Gone are the days where gaming laptops were looked down upon – today’s laptop manufacturers are capable of producing incredibly powerful machines that can handle the latest games on max settings.
In the gaming laptop space, Alienware and MSI are the names you’ll come across most frequently. These two brands have been delighting gamers worldwide with their constantly improving configurations for more than two decades.
So, which of the two should be your gaming brand of choice? Read our Alienware vs MSI comparison to find out!
Alienware vs MSI: The Basics
Although both brands make some impressive gaming machines, Alienware is the better choice if you have an unlimited budget and high-end gaming performance is your priority. They’re known as one of the best brands on the market, although their high-tier models can get quite expensive.
Founded in 1996, Alienware started assembling notebooks, desktops, and workstations for gaming. In 2006, the company was acquired by Dell, which currently markets the brand as their selection of gaming machines, with models like the m15 series providing lots of fun for generations of gamers.
- High-end models provide unmatched performance
- Signature flashy design
- Lots of options within each model, along with customization options when buying
- Some models have a pretty impressive battery life
- Higher-tier models can get pretty expensive
- Some models are heavy to the point that it undermines their portability
MSI (Micro-Star International) is a Taiwanese company that provides computer hardware, including all-in-one PCs, laptops, motherboards, graphic cards, and more. The company specializes in gaming – it’s a sponsor of several eSports teams and even hosts an annual international gaming event called MSI Masters Gaming Arena.
- Years of experience in serving gamers
- Great range of options to choose from, not limited to gaming
- More affordable prices, especially in the lower range
- Durable and sturdy
- Outperformed by Alienware in the high end
- Could use some work in the design department
Let’s get into what makes Alienware laptops so popular in the gaming market.
In terms of design, Alienware makes some of the best-looking laptops on the market – they might have even outdone themselves in recent years.
Alienware was one of the first brands to introduce the colorful, shiny keyboard that you’ll find in almost all gaming laptops today. Combined with the dark, metallic design, these laptops feature a signature look most gamers are looking for. There’s also no denying that the alien logo is just cool.
In the past few years, Alienware also introduced some breath-taking white laptops that, while breaking the black and shiny rule, also look elegant and premium.
Alienware Build Quality & Hardware
All Alienware laptops are well-made and sturdy – maybe even to the point that they become a little heavier.
The new models are mostly magnesium alloy with certain plastic components (like the bezels around the screen). Compared to the rest of Dell’s product lineup, Alienware is among the best lines in terms of build quality. You might be inclined to give the XPS lineup the top place in this category because it’s pretty much all metal, but since Alienware laptops are so much bigger, building them entirely out of aluminum would simply not be rational.
In short, Alienware laptops are among the best-built in the entire Dell product offering.
Alienware offers a wide range of displays, but its 15’’, 17’’, and 18’’ series are the most popular.
However, even within each display size, you can choose between various screen sizes and resolutions. For example, the new Alienware x17 offers four different FHD (1920 x 1080) options along with 4 UHD (3840 x 2160).
Like the m15 OLED from 2019, other models feature a beautiful OLED display that achieves great contrast ratios, especially in a darker setting.
Different models also feature various bezels, some focusing more on making the screen as spacious as possible. Others (like the above-mentioned m15 OLED) have quite wide bezels, reducing the screen.
You’ll find that Alienware offers a wide range of laptops that fit in different categories performance-wise. The brand also features both Intel and AMD chips, along with some powerful GeForce RTX GPUs.
For example, the m16 R6 features an 11th Generation Intel Core i7 11800H that can go up to 4.6GHz when boosted. Considering that this is one of the most affordable, lower-tier (“low” needs to be taken loosely here) options, that’s pretty impressive.
When we get to the more expensive options, you can see why Alienware has a reputation as one of the best gaming laptop brands. The Alienware x17 features an 8-core Intel Core i9 11980HK that can go up to 5.0GHz with Turbo Boost. It can also be overclocked if you want even more power.
Overall, Alienware offers some powerful laptops, especially in the more expensive range.
Alienware laptops are pretty durable, given their quality build and materials.
In recent years, the brand introduced something they call Element 31, an industry-leading and encapsulated gallium-silicone thermal material that’s supposed to prolong your laptop’s life and let you game longer without overheating issues. According to Dell’s website, it offers a 25% improvement in thermal resistance.
The newer models, while amazingly thin, still feel as sturdy and reliable as ever.
Alienware Battery Life
Gaming laptops aren’t exactly optimized for long battery life and being on the move, so you can’t expect impressive results here.
That being said, Alienware has some models that do fall short in this regard, even for a gaming laptop. For example, the m15 R3 has a notoriously short battery life. On the other hand, its successor, the m15 R4, can run twice as long on a single charge.
The battery life will depend on the model, but it’s safe to say that Alienware fixed some of these issues with the older models.
Alienware Customer Service & Warranty
Alienware hardware purchased in the United States or Canada comes with a standard one-year warranty. You can easily check your warranty status on Dell’s website.
They also include 24/7 support and in-home visits – although this is likely more relevant to desktop users.
All in all, there is nothing to complain about with how Alienware handles their warranty and support.
Alienware has a wide range of products, but they’re generally considered an expensive brand of laptops.
Of course, a certain cost is to be expected when you’re looking for a gaming laptop, but certain brands offer entry-level laptops at an affordable price. With Alienware, even their cheapest laptop (the m15 R6 at the moment) is listed at nearly $1,400 on their website.
