Alienware X15 review

Alienware X15 review

We weren’t too impressed with Alienware’s m15 R5 and m15 R6 laptops because, despite being fast, there were some significant thermal throttling issues. Now, here’s the super-thin Alienware X15 which is even more powerful. Alienware claims it’s the Elite gaming laptop but there’s some major competition, so how does it fare?

Key Specs of the Alienware X15

15.6-inch, matte, 240Hz, 2560 x 1400 LCD display; 2.5-4.9GHz Intel Core i9-11900H CPU; 32GB RAM; 1TB HDD; Nvidia RTX 3080 8GB GDDR6; 87Wh battery; 2.36KG. SKU: hnawx15r103au, Full specs here.

Handling and Design

It’s hard not to be impressed with the Alienware X15’s appearance. The two-tone, white-on-black chassis is officially called, “Lunar Light” and Alienware adds that it comes, “with High Endurance Clear Coat designed for stain resistance.” We travelled with it extensively over Christmas and all marks on the lid did wipe away. It was also impressively resistant to scratches and scuffs. The lid itself looks good with its light colouration, alien-like font and RGB logo. It will look great at a LAN but might raise eyebrows in a stuffy, conservative office.

Alienware X15 lid
The light lid and lighting elements make the Alienware X15 is a stylish statement piece.

Opening the Alienware X15 up and you’re met with black internal styling with stylish, hexagonal air vents. The keyboard, alien-head power button and even the trackpad (when used) are all RGB and can be adjusted independently. The keyboard has individually lit keys. Even though there’s a thick border around the screen it looks fabulous.

We weren’t totally convinced by the keyboard, though. The keys are quite firm and, especially when we were using keystroke combinations, meant that some strokes wouldn’t register. It’s far from terrible but if you’re planning on buying this laptop for extensive typing, you’ll likely find it wearisome. It’s accurate enough for gaming though. There’s no number pad but there are full-sized arrow keys and media keys on the right.

Alienware X15 keyboard.
The keyboard is very stiff and not the most accurate or comfortable to type upon. But it is fine for gaming.

The Alienware X15’s trackpad looks great when all lit up although the backlight can bleed through the edges in a manner that suggests it’s not perfectly built. But this is a minor niggle. The Alienware Command Center’s FX app allows you to adjust the lighting of everything – it’s not the most intuitive app, but once you get your eye in it becomes very useful.

The speakers get modestly loud but they sound tinny and there’s virtually no bass. While there’s not much room for them in the first place, we’ve heard much better from other ‘Elite’ laptops.

The Alienware X15’s screen gets very bright and offers a great combination of a UHD resolution (2560 x 1440) and high refresh rate (240Hz). In practice, Windows Desktop is sharp and there’s plenty of productivity-boosting real estate. Motion is unsurprisingly very smooth for multimedia and fast-and-frantic games. Colour gradients can show some banding but we’ve seen worse. Monochromatic transitions were relatively smooth and impressive. The brightness of the screen enhances contrast well with detail being visible in dark areas without completely washing light areas in the picture. We did notice a slight issue with the screen in that reds and greens popped more than other colours and this could occasionally create an odd, vibrancy disparity in particularly colourful content. However, for general media consumption it was great.

Above the Alienware X15’s screen is an HD, Windows Hello-compatible webcam.

We were impressed with the quad-fan system. It didn’t ever get too loud unless forced to maximum (or under persistent, maximum load) and it would stay quiet when under general use.

Performance of the Alienware X15

Alienware has done it’s damnedest to make the X15 all it can be in terms of headline specs. Inside the svelte chassis is a top-end, octa-core, 2.5-4.9GHz Intel Core i9-11900H processor and it’s flanked by a massive 32GB of RAM and a 1TB NVMe hard drive. In PCMark 10 it scored 6390 which is fast, but not a top performer. However, the beefy, multi-core, i9 CPU came into its own in the Cinebench rendering tests where it scored 2232 in R15 and 12,646 in the longer R23 test. These are top-tier results that are only been beaten by beefy, Ryzen competitors.

For 3D there’s Nvidia’s RTX 3080 with 8GB of RAM. This managed a huge 10,993 (average 67fps) in the challenging 3DMark Time Spy test which is, again, among the frontrunners on the market. In Fire Strike Extreme it scored 13,054 (average 60.7fps) and in the Port Royal ray-tracing test it scored 6781 (average 31.4fps) both of which are also at the front of the pack. There’s little it can’t play in UHD resolutions with all settings maxxed.

Connectivity of the Alienware X15

On the right.
On the right, there’s just a 3.5mm audio jack.
On the left.
On the left, there’s only the power socket.
Rear of the Alienware X15.
At the rear is an HDMI 2.1 port, two USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 ports (one with Thunderbolt 4), a USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 port and a microSD card slot.

Inside there’s Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2.

Portability

With its 16mm thickness, the Alienware X15 is very thin and this, combined with it’s relatively svelte 2.36KG weight mean it’s almost small and portable for a top-end high performance laptop. We were also pleased to see that the reduced-size power brick ‘only’ weighs 650g – small compared to some of the monsters we’ve seen in recent times. The build quality is very impressive: the whole laptop is stiff and solid and should easily survive life on the road.

Alienware X15 underside.
The Alienware X15’s power brick is relatively small for a laptop with this power. The four internal fans are also well-vented.

However, the large, 87Whr battery only lasted 4hrs 27mins in our PCMark 10 Modern Office battery test which is mediocre. It’s worth noting that the score was achieved using Nvidia’s Optimus technology which switches from discreet to integrated graphics to save power. If you use applications that don’t switch from the GPU, expect battery life to be much less.

Should you buy the Alienware X15?

Alienware has gone out of its way to create a high-impact, high performance laptop with the X15. It’s thin and sleek with some judicious use of RGB but it’s not gaudy. The components are OP but don’t quite deliver the performance they promise, but they’re not far off: this is still a very powerful laptop.

Our main issue is the price. At $4986 it’s very expensive and that’s just the ‘special online price.’ On parent-company Dell’s site the sticker price is actually $5826. According to our criteria it’s currently the fifth best high performance laptop on the market which is very impressive. However, the four models above it are very attractive alternatives which offer better value (Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition G513 and the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 GA503) a bigger screen (MSI GE76 Raider) or more portability (Razer Blade 14). Still, the Alienware X15 is still a powerful all-rounder that will attract many people.

Alienware X15 Results
  • 2D Performance
  • 3D Performance
  • Ergonomics
  • Stability
  • Portability
  • Value
4.2

Summary

Powerful, looks great, is thin and very solid. But, it’s expensive and there are tempting rivals.

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