For all the variation in the synthetic benchmarks, the Alienware 17 was more consistent in actual gaming benchmarks after flashing the BIOS. Oh, yes, you'll need to flash the BIOS to at least version A04; initial testing was done with the BIOS at A01, and while synthetics didn't seem to mind it too much, the original BIOS played hell with real world gaming benchmarks.

Bioshock Infinite - Mainstream

Elder Scrolls: Skyrim - Mainstream

GRID 2 - Mainstream

Metro: Last Light - Mainstream

Sleeping Dogs - Mainstream

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm - Mainstream

At our mainstream settings we're seeing substantial variation in system performance between systems equipped with the 780M. This is a combination of factors, some which are Haswell, but others I'll explain in a moment.

Bioshock Infinite - Enthusiast

Elder Scrolls: Skyrim - Enthusiast

GRID 2 - Enthusiast

Metro: Last Light - Enthusiast

Sleeping Dogs - Enthusiast

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm - Enthusiast

Tomb Raider - Enthusiast

Unfortunately, our enthusiast benchmarks were initially pretty damning for the Alienware 17, or at least this review unit. Despite running with the most current drivers, the Alienware 17 just didn't seem to have as much headroom for boost on the 780M as the other systems. I'd run and rerun benches and done sanity checks; the 780M here just wasn't running as well as it did in the Clevo units.

Trying to determine what was going on, I ran GPU-Z in the background and re-ran the Tomb Raider benchmark since that seems to be the biggest problem child in the group. When testing the MSI GT70 Dragon I was used to seeing sustained boost speeds above 900MHz on the 780M. What I found was alarming: with the default BIOS, the Alienware 17 was needlessly throttling the 780M during Tomb Raider's benchmark and probably others. Despite the GPU never running hotter than 67C, the Alienware 17 was knocking the GPU speed down to just over 600MHz. So of course the system was quiet, it wasn't even allowing the GPU to really be stressed.

Updating to the A04 BIOS substantially alleviated the Alienware 17's performance woes. Boost clocks hovered around 850MHz instead, which is still lower than what I saw on other vendors' systems but at least manageable. There was theoretically thermal headroom on the table; the system's fan profile is designed to keep the 780M at about 75C, which is incidentally the cut off point for the boost clocks. Go over that temperature like Metro: Last Light did, though, and the GPU starts to throttle down to 666MHz. Owners of the Alienware M17x R3 will immediately recognize this type of behavior; Dell and Alienware are extremely aggressive with their thermal thresholds and they're willing to sacrifice a little performance to get them. I feel like a more reasonable target would've been 80C instead of 75C.

System and Futuremark Performance Display Quality and Battery Life


View All Comments

  • mp5cartman - Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - link

    Damn, so much hate. To all haters, why don't you try an Alienware laptop I bet you will be satisfied. They are very relaiable, offers customizing even the best of the best components for laptops, ie. GTX 780m or i7-4930MX. And with the design argument, its stupid. Turn the lights of if you don't like it. If you dont like the chassis look then and look to a different brand and stop hating. jesus... Reply
  • Globemaster - Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - link

    I've owned 1x Alienware, 1x Dell XPS, 3x Sager (Clevo) and 1x MSI. The MSI GT70 Dragon Edition 2 is my favorite of the lot by far. Yes, I have to use it with the fan on high to not hit thermal limits, but I've always had to do that since 1999 with all the others as well (Fn 1). It's psychotically fast and an incredible upgrade from my Sager with a 485M GTX and 120GB SSD boot. The 3x SSDs are amazing and the 780m rocks with a driver upgrade. My scores are way better than Anandtech because I test with the fan on. Simple as that.
    Also, Alienware customer service was terrible, they said the battery latch was not covered under my extended warranty so I had to tape my 1 year old $3k laptop to keep the battery in.
  • Draconian - Thursday, September 12, 2013 - link

    I never thought they were going to switch to Matte screens. So glad they did though. Reply
  • woofblitzer - Thursday, September 19, 2013 - link

    My Maingear Nomad 14 with i7-4800, 780m, 2 x 256GB Samsung 840 Pro SSD in RAID0 and 16GB Corsair Dominator beats all of these benchmarks. I paid $2600. When I turn on the VirtuMVP software, I destroy some of these Alienware FPS. Test a real machine. This is just a name. Reply
  • conflictserum - Friday, September 20, 2013 - link

    TL;DR Buy a Sager/Clevo and save money. Reply

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