Best Alienware m15 R3 Review

BOTTOM LINE

The Alienware m15 R3 is a powerful and affordable high-end gaming laptop, with a uniquely styled design that sets it apart from a competitive field.

As well as its reputation for producing big, powerful gaming desktops, Alienware also has more mobile machines that could still get the job done for fans.

It features the same head-turning look as the m15 R2, but our setup ramps up the display refresh rate to 300Hz, refreshes the processor to Intel’s newest 10th-generation Core i7, also provides the power of an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 at a really acceptable price.

Its battery life is a weak point, but we can forget that for this category of notebook, which won’t be used off the charger much.  With this feature set, there is no doubt it is a high-end notebook, but its worth is all about the best we’ve seen one of systems costing over $2,000.

Considering its top-end performance and one of a kind design at a lower price point than rivals, the m15 R3 earns our new Editors’ Choice among high-end gaming notebooks.

The appearance of the 2019 m15 R2 was a complete overhaul of the previous m15’s design, introducing a slick, distinctively sci-fi aesthetic.

Alienware was not going to go all-in on another ground-up redesign so soon, and thus now’s m15 R3 looks quite similar to this R2.  I enjoy the style, perhaps even more than I did last year after some time away from it.

I could see it being somewhat divisive, but if people prefer laptops which mix in.

Some gaming rigs broadcast their mission with garish black and red color schemes and competitive geometry, however, the m15 has a softer appearance and nominal, unique layout.

Ours is the snowy”Lunar Light” model as opposed to the grey”Dark Side of the Moon” color choice.  The ringed LED on the rear, combined with accents like honeycombed ventilation plus a per-key RGB computer keyboard, adds some flair.

The Alienware resembles any other laptop, also in a field that is often quite samey, I appreciate that when executed well.

It’s equally sized to last year’s version, coming in at 0.8 by 14.19 by 10.86 inches (HWD) and 4.65 pounds.

None are featherweight like the very best ultraportable laptops or perhaps the lightest players such as the 14-inch Asus ROG Zephyrus G14, but they are very mobile relative to their power level.

The chassis is not metal, but seems like a fantastic quality build and also the thicker deck vinyl is pleasant to touch.

The keyboard quality is strong keys are not bashful on traveling, but don’t feel mushy.  They lack any gratifying feedback or click, though, so that they don’t stand out too much other than avoiding any gaffes.

The RGB backlighting looks especially nice against the white chassis too.  The touchpad is similarly good, but nothing to write home about; its own glass surface guarantees smooth monitoring, but it is on the smaller side.

Next up is the display, which is propped up somewhat higher than other notebooks beneath the hinge.  The bottom display bezel sits in the top edge of a tall hinge, so the actual display begins a few inches above the keyboard deck.

The bezels are glossy black and all thin, which contributes to keeping the laptop’s overall footprint small.  A 720p webcam sits at the center of the top panel, which seems like a given, but many recent Asus gaming notebooks have lacked this somewhat basic attribute.

 The latter will be aimed distinctly at enthusiasts, however I think it’s a better match for any gamer than the 4K display alternative.

Even when you’re not playing games much over 60fps (more on this in the performance section), the ability to display additional frames is significantly more practical than a demanding resolution at which few games will run easily.

The picture quality is powerful, and it becomes really bright.  The quality does not touch the outstanding OLED screen we experienced on the m15 R2 model we analyzed, which can be tied into the 4K screen option on this notebook.

Eventually for the outside, we come to the vents.  The left flank holds one USB 3.0 port, an Ethernet jack, and an audio jack.  On the rightthere are two USB 3.0 ports and a microSD card slot.

The remainder are around back, such as a USB-C interface with Thunderbolt 3 support, an HDMI port, a mini DisplayPort connection, and a proprietary link for Alienware’s external images amplifier.

There are a number of configurations of this notebook, so let’s focus on our review version to find out what to expect in terms of performance.

Along with the 300Hz display, this unit packs an Intel Core i7-10750H chip, 16GB of memory, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 GPU, and 1TB of solid-state storage (in the form of two 512GB SSDs in RAID 0 that appear as a single drive).

Being a Dell firm, Alienware allows for lots of component options as you’re ordering your notebook.

In addition to the display options we said, you can equip your m15 R3 having an RTX 2060 or RTX 2070 Super GPU, an AMD Radeon RX 5500M GPU, up to 32GB of RAM, along with a range of storage capabilities.

Our unit is a pretty good price, but definitely within the high-end laptop tier.  A lesser SKU might see you more in the midrange price bracket if ours is searching too pricey.

To judge the performance of those components within this machine, we ran our usual suite of benchmark tests on the laptop and compared the results to those of comparable gaming notebooks.

You may see the specs and names of these systems in the table below before we get into the head-to-head outcomes.  Every one of these laptops were more than $2,000 as tested, with the Blade 15 at the top for $2,999.

