook Pro (or whatever corporate Latitude model happens to be on my desk) and reach for my Precision M6700. Just sayin :)

            1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              Re: "I advocate them for professionals"

              Except that I loathe the precision line. They are too expensive for the build quality, don't offer the graphics options I want...basically, they aren't the "well rounded" system my M18X is. That M18X *IS* a workstation. It does everything I need it to. The precisions...don't.

              1. aikae47

                Re: "I advocate them for professionals"

                Yes, I agree, it's expensive. Cost aside, I can't see much at fault with the build quality on the Precision line. You won't find 810G Mil spec on a gamer laptop.

                As for being "well rounded". Alienware does indeed offer better video card options gaming. But I think your options on everything else are not as well rounded as what's available on a Precision, e.g. battery options, docking ability, IPS/3D display options, wireless and mobile broadband options, multi-display options (try driving 5 displays on a gaming laptop?)

                Alienware does some really nice kit. If i'm ever in the market for a mobile gaming rig, Alienware would be hard to ignore. For a professional mobile workstation though, I'm sticking with the Precision. I would never recommend a gaming laptop for any serious deployment in a work environment where there is demand for high-end mobile computing performance.

                1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                  Re: "I advocate them for professionals"

                  We'll have to agree to disagree then. I've found plenty of things that those "mobile workstations" just aren't up to. I agree they have the docks that the Alienwares don't. That said, I've found plenty of apps that run far better on "consumer grade cards" than "workstation class cards." It's all about which apps you need to run. For many of the uses of my clients, the need for high-powered graphics, 2 disks and scads of RAM outweighs the dock.

                  Milspec is nice, but non-requisite. The M18x line copes with everything we throw at them just fine. That's really the hard part of all this though. Making absolute judgements about any product is going to be stepping in it. Proclaiming that you'd never advocate an Alienware to a professional client blocking out as significant chunk of the market as saying "Alienware solves all problems." Neither is true.

                  That said, I believe that the true market for "mobile workstation" class products is significantly reduced thanks to Alienware. Unless you need something very specific about the mobile-workstation class hardware specs, there is no compelling reason to go that route over Alienware. Alienware's support will meet or beet the best Dell has to offer anywhere else…and the total package will be far lower TCO for the performance.

                2. M Gale

                  Re: "I advocate them for professionals"

                  " a gaming laptop for any serious deployment in a work environment where there is demand for high-end mobile computing performance."

                  Games aren't high performance?

                  T'aint' all about the GPU you know, and I don't think you can get 16-core server-class CPUs in laptops quite yet anyway.

                  Really, if it can do high end gaming, it can do just about anything. Asides maybe run cool.

                  1. aikae47

                    Re: "I advocate them for professionals"

                    "Games aren't high performance" - yeah, but I can't use that argument. I just can't recommend what is essentially marketed as a gaming rig to the R&D, engineering and scientific research crowd. That just won't fly where I work sorry.

                    As Mr Pott has commented in a previous post, a lot of it does come down to what apps you need to run and I'll add, the business environment where you are running these demanding apps. There are many places where Alienware will do just fine, more than fine (and better than a "workstation" even in some cases). But there are places where a gaming rig is just not appropriate, for various reasons, e.g. environmental constraints, corporate policy, certification requirements, corporate IT requirements (think ease of provisioning, deployment, re-imaging, remote management across a fleet of mobile workstations), security features that just aren't available in consumer devices.

                    Anyways, Alienware and Precisions don't really compete in the same markets so arguing which is better is kinda pointless. Both have their place in the world of high end mobile computing.

  10. Dana W


    I had two Dell laptops in a row. The First one, ostensibly a gaming machine, overheated and froze whenever you attempted to play an actual GAME. overdriving the fans fixed this, but caused the cheap sleeve bearing fans go go to bits in a few months. It also had bad hinges and a power plug that kept coming unrooted from the mainboard. On its sixth trip back they found some ball bearing fans for it. On its SEVENTH trip back it FINALLY got lemoned out, less that two weeks before the end of the warranty.