If you’re looking for an affordable gaming machine, Alienware products will hardly do.
Recommended Alienware Models
Here are some of our favorite Alienware laptops you can buy right now.
- M17 R4: a 17-inch laptop is a true joy for gaming. This model also comes with a 10th generation Intel Core i7-10870H that can go up to 5.0 GHz when boosted.
- Area 51M: the first Alienware laptop to support 64GB of DDR4 memory at 2933Mhz, this model is powerful and sturdy – although a little cumbersome.
- M15 R4: a premium choice for sure, this model features a sleek light design and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 for superior performance.
Now, let’s see how MSI compares in the same categories.
Unlike Alienware, MSI features a relatively unified design style: most of the models you’ll see on their website are metallic black, with thin bezels. Until recently, you might have even called MSI laptops “boring” if what you were looking for were colors or innovative design.
However, the minimalist black design is definitely an appealing look to gamers. In 2020, the GE66 Raider introduced a colorful keyboard that features mesmerizing aurora lighting, showing us that MSI upped its game in this department.
We’re excited to see what MSI comes up with in the future!
MSI Build Quality & Hardware
In certain MSI laptops, you’ll find that the top and bottom portions of the laptop are made out of sturdy plastic. While that might deter some users, it’s a smart choice when it comes to overheating, especially on the palm rests. The plastic is sturdy but users have been reporting problems with the display hinge.
Other models, like the GF75 Thin, feature a metallic top and bottom made out of aluminum alloy, resulting in both a sleek design and a sturdy product.
Overall, the build quality will depend on the specific model, but we can say that MSI is solid in the higher tier.
Much like Alienware, MSI features a wide range of displays that come in different resolutions.
For example, the GE66 Raider delivers a diverse contrast with its 4K OLED display, while the GS76 Stealth comes in both FHD (1920×1080) and UHD (3840×2160) versions. Things become even more complicated with MSI since they offer a wide range of laptops that aren’t only limited to gaming. Among their workstations, you’ll also find lots of different display options.
One thing that most MSI displays have in common is the thin bezels that the manufacturer seems to prefer. They give the laptop a premium look and really allow you to immerse yourself in the visuals.
Like Alienware, MSI also offers both AMD and Intel chips, so you have plenty of options to choose from. To keep things fair, though, we’ll stick to gaming laptops and ignore MSI’s workstations and productivity laptops.
However, even if we focus on MSI’s high-tier gaming laptops, we can see a gap in performance compared to Alienware’s best options. For example, the 17.3’’ MSI GS66 Stealth features an i7-10870H that maxes out at 5.0 GHz – this is one of the more powerful options MSI offers, released in May 2021. The model does offer a GeForce RTX 3080 found in Alienware’s M15 R4 and it’s about the only option that can compare with Alienware’s more expensive models.
MSI offers some great options in the mid-tier but falls short compared to Alienware if we’re looking at truly high-end performance.
When it comes to durability, MSI is pretty average for the category.
In terms of performance, you’ll hardly see significant drop-offs even after prolonged use – much like with many other well-made gaming laptops. Any durability issues you might run into with MSI are hardware-related.
As mentioned, some users have been complaining about their display hinges and general chassis issues. Dents, chips, screen curving, and similar issues all point to slightly concerning build quality for the price.
That being said, MSI’s gaming laptops are still likely more durable and sturdier than your average $700 laptop.
MSI Battery Life
When it comes to battery life, MSI provides some quite satisfying results.
Regardless of the model, most MSI laptops will offer decent-to-impressive battery life, certainly more consistently than Alienware.
Models like the GE66 Raider, GS66 Stealth, and even the 2019 GS75 Stealth can hold up for between 6 and 7 hours on a single charge. The same can be said for most newer MSI models.
MSI Customer Service & Warranty
MSI also offers a standard, one-year warranty that can easily be checked on their website.
MSI is pretty standard on the customer service front, although you’ll find some complaints online about how they handle incoming calls. The support section on their website is also a little harder to navigate and not as intuitive as that of Alienware.
Being a gaming brand, MSI certainly has pricier laptops than what you’ll find in the performance or business category.
Their products are pretty competitive to Alienware – they occupy the same segment and their entry prices are close. However, one big difference is in the higher tier. While certain Alienware models can go up to nearly $5,000, MSI will usually max out at about $3,500, and even that will be rare.
On the other hand, MSI offers more variety in the $1,300-$2,200 range.
Recommended MSI Models
Here are some attractive MSI laptops to consider.
- GS66 Stealth: the i7-10870H CPU and a GeForce RTX3080 make for a premium gaming experience.
- GE76 Raider: features an Intel Core i7-11800H that can go up to 4.6 GHz when boosted. A 17.3’’ gaming laptop at a competitive price.
Alienware vs MSI: The Conclusion
As we mentioned near the beginning of our Alienware vs MSI comparison, Alienware seems like the better, more established brand. Its high-end products are superior, along with great customer service and support.
Alienware particularly excels if you have an unlimited budget and want to go all-in for the best machine available. Its design and build quality also seem more modern and varied.
On the other hand, MSI is a better choice if you’re looking for a mid-range gaming laptop at a reasonable price. Some of their mid-range models offer outstanding performance without breaking the bank.