Alienware M15 R3 Review: Extremely Powerful, But Could Use More Options
There are very few gaming laptops on the market right now that can strike the perfect balance between high specs and portability. Dell Alienware M15 R3 seems to have reached the sweet spot between the two. It is essentially a Area 51 After six months of cardio, you have a similar look and feel but with a much lighter body. So is there a catch? Find out in our review.
Prices and variants of Alienware M15 R3
The Alienware M15 R3 is really powerful, powered by 10th Gen Intel Comet Lake H-series processors, and it comes in three variants. The basic configuration, priced at Rs. 2,64,590, it consists of an Intel Core i7-10750H, Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 GPU, 4K OLED screen, 16 GB of RAM and 1 TB of SSD storage. The top-of-the-line variant, which I received for this review, takes it a step further with a Core i9-10980HK CPU, 32GB of RAM, and a GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max Q GPU, and it costs Rs. 3,39,990.
Alienware M15 R3 design and build quality
The Alienware M15 R3 is very well built. Its outer shell and keyboard deck are made from a magnesium alloy to keep the weight down, while ensuring a solid build quality. It’s smooth to the touch, but it doesn’t feel the same as soft-touch plastic. It’s resistant to fingerprints, smudges, and scratches, something that is very important to the Cheetos-devouring gaming audience looking for this laptop. You can expect it to discolor sooner or later though, as it’s only available in white, or as Alienware calls it, Lunar Light.
Interestingly, the laptop doesn’t have a single sharp corner anywhere. This, along with the grippy texture, makes it relatively portable, and you can carry it with relative ease even though it’s not that light, at 2.5kg.
Like most other gaming laptops, it’s packed with RGB lighting throughout. You can find RGB LEDs around the rear air vent, in the Alienware logo on the lid, and of course the keyboard, all of which are customizable via the proprietary app which we’ll get to in a moment. Although LED lighting is not for everyone, I love this style.
There is very little flex on the screen and keyboard, which again owes a lot to the choice of materials.
Alienware M15 R3 Connectivity Options
In terms of I / O, to the left of the laptop, you’ll find a USB 3.2 port (the only one that has power sharing), an Ethernet port, and a 3.5mm multi-function jack. On the right you will find two more USB 3.2 ports without power sharing and a microSD card slot. On the back, there’s charging, mini DisplayPort, HDMI, and a Thunderbolt 3-compatible Type-C port, as well as Alienware’s proprietary graphics amplifier port.
Alienware M15 R3 screen and sound
My variant came with a 15.6-inch OLED screen with a 3840×2160 resolution and a 60fps refresh rate. Since it has that 4K resolution and OLED technology, the colors are vibrant and almost everything looks beautiful. It’s also HDR500 certified, which means you get local dimming and up to 400 nits of brightness. However, this is not ideal for gaming as it lacks a high screen refresh rate. It also has a glossy finish; not just the screen, but the surrounding edges as well, so you may have a hard time fighting glare if you’re going to use this laptop in bright environments. However, if you are looking to watch movies, you can’t beat this panel.
The speakers are decent, although not very good. This time they are firing from the front, as opposed to the lower firing assembly of the M15 R2. They have a good bass and mid response, so you should be able to hear shots in a game clearly, but the high frequencies are lost a bit.
Alienware M15 R3 performance
Thanks to those cutting-edge and uncompromising specs on the high-end variant of this laptop, I got really good gaming performance every time. Every game I threw at it, heavy or light, ran smoothly on high settings. Even the ray traced titles ran at 4K with relative ease.
Warzone with ray tracing enabled in the Ultra preset in 4K ran steadily at around 55fps, while at 1080p I was able to see 65fps. Shadow of the Tomb Raider ran on average at 75fps with ray tracing and DLSS enabled at 1080p. When switched to 4K, it can manage 51fps, which is playable. Far Cry 5 at 4K ran at 43 fps, with graphics at the highest preset.
Slightly less heavy titles like Horizon Zero Dawn ran at an average of 71 fps at 1080p with high graphics settings.
In terms of thermal performance, if you play around with the selected quieter fan modes, you will notice some thermal throttling.
I tested this with Horizon Zero Dawn, which ran at 40fps with silent fan mode enabled, while at higher fan speeds I saw 65fps. This was at 1080p with the High Graphics preset. It was not uncommon to see the CPU temperature rise to 80-90 ° C when playing games like Far Cry 5 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. This laptop has a tendency to run very poorly even when the fans are set to High, but hey, at least the games run smoothly.
In terms of synthetic benchmarks, PCMark 10 posted scores of 5,349 and 6,413 on its standard and extended runs, respectively. Cinebench R20 achieved 3,065 and 460 points in its multi-core and single-core tests, respectively. POVRay finished his benchmark run in 1 minute and 32 seconds.
In terms of graphics benchmarks performance, the Nvidia GeForce 2080 MaxQ GPU is a beast. 3DMark’s Time Spy and Time Spy Extreme scores were 7,349 and 3,494 respectively, while the Port Royal test achieved 4,931.
In regular non-gaming use I was surprised to see some periodic stuttering when navigating between tasks when the fans were set to run quietly. The laptop gets a bit warm even when it is not loaded with heavy applications.
Alienware M15 R3 Software
The Alienware M15 R3 comes preloaded with some Dell utilities, such as the Alienware Command Center and Mobile Connect. Command Center lets you modify things like lighting, fan speed, and CPU and GPU voltage and frequency. It is very elaborate and you can also save profiles for specific games. I found it intuitive to use and you will find yourself using it more often than you think.
The laptop also comes with Tobii eye-tracking hardware and software, which is compatible with some recent titles. It works perfectly, especially in games like F1 2020 where you can focus on a particular corner while executing a turn. It also works within the Windows user interface, which means that you can control certain elements of the operating system, such as multitasking and even move the cursor with just your eyes. This felt a bit unnatural at first, but I picked it up faster than I expected, and when I got back to my own laptop, the lack of eye gestures really bothered me.
Alienware M15 R3 keyboard and trackpad
This is the area that really impressed me more than the raw performance. Some high-end gaming laptops try to attract customers by including a half-baked mechanical keyboard, but not this one. It has a fantastic membrane keyboard, with a slightly shallow travel and satisfying response. It is not noisy and is correctly spaced. The keys are slightly concave and the exact size that I love. It is very subjective, I know, but it is very well implemented.
The trackpad is great too, it’s accurate and has a really nice texture. More importantly, unlike many other gaming laptops, it’s not an afterthought. It is an integral part of the package. This gets a chef’s kiss from me.
Alienware M15 R3 battery life
The Alienware M15 R3 comes with an 86 Wh battery. The huge power adapter weighs around 800g, which can make the whole package too heavy if you plan to carry it in a bag. Be it synthetic battery tests or real-world performance, this laptop can only last a couple of hours at most, which is not ideal. The Battery Eater Pro test finished in a measly 1 hour and 15 minutes, and it takes about two hours to charge this thing from scratch. This can be attributed to the power-hungry setting, so it’s fine for people who are okay with keeping it on AC power most of the time. It also has an LED light around the charging connector, a nice touch.
In short, the top variant of the Alienware M15 R3 is a great laptop, but it’s hard to recommend to hardcore gamers despite its crazy specs, mostly because of that screen. I would also have loved a slightly better thermal performance and of course a lower price.
If you’re looking for a gaming laptop with perhaps the best overall hardware setup possible, the Alienware M15 R3 is for you. It also looks pretty and feels premium. But if you are someone who uses a laptop unplugged most of the time, it can be a deal breaker.