I’m at rAge 2013, and I’ve just spent a very enlightening 30 minutes with Gavin Slevin from Dell hearing all about the company’s latest Alienware gaming notebooks. As a gamer, I’m drooling: these are seriously nice-looking machines, and they’re absolutely stuffed with awesome. Gavin took me through the new range’s highlights, and there are a lot.

Firstly, there are three new models in the range: a 14-inch, 17-inch and 18-inch model, and Dell has revised the chassis design for the first time in three years, focusing on subtle changes but maintaining the overall Alienware look and feel. There are only three plastic bits, and the rest of the chassis is made from a magnesium alloy so it’s super-strong, with barely any flex in the screen and absolutely none in the base. The lighting configuration has changed as well, with two new slim lines on the lid, and a very thin line that runs the length of the notebooks’ base. In terms of looks, these things are killer.

Then, of course, there’s the hardware. Dell has made these new machines more user-upgradeable than ever, which is also the biggest change compared to the older models. Users can now install their own hard drives and memory, and taking everything apart has been made super-easy. Gavin showed me the tiny screws that need to be removed to allow the motherboard to slide out, and there were just two! Apparently, customer feedback is the reason for the change – gamers like to have a bit more control over their hardware, plus it also gives them the option to buy an entry-level Alienware machine and then upgrade as and when they’re able to.

Surprisingly, upgrading these notebooks yourself doesn’t void their warranty. Dell still honours the warranty on the parts that you didn’t replace, which is only fair, but you’re on your own for any new hard drive or RAM you might have installed yourself.

Inside, you’ll find Haswell processors, huge RAM capacity (the 17 and 18 inch models support up to 32GB!), solid-state hard drives, mSATA chips and NVIDIA’s 700-series of mobile graphics chips – everything a decent gaming PC needs to power the latest games. Best of all, everything is customisable, even for South African buyers. You can use the Dell website to specify how, exactly, you want your Alienware notebook to be specced, it just takes a little longer to get it to you due to the additional lead-time required. Or, you can buy a preconfigured machine from a local retailer like Incredible Connection if that suits you better.

Dell offers a 120Hz 3D screen as an option for the 17- and 18-inch models, so you can play games and watch movies in three dimensions for that added level of immersion if you have the cash for it.

Gavin also told me about the testing Dell does to these notebooks. Apparently, they are run in ridiculous temperatures and monitored by heat-sensitive cameras to see which parts overheat, and things are redesigned accordingly. As a result, they can run in 65 degree heat without locking up, freezing or rebooting.

So yes, these are very impressive gaming machines. They’re also expensive, coming in at anything between R26000 and R35000 (and more, depending on how you wish to spec them), but they are well worth the cash from what I’ve seen. I hope to get some actual hands-on time with the 17-inch model in the coming weeks to see just how nice it is to play games on it.

And now, I’m heading back to the rAge floor to see what else I can see.

 

Deon got his first taste of PC gaming at the tender age of 11 when his father bought an 8088 XT, ostensibly to "help him with his homework". Instead, it introduced him to Leisure Suit Larry, King Graham, Sonny Bonds and many more, and Deon has been a PC gamer and hardware enthusiast ever since. He landed his first professional writing gig in 2006 at a prestigious local PC magazine, a very happy happenstance as he got to write for a living about things he loves - tech, PCs, gaming, and everything in between. He's been writing about it all ever since, and loves every minute of it.