Dell updates Alienware gaming laptops with Haswell chips but sticks with Windows 7

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After bringing the new Intel Haswell processor to the Alienware X51 mini-gaming desktop (check out our review) at Computex 2013, you had to know it was just a matter of time before Dell did the same for its popular line of Alienware gaming laptops. Rather than crowd the stage in Taiwan last week, Dell is taking its flashy new laptops to E3 in Los Angeles to kick off the gaming industry’s biggest party.

All three Alienware laptops – the Alienware 14, Alienware 17, and Alienware 18 – will be getting the new fourth-generation processor from Intel, as well as a new look. The 2013 models feature programmable LED lights that you can control using the preloaded AlienFX software, so that the lights on the lid, in the Alienware logo, all around the perimeter of the machine, and under the keyboard can work together to give you a more immersive gaming experience depending on what you’re playing. In fact, Dell worked directly with game developers to sync lighting effects with your player’s in-game actions (healing or under attack) in over 60 titles, including games from Anomaly2 to Neverwinter.

It almost goes without saying that their keyboards also feature programmable keys to improve your gameplay: there are nine keys with up to 19 different functions per application or game available. These keyboards should be able to handle heavy gaming as they’re built on a metal plate for a solid typing experience.

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Beyond their angular chassis inspired by “jet engines and stealth bombers,” all three Alienware laptops basically share the same parts but are available in three different sizes, depending on your mobility needs.

With the lowest resolution out of the three, the Alienware 14 , as its name suggests, offers a 14-inch anti-glare WLED HD display at just 1366 x 768 resolution in the base configuration. It rocks the Nvidia GeForce GT 750M graphics card that supports DirectX 11, which is the same discrete graphics card as the Acer Aspire V7 Ultrabook. The GT 750M helps keep its starting price tag at a reasonable $1,200. According to Dell, it is the most powerful 14-inch laptop on the market today.

If don’t mind spending a bit more for a higher quality 14-inch display, the Alienware 14 is also available with a full HD screen with IPS technology for wider viewing angles. Of course, if having more internal storage is important to you, you can cram up to three drives into this little gaming powerhouse.

Otherwise, the Alienware 14 shares the same base configuration as its bigger brothers. All three start with the new 3.6GHz Intel Core i7 processor (4700MQ), 8GB RAM, 750GB standard hard drive, Gigabit Wi-Fi (though just Gigibit Ethernet and 802.11n Wi-Fi on the 14), DVD writer, and Bluetooth. They’re all preloaded with Windows 7 so you know your existing library of games and drives will work out-of-box. Of course Windows 8 is an option.

Dell Alienware 17 front

What separates the Alienware 17 (above) from its 14-inch brother is its screen size and graphics card. While its 17.3-inch anti-glare WLED HD+ display offers a more respectable 1600 x 900 pixel resolution than the Alienware 14, it’s still nothing to write home about considering that the MSI GT60 3K Edition offers a near-Retina 2880 X 1620 display. To make sure the entry-level Alienware 17 starts at $1,500, it also packs the more modest Nvidia GeForce GTX 765M discrete graphics, which is on par with the similarly-sized $1,400 Asus Republic of Gamers G750 laptop. Like the Alienware 14, the Alienware 17 has room for up to four different hard drives inside its metal chassis, so you should be able to store your entire library of HD movies and games locally.

Dell Alienware 18 angleAs the biggest member of this laptop gaming family, the Alienware 18 (above) boasts the most bad-ass specs. Not only does it have the biggest and brightest 18.4-inch WLED 1080p screen at 350 nits, its processor is also overclocked to 4.3GHz by Dell, which means you’ll enjoy the best possible computing performance without lifting a finger. In addition, dual discrete graphics and Nvidia SLI are standard with the Alienware 18. Not only will you have two Nvidia GeForce GTX 765M graphics processors under the hood, you’ll also be able to plug up to eight  other monitors into this laptop for a mind-blowing viewing or playing experience.

Of course, having double the graphics power as the Alienware 17 will cost you: the base configuration for the Alienware 18 will set you back a cool $2,100. You also have the option to fit up to four different hard drives inside this bad boy, like you can with the Alienware 17; but doing so will certainly up the price of this machine.

In case you need to lug your Alienware laptop to a LAN party, Dell is also releasing a line of specially designed bags for its machines. These Alienware Vindicator Laptop Bags are available in a variety of form factors (backpack, messenger bag, slim carrying case, briefcase and neoprene sleeve) that will protect your laptop no matter your style.

You can order everything – the Alienware 14, 17, 18, and Vindicator bags (and even the X51 mini-desktop) – direct from Dell today.

[Updated June 11 @ 10:15AM ET: Replaced mention of the Toshiba Qosmio X75 with the MSI GT60 3K Edition gaming laptop.]

This post was originally published on June 11, 2013

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