I’ve been ramping up my coverage of hardware here at Windows Central, aiming to offer you (the reader) thoughtful and thorough insight into the good, bad, and ugly of the products asking for your money. One company in particular didn’t hesitate to take advantage of my hardware frenzy. That company is Alienware, which is trying to expand its hardware portfolio outside of laptops, desktops, and monitors to also include all the accessories PC gamers need.
I’ve been on an Alienware binge, recently, reviewing five of the company’s latest products and evaluating them both on their individual merits and as part of the wider Alienware ecosystem. With just over a month spent with this gaming setup, does Alienware have what it takes to occupy every place on your desk? Alienware is certainly heading in the right direction, but things aren’t perfect, yet… Let’s talk about it.
Great hardware wrapped in consistent design
Alienware has always been known for its style. For years, the company has stood apart from everyone else with out-of-this-world designs that placed the aesthetics above all else. Some of those designs have been controversial with users, but Alienware has steadily refined its design language without losing the Alienware touch. Now, the company’s latest lineup of products falls under the “Legend 3” design language, and it’s the best (and least controversial) Alienware has ever looked.
This means a consistent style across Alienware’s entire portfolio that employs clean lines and curves, contrasts between white designs with black accents, colorful RGB lighting, and the distinct black oval seen across basically every product here. You can also get most Alienware products in a more standard black colorway, but you do lose a little of what makes the Legend 3 design language so nice to look at. If you’re a huge fan of stylish gaming setups with consistent themes, Alienware is nailing things on that front.
Alienware is also doing an excellent job with build quality, as you’d expect from a company that specialized in premium, high-end hardware. The Alienware x16 R1 immediately impresses on that front, for example, justifying its steep price on its stellar construction and aesthetics. While it may be expensive for the feature set you’re getting, the Alienware Tri-Mode Wireless Gaming Keyboard (AW920K) is also built incredibly well and, in my opinion, looks better than competing premium keyboards from companies like Razer or SteelSeries.
Alienware also helps its products stand out with unique features or specific focuses. The Alienware 34 Curved QD-OLED Gaming Monitor (AW3423DWF) is a large, widescreen, curved gaming monitor with a gorgeous OLED display and flawless gaming performance, and it’s actually very well-priced (a rarity with Alienware’s products). The Alienware Tri-Mode Wireless Gaming Headset (AW920H) isn’t the most impressive wireless gaming headset, but it does feature very solid active noise cancellation at a great price and is perfectly viable as an everyday pair of headphones thanks to reliable touch controls and solid Bluetooth connectivity.
The only Alienware product I reviewed that didn’t follow this formula of “great design and unique features” is the Alienware Wireless Gaming Mouse (AW620M), which is a very straightforward, no-frills wireless mouse that doesn’t standout in basically any way, but it lacks any major flaws, too. Still, it feels right at home alongside the rest of these Alienware products and helps complete the ultimate gaming setup with the best Alienware laptop, one of the very best gaming monitors, and a solid wireless gaming headset, keyboard, and mouse.
Alienware’s expanded lineup covers all the bases, and none of these products were misses. Each one has something to entice buyers, be it the overwhelming style or a unique focus, such as a widescreen OLED display, a wireless keyboard that can connect to up to four devices, or an RGB-equipped wireless headset with active noise cancelling. I’d argue that Alienware has a tendency to price its products a little too high, but there’s only one consistent pain point in the current Alienware family that the company is working to address.
Love-hate relationship with Alienware Command Center
The Alienware Command Center is your hub for all Alienware products. It’s where you change the performance profiles for your Alienware PC. It’s where you access AlienFX, the suite to customize Alienware’s RGB lighting. It’s where device settings, macro keys, and firmware updates can be found. It’s a one-stop shop to streamline your gaming setup and management, as long as you’re using Alienware products. It can even help you keep track of your games, so you can jump in the action as quickly as possible.
Sadly, it’s also a little bit of a mess. For one, there are multiple versions of the Alienware Command Center. The latest (and best) version, 6.0, is only available on the newest lineup of Alienware PCs like the x16 R1. On non-Alienware or older devices to use with newer Alienware accessories, there’s version 5.0. Those with even older Alienware accessories may need to use even older versions. All versions have similar issues, though.
During my time with all these Alienware products, using the Command Center on both the x16 R1 and my desktop PC, I encountered a variety of issues. Startup times for Alienware Command Center were highly inconsistent and usually frustratingly long. Device could take ages to appear in the Command Center and would constantly disappear, even in the middle of editing settings. I experienced multiple crashes. The 5.0 version of the Alienware Command Center refused to let my computer ever go to sleep. The 6.0 version of the Command Center didn’t even work on the brand-new x16 R1 with a fresh install of Windows without a substantial amount of troubleshooting and work.
Older versions of the Alienware Command Center are also bogged down by confusing and cluttered layouts that hide options and settings, although I will say this has massively improved with the latest 6.0 version. Still, the Alienware Command Center is an important part of the Alienware experience, but it’s just not reliable enough right now. It makes using Alienware’s various products frustrating, despite the quality and appeal of the hardware. Fortunately, I have faith that Alienware is committed to improving matters in this area.
While working with Alienware, the team has listened carefully to my feedback and paid close attention to my reviews. I’ve been given passionate reassurances that the Command Center team has big plans for it, and even during the last month it has received updates to improve startup times and reliability. Hopefully, the newest (and greatest) version of the Alienware Command Center will also come to more devices, including non-Alienware PCs. I genuinely like the Alienware Command Center’s layout, and when it works it works well. It’s not consistent, but it is improving.
An evolving Alienware
Alienware is one of the oldest and most experienced manufacturers of gaming laptops and PCs, but it’s a relatively recent arrival in the gaming accessories space. It’s hard to compete in an already mature market filled with experienced and well-established competitors, but Alienware has the brand identity and distinct design language to pull it off. The company also knows how to build quality, premium products.
Not one of the Alienware products I reviewed was bad or didn’t earn my recommendation, but most did have caveats to that recommendation. Usually, it was the price-to-features ratio or the inconsistency and frustration of the Alienware Command Center. Overall, though, this setup I’ve been using over the last month does feel like a connected family of devices; Alienware has a great start to a healthy, balanced ecosystem of laptops, desktops, monitors, and accessories, it just needs to continue taking feedback into account and iterating on what is has.
I am really excited to see how Alienware continues to evolve and expand its brand. It seems like the company has finally nailed a polished, unique style that won’t draw the same controversy as previous iterations, and I’ve seen a clear commitment from the company to improve every product with firmware and software updates. I can’t overstress the importance of building a unified, reliable foundation for every product through the Alienware Command Center, too, although I’ve noticed a trend with Alienware products releasing in an unfinished or crippled state, only to be fixed with post-launch firmware updates, like with both the Alienware AW920H and Alienware AW720H wireless gaming headsets.
Plenty of people prefer to stick to one company for as much as possible, and Alienware is making a good effort to be that one company. It’s already in a solid position, especially if you love that Legend 3 design language as much as I do. I look forward to reviewing what Alienware does in the future, because I’m sure it only gets better from here.