Ma, this computer is making eyes at me

Ma, this computer is making eyes at me
With the new Alienware 17 gaming laptop, you can literally use your eyes to make things happen, from waking up the computer to changing the field of view in a game.
PHOTO: Dell

In Singlish, to use "eye-power" means to stand and watch idly instead of helping out with a task.

But, with the new Alienware 17 gaming laptop, you can literally use your eyes to make things happen, from waking up the computer to changing the field of view in a game.

This is all thanks to the Tobii eye tracker located right below the screen, which uses illuminators and cameras to follow the movements of your eyes.

I was initially sceptical about it, because the premise seems gimmicky. But I was surprised by the applications available for this technology, which is also available on select gaming laptops from MSI and Acer gaming monitors.

For instance, you can wake the Alienware 17 laptop from sleep mode by looking at the Alienware logo at the bottom bezel.

The laptop can be unlocked automatically because the Tobii eye tracker, which supports the Windows Hello facial recognition feature, recognised me.

On the Windows desktop, tap the touchpad or jiggle the mouse while looking at an object or icon and the cursor will jump to that point.

It doesn't always hit the right spot, but the tracking was mostly accurate.

Another useful feature: The eye tracker can put the PC to sleep mode or dim the screen if it determines that no one is directly in front of the computer screen, similar to the Smart Stay feature on Samsung smartphones.

I also like that I could switch apps by pressing Alt+Tab and looking intently at the desired app instead of tabbing to the right app.

TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $3,999
  • PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-6700HQ (2.6GHz)
  • GRAPHICS: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 8GB GDDR5
  • RAM: 16GB
  • SCREEN SIZE: 17.3 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
  • CONNECTIVITY: 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C with Thunderbolt 3, 1 x USB 3.0 Type-C, 2 x USB 3.0, HDMI, mini-DisplayPort, Ethernet port, Alienware Graphics Amplifier Port, audio jacks
  • BATTERY: 99 watt-hour

RATING

  • FEATURES: 4/5
  • DESIGN: 4/5
  • PERFORMANCE: 4/5
  • VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5
  • BATTERY LIFE: 1/5
  • OVERALL: 4/5

The Tobii eye tracker can also affect the gameplay in supported games like Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Assassin's Creed Syndicate.

Depending on the game title, you can pan the camera with your eyes, target enemies and mark map locations with a glance and a button click. However, I did not have any supported games to properly test this feature.

The Alienware 17 looks similar to previous models, but slimmer. LED strips at the sides and the illuminated Alien head logo on the lid jazz up the laptop's dark grey chassis.

The keyboard, too, comes with multi-coloured backlights that can be adjusted via the AlienFX app.

Like many recent gaming laptops, the Alienware 17 uses an Nvidia 10-Series graphics card. It is a GTX 1070 chip instead of the top-tier 1080, though the 1070 is still fast enough to run the latest games, including virtual reality titles at the highest graphics setting.

The laptop scored around 117 frames per second in Doom, which is similar to what I got on the GTX 1070-equipped Acer Predator 15.

I was a bit disappointed that the Alienware 17 lacks an Nvidia G-Sync screen that would have helped to reduce screen tearing and stutter. Especially when the more affordable Alienware 15 can be customised with such a display.

You could, however, upgrade the Alienware 17's 1,920 x 1,080-pixel display to a 4K (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) version for an extra $522.

Verdict: The built-in eye tracker seems promising. Surprisingly, this flagship Alienware machine does not have the highest-end specs, though this also means that its price tag is slightly more accessible.

Read also: Power Banks put to the test


This article was first published on Nov 30, 2016.
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