New Alienware laptops pack Thunderbolt 3 and prettier screens, but oddly lack Skylake

Latest gaming laptops will feature dynamic overclocking, new AMD GPU but oddly, no Skylake

Gordon Mah Ung

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Update: It may have just been a pump fake after all. Alienware said it will offer free upgrades to Skylake for anyone who buys one of the newly announced Alienware gaming laptops.

Alienware’s refreshed laptops announced today at Pax Prime will feature better screens, Thunderbolt 3 and even a new AMD GPU but oddly won’t feature Intel’s latest CPU.

The company announced three refreshed laptops: Alienware 13, Alienware 15, and Alienware 17, with the numeral referring to the size of the screen.

Just last week the company announced the return of its monstrous Alienware 18 gaming laptop with two GeForce GTX 980m GPUs inside.

The Alienware 13 gets the option of an IGZO-based IPS panel with a resolution of up to 3200x1800 and a searing 400 nits of brightness. Its top GPU is a GeForce GTX 960m, and for compute power, it’ll offer the option of dual-core “5th” gen Intel Broadwell CPUs. Units with the Core i7 will have the option of a higher density battery as well.

Alienware officials didn’t disclose all of the details about it, but said it’s a perk of being part of the Dell mothership which has made big investments in battery technology. The standard battery is 52 watt hours, with the higher density battery using the same amount of space but offering 62 watt hours.

dsc01639 Gordon Mah Ung

Alienware 13 rides on top, with the Alienware 15 and Alienware 17 below it. None, however, features Skylake CPUs--yet.

The Alienware 15 will offer graphical options ranging from a GeForce GTX 965m to a GeForce GTX 980m, as well as a new one: An AMD Radeon R9 M395m GPU. The Alienware 15 packs a dual-core Haswell CPU in the base configuration. Two other quad-core chips will be available—both Haswell.

The 17.3-inch, aptly named Alienware 17 will get a UHD 4K panel to go with its GeForce GTX 970m or GTX 980m graphics.

All three units will feature two things in common: Killer NIC’s latest wireless and LAN, plus Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C connectors across all units. That means Alienware’s laptops will have an edge over other USB-C laptops that have already come before it by supporting USB-C transfer rates plus support for Intel’s Thunderbolt 3, which can hit 40Mbps.

dsc01631 Alienware

Eat your heart out Apple MacBook 12. This Alienware has a USB-C connector that also supports DisplayPort and Thunderbolt 3.

The most noticeable omission is the lack of Intel’s latest 6th-gen Skylake mobile CPU. Instead, Alienware's relying on a mix of 4th-gen and 5th-gen Intel CPUs. All three machines will offer something Alienware calls “Dynamic overclocking,” however, which keeps the chips running at higher clock speeds than they otherwise would operate at.

Is the omission a sign of lack of confidence in Intel’s Skylake? Absolutely not, Alienware officials said. The company just wanted to have its refreshed laptops in front of customers sooner rather than later.

Alienware officials also said they fully intend to have essentially the same laptops using Skylake available to consumers once Intel's new chips are available and ready. 

That’s simply odd as all things point to an imminent launch of Skylake-based laptops. Just this week, a European retailer apparently accidentally outed Dell’s XPS13 and an Asus UX303 using the new Skylake chip. If that happens, those who buy Alienware’s refreshed laptops could have the blues—though to be fair, Intel often rolls outs its new mobile chips slowly, with cutting-edge CPUs appearing first in a few select notebooks while Intel cranks up to capacity.

When pressed, Alienware officials said just you should almost think of the refreshed laptops as Skylake prototypes.

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