Alienware x17 R2 Review: An Alder Lake-H And RTX 3080 Ti Gaming Battleship
Alienware x17 R2: Relatively Tame Thermals, Acoustics, And Our Closing Thoughts
Packing top-notch hardware into a thin profile, and then coaxing high performance levels to match, is no easy task from an engineering standpoint. It requires careful thought for the cooling solution, fan profiles, and power budgets. To that end, the Alienware x17 R2 features what Dell calls its Cryo-tech cooling technology.
Part of that includes a special Element 31 thermal interface material (TIM) made of a Gallium-Silicone matrix. This is now available on all configurations, including the fully loaded system on display here. Each Alienware x17 R2 config also sports a quad-fan design with Smart Fan control technology, both of which Dell says it has patents pending for. Each of those fans can independently spin up or down, or remain steady depending what info the laptop pulls from its various sensors.
Also at play is what Dell calls its HyperEfficient (one word) Voltage Regulation technology. On the x17 R2 that we're looking at here, that translates to a 12-phase voltage regulation array for the graphics subsystem (the x15 features an 8-phase design and the x14 uses a 7-phase design). With a few simple Philips head screws pulled from the bottom cover, we can also see that the machine has both socketed SO-DIMM DDR5 memory slots, as well as dual socketed M.2 SSDs. Finally, it's 87 Whr battery is also easily user-serviceable in a pinch. This is what you might call the antithesis of an M1 MacBook build.
Alienware x17 R2 Thermal And Acoustic Performance
To push thermals and fan noise profiles, we fired up the 3DMark Stress Test and looped it 20 times until the machine's thermal solution was well saturated. As you can see, the Alienware x17 R2's Core i9-12900HK CPU and GeForce RTX 3080 Ti GPU can push some serious heat, though this Alienware battle station does a relatively good job of expelling toasty air. In fact, it passed the 3DMark Stress Test with 98% stability and very little thermal bleed.
The hottest spot of the machine resides just above the top row of the keyboard, in a small region on the bottom edge of its display bezel. At 133ºF you're not going to want to leave your hands resting on this spot for long, but fortunately that's not something to be concerned about in any real world use case. The rest of the Alienware x17 R2's keyboard deck stays comfortable to the touch even under load and as you can see, fan noise is also relatively tame for a gaming laptop. Any time we record under 50dB for a gaming laptop under heavy load, we call it a win.
Alienware x17 R2 Review Conclusion And Top Take-Aways
With the launch of both Intel's Alder Lake Mobile processor platform, combined with NVIDIA's new GeForce RTX 3080 Ti (and 3070 Ti) hitting the market on the same day, you might say we're a tad over-worked and sleep-deprived around here currently. However, it's all this new tech and newfound performance that gets us up in the morning; so all good as they say. And in that regard, the new Alienware x17 R2 gives us a lot to look forward to this year for gaming laptops. Infused with Intel's new 12th Gen Core series mobile processor technology (which, by the way, stay tuned for Marco's full Intel Alder Lake-H 12th Gen mobile platform coverage coming right up), along with NVIDIA's fastest, most powerful mobile GPU yet, we expected great things from this svelte but still spacious 17-inch machine, and we weren't disappointed. This new Alienware laptop put up some of the best benchmark scores we've ever experienced from a mobile platform, and if it weren't for having two similarly configured, hot-off embargo lift machines in house to test, it would have led the pack by a large margin across the board.
That said, rolling-up just a hair behind the new Intel 12th Gen-powered MSI GE76 Raider, with the same GPU on board, isn't really much of a miss. In fact, we'd expect Alienware to continue to tune the performance of the x17 R2 such that it could possibly close this small GPU-centric gap in the future. In addition, it's apparent to us that it's still a little early for the Alienware machine, as its software setup was a touch more finicky. And while there were no show-stoppers in that regard, a couple of hiccups from NVIDIA's drivers for Advance Optimus GPU output hinted that there was still some software tweaking to be done.
Regardless, the premium build quality of this machine is significantly nicer than the competitive MSI product. And if Alienware's Legend 2.0 design language catches your eye like it does ours, you have to agree it's one of the best looking gaming laptops on the market right now. We'd like a USB-C port or two on either side edge, but otherwise this is a well-behaved, slim and sleek beauty with serious gaming horsepower on board. Software and firmware updates can be tweaked and optimized, but hardware is locked down for the most part. While it's ever-so slightly softer gaming performance versus MSI held us back from an Editor's Choice award, we still highly recommend the new Alienware x17 R2 for anyone looking for a super-premium 17-inch gaming laptop. At $4799.99 as tested, its a steep price to pay, but in this day and age especially, the Alienware x17 R2 delivers the kind of performance and no-compromise laptop gaming experience you'd expect, and it looks pretty darn slick doing it.