PCMark 10 and 8 are holistic operation suites developed by the PC benchmark specialists at UL (previously Futuremark).  The PCMark 10 evaluation we run simulates distinct real-world productivity and content creation workflows.

We use it to evaluate overall system functionality for office-centric tasks like word processing, spreadsheet jockeying, web browsing, and videoconferencing.   Both tests yield a proprietary numerical score; higher numbers are better.

The Alienware m15 R3 posts the 2nd highest score in PCMark 10, however within this class you will find some diminishing returns on higher scores.

All these notebooks are more than capable of everyday multitasking, and will have you zipping around your desktop computer and browser tabs when you aren’t gaming.

Likewise, as shown from the PCMark 8 outcome, the laptops’ SSDs will have you booting and loading files and games quickly.

Cinebench stresses the CPU as opposed to the GPU to render a intricate image.  The outcome is a proprietary score suggesting a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads.

The Alienware m15 R3 articles the second greatest score in PCMark 10, however within this course you will find several decreasing returns on higher scores.

All of these laptops are more than capable of everyday multitasking, and will have you zipping around your desktop computer and browser tabs whenever you aren’t gaming.

Likewise, as shown from the PCMark 8 outcome, the laptops’ SSDs will have you booting up and loading games and files immediately.

Next is Maxon’s CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 test, which is fully threaded to use all available processor cores and threads.  Cinebench worries the CPU as opposed to the GPU to render a intricate image.  The result is a proprietary score indicating a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads.

Cinebench is often a good predictor of our Handbrake video editing trial, yet another demanding, threaded workout that is highly CPU-dependent and scales well with cores and threads.

Inside, we put a stopwatch on test systems as they transcode a standard 12-minute clip of 4K movie (the open-source Blender presentation movie Tears of Steel) into a 1080p MP4 file.  It’s a timed test, and reduced results are better.

We also run a habit Adobe Photoshop image editing benchmark.  Using an early 2018 release of this Creative Cloud edition of Photoshop, we apply a collection of 10 complex filters and results to some typical JPEG test image.

We time each operation and add up the total execution time.

The multimedia evaluation results reveal that Alienware put together an extremely effective machine.   It ought to be stated that none of these are intended to be professional media-editing laptops, therefore pros should look to a more specialized mobile workstation.

The m15 R3 can do the job, though, and certainly will have hobbyists or those using it for networking tasks in a pinch waiting less than they want with less strong general-use laptops.  Much like PCMark 10, faster is still better, even if it doesn’t change real-world capabilities too much.

Graphics Tests

On to 3DMark, which measures relative graphics muscle by rendering strings of highly detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics that emphasize lighting and particles.

We conduct two different 3DMark subtests, Sky Diver and Fire Strike, which can be appropriate to various kinds of systems.   The outcomes are proprietary scores.

Next up is another synthetic graphics test, this time from Unigine Corp..

Like 3DMark, the Superposition test renders and pans through a thorough 3D scene and steps how the system copes.  In this case, it’s rendered in the eponymous Unigine engine, offering another 3D workload situation for a second opinion on every laptop’s graphical prowess.

Considering that, on paper, only the 2019 m15 R2’s GPU ought to be lesser than the m15 R3, the more recent machine is your best actress in 3DMark and acquits itself nicely in Superposition (albeit at a very tight area ).

This again points to strong efficiency in its design, whether in sustainable construction, ventilation, or electricity allocation.  The Alienware turns that efficacy into real life gains, but while the raw 3D numbers look great here, let us look at the next tests prior to making strong conclusions.

Real-World Gaming Tests

The artificial tests above are helpful for measuring overall 3D aptitude, but it’s hard to conquer complete retail video games for judging gaming functionality.

We conduct them at 1080p resolution in the matches’ medium and finest image-quality settings (Regular and Ultra for Far Cry 5 under DirectX 11, Moderate and incredibly High for Rise of this Tomb Raider under DirectX 12).

You will notice a nearly identical trend from the synthetic tests, which is excellent news for your m15 R3.  It pushed the greatest average frame rates in both of these titles at their maximum settings, edging out laptops with more potent GPUs.

We’ve seen before that Nvidia’s Max-Q down-tuning in high-end portable GPUs can neuter their electricity compared to their full-fledged counterparts, which seems to be the situation here.

The Normal RTX 2070 from the m15 R3 beats out the Max-Q RTX 2080 GPUs in the Blade 15 and also the Predator Triton 500.   In general, paying extra for a Max-Q RTX 2080 is not worthwhile, and the full-strength RTX 2070 is a better value.

Out of those head-to-head comparisons, the m15 R3’s gaming operation is very encouraging.

This is a pricey superior machine, therefore I suppose that is the least you may expect, but this amount of laptop passes the smooth 60fps brink for visually rough single-player games by a large margin.

