Big is not always better – Alienware 13 laptop review

Small, but perfectly formed – Alienware 13 laptop review

Alienware’s latest incarnation of their 13-inch laptop packs a powerhouse of a PC within the tiny chassis.

There was a time when I’d have laughed at you for suggesting that I gaze at a computer monitor smaller than 21-inches. Times have changed, and whilst I’m happy with three 27-inch monitors for the desktop rig, when I’m on the move, I want compact.

I loved the Alienware 15 that I recently spent some time with. But it weighed a tonne, and wouldn’t even fit in my rucksack. I was discussing a replacement for my trusty Samsung tablet with the Alienware PR rep at the recent Intel Extreme Masters esports finals, when his eyes lit up. He told me I had to try the new Alienware 13.

Powered by Intel’s seventh generation i7 7700HQ CPU, Alienware’s miniature marvel boasts an amazing 2560×1440 OLED screen pumping out visuals via a Geforce GTX 1060. The OLED screen not only means that the lid is wafer thin, but also means that the display is absolutely fantastic.

Big is not always better – Alienware 13 laptop review

You will have never seen a laptop with blacks as black as this and colours that pop quite the same way as they do with an OLED screen. This is cutting-edge display technology and to have it as a laptop display is a very special thing.

The GeForce 10 series GPU can easily accommodate the latest games, running visuals at a splendid 2560×1440 resolution and at nigh-on max quality settings. The high-res screen also means that, even though it is a 13-inch display, I found CAD applications and 3D software like Sketchup very easy to work with.

Big is not always better – Alienware 13 laptop review

With 16GB of DDR4 memory and a 226GB solid state hard drive, apps loaded fast. The SSD in the review rig was a bit measly, with most users need a bit more storage space than that.

Whilst you are going to pay a price with all this power when it comes to battery life, unlike other Alienware machines, I never found myself continuously reaching for the power adapter. I was able to have a decent gaming session away from the house without worrying about my battery.

With two standard, Type-A USB 3.0 slots, an HDMI out and that awesome GPU, the Alienware 13 meets the requirements to power both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive virtual reality kits. This must be one of the smallest VR capable laptops at the moment. It tested it using the Vive and it worked splendidly, running theBlue, Google VR and my current fave, Superhot VR, without a hitch.

If you really need to crank up the graphical output, there’s a slot for an Alienware Graphics Accelerator, enabling you to attach wherever GPU you want to the laptop. There’s also a USB 3.0 Type-C port, Mini-Display port 1.2, and a Thunderbolt 3 port further future-proofing the device.

Big is not always better – Alienware 13 laptop review

Of course, this being Alienware, you also get an elegantly designed laptop that wouldn’t look out of place on a boardroom table. Too many “gaming” laptops overcook their industrial design in the name of awesome. Whereas Alienware’s understated design just oozes class.

Such an incredible machine comes at a price. The OLED display upgrade from a LCD costs around NZ$600 more. You are not going to much change from NZ$3,500 for this sort of spec. But if you can afford it, it’s certainly worth it if you are in the market for a premium gaming laptop.

Alienware have done it again, charming me with a powerful, feature-packed, VR capable laptop with one of the best displays I’ve ever used. How they have managed to fit all of this in such a manageable and very portable chassis is beyond me. I want one!