If you read the review of the Alienware 17, this part is going to be pretty familiar to you. While the original Alienware M18x looked like they took the M17x R3's chassis design and just stretched it out, the 18 looks like a more proportional super-size of the 17. It's really about as attractive as an 18.4" behemoth is going to get, but users who aren't interested in a 12 pound notebook need not apply.

As with the Alienware 17, we have an aluminum lid with accent lighting, bevelled body with lit trim, and soft touch plastic used on the majority of the touchable surfaces. I know a lot of you don't like how Alienware notebooks look, but I really have to stress that photos don't do them justice. I wasn't a fan either until I actually laid hands on and spent time with the M17x R3, and the same was true of the 17 and now the 18. Once you sit there and use the notebook, you start to dig it. The configurable lighting can be as ostentatious or mundane as you like; I configured mine magenta simply because you never see anyone with a magenta-backlit notebook.

With all that said, my reservations about the Alienware 17's keyboard and touchpad continue to apply to the 18. I'm not a fan of the revised keyboard layout as the programmable keys above the number pad make virtually no sense, and I never liked the column of programmable keys next to the primary keyboard on the original M18x. If you navigate a keyboard by touch, you're used to feeling for the Control key by finding the bottom left of the keyboard. On this keyboard, you'll wind up hitting the 5th macro key instead of Control. If Alienware is going to continue to include these keys, they need to adjust their position so that they're more distinct from the rest of the keyboard.

I'm also still not a fan of the backlit touchpad and vastly prefer the lit trim on the old model. Backlighting the touchpad just creates this giant block of light whenever you use it, and while you can certainly disable it, you can't disable paying for it.

The interior is also a lot less user friendly than it used to be. The primary panel only reveals the drive bay and two DIMM slots. Thankfully, one of the major benefits of Dell owning Alienware is that detailed service manuals for end users continue to be readily available for Alienware notebooks.

Gallery: Alienware 18

I like how the Alienware 18 looks a lot more than I did the M18x and M18x R2, even if it feels even bulkier than those beasts. As far as I'm concerned, something like this is basically an all-in-one in a different shape and without the touchscreen. I'm still more bullish on the Alienware 17 for the majority of users, but at least the 18 is more justifiable than its predecessors were.

Introducing the Alienware 18 System and Futuremark Performance
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  • Pathfindercod - Monday, September 16, 2013 - link

    Ive had my 18 for a month and my 14 for 3 weeks. My 18 has the 4800 cpu, 780 sli, 16gb ram, I took out the stock 750gbd hd, put two 512gb Samsung 840 pros' and a Plextor 256gb mSATA. I absolutely love this 18, it is pretty amazing for a laptop. My 14 is quite impressive for a 14" laptop, the 1080p panel is great IMO. I did calibrate them with my Spyder 4 Elite, but they are great panels in both of the machines. Reply
  • Pathfindercod - Monday, September 16, 2013 - link

    Oh and Alienware cant seem to keep up with demand... This is my first real Alienware computer and im happy i decided to get one. Reply
  • nathanddrews - Monday, September 16, 2013 - link

    Conspiracy!

    Notice how the 780M scores 7,970 points in Fire Strike? 7970. Yeah, right!

    (tongue planted firmly in cheek)
    Reply
  • xTRICKYxx - Monday, September 16, 2013 - link

    I wish the panel was 2560x1440 or something high-res in that respect. Even a 120hz panel would have been better than the IPS. Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, September 16, 2013 - link

    In most games it looks like 780m SLI wouldn't be fast enough to feed either of those options reasonably well. Only half the games scored well above 60 FPS, and since going to 2560x1440 would roughly double the amount of work very few would be playable at the higher resolution.

    Depending on what, if anything, the new consoles do to put upward pressure on the performance of top level systems we might be able to do that with next years die shrunk mobile GPUs. Then again if new games end up doubling the amount of GPU they demand we'll still be stuck in the same situation. Maybe nVidia/AMD will get 3way GPU support working well enough to create even more massive laptops that could do it in that case.
    Reply
  • kogunniyi - Monday, September 16, 2013 - link

    How does your impression of the build quality of the 17/18 stack up with that of any of the workstations you have tested? Reply
  • boeush - Monday, September 16, 2013 - link

    In concordance with what xTRICKYxx posted previously, I also find the measly 1080p resolution on an 18"+ laptop monitor, just plain offensive. Never mind that it's a glossy monitor, and with a rather ho-hum color gamut and contrast to boot -- in a system that (when fully tricked out) costs $4,000+ (not including tax and shipping...) The monitor on this thing is nothing short of a flat-out insult.

    Never mind that the chassis is over-sized for both the monitor and the keyboard (or, conversely, the monitor and the keyboard are under-sized for the chassis.)

    And really, who the hell needs 32 GB or RAM? And who'd need the hard drive when there's 512 GB of SSD available? These seem like pretty stupid choices to me. I'd rather have that space taken up by a larger battery (maybe something like 50% larger): lord knows, the chassis is big enough to accommodate it!

    On the whole, this design seems like a bunch of cost-cutting compromises and design block reuse, in a system that's supposed to be a top-of-the-range, aspirational, halo product. FAIL
    Reply
  • boeush - Monday, September 16, 2013 - link

    Oh and also, forgot to mention: why, WHY, would anyone configure a premium performance-oriented system like this, with DDR3L-1600 memory??

    Seems to me, 2400 ought to be the minimum here (and yes, 16 GB of RAM would still quite suffice at least for the next 5 years or so...)
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, September 16, 2013 - link

    Probably because that's the fastest sodimm widely available. Mobile memory isn't generally available in faster than official JDEC speeds. I just checked Newegg, they had 84 sodimm items at 1600, 9 at 1833, and none at higher speeds. The low number of available sodimms at that speed means Dell would probably be concerned about sustaining availability if they offered them. The lower voltage doesn't really do much in laptop as power hungry as this, but it doesn't hurt either; and it's probably significantly cheaper for Dell to use the same 8GB dimms in this beast as the other 99% of 16GB laptops where the lower voltage is a benefit. Reply
  • boeush - Monday, September 16, 2013 - link

    Well, DELL being an OEM (with rather large production volumes), ought to be able to source the memory it needs directly from manufacturers -- without having to go through retail channels (and eat the retail markup) like Newegg. Apple does it, and its customers pay the premium for the resulting premium products. That arrangement makes sense. Alienware wants to charge a premium for its product, but cuts corners on design costs? FAIL

    Also, even if 2400 is for some reason impractical using today's manufacturing processes, at least provide 1833 if not 2133 -- both of which are actually available even through the retail channel (and really, there is no point in going with low-voltage memory on a performance-oriented laptop with friggin' SLI...)
    Reply

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