Dell Alienware 17 R3 review – high-performance gaming laptop


  1. Chris

    March 8, 2016 at 6:20 am

    Hello, great review! I have the exact same configuration and I also love it. I was wondering if you’ve discovered where to find replacement a replacement battery. I recently learned in the Alienware 17r3 manual that this battery is only rated for 300 discharges and I would love to have a few backups just in case! Thanks again

    • Derek Sullivan

      March 8, 2016 at 1:17 pm

      I’m sure Dell has part numbers for that stuff. I haven’t looked for anything 3rd party yet though since it’s not that old. I’ve never heard of a battery that only lasts 300 cycles though. Maybe that’s just be what they guarantee before it wears or something? If it’s Li-polymer, it should last just as long as everyone else’s.

  2. John

    March 8, 2016 at 10:40 am

    Thanks for a balanced review. It’s good to have an insight into the hardware (things like the second NVMe slot being x2 instead of x4 for example) pros and cons.

    I have read several other reviews of this model and they all read good. I’ve also watched some owners videos on YouTube.

    I’ve decided to buy one of these.

    My other runner for the buy was the ASUS UX501 with the 15.6″ 4k screen, it lost out because the gamut is not as consistently high between reviews, whereas the Alienware is consistently high on all the reviews.

    I plan to use mine for some gaming but my main use will be photography and astrophotography, where I’ll connect it up to my telescopes camera. the norm is to capture hundreds of images (at 24MP in my case) and then process them together to get a stunning picture. This takes a lot of processing power. The 4k screen will allow me to see the fine details of the images.

    Having read SSD speeds for this model I will definitely buy a faster SSD (a 512GB 950 maybe), put that in slot 1 and put the Dell supplied SSD in slot 2. I’ll do this on day 1 and before going on the internet, so there will be no risk of having to re-activate Windows again.

    I’m contemplating buying another SSD to replace the hard drive, to save power and heat, but first I will compare values for the current hard drive with those of SSD’s like the Samsung EVO.

    • Derek Sullivan

      March 8, 2016 at 1:25 pm

      Don’t forget that if you need the processing power, you can also get a model with an i7-6820HK. It’s going to cost you though…

      To be honest, I would take any SSD over the one supplied by Dell. I’ve noticed zero real life improvement of these cheap NVMe drives over Sata M.2. Definitely buy yourself a Samsung 950 with the stuff you’re doing. As for the HDD, I bought a 950 Evo 1TB drive about a year ago for about $300. It’s perfect for my needs and I appreciate the extra speed, even if it’s just used as a storage drive. Also not hearing the HDD anymore is a plus. I plan on moving that drive over to the AW as soon as I get the time to gut my GS60.

      • John

        March 8, 2016 at 2:44 pm

        Thanks Derek :-)

        I was indeed going to go for the 6820HK ;-)

        1TB EVO was in my mind too!

        I do hope the battery lasts longer than that, surely a typo??

      • Derek Sullivan

        March 8, 2016 at 3:03 pm

        You mean the cycles? I’m sure it’s either an error or them just covering their butts to prevent warrantying the battery. Honestly, I’ve never read the manuals for any of these things so I don’t know what the competitor products claim. All I know is Li-ion/Li-polymer batteries usually last way longer than I ever use them.

      • John

        March 8, 2016 at 3:40 pm

        Yes, me too!

        My phone batteries last 3-4 years and I recharge them daily.

        One thing not to do is buy spare batteries and store them, as they degrade on the shelf. Better to wait a couple of years and then see if you need to buy replacement batteries.

  3. Matt

    March 9, 2016 at 11:45 pm

    I am surprised that the fans are quiet – my Alienware 17 (couple of generations old, 780m Gfx) is very loud – even when simply using chrome. I do wonder if I have something wrong with the system!

    • Derek Sullivan

      March 10, 2016 at 1:29 am

      I think it’s all about the fan profile – the fans in the r1 need to run a lot faster to cool a 780m than they do for a 980m. Also, I think Alienware has the fans going at a lot slower speed than they probably should, which is why my thermals on the chassis are so high for day to day tasks. When I manually turn the fans up, those temperatures plummet so it’s pretty clear Alienware was aiming for quietness over overall case thermals. I’ll post the thermals for the fans being on full blast here soon.

      Another thing about your system might be dust – considering it’s a couple years old, there might be a lot of dust in the heat sink that is impeding air flow. The fans will need to spin a lot faster to get the necessary cooling in that case.

      • Matt

        March 10, 2016 at 11:21 pm

        Re: Dust

        I do use compressed air cans to get the dust out, but it tends to revert after a day or so, even after a disassable, clean, reassemble

  4. Andrew

    March 10, 2016 at 6:18 am

    Good review. Can you add the HWInfo stats during idle, casual browsing, gaming and prime95 load tests ? Similar to the Acer Predator 15 & 17 reviews. I think it would helpful to those who are deciding between the machines in this class. That would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  5. Dave

    March 13, 2016 at 9:00 am

    Just thought I better point out that the r3 only has 2 ram slots. It was the older r1 that has 4 slots

  6. John

    March 14, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    Hi Derek,

    Just ordered mine 8-)

    I went for the 6820HK, 8GB RAM, 4K screen, 980M with 8GB, but just the 1TB SATA drive.

