Alienware 13 R2 Gaming Laptop And Graphics AMP Review

Alienware 13 R2 Design And Layout

The Alienware 13 R2 is the smallest gaming laptop Alienware offers (if you want to go bigger, Alienware also offers 15-inch, 17-inch, and even monstrous 18-inch models). It's not going to rival an Ultrabook or a 2-in-1 like the Surface Pro 4 in terms of portability, though for a gaming laptop, the weight (4.537 pounds) and dimensions (0.69-0.72 by 12.913 by 9.252 inches) aren't egregious.

Alienware 13 R2 Lid

One of the benefits of owning an Alienware system is having something that looks different than everything else that's out there. That's certainly true of the Alienware 13 R2. Three lines on the lid converge at the middle to give the illusion of a paneled design. Combined with the gray and black color scheme and an angled lip, the laptop looks like something you'd expect to find amid the debris of a downed UFO, perhaps in a lab at Area-51.

When the laptop is running, LED strips embedded into two of the lines glow blue, as does the Alienware logo at the top, which you can change or disable using the included AlienFX software. There's a definite gamer vibe going on here, one that would look out of place in board room meeting for an insurance firm.

Alienware 13 R2 Display

The real visual treat is when you flip open the lid and gaze at the QHD+ display. That equates to a 3200x1800 resolution, which is a lot of pixels to be packing in a 13.3-inch display. To prevent having to squint, Alienware configures Windows to magnify the icons by 250 percent, and of course you can adjust it to your own preference.

If you opt for the QHD+ display, you get a premium IPS (in-plane switching) panel built with IGZO (indium gallium zinc oxide) transistors driving the backplane. The advantage IGZO transistors have over standard amorphous silicon is higher electron mobility, which in turn leads to lower power consumption and less flicker. IGZO is one of the reasons why manufacturers can offer higher resolutions in smaller displays without completely borking battery life.

The QHD+ display option also supports touch, and it just so happens that another benefit of IGZO is less noise interference compared to traditional touch displays. In theory, touch panels with IGZO should be more sensitive to touch operation, especially when using thin input devices like the tip of a pen. As it applies to the Alienware 13 R2, it's more of an "Oh, cool" Snapple fact versus a real-world benefit.

Alienware 13 R2 Keyboard

As with most laptops, the Alienware 13 R2 uses a low profile keyboard. The keys are sized appropriately without any weird outliers -- sometimes smaller laptops shrink certain keys -- and the click action is snappy and consistent.

There's an adjustable backlight, which like the lighting effects on the lid can be controlled through the bundled AlienFX utility. You can also turn it off altogether to squeeze out additional battery life, provided it's needed (let's be real, if you're playing a game, you won't want to wander far from a power outlet).

Some of the Function keys include secondary functions, like brightness controls, turning Wi-Fi off and on, and enabling/disabling lighting effects. What you don't get is a dedicated number pad (there's just not enough room on a 13-inch laptop) or any macro keys.

Alienware 13 R2 Trackpad

The trackpad on the Alienware 13 R2 takes some getting used to. We don't have any qualms about its size or its center placement, it's the inconsistent sensitivity of of the left- and right-click controls, which are hidden underneath the trackpad (there aren't dedicated buttons) that is a bit off putting.

On our unit, a soft-tap is all it took to initiate a left-click, whereas a right-click input required actually pressing down where the right-button would be until there's an audible (and tactile) click. While frustrating at first, it's a pretty useful differentiation once the separate click actions become habit.

Alienware 13 R2 Ports Left Side

The left side of the laptop houses the power adapter port, security cable slot, USB 3.0 port with PowerShare (capable of charging devices when when the system is turned off), microphone port, and headset port.

Alienware 13 R2 Ports Right Side

It's a little more bare on the right side, which consists of a Thunderbolt 3 (USB Type-C) port, USB 3.0 port, and an RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet port.

Alienware 13 R2 Ports Back

There are two more ports to be found, both on the back. One is the external graphics port that connects to the Alienware Graphics Amplifier and the other is an HDMI 2.0 output.

Alienware 13 R2 Inside

There's a removable panel on the bottom of the laptop that offers easy access to certain components, like the RAM and storage. All that stands in your way are a few screws and some tabs.

Before you take apart the laptop, we suggest referencing Alienware's handy service manual (PDF) with detailed instructions on how to remove and replace a wide variety of parts and components.

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