When a notebook includes a high-refresh display like the m15 R3, it gets the extra juice matter that even more.

The outcomes from these two games can leave you wondering why you will need a 300Hz display, but there are answers to this.

For one, you should still find any improvement over 60fps, even if it’s just 100fps rather than 300fps, in AAA games.  Secondly, the screen is intended more for competitive multiplayer games, wherein higher frame rates can be a competitive advantage as well as looking better.

To that end, I tested Rainbow Six: Siegea favorite multiplayer game with a built-in benchmark evaluation.

Many gamers run these types of games on the bottom visual setting to maximize frame speeds, so I ran the benchmark at the highest and lowest visual presets (both in 100 percent leave resolution).

That hits the display’s 300Hz ceiling, and though you may quibble about who can or can not see the advantage of the many frames each second, the attribute is there for those seeking it.  Hardcore competitive players and professionals playing on the move will be happy.

I must note that the m15’s cooling fans are fairly audible, but about the default power setting, they’re nothing from the ordinary.

On Full Throttle, the fans get very loud, and if you combine that with a optional Overclock setting, the Alienware becomes among the loudest laptops I’ve heard in a while.

In general, I did not find that these modes made a massive difference in functionality Full Throttle added 4fps and 8fps to Far Cry 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider respectively at highest visual preferences.

I’d suggest saving yourself the fan noise and heat the majority of the time, if you don’t really need the additional power.

Battery Rundown Evaluation

After fully recharging the laptopwe set up the machine in power-save mode (as opposed to balanced or high-performance mode) where available and also make a few additional battery-conserving tweaks in preparation to our unplugged video rundown test.  (We also turn off Wi-Fi, putting the notebook in plane mode)

In this evaluation , we loop a video a locally stored 720p file of the very same Tears of Steel short we utilize in our Handbrake evaluation –with screen brightness set at 50 percent and quantity at 100 percent until the machine quits.

This short battery life is really unsatisfactory, so I will not sugar-coat the outcome.  If this were a general-use laptop or an ultraportable, it would be a deal-breaker.  To get a gaming notebook, it is a disappointment, but will not ruin your experience.

You may choose to use this system on the move occasionally, and it should have the ability to hang for a couple of hours depending on usage, but was likely never the best travel companion to begin with given its dimensions.

You can use it after you arrive in your destination, or turn it briefly when traveling, but by shape it’s not exactly the ideal match for a lap on a train or an airplane tray table.  Moreover, gaming off the charger is generally inadvisable for performance reasons, and it drains the battery very quickly.

Substance and style at a Fair Price

The most recent variant of this Alienware m15 is a large success on several fronts, and one of our favorite high-end gaming notebooks.

Though you are able to configure a much more realistic midrange alternative, our test configuration is a top performer in both CPU- and GPU-based tests, offers lots of storage, and includes a fancy display.

On top of that, any model you choose is going to boast a distinctive, eye-catching design full of fun extras and useful ports.

The m15 R3 stands out in an increasingly competitive gaming area with its looks, and it has the potent substance to back up its style.  The 1 place in which it falls short is battery life, which certainly limits its possible if you want to use your gaming system on the go or turn it into your daily driver.

However, gaming laptops are not primarily designed for all-day use during traveling, so we are able to overlook this aspect and assume you are going to be on the charger the majority of the time.

The Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 held the crown as our top pick among premium gaming laptops for quite a long time, but the Alienware m15 R3 has proven a much better value.

It is slightly less costly than the Asus system as configured, packaging superior gaming performance, a newer chip, a more sophisticated screen, and a unique design.  We liked what the Razer Blade 15 and Acer Predator Triton 500 brought to the table, but the m15 R3 is a better deal, earning our Editors’ Choice in this category.

PROS

  • Stand-out aesthetic
  • Quick overall speed and powerful gaming performance at a lower cost than premium opponents
  • Enough power to utilize its own 300Hz screen in aggressive multiplayer games
  • Handy features include Wi-Fi and flexible chassis and per-key lighting

CONS

  • Short battery life
  • Design Might Not Be for everybody

Alienware m15 R3 Specs

  • Laptop Class: Gaming
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-10750H
  • Processor Speed: 2.6 GHz
  • RAM (as Tested): 16 GB
  • Boot Drive Type: SSD
  • Boot Drive Capacity (as Tested): 1 TB
  • Screen Size: 15.6 inches
  • Native Display Resolution: 1920 by 1080
  • Touch Screen: No
  • Panel Technology: IPS
  • Variable Refresh Support: None
  • Screen Refresh Rate: 300 Hz
  • Graphics Processor Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070
  • Graphics Memory: 8 GB
  • Wireless Networking: Bluetooth, 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6)
  • Dimensions (HWD) 0.8 by 14.19 by 10.86 inches
  • Weight: 4.65 lbs
  • Operating System: Windows 10
  • Tested Battery Life (Hours:Minutes): 2:40

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