Which to go for - the desktop mega rig for graphically intense sessions, or a hardcore laptop for on-the-go gaming? How about a solution combining the best of both? That's the approach of the Alienware 13 gaming laptop. Use as a mobile gaming machine, then simply plug into the Alienware Graphics Amplifier at home - which can be configured with your choice of full size graphics card - to turbocharge it. We got to see the pair in action and think it's a nifty idea.
Given that a laptop solution embeds both screen and chipset into the one device, it's slightly less flexible than a full-on desktop rig, but in the instance of this Alienware pairing it opens the door for the use of heavyweight graphics cards with the ability to easily upgrade in the future.
Not that the Alienware 13 scrimps on features even in its most basic configuration. It houses a 13-inch 2560 x 1440 resolution screen that's crammed full of detail and is a step beyond many non-gaming laptops these days. It looks rather brilliant.
As does the unusual design, a typical trait of Alienware. This is no straight-edged device (well, it is, but you know what we mean), with an almost crown-like lid giving a pointed tip up front and centre. To the rear the grey lid houses a different kind of Grey - the recognisable Alienware "alien face" logo. Two light strips illuminate varying colours, as does the backlit keyboard.
Being a gaming laptop the Alienware 13 doesn't benefit from tiny proportions though, despite being the company's thinnest laptop ever. That's hardly a surprise given that there's an Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M with dedicated 2GB GDDR5 memory under the hood, but that's part of the reason it measures 25mm thick. In gaming terms, that's a job well done though.
To counter the inevitable weight, the chassis utilises carbon fibre composite - although you can't see the classic carbon fibre aesthetic on any of the plastic exterior - to deliver a 2.05kg starting weight.
Then there's the fun part. For an extra £199 you can buy the Alienware Graphics Amplifier and add a graphics card (up to a full length, dual height card) to give the laptop a desktop-grade performance. We plugged into a GeForce GTX 980 to more than complement the Alienware 13's already impressive on-board power. All that's required is one cable to connect the two devices (a hefty dedicated PCI Express) and that's it, job done.
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If you want to plug in a mouse, separate keyboard, headset and so forth then that's aided by four powered USB 3.0 ports.
However, the separate Graphics Amplifier isn't the prettiest of products. There's no unusual shaping like the laptop, it's just a straight-up plastic black box with a mesh front and slatted sides for fan output. We wouldn't hide it away, but it looks more functional than exciting by Alienware standards.
If you're in the market for a gaming laptop then it tends to be a shout between Alienware and Razer. With UK availability and a starting price of £949 with the Intel Core i5 chipset, the Alienware 13 certainly makes its mark. Just make sure you budget for the additional Graphics Amplifier and associated card as it'll add up quickly - but you can configure your ideal system right now and, if the price is right, it'll be whizzing its way to you before the Christmas period.