We're starting to get a bit more of a feel for how Haswell performs on the CPU side. The Intel Core i7-4800MQ powering the Alienware 17 is undoubtedly one of the fastest mobile quad core CPUs, but the more testing I see with it, the more I get a distinct sense that we need to start digging deeper into how it handles turbo. Performance is complicated further when we start hitting the GeForce GTX 780M as well; NVIDIA has implemented boost clocks on their mobile part, but the boost range seems to be a lot more variable than it is on the desktop, probably owing to the more specific thermal headroom.

PCMark 7 (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark 11

You can see we've got four different Haswell and 780M systems on hand, and the 3DMark scores are bouncing all over the place. I'd been expecting and hoping that the Alienware 17 would have the cleanest and most consistent implementation of this hardware pairing, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Instead we're all over the map. The 3DMark11 score is remarkably low compared to the other 780M systems, but it remains to be seen whether or not that performance deficit will resurface in practical game testing.

Cinebench R11.5 - Single-Threaded Benchmark

Cinebench R11.5 - Multi-Threaded Benchmark

x264 HD 5.x

x264 HD 5.x

Cinebench is able to give us consistent results due, I think, to its more sustained load. Cinebench has historically been very consistent in the first place, so everything falls in where it ought to. But the x264 encoding benchmark is completely different.

We're essentially dealing with a lot of performance variables now. At first blush, Haswell seems to be more granular with its performance scaling than Ivy was. Mobile Kepler with boost is also very granular, but my experience with Kepler on the desktop is that its boost clocks are governed entirely by thermals. On the desktop, thermally-controlled turbo/boost speeds on hardware are easy to control for, but when you're talking about notebooks, you're at the mercy of the cooling systems implemented by the manufacturer, including the fan profiles.

In and Around the Alienware 17 Gaming Performance


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  • JarredWalton - Saturday, September 7, 2013 - link

    GE40 has HDD + SSD, so toss that out. Larger screen and other items remain, but really we're talking about a laptop (GE40) that draws around 7.15W in our Light battery test compared to 20.63W (AW17), 18.56W (P157SM), and 20.49W (P177SM). That's a full 10W or more difference for basically a 1-2W screen difference; most of the other items on the motherboard should be in a deep sleep state during the battery life testing, but Clevo and Alienware appear to have been quite lazy in that regard this round.

    To illustrate just how bad it is, let's look at the MSI GT70 Dragon. Dustin tested the initial Dragon and measured 22.34W power draw in our Light test, making that the worst of the GTX 780M notebooks. I received two more Dragon notebooks for testing, and I'll have an article on this shortly, but with an updated BIOS and firmware MSI dramatically improved battery life. The second two laptops achieved power draw of 13.71W (i7-4700MQ) and 14.21W (i7-4930MX) in the exact same Light test. So firmware updates to help power down inactive components on the motherboard and such were able to reduce idle power use by over 30%. The Alienware 17 and Clevo notebooks almost certainly could achieve the same reduction, if Dell and Clevo were to put in the time and effort to properly optimize their BIOS.
  • CharonPDX - Saturday, September 7, 2013 - link

    Ladies and gentlemen, we have found an apologist for a manufacturer other than Apple, and it's even worse than Apple fanboyism... Reply
  • landsome - Saturday, September 7, 2013 - link

    I don't get it... So the AW17 earns a recommendation, but what are its advantages over a similarly equipped Clevo or MSI? Apparently by your own admission design still leaves a substantial amount to be desired, and in other departments - battery, screen, raw power, perhaps even temps were it not for AW's conservative approach to clocks/heat - the 17 seems no better or slightly worse than a GT70 or a P177SM. Price is another disadvantage. So what makes it the gaming notebook to buy at this time? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, September 7, 2013 - link

    The design leaves something to be desired, but it's still better than the Clevo and MSI offerings. Obviously there's subjective opinion on this matter, but the designs on all of the top gaming notebooks are flawed to varying degrees. I'd probably go with Clevo this round, based more on pricing than on design, with Alienware 17 being second and MSI third. Dustin swaps AW for Clevo, and since he's used the P177SM and AW17, he's entitled to that opinion. Reply
  • MDX - Saturday, September 7, 2013 - link

    Agreed. Alienware's keyboard might have been a step back, but it's light years ahead of the chiclet keyboards found on all other gaming computer. Dell's warranty is (IME) better, as well. Personally, I can't stand matte screens, so that's a mark against it, and I think the styling could have used more metal and been a bit slimmer - especially on the 14.

    I'm in the market for a gaming notebook since my XPS M1730 finally bit the dust, but I'm leaning towards a customized MSI Dragon 2 from XoticPC, because I can get it with a gloss screen there. Just wish I could get a non-chiclet kb on it...damn you apple, and damn everyone that's copied apple and installed chiclet kbs.

    Clevo/sager don't even make it on my radar...sorry, at these price points, I expect my hardware to have some style other than "square/black". Your phone/car/clothes aren't black bricks are they? I don't want my PC to be, either.
  • Hrel - Tuesday, September 10, 2013 - link

    Why do you place the MSI last? Reply
  • Gunbuster - Sunday, September 8, 2013 - link

    "Alienware isn't as flexible as it used to be, and as a result if you want any of the good stuff, you have to shell out for the $2,299 top base model and then upgrade that."

    Dell this is why your sales are down something like 74%. People who buy dell's like to customize. Your "ships quick" BS where the config choice is office, a mouse, and bloated AV is NOT Customization.

    Stop hiding config options. Stop penalizing long time customers.
  • Spunjji - Monday, September 9, 2013 - link

    Funny, not noticing an awful lot of fanboy screaming about the 780M like there was with the 7970M. It appears to be comparably broken, only it costs more too! Yay! Reply
  • Gunbuster - Monday, September 9, 2013 - link

    You mean the 7970M that had broken Enduro for over a year all while AMD had user forum threads about it deleted so no one would catch on? Reply
  • deeps6x - Monday, September 9, 2013 - link

    The 'bonus performance' you speak of should only exist in overclocking situations. In standard form the 780M should work the same for everyone. They are only binning it for power, so I don't get why they are having problems with drivers on it. The desktop GK104 has been out a long while and doesn't have the same problems.

    OMG, Dell FINALLY figures out that this thing should have had a matte screen all along? Will wonders never cease? Now hopefully they realize they also need to move to 16:10 instead of 16:9.

    Yes, the light up track pad is exclusively for kiddies. How many kiddies have 2 grand plus to blow on an overpriced laptop? Scrap it Dell. Scrap it now.

    No IPS option? What F the?

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