We’ve seen some ungodly high performance Alienware laptops in the past. However, at first glance, the Alienware m15 R5 Ryzen Edition appears somewhat more sober and subdued. Is it proper Alienware? [Update: Check out our review of its Intel-based sibling, the Alienware m15 R6]
Key specs of the Alienware m15 R5
15.6-inch, matte, 165Hz, 1920 x 1080 LCD display; 3.3-4.6GHz AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX CPU; 16GB RAM; 1TB NVMe HDD; Nvidia RTX 3070; 86Wh battery; 2.5KG. SKU: smhnawm15r502au, Full specs here.
Design and Handling
The grey chassis actually puts us in mind of Asus’ mid-range TUF series, which isn’t ideal for a company’s flagship, high performance laptop. The matte lid has a glossy, alien font impregnated into it but there’s not much else of note… until you turn it on. The lid is accented by an illuminated, RGB Alienware alien-face logo that seems to favour alien-themed colours over primaries. There’s another on the inside that doubles as a power button.
Opening the Alienware m15 R5’s lid reveals some stylish hexagonal vents beneath the screen. The keyboard is RGB back-lit but the highlight of highlights is the rear of the chassis, which resembles the propulsion system of a UFO. That’s more like it, Alienware.
The keyboard itself is a full-sized Scrabble-tile affair that includes full-size arrow keys (but no number pad). Each key also uses Cherry mechanical switches due to a partnership we reported here. They are well weighted, accurate and very comfortable to type upon. However, they may be a little stiff for constant all-day use. Our only real concern is that it’s one of the noisiest keyboards we’ve heard on a laptop! You’ll cop stink-eye if you use it in a quiet, populated environment like a library, office or plane.
The trackpad is smooth and accurate and there’s an HD webcam in the top of the lid.
The Full HD screen has a speedy 165Hz refresh rate and fast motion is rendered smoothly because of it. Colours are perhaps a little washed-out but the bright screen nonetheless offers excellent contrast with details remaining visible in both bright areas and shadows. There’s a little banding in colour gradients and a few blocky artefacts in monochromatic transitions, but it’s still very impressive for a fast, gaming display.
The Alienware m15 R5’s speakers get reasonably loud and offer decent treble response but there’s very little bass response.
Under the hood is a powerful, octa-core, 3.3-4.6GHz AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX CPU which is flanked by 16GB of DDR4-3200 RAM and a 1TB NVMe drive. In PCMark 10 they combined to score 6934 which is up there with the other highest scores – all from AMD-sporting machines. It scored 2044 in the Cinebench r15 rendering test and 12,240 in the longer, r23 test. These are good but a little behind the smaller Razer Blade 14 which has the same processor and this raised an eyebrow – there shouldn’t be more thermal/power throttling in a larger machine.
Our review unit of the Alienware m15 R5 had an Nvidia RTX 3070 GPU. This scored 9486 in 3DMark Time Spy which is an average of 60fps. In FireStrike Extreme it scored 11,766 (average 54fps) while in the Port Royal ray-tracing test it scored 5946 (27.5fps). These are very good scores for a 3070 and only beaten by MSI’s well-cooled Raider rivals. Ultimately, considering the screen has a Full HD resolution, there’s nothing it won’t be able to play smoothly at maximum detail settings.
Update: We do have some concerns, though. Firstly, having now reviewed the Alienware m15 R5’s sibling, the Intel-wielding m15 R6, it looks very much like Dell has purposely hobbled the Ryzen variant by giving it a weaker specification (and larger power brick – see below). The best GPU you can buy this with is a 3070 while the Intel version goes up to 3080. There are online mutterings that Dell is doing this to favour Intel and ensure it has the fastest (albeit much more expensive) machine. More irksome, however, is that when either machine is maxxed out for a prolonged period of time, it overheats and performance is slashed. It doesn’t pick up once the temperature normalises either… you have to close the apps causing the issue, wait about 10-20 minutes and then restart them. While it only happens under prolonged use, this will be very annoying for any high performance laptop buyers who spend long periods gaming or rendering. It’s not something we’ve seen with many rivals.
Connectivity of the Alienware m15 R5
At 2.5KG the Alienware m15 R5 is not the lightest but it’s not overly heavy for such a powerful machine. The 86Wh battery ran PCMark 10’s Modern Office battery test for an impressive eight-and-a-quarter hours. The lid will offer decent protection to the screen while out on the road and we didn’t detect any flimsiness with the chassis.
Should you buy the Alienware m15 r5?
At $3699 it’s not cheap, but for a cutting-edge, 15.6-inch, high performance gaming laptop, which offers top-tier performance across the board plus great features, it’s still good value. There is some serious competition in this area though, with the $200-dearer Asus Zephyrus G15 coming in $200 cheaper despite weighing 0.6KG less and sporting an RTX 3080 GPU. Just note that that doesn’t have a webcam. If you aren’t bothered by CPU performance there’s the latest Asus Predator Helios 300 which is *cough* $1001 cheaper. There’s also the impressive MSI GE66 Raider which comes in $500 cheaper. However, while the Alienware m15 R5 doesn’t cut any corners when it comes to features
and doesn’t really have any weak points we are troubled by its cooling issues (which also affect the sibling R6 model) You want peace of mind when investing so much and it’s arguably missing here. Subsequently, although it can be a very good high performance laptop, we’re not quite happy to recommend it.
Related: Check out our review of its Intel-based sibling, the Alienware m15 R6.
Alienware m15 R5 results
- 2D Performance
- 3D Performance
Impressive power and good value. But hampered by cooling issues and Dell’s preference for Intel-based specs.