    "And that only happened because the India call centre man liked the fact I dual booted Linux. And that I had run all the Dell diagnostics and had the numbers BEFORE he asked."

    The second one only went back two times before I sold it. Dell laptops are the reason today I'm typing this on a Macbook Pro.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: Dell

      Agree 100%. Dell notebooks are ****ing ass. Alienware, however, is not. While Alienware is starting to bleed into Dell at the high end, changing how they oprerate...I still wouldn't buy a Dell-branded notebook. Limited-time tat!

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Dell

        My Dell is a few years old now, still going strong. I don't use it for gaming, since it gets far too hot when both the CPU and GPU are running high. However, CAD doesn't always make the same demands on the GPU as gaming, and even at 100% CPU whilst rendering it doesn't get hot enough to throttle itself. I like it. It was good value and hasn't yet let me down.

        I wouldn't buy another Dell though, because they no longer offer the 1920 x 1200 screen this one has.

        The most interesting comment from the man Mr Pott interviewed concerned his frustration with the poor resolution offered by most laptops these days. This has been a common theme on Reg forums too.

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: Dell

          I can get a 10" tablet with a resolution higher than 1080p for $399. A 27" or better monitor with a resolution better than 1080p? $750 at least. #asdf

  11. Pat 11

    not just for having

    Silly cases notwithstanding, we always buy gaming hardware for our neuroscience / VR work. Price : performance ratio is generally twice as nice, and we have never experienced any reliability problems.

    Have to say though, the last Alienware desktop must have had lead block heatsinks, it took two people to lift the thing.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You call that reliable?

    I got an Alienware M17x instead. This lasted for nearly three years, but the right hinge on the monitor seized up about three months before the warrantee expired.

    The author obviously has a different definition of the word. I certainly wouldn't use it to describe a laptop hinge that fails in under 3 years!

    - Posted from an old Toshiba laptop that's seen daily use for 9 years.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: You call that reliable?

      I really do. There were a rash of bad hinges on the M15x and M17X that affected some low single-digit percentage of shipped systems. Alienware took care of all of them.

      There are failed units shipped with any product. What percentage fail - and how they are delt with - are the determining factors of reliability in my mind. But yeah, that XPS is still going strong, and I still use an old 386 beater notebook as my personal journal system to this day. I fully expect my M18x to match or exceed those records.

      1. Ramazan

        Re: What percentage fail - and how they are delt with

        Exactly. And mind you Apple refused to help with broken hinge on my MacBook Air because it happened after 28th of August, 2012. Am I guilty that this MacBook was used too gently and left my home only 4 times during its lifetime?

  13. Cal

    I'm on a Dell Studio 1745 with all the extra tricks added. I bought this beast when I was in Afghan on operational tour. Because it was going to be shipped BFPO, and because I was military, and that it was already on sale, plus some haggling on the phone, I managed to get a whopping £800 off it in the end.

    I do love it - it plays BF3 quite happily at medium settings which is good enough for me.

    The only downside I have with this particular Dell creation is that it gets -really fucking hot-.

    I've got a cooler underneath it which, well, I'm sure it's doing something, but I have to make sure I don't rest my left palm on the laptop or I'll get a burn if it's there long enough - I shit you not.

    However their customer care is spot on, and yeah, they're a strong brand, well known and I've never had any problems with them.

  14. ici.chacal

    I'm with Mr Potts on this one...

    I used to have an old XPS Gen2 as well, and still have very fond memories of it. I got rid a few years back since it was the last of the single-core CPU machines and I needed more juice. I then decided to try Sony, but mainly for portability reasons... Meh.