    I’ll wait for the 1TB 950 PRO to come out (soon they say) and see if the price of 512’s drop. I’ll upgrade to 2 x 512’s and also later on to 32GB of fast RAM, some are changing to G.Skill and it works.

    As I live offshore I got the VAT off, making it a mere £1,582.49.


    • Derek Sullivan

      March 14, 2016 at 1:17 pm

      Great to hear – let us know how you like it! I actually just upgraded to an 950 Pro 512GB yesterday. Totally worth it! My boot time didn’t really improve over the stock NVMe but I think I can tell a difference with some programs. It could just be in my head. :)

      I’ll be gutting my GS60 later this week to salvage the other M.2 sata in it and get it ready to sell. One thing I want to try(while I have the GS60 opened up) is the 2133 DDR3L Ram. It’s not DDR4, like in the AW, but the timings are better. I’m just curious if that’s the reason why my PCMark score was a little lower than the competition.

  7. Tad

    March 23, 2016 at 12:17 am

    Hey Derek,

    I am about to order one of these, but I actually just saw that the Acer Predator 17 got a better score, but by a different reviewer. What is your opinion between the two?

    Also curious about the graphics amp. When it is in use, is it only using the GPU in the amp? So maybe I could get a 970m to save some money towards a better card in the amp? I would also extend my battery life by a good bit, which will be very helpful when video editing and not plugged in.

    And Great Review. Thanks for the help

    • Derek Sullivan

      March 23, 2016 at 1:21 am

      Yeah, I’ve never handled the Predator but Andrei and I have touched base a little to make sure our thermals and tests were somewhat consistent. I think the Acer will run cooler out of the box, but the AW has the potential to run cool as well, granted you know how to edit the fan profile. In a lot of ways, the two machines are very comparable. Pros to the AW are a second M.2 slot, color options on the keyboard and possibly quieter fans. But the Predator has the DVD burner, a faster stock SSD and possibly better sound. In the end, it may come down do having Thunderbolt 3 support and the AW graphics amplifier port, which AW has the clear advantage with. I don’t think you could go wrong with either machine really.

      When it’s using an external GPU, only one GPU is used. It doesn’t go into SLI or anything. And as for the video card, if you aren’t hardcore into gaming, the 970M is a great card to have. I’m not positive but I don’t think it will save you battery choosing it over the 980M though because once you’re on battery, the dedicated GPU will run at the highest frequency that the battery can supply in terms of watts. So odds are 970M and 980M will throttle to about the same frequency and draw roughly the same load.

      • Tad

        March 23, 2016 at 2:32 am

        Thanks for the help, I will go with the 980m. But now I have to decide if it is worth the extra money for the 6820 over the 6700. And you have me convinced to get the 4k screen too. At least I know the SSD is slow, and I can go cheaper there and upgrade it myself.

      • Derek Sullivan

        March 23, 2016 at 12:30 pm

        The 6820 is a nice CPU but I’m not sure it’s worth the extra cost. For tasks like Video editing that might be useful, but for gaming, I don’t think you’d be able to tell the difference. You can also OC it, which might be an interest to you. I steered clear solely on cost, but you might be able to justify it more since you probably do more CPU intensive stuff than I do. Good luck on your decision.

  8. Diego

    May 13, 2016 at 9:24 am

    If I’ll be playing on a table with a mouse Pretty often should I get a cooling pad? I bought the aw 17 r3 with 970m. I’m new to laptop gaming and I want this to last as long as possible I’m not sure what all needs to be done to take care of it and have it run a long time. D

    • Derek Sullivan

      May 16, 2016 at 3:33 pm

      Sorry for the late reply. There’s really no need for a cooling pad on this one. I have one and it doesn’t cool any more effective than the system can cool itself. The key is to not block the bottom vents completely, which is pretty hard given how big they are. The only way I could see this potentially being an issue is if you used it on a bed or something. But for your use on a table, you’ll have no problems in the long term.

  9. Dayis

    May 27, 2016 at 5:22 pm

    I so want to order this monster but I have a few questions before I do. Can 17 r3 users use the hdmi/usb thunderbolt port and plug into a 2560 1600 monitor or a 4k LG/Samsung and still have higher resolutions, I wouldn’t play games but the ability for a laptop to have 4k one screen and extend to 2560×1600 or another 4k tv for work seems amazing. Or does it require a graphics amplifer?

