Review – The Alienware AW2518H gaming monitor lands in niche territory
Before the arrival of gaming-targeted hardware and nearly a decade before Razer, there stood a company whose magazine ads left gamers longing. Alienware has been in the business since the era of Doom and floppy disks, so it’s surprising to see them drag their feet with the monitor market – especially when their parent, Dell, already makes gaming monitors. Can Alienware’s AW2518H, a 24.5-inch 1080p 240Hz TN monitor, replicate the success of their PC systems or will it fade among the crowd?
Alienware likes doing things differently, even if it means using a massive neck box to ship their monitors (the whole package weighs 11.7kg). Nonetheless, after wrangling the heavy stand onto the desk and getting all the proper cable connected, I couldn’t help but feel impressed.
Given the style of their current Area 51 desktops one might think they’d go for something off-worldly, but the AW2518H is somewhat reserved and highly attractive. Framing either side of the matte TN panel are these beautifully thin black bezels, while the rear is encased in gunmetal grey and sectioned into three, mimicking their laptop lids. Short LED strips embed along these dividing lines, with a backlit Alienware logo stamped in a top corner. The entire thing looks decidedly more sci-fi in profile, largely due to the tripod base. Although clearly a gaming monitor it doesn’t scream and shout the fact at you, the only branding on the front being the company’s name in grey lettering.
If you feel strongly about the lights then you’re free to swap colors, have it cycle, or disable it completely through the OSD menu. It’s full RGB but they’re all controlled as a set with no brightness setting. Since they’re all on the rear it doesn’t affect the user anyway, though you may get some glow reflecting off the wall if the monitor’s close enough and the room dark enough. Either way, it isn’t going to act as edge lighting.
Further probing around the rear revealed a couple of minor negatives. The cable routing slot at the base of the stand makes for an awfully tight fit, especially if some of your cable plugs happen to be large. The greater annoyance is the way the power socket sits at an angle, which makes dealing with it and the detachable cover a chore. Small grievances, though they do mar the set-up experience.
There’s the full complement of height, tilt, and swivel adjustments, including a ninety-degree rotation to go vertical. There’s no wobbling at all, which can also be said for the row of buttons underneath the bottom right edge. I appreciate how the power button is further apart from the quick controls, yet the highlights here are the two additional USB 3.0 ports that are smack center, increasing the total count to four — the other two USB 3.0 are at the back with the rest of the ports. where you’ll also find DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 1.4.
However, I’m not too sure about the headphone jack being underneath the bottom bezel as well, since the cable would just trail all over the keyboard. I’m certain most gamers use speakers and USB headsets but Alienware must have known the placement isn’t ideal. Was this tiny, unseen symmetry necessary?
Where performance is concerned, the AW2518H chases after the glitzy eSports audience with its native 240Hz refresh rate and 1ms response time, at the expense of having a 1920 × 1080 resolution. If you’ve been reading our reviews, you’d find that while we consider the lightning-fast responsiveness impressive, the practical uses for it are questionable. More so when you consider that the thousand-dollar price tag on this model could get you a larger monitor, one with the increasingly popular 2560 × 1440 and 144Hz combination at that. It’s just a tough proposition for actual PC gamers with actual budgetary constraints to work with.
So outside of the Alienware Arenas, I don’t see the AW2518H making its way into regular gaming households. But let’s say money isn’t a concern and you’re adamant about playing a certain set of genres all the time — first-person shooters and racing, primarily — then how does the monitor stack up?
While it’s no IPS the colors are actually pleasant and vivid on factory settings, with pretty impressive black levels to boot. The OSD only has adjustments for dark calibration, brightness, contrast, as well as a long list of preset modes. The lack of a color temperature slider is disappointing but, frankly, I didn’t find myself wanting to adjust things as much as on the other 240Hz monitors. Being Dell’s subsidiary may have paid off here.
The OSD also contains three settings for response time – Normal, Fast, and Super Fast — and here the AW2518H kind of bucks the trend as I found the Fast setting a tad too aggressive, thereby having me leave the monitor on its default Normal. G-Sync performed the way you’d expect it to, with no noticeable problems around the upper end of the framerate range. Being an eSports screen, I wasn’t too bothered about viewing angles but the color shifts are definitely noticeable, growing more pronounced the further I moved to the sides than if I were moving up or down.
While I enjoyed my time with the Alienware AW2518H for both its aesthetics, surprising color, and breathlessly fast performance, I’m still unable to reconcile those points with the poor value one gets in return. It’s a niche product, joining a line of similarly niche 240Hz monitors, and its presence may simply boil down to eSports sponsorships and die-hard fans.
Perhaps Alienware will find their thunder in the coming 4K HDR space, where they can strut their reputation as a gaming luxury brand — that weirdly cool and unattainable extraterrestrial kids longed for. For now, it’s best to just admire and move along.
*Note: Alienware has an AMD FreeSync model, the AW2518HF, which is considerably cheaper at just over $700.