    A month ago I received my brand new M17xR4, complete with top-end GTX680M graphics chip and quad core Ivy Bridge CPU, and this thing flies..! I'm not kidding, this thing is mental..! I'm so glad that I have a modern equivalent of that old XPS again... The thing runs flawlessly, without getting too hot even when I'm playing Just Cause 2 for hours on end... (And in an Astro Scout backpack, it's not uncomfortable to lug around either...)

    Modern Alienware machines are to die for...

    (P.S. My brother got the M14xR2 at the same time, and that rocks too..!!)

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm on my second Alienware lap top...

    And I'll upgrade to a third just as soon as they finally do the 1920 x 1200 screen that I adore in my MX17R2 again.

    And anyone who bitches and says "oh they are shit" is just envious cause they don't have one.

    As for us Alienware owners.... We don't care about the moaning of second class computer owners - we can't hear you over the sound of how awesome we are.

  16. Ramazan

    broken hinge

    One would presume that Apple product would be of much better quality than all Alienwares of he world combined but this is not the case -- I had left hinge broken on very gently used MacBook Air due to production defect, and Apple refused to replace the part or refund the MacBook (it cost me more than $2100 back in the day).

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: broken hinge

      Apple is curious. Their construction quality is better than your run-of-the-mill Dell, but nowhere near as high as Alienware. It's somewhere in Asus Republic Of Gamers territory. Now, stories of great support and crappy support abound, complicated by weird agreements with resellers that differ not only per reseller, but per jurisdiction.

      When you deal with Apple, you aren't really dealing with Apple unless you buy it direct. Even Apple stores are under different agreements and constraints dependant on jurisdiction. The quality of service you get can be incredibly variable. Worse, they are completely immune to bad PR. They don't worry about it; they have zero attack surface.

      "You're holding wrong?" Doesn't matter. Crap Maps drove you into an ocean? Feature, not a bug.

      So Apple trundles along; mostly in favour of the milled masses because – overall – the RMA/end user support issues are the exception proving the rule. They can afford to ignore the existence of the support issues through sheer largesse, but also because these issues are reasonably rare.

      What will be interesting is to see what becomes of Apple's retail and RMA support situation now that the exec responsible for so many bad incidents has been canned.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    i like buying products

    just in case you forgot!

  18. daoxin

    I am typing this on a five year old Dell XPS1530 which apart from the graphics board solder needing reballing has not had a problem and is still performing well. Just sayin'.

  19. Mark Eaton-Park
    Thumb Down

    It might have been better if ..

    the author had titled the article " I actually quite like Alienware rigs even if other people think differently"

    If we assume that the reason for writing the article was in no way intended to get for instance a discount on his next alienware rig and was purely to express the authors own experiences then as a Jorno would it not have been professional to do a bit of research and include what other Alienware users had experienced rather than just assuming their personal experience is better because they were luckier then most.

    I bought a desktop replacement in 1994, a Fujitsu Siemens Amilo which was effectively a P4 HT 3GHz desktop system crammed into a 15" laptop case. It fitted my needs perfectly, a portable powerhouse and 1bar fire, however when it failed the company support refused to repair it.

    This resulted in my never buying anything from FujitsuSiemens again, is my experience and decision more valid than the other owners of this machine? I don't know as I haven't bothered to research other owners experiences or the company's failure rates.

    So to me Fujitsu Siemens are a crap brand trading on what used to be a good name but then again I am not a Jorno who writes articles for my beloved Reg so I expect people to make their own decisions.

    It doesnt matter if this is the Author's day job or not because from what I see he failed to do it, expert/unbiased or not, now like FS he is a suspect brand who has lost my confidence.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: It might have been better if ..

      In 1994 you bought a Fujistu and it sucked. You then bore a grudge for nearly twenty years refusing to buy anything from them again.


      I'll take my truly excellent Fujitsu P1510D and just exit over there. If your idea of unbiased is "never say something good about something I have ever experienced problems with," then I am personally quite pleased to not be in your good books. I don't cater the variegated grudged of anonymous text on the internet. To do so would be to never give any brand a second chance and consequently miss out on good, solid products after a company has a chance to get their crap together.

