Alienware 13 R2 Gaming Laptop And Graphics AMP Review

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Alienware 13 R2 Introduction And Specifications

You could almost hear the collective groan from the enthusiast community when Dell announced it had purchased Alienware, in what now feels like 100 years ago. It has actually been just shy of a decade since Dell took ownership, and rather than let the Alienware brand wither into irrelevance like some other boutique vendors that were later absorbed by major OEMs (Voodoo who?), Dell's gaming gear division has continued to thrive and innovate with the help of the company's deeper resources.

If we're being totally honest (as we always are), passionate consumers come out of the woodwork whenever the Alienware name is invoked. Some are rational and offer up observational criticism or praise, as well as personal anecdotes, though we've seen our share of both blind bashing and enthusiasm as well.

Aliewnare 13 R2 Stock

We bring this up because the Alienware 13 R2 gaming laptop is yet another finely crafted and interesting product that shows why the boutique brand is in the right hands, and to characterize it one way or another just because it's an Alienware system would be a mistake. It's not perfect, nor is it inexpensive, but there's a lot to like about this specialized machine, starting with its optional 3200x1800 resolution display.

To accommodate a variety of budgets and needs, there are actually three display options, including an HD 1366x768 panel, a Full HD 1080p 1920x1080 IPS panel, and the aforementioned QHD+ display, which is an IGZO IPS display with touch support.

As configured for this review, the 13.3-inch machine is powered by a 6th Generation Intel Core i7-6500U dual-core processor (Skylake), 16GB of DDR3L 1600MHz RAM, and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M GPU. A 256GB PCIe SSD keeps things moving along as the boot drive, and the rest of the specs you can peruse below.

Alienware 13 R2 Keyboard Backlight

Alienware 13 R2
Specifications & Features
Processor Options 6th Gen Intel Core i7-6500U (4M Cache, 2.5GHz to 3.1GHz)
13.3-inch QHD+ (3200x1800) IGZO IPS TrueLife 400 nits w/ Touch
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M w/ 2GB GDDR5
PNY GeForce GTX 980 XLR8 w/ 4GB GDDR5 via Graphics Amplifier
16GB DDR3L 1600MHz (8GBx2)
256GB PCIe Solid State Drive
Optical N/A
Ethernet GbE LAN
Wireless Connectivity
Killer 1535 802.11ac 2x2 WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1
Interface (Left)
USB 3.1; Audio Out 1/8" ports; Headphone 1/8" port; Noble Lock; Power/DC-in Jack
Interface (Right
Thunderbolt 3 (USB Type-C); USB 3.1; GbE LAN
Interface (Back) HDMI 2.0; Alienware Graphics Amplifier port
Full HD 2MP w/ dual digital microphones
Operating System
Windows 10 Home 64-Bit
Battery 4-cell Lithium Ion (51 Wh)
Dimensions Front: 1.04 inches (26.34mm)
Rear: 1.098 inches (27.9mm)
Height (base): 0.69 inches (17.5mm) to 0.72 inches (18.3mm)
Depth: 9.252 inches (235mm)
Width: 12.913 inches (328mm)
4.537 pounds (2.058Kg)
Manufacturer Warranty
1 year
Pricing $2,599.97 as configured ($1,699.99 w/o Graphics Amplfier + GTX 980)

It's a solid foundation, though for some it might be tough to get excited about a GeForce GTX 960M. This is where things get interesting. Dell also offers (and sent us for testing) an Alienware Graphics Amplifier accessory. It's an external box that holds a desktop class graphics card -- in this case, a PNY GeForce GTX 980 XLR8 -- and plugs into the back of the Alienware 13 over a custom connector. The idea is to offer higher end graphics performance at home in desktop replacement fashion while still functioning as a serviceable gaming laptop on the road.

Is it worth it? There are pros and cons to this approach, which we'll cover in-depth in on the pages ahead. But before we get to the benchmarks, let's take a closer look at the full set of hardware and features.

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