I'll admit we're getting a pretty solid workout with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M. There are reasons, though. First, the 780M's performance has been very inconsistent since it launched. While some notebooks just needed driver updates (like the Alienware 18), most needed a BIOS update and driver update after the fact. And there's no getting around the fact that the 780M seems to be just plain underperforming. Is part of that due to Haswell? Certainly; for gamers, Haswell as an upgrade over Ivy Bridge is disappointing to say the least. But I suspect there's BIOS and/or driver tweaking still yet to be done to bring the 780M in line with where it really ought to be.

The other reason is that AMD just plain didn't show up to this party. There's a Radeon HD 8970M on the market, but AMD's Enduro is still a bit of a mess, and the 8970M itself is just a rebrand of the 7970M, a chip which already has a hard time competing with the 680M. If I were a betting man I'd expect actual competition to the 780M to materialize sometime in October or November. Hopefully the 780M's issues will have been completely ironed out by then.

Of course, with all that said, the 780M still works pretty well, and NVIDIA's SLI technology is incredibly sound and sturdy. The Alienware 18 boasts dedicated cooling for each GPU and the CPU, and the Intel Core i7-4900MQ should give the two 780Ms plenty of breathing room.

PCMark 7 (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark 11

The Futuremarks are as kind to the Alienware 18 as they ought to be. What I want to point out is the PCMark 7 score. The MSI GT70 Dragon we tested is using three SSDs in RAID 0 while the Alienware 18 has to "make do" with a single 512GB (though you can certainly put multiple SSDs into it and stripe them), yet their PCMark 7 scores (a benchmark notoriously SSD friendly) are almost identical. While modern SSDs are hitting bandwidth limitations on SATA, I feel like you'd be hard pressed to really notice a difference with higher throughput in any practical applications.

Cinebench R11.5 - Single-Threaded Benchmark

Cinebench R11.5 - Multi-Threaded Benchmark

x264 HD 5.x

x264 HD 5.x

I'd be interested in figuring out why Haswell is underperforming in the Alienware notebooks, though. In our synthetics, the Alienware 17 and now the 18 just aren't stacking up where they ought to be, especially our x264 testing. Performance isn't alarmingly poor, but they're definitely having trouble keeping up with Clevo's Haswell implementations.

In and Around the Alienware 18 Gaming Performance
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  • scook9 - Tuesday, September 17, 2013 - link

    Was wondering where you were ;)

    Ya, it is apples and oranges. But with the expensive desktop replacements people always make the comparison. He left out the screen, UPS, mouse, keyboard, speakers, lighter weight, can be started up anywhere not just at a wall, etc. The list goes on and on. Can you carry on a Mini ITX desktop and use it in flight? There is also a nice benefit to not having to sync your digital life between a laptop and desktop (assuming that most people still want/need some element of mobility) since you can have one high power system that is also mobile.

    It is actually surprisingly easy to make the choice to spend $4k on a laptop :)
    Reply
  • cjb110 - Tuesday, September 17, 2013 - link

    For a certain market (that your obviously not in) its a valid comparison point.
    Also utterly harmless to the review as a whole.
    Reply
  • Trippynet - Tuesday, September 17, 2013 - link

    Glad to see I'm not the only one who's disappointed by the appearance of a glossy panel. Matte panels FTW! Reply
  • Pathfindercod - Tuesday, September 17, 2013 - link

    I am a photographer and use the 18 for gaming and photo editing. I generally hate glossy screens. But this one on the 18 really isnt that bad. its glossy but not over the top wet paint type gloss. It actually is nice IMO and im coming back over from the Mac side back to windows 7..... Reply
  • Maiphet - Friday, September 20, 2013 - link

    It would be more applicable to most people if manufacturers sent review configurations that were more in the middle of the spectrum. There's a huge gap between the base model's $2k and the review model at almost $4k. Manufacturers want people to know what their high end systems can do, but most buyers won't spend that high. Maybe companies could send 2 models, and the reviewer could touch on all the same points, but include the second set of benchmarks for anyone without $4,000 burning a hole in their pockets. Reply
  • Wolfpup - Wednesday, September 25, 2013 - link

    Man, if I win the lottery I'm getting an 18 lol. Sooo crazy but I can barely afford the 17. Reply
  • Wolfpup - Friday, November 8, 2013 - link

    Ugh, I'm soooo tempted by this. Obviously cost is the main factor (might as well get two GTX 780s if you're doing it) but also I'm worried about finding a bag that fits it. My M17x-R4 was tough enough to find a bag for. And the thing is, mine is perfectly portable, it's not the size or weight, it's just most bags fit 15" and that's about it...

    So awesome to see that a second 780 can actually come close to doubling performance in some games. That's sure different from how SLI started out!
    Reply
  • orlbuckeye - Monday, February 10, 2014 - link

    Dell has a bag specifically desinged for the Alienware 18. It's also desinged to be TSA security friendly. Reply
  • squidsurprise - Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - link

    So it's been about a year - they are already putting 880s instead of 780s.... will there be a refresh? Or just throw in the new 990s? Is there any news? Reply
  • frodbonzi - Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - link

    I assume you meant 980s.... and yeah, wonder if there will be a refresh soon... Reply

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