Gaming laptops have long been a bit of a joke to me. For the longest time, I’ve been unable to give them any thought beyond “that’s such an expensive paperweight”, so I was absolutely thrilled to play with the new Alienware M15 R7.
Alienware, much like the “gaming laptop” subcategory of computing itself, has also always been a bit confusing to me. Flashy computers with a well-understood design aesthetic (one of the better aesthetics in the gaming peripheral world, if you ask me), held back by their heat trap computers (this is not an unpopular opinion).
But perhaps it’s when Alienware develops a laptop that the design becomes fully realised. After all, the two previously linked reviews focus on PC builds and not laptops, so to some extent, we should approach this differently.
The Alienware M15 R7, an absolute behemoth of a battle station, with RGB and performance abound. Here’s what I think.
Alienware M15 R7
WHAT IS IT?
The latest ultra-powerful gaming laptop from Alienware, Dell's gaming division.
$2,474 (RTX 3060), $3,399 (RTX 3070 Ti), $4,504 (RTX 3080 Ti)
Terrific gameplay, brilliant RGB and aesthetic, awesome performance.
Loud fan noise, high price tag.
Firstly, thanks to Alienware for sending this laptop over for me to review. I wouldn’t normally thank a brand in a review, but the heartbreak I felt when the performance severely outpaced my self-built gaming PC must not go unrecognised. So, you know, thanks for that.
The device I reviewed, though not the only Alienware M15 R7 available (you can adjust the specs when your order the device) packs an RTX 3080Ti GPU, a 12th Gen Intel Core i7-12700H CPU (14 cores, 20 threads at 2.30Ghz), 32GB RAM and a 1TB NVMe hard drive. There’s also a 2K display (2560 x 1440) with a 240Hz refresh rate.
On top of this, Alienware’s masterful approach to aesthetics is in no way absent. The keyboard and interior of the laptop aren’t cluttered, with air vents well spaced in hexagonal shapes. There’s RGB inside and around the laptop, not distastefully done, either. Actually, let’s talk about the keyboard for a second: it slaps. The keys make a satisfying click when you press buttons, and the tactile feedback is very satisfying.
If you didn’t understand a lick of that, all you need to know is that this is an extremely powerful computer. It runs laps around most computers out there.
Let’s talk tests.
Beam me up
When I test laptops at Gizmodo Australia, I use the benchmarking tool in Forza Horizon 5, as it demonstrates the ability of a PC to take on a fast-moving game with a giant open world boasting beautiful graphics and a lot of in-area objects to render.
Here’s how the Alienware M15 R7 handled the test. Flying colours.
To put this into perspective, the Microsoft Surface Studio we reviewed earlier this year (which packed an RTX 3060 and an Intel i7 11370-H CPU) scored only 55 FPS, recommending that the game run on “High” to achieve that framerate.
To be fair, the Surface Studio wasn’t primarily a gaming PC, but if we’re talking about performance alone, the M15 R7 eats the Surface Studio for breakfast. It makes sense by all accounts, but gosh… that’s a lot of juice.
In gameplay, the benchmark holds up. Playing Overwatch (average FPS on the highest settings: 160) and Call of Duty: Vanguard (average FPS on the highest settings: 145), I didn’t encounter any problems.
On CPU and RAM, the laptop did well in our Chrome tab test. I was able to open 49 concurrent tabs of random YouTube videos and play them synchronously with only a few hiccups along the way (at tab 28, 34 and for each tab after 38, tabs took over five seconds to load. Tab 34 also included a black screen which refreshed after five seconds). At tab 50, Chrome encountered an error and wouldn’t load the video.
Additionally, in Cinebench, the laptop CPU was an overachiever, scoring 1,752 points on the single-core test (first place) and 16,117 points on the multi-core test (fourth place).
