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Screw the consoles: After three years of design, Alienware launches a trio of gaming laptops

Alienware is launching three new laptops today based on Intel’s new Haswell microprocessors that deliver better graphics and less power consumption.

The new Alienware 14, Alienware 17, and Alienware 18 have all-new industrial designs, with distinctive touches that make the machines immediately recognizable. They represent the high-end of portable gaming, and they won’t embarrass you if you take them to a LAN party. Everything about the design is meant to convey that you are a gaming bad-ass, because Alienware wants to make sure that you don’t need no stinkin’ consoles.

“It’s a pretty big change for us in how we design,” said Frank Azor (pictured), general manager of the Alienware business, in an interview with GamesBeat. “And they still have more performance than we have ever put in any of our products. We reinvented ourselves with this new industrial design.”

alienware 2The machines are based on Intel’s Haswell microprocessors, which are a lot more power efficient than past models. Alienware was acquired by Dell in 2006 and it remains a “master brand” and is run as a separate entity in Florida. That allows Alienware to go its own way in designing what it thinks is best for gamers. It helps that PC gaming is seeing a resurgence with titles like World of Tanks and League of Legends.

The new laptops are the first major redesign of the Alienware industrial design since 2009. Taking advantage of more power-efficient chips, these models have 20 percent less volume than the last models released a year ago based on Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors.

Hardcore PC gamers haven’t always liked laptops. They have lugged around desktops to gaming parties, known as LAN parties, for years. But Azor said, “We decided there had to be an easier way.”

Alienware collected a lot of feedback over the past few years from gamers about what they want. The new machines have features that consumers have asked for, like colorful light-emitting diode (LED) streaks along the sides of the machine. The touchpad is fully illuminated with bright LEDs. The neon-bright lights under the keyboard also keep the machines glowing, but you can turn those off  if you’re playing an intense game.

You can change the colors as you like. There are ten lighting zones and 10 trillion color combinations. People can create their own color themes as they like. The company has partnerships with 55 game publishers so they can take over the lights when something is happening in the game.

While the previous Alienware machines had a vintage “Roswell style” look to them, these new machines are built on a futuristic alien theme. The keyboard had been widely praised in the past, but Alienware took surveys of customers and a slightly redesigned keyboard tested the most positively. It has a steel-reinforced plate underneath the board. The key caps are larger for a more comfortable typing experience, and the light around each key is no longer there. The letters are a little larger and the lighting is not as bright in your face. The keyboard has 19 customizable keys so you can fire weapons more easily.

Alienware will offer a bunch of Intel processor options, including Core i7 versions of the processors. The 17-inch and 18-inch versions will support Extreme Editions of Intel’s processors, and the 14-inch can be overclocked as high as 4.3-gigahertz. They will all launch with Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 7X family of graphics processors. The 14 will have up to Nvidia GeForce GTX 765 graphics. The 17 and 18 models will have options for GTX 765, 770, and 780 graphics cards. The 18-inch will feature dual Nvidia cards operating in SLI mode. They have 8 gigabytes of main memory and 750-gigabyte hard drives.

The 14-inch supports up to three storage drives, while the 17 and 18 support up to four storage drives. About 60 percent of the structure is metal. The base frame is made from magnesium alloy. The back panel is all aluminum, all one piece. The Alienware 14 has an IPS panel, while the Alienware 18 has a PLS display, with full high-definition resolution. The speakers are from Klipsch and the Ethernet ports are based on the Killer Networks NIC designs from Qualcomm. The models have 802.11n Killer networking on the 14. The 17 and 18 have 5G WiFi from Broadcom, or 802.11ac.

Alienware can monitor the performance of the machine while it runs games. A new app dubbed Accelerator will disable a lot of Windows services and turn off background operations so that you’ll have a lot of free main memory. The 17 and 18 platforms have HDMI in ports. The screen and speakers can serve as output. Alienware also designed its own backpack to go with the laptops. There are five designs across 11 SKUs. All of the ports stick out so that they will work with any device.

Most people are going to play with the machines plugged into a wall. In terms of battery life, the machines have 7 hours on the 14, 6 hours on the 17, and three to four hours on the 18. The 14 weighs 6 pounds, the 17 weighs 10 pounds, and the 18 weighs almost 12 pounds.

“We don’t share performance on the silicon on any of the chips,” Azor said. “The GPU and CPU can run at 100 percent. That’s a design tenet of Alienware’s. Gamers don’t want their CPU throttled in a game. These are not compromise products, and that is why they are the size and weight that they are.”

The Alienware 14 will sell for $1,199 with an i7, Nvidia GeForce GT 750M, 8 gigabytes of RAM, and a 750 gigabyte hard drive. The Alienware 17 is $1,499 with the same specs except an Nvidia GeForce GTX 765 graphics card. The Alienware 18 will sell for $2,099 with dual Nvidia GeForce GTX 765 graphics cards.

Of the consoles, Azor said, “They were ahead for about six months, but we destroyed them for the last seven years.”

Here is our video interview with Azor.

[Photo credits: Dean Takahashi]

 


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