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Alienware just debuted first-ever gaming laptops with 480Hz displays

Alienware m17 R5 laptop
(Image credit: Alienware)

Get ready for a new level of ridiculous: Alienware is updating two of its 17-inch gaming laptops and adding the option to configure them with up to a 480Hz display, the highest we've ever seen in a gaming laptop.

That's significant because up until now, the highest refresh rate you could find in a gaming laptop display was 360Hz. That's more than speedy enough to play the best PC games at framerates so fast your eyes can't keep up (higher refresh rates allow the display to update more often - e.g. a 120Hz screen can display up to 120 frames per second), but it appears Alienware isn't satisfied.

This week the company is updating two of its best gaming laptops, the 17.3-inch Alienware m17 R5 (opens in new tab) and the Alienware x17 R2 (opens in new tab), to be configurable with up to a 480Hz display (they ship with 165Hz 1080p panels by default). However, that refresh rate is only available on a 1080p panel. If you want one of these beasts with a 4K display, you're limited to a 120Hz refresh rate.

Alienware m17 R2 on a desk with someone playing a game on it

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

These new displays will cost you an extra $400 when configuring each laptop, but they might be worth it if you're really, really passionate about high framerates. Certainly both laptops can be configured with enough horsepower to help drive a game like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive up past the 400+ fps mark, since each sports up to an AMD Ryzen 8900HX/12th Gen Intel Core i9 CPU, up to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti GPU and as much as 64GB of RAM. And since these laptops support Nvidia and AMD's adaptive sync tech, you can rest assured the displays won't stutter, drop frames or tear when playing fast-paced games.

The Alienware m17 R5 starts at roughly $1,567, while the Alienware x17 R2 starts a little higher at $2,205. Both are strong contenders if you want a 17-inch gaming laptop. Earlier this year we went hands-on with the Alienware m17 R5 Ryzen Edition (pictured above) and found it to be sturdy and stylish, while in our Alienware m17 R2 review we lauded the great keyboard and strong performance.

Does anyone actually need a refresh rate this high?

As mind-boggling as a 480Hz refresh rate on a laptop screen is, it also begs the question: Who is this for? 

While higher refresh rates can make things easier to look at on a screen, most of us don't need more than the 120Hz we get on premium tablets and smartphones, which helps make actions like scrolling look and feel smoother. 

Even in fast-paced games like Doom Eternal, there comes a point past which all but the most sensitive eyes won't notice a difference. I've tested dozens of gaming laptops over the years, and to be honest with you I've rarely been able to notice any difference in framerates higher than 150 fps or so. 

Still, it's exciting to see display manufacturers pushing the limits of what can be achieved on a laptop screen. Even if you don't need up to 480 frames per second, it's nice to know the tech is there if you ever change your mind. 

Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. He currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice.