Design and User Experience
The 15.6-inch display is bright and easy to view from just about any angle. The same goes for lighting: I found it easy to view under harsh office lighting, outside, and in dimly-lit settings. The edge around the screen is a bit thick (nearly an inch on the sides and more than an inch by the webcam), but if anything, that adds to the sense of sturdiness I get from the system. The lid doesn’t vibrate visibly when I open it or when I bump the desk.
That sturdy and simple design carries over to the keyboard, which is full size. The keys are large, the Backspace key is full size (crucial, in my book) and the arrow keys are slightly offset from the others, making them easy to find without looking down. The keyboard lacks a dedicated number pad, but it has a row of customizable Alienware TactX keys on the left side that are likely to be more useful in-game than as a number pad. They support tons of customizations, including keystrokes, textblocks, and other functions. They also support multiple profiles, each of which has its own color.
The keyboard has multi-colored backlighting that you can customize to meet your gaming (or aesthetic) preferences. The lights are bright, but not overpowering, and level of control you have over customization is excellent: The keyboard breaks into four separate lighting zones. The software that controls the keyboard lights also controls the lights that appear on the lid and other parts of the Alienware 15.
The trackpad lights up, which is a nice touch. The left- and right-click buttons are large and the trackpad itself is plenty large (and responsive) enough to be used for gaming in a pinch.
Alienware loaded the 15 with ports. Most of them are on the sides, but a few are at the back of the system. The laptop’s right side houses the power port, a lock port, a PowerShare USB 3.0 port, another USB 3.0 port, and audio jacks.
On the left side you’ll find a media card reader, two USB 3.0 ports, and a Gigabit Ethernet port. The back of the system houses a mini Display Port and an HDMI port, as well as an Alienware Graphics Amplifier port. The Amplifier is a separate device that uses a desktop graphics card to improve the Alienware 15’s graphics capabilities, which we’ll take a look at on the next page.
The bottom of the system has four large, rubber feet that hold the laptop off the desk for airflow. A quarter of the underside is covered by metal mesh for the same reason. Opening the bottom panel is as easy as removing two screws, and both the storage drive and memory slots are within easy reach. Unfortunately, the only upgrade path is to replace components, rather than add them.