Alienware 13 (2015)

13-inch Gaming Laptop With External Desktop Graphics Expansion Capability

Alienware 13 Gaming Laptop with Graphics Amplifier
Alienware 13. ©Dell

The Bottom Line

May 15 2015 - The Alienware 13 is a very capable 13-inch gaming platform that offers great potential with its added Graphics Amplifier. Overall, the system makes some interesting choices that give it a bit less performance than its competitors but it works when it comes to PC gaming. Just be warned to be wary of which configuration you get as the base models really don't offer enough but the high end also pushes the hardware further than it really can go for gaming without the Graphics Amplifier.

Pros

  • Capable Mobile 3D Gaming
  • Excellent Display
  • Future Proof Gaming Performance With Graphics Amplifier

Cons

  • External Graphics Amplifier is Very Expensive
  • Sacrifices Storage Performance for Capacity
  • Raw Processing Power Less Than Competitors

Description

  • Intel Core i7-5700U Dual Core Mobile Processor
  • 8GB PC3-12800 DDR3 Memory
  • 1TB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive
  • 13" WUXGA (1920x1080) Display with 720p Webcam
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M Graphics with 2GB GDDR5 Memory
  • Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac Wireless, Bluetooth
  • Three USB 3.0, Graphics Amplifier, Mini-DisplayPort, HDMI
  • 12.91" x 9.25" x 1.1" @ 4.5 lbs.
  • Windows 8.1

Review - Alienware 13 (2015)

May 15 2015 - Alienware's new 13-inch laptop is a major departure from previous designs. It offers a more angular design but it also has a major option for gamers seeking to have desktop class graphics that I will discuss in detail later. The new design uses an angular design rather than a standard rectangular shape.

It uses a carbon fiber and plastic construction that gives it a rigid design that is a bit lighter on weight. Like the larger versions, it features customizable lighting to give it a more personalized look. The laptop is bulkier than most 13-inch laptops with thickness just over an inch and a hefty 4.5-pounds but this does offer much higher performance.

While the Alienware 13 is designed for gaming, it does use a Intel Core i7-5500U dual core processor that is more common of high-end ultrabooks. It still offers solid gaming experience but it does lack the raw performance of most other larger gaming laptops with full power laptop processors featuring quad cores. This would be noted most in demanding computing tasks like desktop video work or high end graphics. The processor is matched up with 8GB of DDR3 memory for a smooth overall experience.

Rather than using solid state drives that offer higher performance, Dell has elected to use a traditional hard drive for the storage in the Alienware 13. The one terabyte size provides plenty of space for carrying around your game collection and media files. The downside is that it is slower than many other laptops using SSDs. Dell does offer options for this but it does drive up the price. If you need to add additional space to it there are three USB 3.0 ports for use with high speed external hard drives. This is more than most laptops in this size range offer. It does not feature an optical drive but most laptops in this class do not and with digital software distribution, it is not much of an issue.

There are three different display versions available for the Alienware 13. The lowest price versions off a low 1366x768 panel which I would reocmmend avoiding due to the limited detail. The best overall display for the Alienware 13 features a 1920x1080 resolution and offers some outstanding color and brightness thanks to the IPS technology display. This also gives it wide viewing angles. The downside is that the response times do suffer a little compared to many TN panels but the picture is certainly above average. You could always step up to the 2560x1440 version for extra deal but be warned that the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M while a good processor does not offer the performance to drive the optional higher resolution display.

In fact, it can play many games at high detail levels at the lower resolution panel but it does not have the performance for filters.

Now if that gaming performance is not enough for you, Dell has added in an extra twist with the Graphics Acceleration Module. This is a special external box that can be purchase with the Alienware 13 for an extra $300 that can sit on a desktop with the ability to use a full size double slot <a href="http://compreviews.about.com/od/video/tp/videocards.htm>PCI-Express graphics card. This can then power either the native display or an external display connected to the mini-DisplayPort or HDMI of the Alienware 13. It also adds a four port USB 3.0 hub. Mind you, this does not include a graphics card which is separate so it adds a lot of the cost but it does provide desktop class graphics but you won't be carrying it around with you.

Rather than using an isolated layout design common to many laptops including Dell, the Alienware 13 uses a more traditional design. This provides less space between the keys but it is actually a very good keyboard with excellent response which gamers want. It also features the customizable lighting below it. The trackpad is a decent size but features integrated buttons. This is not very well suited for gamers but most will probably be using an external mouse anyways.

In order to power the graphics processor and platform, Dell packs in a 52Whr battery in to the Alienware 13. In digital video playback test, the system is able to last for over six hours. This is impressive for a gaming laptop but obviously it will be much less if you are using for gaming. Expect around two hours in that case. This is good for a gaming laptop but it is going to be less than many other 13-inch laptops such as the MacBook Air 13 that lasts over ten.

Pricing for the Alienware 13 model as test is $1399. There are few 13-inch gaming laptops to compare this with but a number of 14-inch models like the Razer Blade 14. It is thinner but larger with roughly the same weight but with higher performance from a faster GTX 970M graphics, full i7 quad core processor and SSD. Of course it cost a lot more. A better comparison is the MSI GS30 Shadow laptop. It is also a compact 13-inch laptop that features an extern Gaming Dock that supports an external PCI-Express graphics card. It costs more than the Alienware system but the base laptop offers higher performance from a full Core i7 quad core CPU and SSDs while being more compact. The downside is that the laptop is not as well suited for PC gaming on the go because of its Intel Iris Pro 5200 lacks 3D performance compared to the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M.

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