      More to the point, since you cannot find a single brand anywhere that someone doesn't have a hate on for, my "job" would be to hate all brands. Unless, of course, I happen to "dis" a brand that a given commenter likes. Then I'm a biased shill in the pay of the enemy, right?

      Please ensure the airlock comes to a complete close before pushing the blinking red button. Don't worry, that hissing sound you hear is nothing but your own credibility as an object assessor of technologies hissing away like a two decade-long grudge.

  20. Gravis Ultrarsound

    Stop the troll

    Congrats Trevor!

    Two pages of praising Alienware ... your trolling forced me to register and write a comment.

    Alienware is a pile of sh*ite. My wife bought a m5550 Alien for nearly 2000 pounds years ago (she liked the Alienware logo). Despite my strong misgivings we purchased this wunderbar ultra gaming laptop, so praised by paid-up reviewers. It was a disaster, the heat dissipation never worked as it should, eating graphics card after graphics card. A complete fraud of a laptop, the design was never capable of even modest gaming. The people who marketed and sold this as a 'premium' gaming platform are utter sleazebags in my honest blue eyes.

    Please, don't write another Alienware lovefest article, just the name 'Alienware' makes my blood pressure skyrocket and my vision blurry. Why don't you write a drooling article about something slightly positive like Scientology or STDs?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    alienware owner

    i have had my m17x r3 for a little over a year now, and it has already been surpassed by cheaper better computers however the 3d display is amazing just not really usable, it hurts your eyes and the glasses are a little bulky, the computer is definately portable, though it is hard to find a case that will fit it, it runs great and the 21gb of ram allows for 8gb dedication to minecraft, the keyboard though it looks nice, some keys get stuck and there is a little give build quality overall however is amazing, and it should be for the $4500 price tag. though last week i spent $1100 and built a desktop that performs better in all areas. so though if you want a laptop that is "luggable" go alienware or maybe a razer blade. but if portability is low on your list of necessities, build a pc you will save money and they are infinitely and easily upgradable...

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: alienware owner

      I never did get the whole "3D" matter who made them...

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm on my third fault now

    M17xR1 - now on third fault. Next-day business service is a joke as are the dregs of humanity who turn up on your doorstep to repair the machine.

    First fault (simple graphics card fan failure) seemed fine, no real hoops to jump through on phone. "Technician" turns up the day after he's supposed to with totally the wrong part so leaves. Next-day he's back, fits the replacement part and leaves - with the cpu fan! He signed off the fault himself. Maybe a one-off? Read on..

    Second fault is hard disk 2. "Technician" (who's quite obviously got serious substance abuse problems judging from his appearance) comes out with the wrong hard drive. Oh this was two days after he was supposed to arrive. He comes out with the wrong hard drive and its clearly been used before (packaging etc). I run a quick SMART extended test on it and there's interface errors.

    Alienware support (who are just plain Dell support in the UK as Euro Alienware support is in Slovakia and can't be contacted by UK technicians) are contacted by him and they say its OK we know about this, its not a problem its the NVidia controller. Bollox it is. I accept the part on the proviso the job is not signed off. Guess what happens? Mmmm job signed off and another technician forges my signature on his form...

    Frankly I hear all these stories about how Alienware support is great etc etc. It certainly might be in the US, but in Europe it is utter shite.

    Avoid like the plague is my advice as an ex-customer.

  23. TechGeezer

    Why haven't they done a smartphone?

    I'm actually surprised... Alienware has such a maverick design language, whey haven't they developed a smartphone or lent their name and design DNA to a mobile phone developer under license? Opportunity missed.... And what with WP8 featuring full integration with Windows 8/RT and XBox live the chance for Alienware to become a more integrated comms/gaming hub.

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