At this year’s E3, Alienware unveiled its refreshed product line-up and it came with more than minor enhancements. Beyond the updated hardware, the Alienware 14, 17 and 18 model notebooks come with a redesigned exterior that ditches the Roswell-inspired design. The more colourful and rounded look of past models has been replaced with a whole new exterior that seems more subdued and industrial in look, leading to questions of whether the vendor has decided to target a wider market than merely gamers.
Alienware A/NZ brand manager, Matt Hayler, emphasis that the new Alienware line is all about games and it has been designed to deliver the "ultimate gaming experience". “All three laptops feature a distinctive, angular design that takes its cues from military influences, and are engineered with a focus on various metals for form and function”, he said.
When it comes to designing an Alienware product, Hayler said the company always begins by asking who the customer is and what their demands are. “We know that the gaming platform continues to grow, reaching beyond the hardcore and enthusiast gamer to continuously widen its reach into the mainstream”, he said. “That’s why Alienware’s latest portfolio includes laptops and desktops that address the needs of casual and enthusiast gamers, and those that demand the most powerful gaming systems in the universe”.
The move to Haswell
This year’s line-up comes with the latest processor from Intel, the fourth generation “Haswell” Core. The jump from Intel’s second to third generation Core processor was seen as a small one, though Hayler said the improvement this time around is more evident. “Gamers are constantly looking for ways to improve their existing gaming experience”, he said. “The introduction of the new fourth generation Intel processors, combined with other components, has enabled us to do just that”.
Technical innovations have enabled full-voltage, quad-core, fourth generation Intel Core i7 processors to be made available in the Alienware notebooks, as well as NVIDIA GeForce 700 series graphics. Hayler said these two bits of technology combine to create a gaming experience based around "rich graphics and high performance”. “DDR3L memory also provides exceptional bandwidth with lower voltage requirements designed to increase battery life”. he said.
The other reason for the new look of the notebooks is that Alienware has taken on board feedback from its customers and made improvements in areas such as weight, display and acoustics. “While the weight has stayed approximately the same, we’ve been able to use more metal and premium materials over the previous generation”, Hayler said.
For example, the Alienware 14 now features an anti-glare display, the Alienware 17 offers a choice between the standard anti-glare panel or a 3D one, and the Alienware 18 features a Full HD display with PLS wide viewing-angle technology, which Hayler explains enables reflection-free gaming in nearly any lighting condition.
Batteries still included
Since its foundation, Alienware made a name for itself with its high performance desktop PCs. However, in recent years the company has been pioneering its notebook range, which is again evident in this year’s line-up. While three new notebooks made their debut this year, the X51 was the only new addition to the vendor’s desktop portfolio. The X51 is a small form-factor desktop which is joined by the existing Aurora flagship desktop in the vendor’s portfolio.
As for why Alienware’s portfolio has evolved in this direction, Hayler said the vendor’s current portfolio of three notebooks and two desktops meets the needs of today’s gamers. “We always consider new opportunities to develop and produce new products and form factors should we identify customer needs”, he said.
The Alienware notebooks in particular hold an interesting place in both the vendor’s portfolio, as well as in the notebook market in general. While Ultrabooks are becoming smaller and more battery efficient, the Alienware products pack in the latest hardware and stretch the definition of portability. In many ways, the Alienware notebooks are essentially desktop replacements, and for that reason they are not always that practical to use on the go.
Even so, the very fact the Alienware notebooks are notebooks by design means that they come with batteries. Considering the power hungry nature of the hardware of the Alienware systems, there is the question of whether a battery is needed in the first place. As to whether there may be battery-less Alienware notebooks in the future, Hayler said it is too early to say, since the development of the notebooks started in 2010. “During that period and even now we are continuously evaluating emerging trends to shape our design and development strategy”, he said. “However, we have nothing to announce at this time”.
An Alienware tablet?
The PC platform continues to be a strong and viable space for gaming, but there is no denying that a growing number of people are playing games on the go, typically on touch enabled devices. Since Alienware’s parent company is Dell, which has a wide hardware portfolio spanning PCs to tablets, one wonders if the vendor is interested in dipping its feet into the Android or Windows 8 market with a tablet.
While Hayler admits that touchscreen technology is an exciting space, he said that Alienware is focused at this point in time on customers that want to get the most out of their gaming experience having “hands-on control” through mouse, keyboard or control pad. “Alienware is always aiming to redefine the PC gaming experience for our customers”, he said. “With that in mind, our range offers high performance capabilities that enable gamers to become immersed in a game”. However, Hayler leaves the door open by saying that the vendor is always looking at consumer trends and demands to shape its product design and development.