The Alienware m15 is a special beast. Unlike most of the best laptops (opens in new tab), which try to balance power with portability and cost, gaming laptops harness immense power, great design, quality features and often a high price tag. Alienware is guilty of all of the above, but the resulting product, when you examine it holistically, is often excellent. This is definitely the impression that the gorgeous looking Alienware m15 R2 laptops gives.
It's an absolute stunner to look at with its distinctive design, which manages to look like a more grown-up gaming laptop, while still maintaining a futuristic look, with it's stylized vents on the back. If older Alienware laptops looked like a Lamborghini Diablo, this is more of an Audi R8 - understated, but clearly packing some muscle under the hood.
The Alienware m15 R2 is the latest model, sporting a redesign called 'Legend'. This laptop is a market leader in many regards, but does the Alienware m15 offer good value for money when you're looking for a portable powerhouse?
CPU: 9th Gen Intel (from i5-9300H to i7-9750H)
Memory: 8GB or 16GB of DDR4 2666MHz
Storage: 256GB to 2TB SSD
Display: 15.6" FHD (1920 x 1080) from 60 to 240Hz
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 to NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080
Ports: 4 x USB-C (1 Thunderbolt), Audio out, HDMI out, Ethernet.
Dimensions: 14.19" x 10.9" x 0.791"
Weight: Starting at 4.7 lbs
Operating System: Windows 10
Alienware m15 review: Design
- Stunning design
- Beautiful 15.6-inch 4K OLED screen
Kicking things off confidently - even the box that the Alienware m15 comes in is well designed - it's immediately apparent that this laptop is exquisite in its design and aesthetic. Alienware laptops used to be unique in their design but had a wobbly screen, a boxy look and still clung to the bulky design that gaming laptops seem to always attract at the time, so this is a real breath of fresh air. Examining it from every angle and before we even turn it on, it's safe to say this is one of the nicest laptops we've seen.
The color palette is restrained to a white or black theme, and there's a motif on the 'front' of the laptop (back of screen panel) that elegantly displays the model name - '15'. The 5mm bezels (approximately) around the panel help to achieve an immersive screen, the keyboard is backlit pleasingly, and the oval-shaped LED light on the back is perhaps the most attractive part of the design. It proves a great feature but also encircles the fans, that keep this monster cool. This quality extends throughout; there's no screen wobble or bounce, and there's solidity in the 4.75lbs / 2.15kg machine.
Housed within the design is a killer feature - the screen itself. It's a 15.6-inch 4K OLED screen which means it has some of the latest tech in its display, and can output at the near-best resolution going too. This is premium on a gaming machine and feels and looks the part. The colors, contrasts, richness, crispness and clarity that this screen provides - gaming or not - is excellent and something to seriously enjoy. This is a boon, and the OLED tech in the screen means that even when running games below the 4K resolution (which you will be most of the time), they are still incredibly clear and beautiful.
For context, one can specify and configure these machines to a range of compositions and 'standards', but the one we tested had a good balance of including some of the top specs, but not the outrageously expensive ones. It consisted of an RTX 2070 graphics card; an i7-9750H intel processor; 16GB of RAM; and a 512GB solid state drive. The hardware composition is supported well in connectivity terms in the form of the ports on offer. There are three USBs; one HDMI; one Mini-Display Port; one Thunderbolt port; an Alienware Graphics Amplifier port; an ethernet port; and a trusty audio jack.
Alienware m15 review: Performance
- Runs AAA games smoothly at high settings
- Fans are a bit loud
The most important thing we discovered when using the Alienware m15 laptop was that whatever we used it for, and whatever we asked of it, the laptop was a pleasure to use and really satisfying in every way. It will crunch through any task or game that is thrown at it and its design, build and features make it a joy to interact with.
It's a gaming laptop after all so the main proof is in the playing. We ran tests and played some really modern, demanding games for hours at a time - games like The Division 2 and Metro Exodus - and everything was a pleasure. Games ran smooth and stutter-free and there was never any hiccup, giving us quality performance and representation with high settings engaged. The screen, even when it isn't displaying the most power-hungry games at 4K, really makes a difference here and offers another level of immersion and sheen that other laptops can't achieve or offer. And given the level of graphics card available to have in the machine - Nvidia's 20-series cards - we enjoyed games that featured cutting edge ray-tracing too.
Like most portable gaming machines the fans did kick in regularly and make a bit of a fuss but they were by no means the loudest we've tested either. And given you'll likely be teaming this with one of the best headsets going, it won't interrupt your experience. Elsewhere, the 4K screen was excellent for watching entertainment on, and the machine was great to use for work or productivity tasks, handling multiple programs and apps with no problems whatsoever. The touchpad and keyboard were satisfying, comfortable, and responsive and there's enough space in the layout to ensure we never missed keys or smashed the wrong ones. We never had a problem hooking up our external devices, either, and overall it was just a great machine to just, well, use.
Alienware m15 review: Battery life
As has always been the case with gaming laptops, you don't really buy them for their battery life. And the Alienware m15 is no different. It lasted maybe two hours - probably less - unplugged and playing games. However, when it comes to the convenience factors in a laptop - battery life and portability - it's best to concentrate on the portability; the premium is so the laptop can be taken to places to play games, rather than to be played while traveling.
Alienware m15 review: Price/value for money
If we're brutally honest, this is somewhere that Alienware has traditionally struggled and not been judged in the best light. There is a school of thought that the brand premium an Alienware machine adds to its price is a little too much, especially in today's rich and diverse gaming laptop market. On the whole, this is still the case with this most recent iteration of Alienware's quality machines.
The one we had cost a hefty $3,250 / £2,500, and this will be just too steep for most - understandably so. However, the sheer exquisite power, quality and performance the m15 provides does go some way to justifying the large investment - it will future proof you, too.
Cheaper devices like the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 (opens in new tab) or the Huawei MateBook 13 (opens in new tab) are OK for some light gaming usage, but if you're a serious game then we'd recommend investing in a dedicated gaming laptop like this.
Should I buy the Alienware m15 gaming laptop?
If you're looking for one of the top gaming laptops, something that can handle anything at high settings - and you have the budget to match, then the Alienware m15 is exactly the machine for you. It's pricey but it comes from a reputable manufacturer and will certainly - with something like the build we had - have you future proofed for a good few years.
The new design is gorgeous, neat, and compact, but there's no compromising inside as it packs a big punch and is certainly one of the most capable portable machines we've tested. If portability is a must, and desktop gaming PC capability is too, then this will serve you very well indeed, and will throw in an excellent screen and feature set with it too.