Alienware x17 R2 review: The absurdity of a 480Hz gaming laptop

The back of the Alienware x17 R2 as it's sitting on a desk.

Alienware x17 R2

MSRP $2,250.00

“The Alienware x17 R2 is one of the fastest gaming laptops you can buy, but you might want to skip the 480Hz screen.”

Pros

  • Excellent gaming performance
  • Several thermal profiles available
  • Very thin for a 17-inch laptop
  • Fantastic port selection
  • Solid CPU power

Cons

  • Runs loud and hot at full power
  • Mechanical keyboard isn’t for everyone
  • Grainy webcam

480Hz on a gaming laptop sounds crazy, and in fairness, it is. But Alienware pushed ahead anyway, and we now have the Alienware x17 R2 — the first laptop ever with a 480Hz display. It’s built with hardware worthy of our best gaming laptops roundup, and the screen is configured for the most competitive players.

Unfortunately, the star feature of the x17 R2 isn’t the best thing about it. This is one of the best laptops on the market right now, and no part of that assessment comes from the refresh rate. 480Hz is an achievement, absolutely, but Alienware’s excellent X-series design, highly capable hardware, and stellar software features are what make the x17 R2 a great gaming laptop.

Alienware x17 R2 specs

  Alienware x17 R2
Dimensions (LxWxH) 11.79 inches x 15.72 inches x 0.82 inches
Weight Starting weight: 6.54 pounds / Maximum weight: 7.05 pounds
Processor Intel Core i7-12700H
Graphics Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti (165W TGP)
RAM 32GB (2x16GB) DDR5-4800
Display 17.3-inch Full HD, 480Hz, 3ms
Storage 1TB M.2 NVMe SSD
Touch No
Ports 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1, 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type C with DisplayPort and power delivery, 1x Thunderbolt 4, 1x 3.5mm, 1x HDMI 2.1, 1x Mini DisplayPort 1.4, 1x Ethernet, 1x microSD
Wireless Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2
Webcam 720p with Windows Hello and dual-array microphones
Operating system Windows 11
Battery 87 watthour battery
Price $2,250+

The second revision of the Alienware x17 is really made to accommodate Intel’s 12th-gen processors. You can go from the 14-core Core i7-12700H up to the 14-core Core i9-12900HK. Although I wasn’t able to test the i9 configuration, I’d be shocked if it provided much of a benefit in games, though it should provide a boost in non-gaming apps.

Otherwise, you can go from an RTX 3060 up to an RTX 3080 Ti, pack in up to 64GB of DDR5-4800 memory, and install up to 4TB of SSD storage in RAID 0. My exact configuration, which you can see in the spec table above, clocked in at $3,550 at the time it was shipped. Prices always change, especially if you’re outside of the U.S., so make sure to check prices with Alienware’s configuration page.

If it ain’t broke… The Alienware x17 R2 sitting on a desk.Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The Alienware x17 R1 was a smash hit, so it’s no surprise that the R2 version sticks with the same overall design. Similar to other X-series laptops like the Alienware x14, the x17 R2 focuses on portability with a thickness of 0.84 inches at the thickest point and a maximum weight of seven pounds.

Yes, this is a 17-inch gaming laptop, so portability takes on a different definition. For a proper desktop replacement, this machine is certainly much more portable than something like the MSI GE76 Raider. You won’t be throwing it in a backpack often, though, due to the size and weight, as well as the chunky charger.

Still, I love this design, and I’m glad Alienware stuck with it. Like the Lenovo Legion 5i Pro, all of the ports are located around the back of the machine, and you have connections like Mini DisplayPort and an Ethernet jack that you don’t typically find on laptops. Alienware keeps everything decently cool as well, sticking with the Element 31 thermal paste featured in the original design and four cooling fans.

Ports on the Alienware x17 R2 laptop.Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Alienware also stayed with the mechanical keyboard design it created with Cherry. The MSI GT77 Titan uses a similar keyboard, and I’m not a fan of it. It’s comfortable to type on, but there’s loud pinging and spring noise that makes long typing sessions tedious. A quality membrane keyboard like the one offered on the Razer Blade 14 is still the way to go. It’s worth noting that Alienware offers a membrane keyboard as an option, but I wasn’t able to try it out.

Although the switches aren’t my favorite, the keyboard layout is great. In particular, the Page Up and Page Down keys are additional functions on the arrow keys, and Alienware uses the extra space for full-size media keys instead.

Most laptops reserve these for the function keys on top. Alienware stuck with the same full-size keyboard design, though, leading to a smaller trackpad and no number pad. Let’s be honest, though: You should be using this machine with a gaming mouse.

A hand using the trackpad on the Alienware x17 R2.Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

I like that Alienware stuck with the same design, but the one pain point is the webcam. It’s 720p, and even with direct sunlight pouring through my windows, it produced a dark and grainy image. The speakers could use some work, too. Although they’re very loud, the increased bass resonance sometimes causes a slight rumbling on the chassis and a bit of distortion at full volume. In fairness, I never had to listen at full volume, and Alienware includes some sound profiles to customize the response.

The Alienware Command Center actually comes stocked with quite a few features, including five thermal profiles. The Balanced and Performance profiles were the most comfortable, while the Full Power preset resulted in very loud fan noise but the best performance out of all of them.

Plenty of CPU power

Alienware x17 R2 (Core i7-12700H) Razer Blade 17 (Core i7-12800H MSI GE76 Raider (Core i9-12900HK)
GeekBench (Single/Multi) 1,718 / 12,437 1,808 / 11,843 1,855 / 13,428
Cinebench R23 (Single/Multi) 1,742 / 17,262 1,697 / 13,218 1,872 / 16,388
PugetBench for Premiere Pro 908 969 1,120

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