    • Alex

      July 11, 2016 at 12:58 am

      It will run on a 4K tv no issues when I game in the living room

  10. Estefany

    June 29, 2016 at 9:40 pm

    Hi, I loved your review and I have a few questions….I almost buy this computer but in youtube I heard many people saying that it gets pretty hot after 15 minutes and that worries me…thats why I’ve been lookink for another one and I found asus rog 752, but the battery lasting doesnt convince me….So which would you recommend me? it’s the hot controlable? help pleaseeee…And sorry if I have mistakes I speak spanish :)

    • Derek Sullivan

      June 30, 2016 at 2:30 am

      The temperatures I posted in both scenarios were taken after more than 15 minutes. There’s really not much more I can add to that. It’s tough to listen to others opinions because everyone’s definition of “hot” is different. Frankly, all gaming laptops get hot. I found the cooling on this one to be more than adequate though. And if you’re really concerned, just turn on performance mode in the bios and the fans will keep it as cool as can be – but also as loud as can be as well.

  11. Scott S

    October 13, 2016 at 8:34 pm

    I just got my Alienware 17 R4 with the 4k screen. I’m exchanging it because it has backlight bleed all along the bottom edge and right edge of the screen. Also, be warned that the 4k screen does not have gsync. I asked a Dell sale’s rep before I made the purchase if the 4k screen had gsync. I was assured that it did. Alas, the computer has optimus and is not gsync compatible. I am contemplating a refund.

  12. Andy

    November 23, 2016 at 9:34 am

    I wish mine could get anywhere close to those temperatures. Mine idles at 60 and goes up to 90s in the witcher 3. :(

  13. john will

    March 6, 2017 at 8:40 am

    so the nvidia graphic card is not integrated? or just same as intel?
    thank you!

    • Derek Sullivan

      March 6, 2017 at 1:35 pm

      It's switchable with Optimus. Intel and nvidia

      • john will

        March 6, 2017 at 1:36 pm

        So i can upgrade to 1k nvidia series?

      • Derek Sullivan

        March 6, 2017 at 1:43 pm

        GPU is soldered on that model unfortunately. Not upgradable unless you buy a new motherboard.

      • john will

        March 6, 2017 at 1:45 pm

        Okay then, thank you so much!

  14. Tony

    November 11, 2020 at 4:01 am

    Will you be doing an updated Alienware m17 R3 or m51? Maybe I have missed them on here but I am not seeing any for the recent alienware laptops.

    • Andrei Girbea

      November 11, 2020 at 11:55 am

      Unfortunately, we don't have a good source of Alienware laptops, as Dell does not send them to us for reviews and we're a small project and can't afford to buy that many laptops just for articles, so no promise.

  15. Tony

    November 12, 2020 at 6:37 am

    Thank you for the reply. By any chance do you have any opinion on them from what you have heard. I have been bouncing between numerous laptops, including ones you have suggested to me elsewhere. I use my laptop on a lap board and always have it plugged in. I like 17 inch screens. Right now I am considering

    Asus ROG Scar 17
    Alienware M17 R3
    Predator Helios 300 maybe a 700
    MSI GE75

    After reading your post of the GE66 you have me considering if I should buy my first 15 inch in over 12 years.

    Heck I am all over the place on specs too. I know you have pointed out the value of going lower, which makes sense. But part of me wanting to just do it right and get the i9/2080 combo. So still debating on if I listen to reason with value or go all out just because I can. Thanks again for these great reviews. I have bookmarked and will send everyone I know this way for reviews.

    • Andrei Girbea

      November 12, 2020 at 11:29 am

      If you'll decide on the i9/2080, I'd go with the SCAR 17. That gets the 2080 Super 150W chip and improved cooling, and despite the small rubber feet that take a toll on thermals (read the review), it's my favorite performer at that budget (~3K).

      If not, the regular 2070 Scar 17 runs fairly hot and I'd rather prefer one of the others. Like I said, can't comment on the M17 R3, haven't tested it, so you'll have to look into some other reviews. Out of the other two, I'd probably favor the Helios for the better build quality and nicer design, although the GE75 performs spectacularly well and offers an excellent cooling module.

      As far as value goes, you should ask yourself if an i9/2080 is going to truly benefit the kind of loads you're planning to run right now (or in the near future). The 8Core processor helps with certain CPU-heavy activities, but for games, you would still be fine with a properly powered 6Core i7 imo. As for the GPU, the 2070 and especially the 2080 pay-off if you plan to run games at 1440p or 4K resolutions (on an external monitor). However, if you plan to run them at FHD, the sweet spot is in the full-power 2060 115W (the 2020 update), or maybe up to a 2070 Super. Personally, I'd rather get this sort of configuration right now, keep it for a year or two, sell it off, and then upgrade to the next-gen specs when those mature. Based on the little we know so far, Nvidia 3000 should be a significant jump in performance over the current generation even in laptops, and by 2022 we'll probably see significant changes in CPUs as well. Just my2c :)

  16. Tony

    November 12, 2020 at 6:37 pm

    Thank you again for taking the time to reply.

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