Alienware is a name synonymous with gaming, but the Dell-owned brand can often get a little too gamer-oriented, with the instantly recognizable design language also leading to machines that are fairly unwieldy, lacking in portability, and fairly out of place in any workplace setting. So, when Alienware launched the X16 R1 gaming laptop that promised uncompromised performance in a compact chassis, I was intrigued. In bringing the Alienware closer to Dell’s XPS line of premium ultrabooks, were there corners cut or performance compromises made?
The Alienware X16 is undeniably a good looker, combining its aluminum and magnesium alloy exterior (“Lunar Silver” is the official name) with a black interior that’s a refreshing change from the all-black world of gaming laptops. Compared to the chunky gaming laptops one has seen, the X16 comes in at 18.57mm thick and at a maximum weight of 2.72kg – for reference, the MacBook Pro 16-inch is 16.8mm thick and weighs 2.15kg, so the X16 is not that far off from other mainstream laptops. It’s still heavy, for sure, but it can be carried around in a backpack in a pinch.
Yet, the X16 hasn’t forsaken its gaming laptop roots, and there’s plenty of RGB lighting on offer, should you wish to flex the fact that the unassuming laptop you’ve been carrying around all day does in fact have legitimate gaming credentials. Of course, there’s fully customizable per-key RGB lighting, the Alienware logo also lights up, and there’s even a light ring of sorts around the ports on the rear with over 100 micro-LEDs. Very cool, but that’s not the coolest bit - the touchpad glows in RGB lighting as well, but it only stays on while you’re actively using the trackpad! It’s been a while since RGB lighting has impressed me on a gaming device, and this most certainly was it. Each of these lighting effects are controlled by the AlienFX software system and can be turned off completely.
With the chassis as thin as it is coupled with the carry-friendly curved edges on the sides, all the ports on the X16 get pushed to the rear - 2 USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports, two USB Type-A ports, HDMI, mini-DisplayPort, a headphone jack and a microSD card reader. It gets a bit inconvenient occasionally, but it does keep the messy cables out of sight.
The 16-inch 16:10 aspect ratio display necessitates a large 364.74 mm x 289.81 mm footprint, which gives the X16 ample room to fit in a spacious keyboard that uses keys with low-profile CherryMX switches. These keys lend the keyboard a mechanical feel, and there’s a satisfying amount of travel. Despite the size of the base, there’s no separate numpad. The touchpad, aside from looking one of a kind, is comfortable to use.
One of the recent trends in the mainstream productivity laptop space has been the move to taller 16:10 aspect ratio displays, and the X16 packs in quite the panel – a Quad HD+ (2560x1600 pixel) with 300nits brightness and a super-smooth 240Hz refresh rate, which means you can get a buttery smooth experience in games that support it. If you intend to use this for creative applications like photo editing as well, the panel supports 100% of the DCI-P3 color gamut, but regular users will stand to benefit from the better color reproduction for everyday content as well. The six-speaker sound setup is good for watching movies, and the 1080p webcam is solid for Zoom calls. This is a laptop that does plenty well as a regular computing device, outside of its gaming duties.
Speaking of gaming duties, the X16 packs in Intel’s 13th Gen Core i9-13900HK processor instead of the more powerful HX-series, likely on account of better thermal management in the thinner chassis. It redeems itself somewhat by going all out with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 graphics card with 12 GB GDDR6 dedicated graphics memory and 32GB of LPDDR5 memory. Playing Forza Horizon 5 and Cyberpunk 2077 was a joy on this machine, with the games hitting 100+ and 45+ frames per second respectively, without any additional frame generation voodoo thrown into the mix.
Look, it’s not spectacular performance, but it’s respectable, as long as you’re okay with the fans kicking in when the Nvidia graphics card is hard at work pumping out those millions of in-game pixels. Battery life is middling, at around 3-4 hours of use and less so if you’re subjecting it to heavy games, but it’s certainly a shade better than competing laptops with the more kitted-out HX series chips.
To answer that original question – yes, there are compromises made to achieve the slickness of this laptop’s design, which start mattering when you realize you’re putting down Rs. 3,99,990 for this configuration. This is a great gaming laptop for those who care about portability, and it’ll deliver a ton of positives as a portable gaming setup that does equally well as a credible work laptop. You need to look no further than Alienware’s own M16 or something like the Lenovo Legion Pro 7i if you want to go all out on power at the cost of portability.
Tushar Kanwar, a tech columnist and commentator, tweets @2shar