MEGATech Reviews: Alienware 13 R3 Gaming Laptop
Don't mistake this 13-inch gaming laptop for one of those thin-and-light numbers, but you can totally expect it to play some real games on the go.
Pros
  • Remarkably powerful for its size
  • Comfortable keyboard and trackpad
  • Heavy duty build quality
Cons
  • Heavy and cumbersome
  • Gets very hot under load
  • Such big bezels
8.5Overall Score

The ongoing joke in the automotive world is that between performance, reliability and affordability, you can only pick two. You can have a fast, reliable car, but it's not going to be cheap. You can have an affordable, powerful car, but it's not going to be reliable. To some extent, you could make a similar argument when it comes to laptops. If you're interested in a reasonably portable and decidedly powerful gaming notebook, you might want to consider the Alienware 13 R3. Just don't expect it to be especially cheap.

Alienware 13 R3 at a Glance

In Canada, the Alienware 13 R3 comes in four main configurations, starting from $1,399 on the low end all the way up to $2,999 on the high end. The model is second from the top, boasting the following key specs and features:

  • 7th-generation Intel Core i7-7700HQ
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 graphics (6GB GDDR5)
  • 16GB DDR4-2667 RAM
  • 13.3-inch quad HD (2560x1440) OLED touchscreen
  • 512GB PCIe SSD
  • Killer 1435 802.11ac 2x2 WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1
  • Lithium-ion 76Wh battery
  • Windows 10 Home 64-bit English
  • Dimensions: 22mm x 330mm x 269 mm, 2.6 kg

As of this writing, this configuration would set you back $2,399.99 in Canada and just over $1,700 US via Amazon.com in the United States. This is certainly not a budget-oriented rig and it shouldn't be considered as such.

The port selection is pretty solid with the standard dual audio ports (headphone and microphone), two USB 3.0 Type-A (one with PowerShare), one USB 3.0 Type-C, one Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C with SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps, 40Gbps Thuderbolt, DisplayPort), one Alienware graphics amplifier port, one HDMI 2.0, one Mini-DisplayPort 1.2, and one RJ-45 Killer Networks e2400 Gigabit Ethernet port.

The Portable Mothership

While the Alienware 13 R3 is only a 13-inch laptop and it is measurably more compact than much larger behemoth-sized gaming notebooks, it will never be mistaken for a thin-and-light Ultrabook. It's a tank and it's constructed accordingly. Possibly because of all that weight, I did find that the chassis had a bit of flex to it, but not enough to warrant any real concern. If anything, you might just tired of carrying it around.

The venting is significant, all around the sides and particularly in the back. Even so, the actual operation -- even under significant load -- was not loud at all. It's surprisingly quiet. One area that is disappointing, though, is the sheer size of the bezels all around that 13-inch display. It really feels like they could have fit a larger display in the same chassis, since I'm assuming they may not have been able to work within a smaller body.

There Are Four Lights

The keyboard is non-mechanical, unsurprisingly, but at least you get regular-sized arrow keys. It's backlit too, as is the trackpad, though there is definitely light bleed on the latter. The trackpad finds a good balance between smooth gliding and textured assurance, but the trackpad buttons feel a little mushy.

A blessing and curse is the choice of soft touch material for the palm rest areas. The softer finish makes for more comfortable use and a look that's far more premium that generic glossy plastic. That's good. What's bad is that the inevitable grease for your palms and wrists accumulate very quickly and suddenly your slick gaming notebook is looking like it was used by someone who'd just finished an Extra Value Meal and used the palm rest as a napkin.

You also get some of that extra gamer street cred by way of the illuminated Alienware logo on the lid, plus the illuminated Alienware-shaped power button to the top-right of the keyboard. The letters for Alienware below the screen also light up.

Gaming and Benchmarks

In playing Street Fighter V (via Steam), I came to the following conclusions. This was with HDMI output to my TV, primary (laptop) display disabled. Naturally, playing directly on the laptop display and skipping the external monitor results in better performance.

I could run 1280 x 720 at max settings or 1920 x 1080 at medium settings without a problem, so long as it was offline play. Going online threw in quite the extra hurdle, so I ended up downgrading to 1280 x 720 at medium settings to reduce the lag.

As far as standard benchmarks, the configuration as tested earned a score of 4095 in PCMark 10 and an "invalid score" of 421 in 3DMark's Time Spy. I'm not entirely sure why the Time Spy benchmark didn't run correctly. The standard benchmark in PCMark 10 Basic Edition is still relatively new, so there aren't too many points of comparison for now. Take that how you will.

MEGATechie Out of This World or MEGATechie Clunky Tech?

Choosing a laptop, just like choosing a smartphone or a car, is a game of trade-offs. You can try to avoid these trade-offs, but you ultimately cannot escape them. Products like the Alienware 13 R3 are targeted at a particular kind of demographic. You want to get in some serious gaming on the go, but you don't want to haul around a desktop replacement-sized 17-inch gaming notebook with 20 minutes of battery life. I get that.

You won't get class-leading performance out of this rig, but it can certainly hold its own, especially against other 13-inch gaming laptops. I was really impressed that it could run Street Fighter V at max settings at all, especially with output to an external display. Even running it like that, I was able to get about two hours of battery life. Just be warned that it will get quite hot (but not loud).

This notebook is a beast of a machine and it'll serve the right kind of customer very well. The Alienware 13 R13 gaming laptop is available now with prices starting at just over $1,000 US and $1,399 Canadian.


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