Alienware’s 13 R3 is testament to small and powerful VR-capable laptops – TechCrunch

Alienware’s latest offering is the smallest powerhouse laptop produced by the company. The 13 R3 is extremely compact for a VR-compatible system, but portability comes at a premium. Even so, the laptop has a lot to offer gamers and everyday users outside of virtual reality. Especially since its performance is akin to a small gaming desktop rather than a gaming laptop.

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The 13.3 inch, 400-nit OLED touchscreen offers richer colors and smoother, faster cursor interactions on-screen. This can give players a small but potentially vital advantage of added milliseconds. The screen clocks in at a decent Quad HD (2560 x 1440) resolution, though the finish emits a distracting glare, even when viewed indoors.

Processor-wise, you get the latest Intel offers: the seventh-generation Core i7-7700HQ, a quad-core chip with 3.8GHz Turbo Boost and 6MB of cache, 16GB of 2667MHz DDR4 RAM, a 512GB PCie SSD for storage and the punchy Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card, with 6GB of GDDR5 memory. Wireless connectivity is handled by an 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1 card, which cut out on me a few times on stable wireless connections.

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The laptop has ports galore: LAN, external GPU, HDMI, Display, two for USB-C, two for USB 3.0, a power jack and dedicated microphone and audio jacks. Notably absent is an SD card slot, but it’s easy to overlook the omission given the breadth of available ports.

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Thanks to the Pascal architecture of the newest Nvidia GeForce graphics cards, a GTX 1060 is enough to play most current-gen games at their highest settings and native resolution, averaging 50-80fps.

Some of the PC titles I tested included Arma III: Apex, Rainbow Six: Siege and Crysis 3. A graphics/processor-intensive title like Battlefield 1 in DirectX 12 mode slows thing down by about 10-20fps when played online, so I had to move graphics settings down to the medium-high range. The results are still high quality, smooth and look great on screen, but the lack of eye candy will be noticeable for those of you vying for it.

I was also able to get through some VR demos on an HTC Vive without any major hiccups or stalls, by settling for high settings instead of aiming for ultra. It lacks some of the processing oomph of its desktop counterparts, but it’s still impressive output for a 13-inch laptop.

Battery life is another story, thanks in no small part to the high-powered display and processor. I was only able to squeeze out around two and a half hours of a mobile gaming session (which runs at under-clocked speed when not plugged in). Here it falls short to Razer’s Blade 14, on which I was able to get around five to seven hours.

Alienware’s familiar AlienFX lighting zones are present, letting you partition the keyboard to have four distinct light patterns in addition to the touchpad, logo and power button. They serve no functional purpose other than to look good and provide illumination during night sessions — but they’re good at what they do.

The keyboard and touchpad are the laptop’s weakest links. The keys offer tangible mechanical feedback, but the space feels cramped. The touchpad, too, feels small and has two very soft keys. It’s not really ideal for gaming.

l1010181Sure, it’s compact for a VR system, but the 13 R3 isn’t exactly lightweight or thin at 5.8 pounds and 0.87 inches thick in this configuration. If having a more traditional laptop capable of gaming is a priority, the Blade 14 may be the better bet. But if you want a VR-compatible laptop and have more than $2,000 to spend, this certainly fits the bill.

Price as reviewed: $2,099 at Dell.com

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