If the quality of your laptop’s screen is a selling point—and it should have some sway with any serious buyer—then OLED-based machines, what few exist to date, should definitely be on your list.
Alienware 13 Gaming Laptop
Fancy keyboard backlighting even lights up the touchpad. Easily upgradable RAM and SSD via underside access panels. Rock solid keyboard and trackpad; both backlit, even. Incredibly loud speakers. Outstanding performance all around, plus close to six hours of battery life.
An utter failure of industrial design. Audio was buggy on arrival; fixed via driver updates. Not inexpensive.
Alienware’s new 13.3-incher is the first gaming rig on the market with an OLED display. It’s not only one of the brightest displays I’ve ever encountered in a laptop, it’s also one of the darkest, with ultra-high-contrast blacks that would be black enough for Spinal Tap.
The other specs are beefed up to go along with that 2560 x 1440-pixel OLED touchscreen. For this review, the company sent over a top-level configuration of the 13, which outfits the notebook with a 2.8GHz Core i7, 16 gigs of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card. That’s an extreme setup ($2,100 as configured), and it helps the machine to blast through benchmarks both general and graphical in nature. I didn’t find a game the 13 couldn’t run—or that didn’t look exquisite on the Alienware’s screen.
That screen is beautiful, but the rest of the machine is an absolute affront to the eyes. It’s a fallacy to assume gamers don’t care about looks. If they didn’t, why would they be modding their cases and investing in expensive keyboards with full color backlighting? It’s hard to imagine someone of that mindset gravitating to a laptop of such particular ocular dissonance as the Alienware 13.
The photo up top tells the story better than my words can, but I’m going to try to paint a picture of it anyway. First, while there are plenty of hard edges on the 13, there are very few right angles. The laptop has seemingly been hacked away at, starting at the corners, which have seemingly been trimmed back in an attempt to shave off a few ounces of weight. When closed, the top juts out over the bottom like an inverted trapezoid, which draws only more attention to a two-tone design that features a big grille vent at the rear, a strip of black plastic along the front, and a large metallic panel with a Cylon-esque design in between. None of these surfaces are flush with one another. It looks less like a laptop and more like something you would put your laptop on.
When you open the Alienware 13, you see the machine isn’t hinged from the back but rather from a spot a bit more than an inch in front of those heat sink grilles. The hinge itself actually sticks out of the top of the notebook in a design I can’t recall seeing, well, ever. And because the hinge isn’t flush with the rear of the device (Alienware amusingly calls this “hinge forward”), the overall appearance is uncannily similar to that of the Macintosh Portable. Sadly, no trackball is included.
OK, you get the point. This is an ugly computer, but looks of course aren’t everything, and if the benchmarks don’t get you excited, maybe the connectivity options will. If that hinge design is good for one thing, it’s that it allows Alienware to stud the laptop with ports all around the machine. It’s got four total USB ports (two type A, two type C), HDMI out, a mini-DisplayPort connector, and wired Ethernet. Alienware’s proprietary Graphics Amplifier Port is also included, which lets you plug in an external graphics processor if the internal power doesn’t cut it. All told, it’s one of the few 13-inch laptops that is fully usable without having to resort to a USB hub.
That does come at a price, though. While it’s a 13-inch notebook, an ultrabook it ain’t. At 5.5 pounds, it’s double the weight of most machines in its class, plus it’s a full 31mm thick, nearly triple the thickness of the Acer Swift 7.
Alienware makes a big deal about this laptop being VR ready, owing to its beefy GPU. If putting this machine under that kind of strain is part of your game plan, know that it puts out plenty of fan noise and keyboard-directed heat when under load. Fortunately you’ll be wearing headphones and waving your hands around in the air instead of touching the laptop. And in the VR world you won’t even have to look at the thing.
Go Back to Top. Skip To: Start of Article.