Alienware M15 R3 overview: a skinny gaming laptop computer with some compromises
Alienware’s M15 R3 is a stable gaming laptop computer to introduce, or reintroduce, your self to what the Dell-owned firm is able to nowadays. It’s a giant enchancment over the design of the unique M15 launched a couple of years in the past, brushing away among the try-hard LEDs and angular design for a thinner and extra refined look.
Don’t get me unsuitable, that is nonetheless very a lot a Gaming Laptop computer, clad with backlit keys, honeycomb-shaped air intakes, and a strip of LEDs surrounding its rear fan outtakes. Basically, it’s a slimmed-down model of the humongous, modular Space-51M. However it’s constructed to draw players that need a barely extra refined and minimal look than what Alienware has been recognized to supply. With this, and assist for high-end specs like a 300Hz refresh price show, Dell reveals that it’s tapped into what extra players demand from a laptop computer.
Nicely, kind of.
There are acquainted setbacks right here that ought to increase an eyebrow when you’re contemplating different high-end choices. As an example, this laptop computer (like its predecessor) has its RAM soldered onto the motherboard, stopping you from upgrading it sooner or later when it begins to get slowed down. And Alienware’s 32GB cap whenever you’re shopping for the machine is simply too low for 2020 requirements, not to mention the demanding video games which are coming within the close to future. Razer’s Blade 15 and the MSI GS66 Stealth are each comparably priced machines that allow you to simply add extra RAM and storage after buy — and they’re thinner than the M15 R3.
The battery life can be severely missing. It’s not smart to ever count on miracles on this division with gaming laptops, particularly for one with a 300Hz refresh price show. However even once I’m doing productiveness duties with balanced battery utilization and lowered brightness, the six-cell 86Wh battery tanks in about an hour. The aforementioned GS66 Stealth that I reviewed has a 99Wh battery, and regardless of being a thinner laptop computer with a 300Hz refresh price show and a few sooner specs, it in some way manages to final round 5 hours earlier than needing a cost. Much less demanding configurations of the R3 most likely fare higher (knocking the show’s refresh price to 60Hz doubled the battery life to 2 hours, however that’s additionally nothing nice), however it’s clear this laptop computer usually isn’t well-suited for use on the go.
The M15 R3 serves up a couple of minor enhancements over its predecessor, the M15 R2. As an example, cooling has been a problem for this lineup previously, however this machine is ready to hold comparatively cool whereas it’s sitting on my lap. Its redesigned followers have extra blades, and Alienware elevated the quantity of copper within the cooling system to raised dissipate the warmth. Granted, its followers nonetheless blast out very toasty air away from you, and the rear elements of the laptop computer are nonetheless too sizzling to the touch after some time of enjoying video games, however this newer design turns cooling into far much less of a problem than earlier than. One other new function is the microSD slot alongside the laptop computer’s proper edge.
You may spec this machine to be actually highly effective, with the most recent tenth Gen Intel Comet Lake H-series processors, Nvidia RTX 20-series Tremendous Max-Q graphics chips, and as much as 32GB of RAM (the earlier iteration topped out at 16GB). The 1080p show has a 144Hz refresh price with a 7ms response time by default, however you possibly can go for an excellent sooner 300Hz refresh price panel with a 3ms response time, or go entire hog with a 60Hz 4K OLED display screen with a 1ms response time.
For this overview, I couldn’t resist testing out the quick 1080p 300Hz refresh price panel, with Intel’s Core i7-10750H six-core processor, a full-powered RTX 2070 graphics chip (not the Max-Q model), and 16GB of RAM. Once more, this isn’t the ceiling for the R3, extra the middle-of-the-road choice for severe players. However I needed to take a look at one thing across the $2,100 worth vary as a result of that’s an area the place Alienware has some powerful competitors.
These specs supplied constantly clean gaming efficiency with max settings switched on for video games like Demise Stranding, Management, and new releases like Mortal Shell, to offer a couple of examples. It’s additionally sufficiently quick for a mixture of heavy Chrome utilization, together with a number of different apps open concurrently. Even apps like Adobe Premiere Professional that take full benefit of your CPU and GPU aren’t a troublesome match for the R3. In our export check, this machine exported a five-minute, 33-second 4K video in three minutes, 42 seconds. It’s a stable end result every time the export pace outpaces the size of the video itself by this massive of a margin.
Gaming efficiency can be nice, and its full-powered RTX 2070 chip appears to make up for the truth that it isn’t a more moderen RTX 20-series Tremendous Max-Q chip. Although, in case your thoughts is about to amping up all the ray-tracing options in video games that assist it, that’s unsurprisingly the place this explicit M15 R3 configuration begins to indicate some indicators of weak spot. In Management, having all ray-tracing capabilities switched on saved the body price round 40 frames per second with Nvidia’s AI-assisted DLSS function turned off. Although, both turning on DLSS or simply turning the ray tracing options down boosted and stabilized the body price, as anticipated.
You could possibly benefit from this laptop computer’s eGPU assist down the street when you get your palms on an Nvidia RTX 3080 (together with Alienware’s $229 Graphics Amplifier that’s required to attach it). Nonetheless, resulting from PCIe bandwidth limitations of its rear amplifier port, there are diminishing returns going this route and it won’t carry out that a lot better than the laptop computer’s built-in GPU.
The show on the R3 is nice. As talked about, this unit has the 1080p 300Hz refresh price show, and it’s technically able to displaying your video games working at as much as 300 frames per second (regardless of a whole lot of horsepower on this machine, few truly get that top). Even throughout essentially the most frenetic motion in-game, the picture was crisp with minimal tearing, brilliant at as much as 300 nits, and color-accurate with 100% protection of the sRGB shade gamut.
Lastly, I need to give credit score to Alienware for its keyboard. Not solely is it snug to kind on, the keys are spaced in such a manner the place I personally make only a few errors whereas typing. That’s not one thing I can often depend on with a gaming laptop computer. The trackpad, alternatively, is way too small. What little that’s there may be good (it helps the suite of Home windows Precision gestures), however it’s a disgrace that Alienware didn’t go along with a wider trackpad, like on the MSI GS66 Stealth.
Each laptop computer has its share of perks and trade-offs, however the M15 R3’s are powerful to miss. You would possibly love or hate the design or that many of the ports are on the again of the laptop computer. However it’s much less disputable that for the $2,136 that this configuration prices, you may get a better-engineered laptop computer that’s thinner with comparable specs. Each the Razer Blade 15 and MSI GS66 Stealth that I discussed earlier than come to thoughts nearly as good choices that may allow you to swap RAM and last more in relation to battery life.
When you’ve got just a bit bit extra to spend than this Alienware configuration, there’s a GS66 Stealth configuration that features an eight-core Intel Core i7-10875H processor, an RTX 2070 Tremendous Max-Q graphics chip, with 32GB of RAM for round $2,350, although the quantity of default storage is much less at 512GB. Nonetheless, if you have already got the cash to get the Alienware, I feel these further upgrades are nicely price the additional price if you wish to future-proof your gaming laptop computer funding as a lot as doable. And why wouldn’t you?
All in all, the Alienware M15 R3 doesn’t endure from too many deadly flaws. It’s simply that the competitors is getting that a lot better, and the likes of Razer and MSI one-up Alienware’s providing with thinner design, higher battery efficiency, and extra complete upgradeability. If the corporate could make its subsequent iteration go extra toe-to-toe in these departments, it’ll be an actual contender.
Pictures by Cameron Faulkner / GadgetClock
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