Alienware's new gaming laptops include an 18-inch beast

And there are more 16-inch models, as well.

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Alienware's gaming laptops are getting a new look, and one will even offer a massive 18-inch screen. Dell's gaming brand has been on a roll over the last few years with its bold "Legend" design language, which veered into a very sci-fi aesthetic, as well as its super-thin X series notebooks. This year, Legend is being refined for a third time with a focus on "form, function and quality." Alienware's new machines still look strikingly different than most other gaming laptops, but now they're easier to hold, open and, thankfully, there's no more glossy black plastic to be seen.

Perhaps the most striking example of Legend 3.0 is Alienware's new m18, its largest and most powerful gaming laptop yet. This beast sports an 18-inch screen that's 14.5-percent larger than the previous 17-inch model. Clearly, portability isn't the main concern here, it's power. The m18 features all of the latest hardware, including Intel's fastest 13th-gen HX mobile processors, NVIDIA's latest GPUs, or alternatively you can configure with an AMD Ryzen chip with next-gen Radeon graphics.

While it's just as thick as the previous m17, the 18-inch Alienware also crams in far better cooling, with a vapor chamber that covers the GPU and CPU, seven heat pipes, and four fans for 25 percent better airflow. You'll be able to add an optional Cherry MX mechanical keyboard, up to 9TB of storage and choose between 165Hz quad-HD and 480Hz 1080p screens. With a total system power of 250-watts, the m18 is clearly meant for the most demanding gamers out there, people who won't mind lugging around a huge notebook. If you were intrigued by Alienware's massive Area 51m, its now defunct laptop that used replaceable desktop components, the m18 may be a solid option.

Dell Alienware m18
Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

For the more sensible players out there, there's the smaller Alienware m16, which features the same design and similar cooling upgrades. That computer can be equipped with 16-inch quad-HD+ (2,560 by 1,600) panels running at 165Hz or 240Hz, or with a 480Hz FHD+ screen. Both m-series laptops feature NVIDIA G-SYNC and AMD FreeSDync support, wide color gamuts and Dell's ComfortView Plus technology, which reduces harsh blue light.

If the Alienware m16 and m18 look a bit chunky compared to most other gaming laptops, that's pretty much by design. That's always been the company's line for bigger and more powerful machines. If you want something slimmer and perhaps more fashionable, you'll have to look to the X-series notebooks. Last year we got the Alienware x14, which was impressively thin for all the power it held. This year, the company is introducing the x16, which, you guessed it, sports a 16-inch screen.

Alienware is calling the x16 its design highlight of the year, with a tall 16 by 10 display and a stronger all-metal case. It even manages to fit in a six-speaker sound system, with two upward-firing tweeters and two woofers for solid bass. Under the hood, it's powered by Intel's fastest non-HX 13th-gen CPUs, all the way up to the 14-core 13900HK and NVIDIA's full suite of RTX 4000 GPUs. Alienware says it can also be equipped with AMD's next-gen hardware, but we don't have specifics on that yet.

Dell Alienware x14

The x16 looks just as striking as Alienware's previous thin gaming laptops, but the new Legend aesthetic makes it appear more refined. It also has all the bling you'd want, with over 100 micro-LEDs along its rear lighting panel, RGB lighting across all of its keys, and an RGB touchpad that's also 15 percent bigger than the previous x17's. Now I'm still not sure why you'd want RGB lighting on a touchpad, but it sure does look cool. The x16's 6-pound weight may be a problem for some buyers though, especially since Razer's Blade 17 pretty much matches it.

As you'd expect, the Alienware x14 also makes a return this year, and it still looks impressive. It sports a new 14-inch quad-HD+ screen running at 165Hz, and its hardware is less beefy than the 16-inch model, topping out with one of Intel's 13th-gen Core i7 CPUs and NVIDIA's RTX 4060. That's the price you'll have to pay for such a thin case though. Alienware claims it's still the thinnest 14-inch gaming notebook on the market, though, measuring at just 14.5mm.

All of Alienware's new machines will be available in the first quarter with Intel and NVIDIA configurations, while AMD options will arrive in the second quarter. The m18 will start at $2,899 with high-end options, though Alienware says entry-level models starting at $2,099 will arrive later. The m16, meanwhile, will initially run you $2,599, with future configurations starting at $1,899. The Alienware x16 will be the priciest of the bunch, starting at an eye-watering $3,099 for high-end configs and $2,150 for future entry-level options. And last, but not least, you can expect to pay at least $1,799 for the x14.

Choosing any notebook, especially gaming machines, always amounts to weighing potential compromises. At least now Alienware has a machine for practically everyone, from the style conscious to people who want an even more desktop-like experience on the go.

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