If you're looking for a relatively small and portable gaming laptop, the Alienware 13 is one of the leading options on the market. With its 13.3-inch display, the space requirement of this laptop is smaller than that of a typical 15-inch laptop. If you want to put up with extra thickness and weight, you can use it as a portable workstation instead of an ultraportable.
Like many Alienware laptops, the 13 is available in a variety of configurations. Depending on how much you want to spend, you can equip this laptop with a discrete GPU GTX 1050 / Ti or GTX 1060 as well as quad-core Kaby Lake CPUs with up to 32 GB RAM and up to 2 TB PCIe memory and either one 1080p LCD or a 1440p OLED display. Prices range from $ 999 to nearly $ 3,500.
The Alienware 13 is a relatively unique product because few of the major gaming laptop manufacturers manufacture 13-inch devices. MSI, Gigabyte, Aorus and Razer are only limited to 14-inch systems, so Alienware remains almost unhindered in this area.
However, it is not an automatic gain for the Alienware 13 in terms of size and weight. With a thickness of 24 mm and a weight of 2.6 kg, it doesn't try to be the thinnest or lightest it could be. In fact, many 14-inch laptops are more portable than the Alienware 13, including the Razer Blade (1.9 kg and 18 mm thick), the MSI GS43VR (1.8 kg and 23 mm) and the Aorus X3 Plus v7 (1 , 8 kg and 23 mm).
The Alienware 13 also has a footprint problem. Despite its smaller display, it's physically no smaller than any of the 14-inch laptops mentioned above. This means that the Alienware 13's display is flanked by large bezels that could easily have accommodated a 14-inch panel. I would be disappointed if Alienware used the smaller 13-inch display as a marketing bullet point, making the system sound smaller and more portable than it is, rather than offering users the largest possible display in this form factor.
There are several reasons why the Alienware 13 is bigger than its competitors. The main reason is that there is a powerful cooling solution that uses two massive heat sinks attached to the back of the device. Air is drawn in through large ventilation slots on the sides and base of the laptop and extracted through the back. A lot of metal is used here, which increases the weight of the device.
Alienware has also opted for a large 76 Wh battery inside the case, which is slightly larger than the 73 Wh and 70 Wh cells used in the Aorus X3 Plus v7 and Razer Blade, respectively. In combination with the smaller display, you can assume that the Alienware 13 lasts longer than the competition on battery.
The Alienware 13 has an excellent selection of connections. On the back are a power connector, HDMI 2.0, Mini-DisplayPort 1.2, Thunderbolt 3 USB Type C, Ethernet and the Alienware graphics amplifier connector. These ports on the back are useful if you use the laptop mainly on a desk, because you can connect a display and a wired network, for example, without overloading the sides of the device.
There are two USB 3.0 Type A ports on the sides of Alienware 13, one on each side, and a USB 3.1 Type C port (not Thunderbolt 3) on the right. On the left are two 3.5 mm audio jacks for headphones and a microphone.
At the front of each edge are the large speakers that come with the Alienware 13. These speakers can be quite loud, but the quality is not particularly impressive, especially since there is noticeable distortion at high volumes. Don't expect a lot of bass either, although the speakers are less thin than many ultraportables.
The design of the Alienware 13 is very similar to any other Alienware laptop that has been released in recent years. On the metal lid is the characteristic Y-shaped pattern from Alienware with the Alien Head logo, which gives the design a touch of gamer style. The palm rest is made of black soft-touch plastic, which is clean and furtive, but easily attracts fingerprints. While I usually prefer business-oriented, industrial-style laptops, the Alienware 13's design is good when it comes to gaming laptops.
Of course, it wouldn't be an Alienware laptop without lots of LED lighting. The Alienware 13 has eight RGB lighting zones: four in the keyboard and one in the trackpad, one in the power button, one in the Alienware text and one in the Alien Head logo. This offers a high level of customization, although it is disappointing that you cannot control the color of individual buttons, which is possible with the Razer Blade.
The keyboard of this laptop is decent. The layout is great, with large modifier keys, a set of full-size arrows, and a decent amount of functionality associated with the F keys. The travel distance was impressive and the tactile feedback was very good. This leads to a great experience when playing or typing.
The trackpad is also very solid. The surface of the trackpad is good, which offers a comfortable tracking experience, while the tracking itself is excellent. You won't be using the trackpad for serious gaming, but it's nice to see that it includes massive physical click buttons.
Alienware is one of the few gaming laptop manufacturers to offer Windows Hello and Tobii eye tracking support for their entire product range. The implementation of Alienware 13 is the same as that of Alienware 15, so it is very solid and works well for facial recognition logins and eye tracking. Personally, I'm not a big fan of eye tracking in games, and there is a limited selection of games that implement support, but it's a nice feature for those who want to try it out.
Technically, there are three display options available for the Alienware 13, but I would Not do not recommend the 1366 x 768 option under any circumstances. My review sample included a 13.3-inch 1080p IPS LCD and 2560 x 1440 OLED option for those who want to spend an additional $ 250.
There are some disappointing aspects of both the 1080p LCD and 1440p OLED options for gamers. Neither display supports G-Sync, a feature available on some competing devices. Neither of them supports refresh rates above 60 Hz, and although the fastest available GPU (the GTX 1060) in modern titles is not particularly suitable for games with high refresh rates, well over 60 FPS can be achieved in games a few years ago.
Alienware claims that the 1080p LCD option is only suitable for 300 nits of brightness, but in my tests it comfortably reached 377 nits at 100%. The contrast was good at 1180: 1, while the color temperature was too cold, which is a typical feature of most laptop displays. The out-of-the-box color performance is decent, but not very accurate, although the display generally looks lively and decent, also thanks to a great viewing angle.
A quick color calibration with the CALMAN 5 software from SpectraCal enabled the Alienware 13 to achieve very precise values. I'm not sure how many creatives will actually use a laptop like the Alienware 13, but it is possible to use this laptop for color-accurate work if it is properly calibrated.