The laptop also scored reasonably well in our battery test. Streaming the entirety of Avengers: Endgame on battery power, the laptop went down to 77 per cent in the first hour, 51 per cent in the second and 22 per cent by the end. The Surface Studio outpaces the M15 R7 in this test, however, the Alienware machine is packing much more powerful technology.
Just something to keep in mind about battery power: most games won’t perform well while the machine isn’t plugged in. I could barely get Forza Horizon 5 to crack 12 FPS without direct power.
Houston, we have a problem
Something I’m not too thrilled about, however, is the noise this thing makes.
If the Microsoft Surface Studio was a jet engine (which I compared it to in that review), then the Alienware M15 R7 is a spaceship.
In day-to-day use, I never noticed the noise being bad. Using the laptop for a full day of work, the fans were hardly noticeable unless there was no noise around you.
Flick the machine over to a graphics-intensive game like Forza Horizon 5, however, and you’ll hear the roar of a Saturn V rocket… In laptop form.
It’s not an attractive screech, either. Sometimes a gaming computer makes a monotonous fan sound that’s fine and liveable, but the sound of the Alienware M15 R7 firing off on all processors makes me think that the fan bearings are turning red.
I’m worried about the long-term life of this laptop. Were you to run the fans at 100 per cent continuously, something would likely break after some time. Were you not to run them, the computer would likely overheat and suffer thermal damage, and to be fair, the fans were doing a pretty good job of regulating heat (I rarely saw heat jump above 80 degrees).
It’s a shame that the speakers in the laptop, which are pretty decent, are drowned out by the fans.
Perhaps you should get used to headphones.
Lights in the sky
On an Alienware computer, you control the RGB, overclocking and some of the gaming-oriented performance stats through the “Alienware Command Centre”, a flashy looking app that’s quite deep in the ways it lets you customise the exterior lighting of the device.
It’s a shame that it’s a bit difficult to get the hang of. I’ve used a lot of these apps, including the Logitech G Hub (the one I’m most familiar with, as I’m a Logitech peripheral user), the Corsair iCUE system and the Gigabyte RGBFusion app, and while the level of customisation is quite deep in the Alienware Command Centre, it’s just a bit to get your head around. For example, it’s difficult to know if some settings have been actioned, saved or can even be changed at first glance.
That being said, you’d get used to it after a tutorial and a couple of tries. If you’re a prospective Alienware user, I definitely recommend tinkering with this app quite a bit.
What can you change, I hear you ask? Well, the alien head on the back, the alien head power button inside the laptop, the lighting array on the back and the lighting of each individual key.
Yes. Every key is an individual lighting zone. This means that you could have every key set to a separate colour without having to break colours up into clumped zones.
Incredible, terrific, well done Dell. On a related note, I like how the power plug is inserted in the back of the device, freeing up the sides and not cluttering your gaming space. Besides the charging port, you’ll find a USB-C port, USB-A port and an HDMI port. The right side has two USB-A ports and the left has an AUX port and an ethernet port.
I want to believe
I’m less jaded about gaming laptops now. For a company like Alienware to focus on how performance meets form factor in a laptop seems to have worked out well and so I’m happy to say the Alienware M15 R7 is one fine machine.
It’s just I’m unsure of who this would please. Your average gamer, who would have their machine in the same spot for months on end, not likely to move it around? Yes, it has the added convenience of being able to move it around easier, though this is not the same as being able to play portably, as the machine requires mains power to run high-spec games (like all gaming laptops). Additionally, equal components on a self-built gaming PC would cost much less.
This is for someone after a monster computer. One that likely won’t fail tasks due to a lack of resources. One that’s optimised for graphics-intensive applications, like gaming and 3D design. One that can be taken between home and the office, lab, testing facility or secret government facility in the Nevada desert.
For that I can say, while I’d be happy to use the Alienware M15 R7 as my personal laptop, it is super overkill with a price tag to match.
Where can you buy the Alienware M15 R7?
Keep in mind that prices vary depending on included components.