The spec alone is mouth-watering, with a quad-core i7-4800MQ processor running at 2.7GHz, 16GB of memory and a high-performance GeForce GTX 780M with 4GB of video memory. UPDATE: see our 2014 Alienware 17 review to see how the Alienware 17 fairs with a new processor.
There's a 250GB SSD that acts as the boot drive – allowing it to boot in just 10 seconds from fully off - and a conventional 750GB hard drive for storing games and other files. Our review unit was equipped with Windows 8, but you can opt for Windows 7 at the same price if you prefer.
The 17.3-inch screen has a full HD resolution (1920x1080) and provides a very bright, clear image with great viewing angles and a welcome matt-finish that helps to reduce reflections and glare.
The Klipsch-designed speakers are a cut above average too – they still lack bass, but they do create a fuller sound and produce more volume than most laptop speakers.
The size of the screen means that there's plenty of room for a large, comfortable keyboard and touchpad, and the Alienware 17 is built like a tank so it'll certainly withstand the rigors of keyboard-pounding gaming sessions.
As with all Alienware laptops, there's plenty of eye-candy thanks to the AlienFX software that allows you to customise the colour of the backlight on the keyboard. Even the touchpad glows too, which we think looks rather good.
There's a slot-loading DVD drive and a multitude of connectivity options, including both HDMI input and output, Mini DisplayPort and the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi – although, of course, you'll need a matching 802.11ac router to benefit from those faster wireless speeds. (See also: the 15 best laptops: the best laptops you can buy in 2014.)
Performance is predictably impressive, and the Alienware 17's score of 6332 on the general-purpose PC Mark 7 benchmark was one of the highest we've ever seen. Gamers won't be disappointed either, as it breezed through our Stalker test at 1280x720 resolution with almost 130fps. It didn't lose many frames when we stepped the resolution right up to 1920x1080, still managing almost 120fps. See also: The 8 best laptops of 2013.
The two large air-vents on the back had us a little worried at first, but even after several hours of running various tests there was only a mildly warm flow of air from the vents and virtually no noise from the internal cooling fans. Visit Alienware M17x review.
Plus, despite the size of the screen, the glowing eye-candy and high performance, the power-sipping Core i7 processor still managed to provide an improvement in battery life. The previous Ivy Bridge version from Alienware that we reviewed earlier this year could only manage 2.5 hours of streaming video from BBC iPlayer, but that has now been extended to 4.25 hours – an increase of more than an hour and a half. See Group test: what's the best high-end laptop?
Mind you, battery life isn't a major consideration for a laptop like this. The Alienware 17 weighs over four kilos – almost four times the weight of Sony's ultra-portable Vaio Pro 13 – and is a chunky 50mm thick, so it's obviously going to spend most of its life sitting on a desk within arm's length of a power socket.
Although its specification and performance are impressive, the eye-watering price will put it way beyond the reach of most people. In fact, the Ivy Bridge model mentioned earlier provided only slightly worse performance and costs around £1800, so you're certainly paying a premium for the luxury of the latest Intel and nVidia processors.