The Alienware m15 boasts one of the most striking designs of any laptop. It jumps off the desk at you, and this “R3” model (third major update) is even better looking than before.
But this year’s revised m15 model is so much more than a mild face-lift. Critics and gamers had some very specific gripes with the 2019 model, and it looks like Alienware set out to address each and every one of them with this version.
And what a machine this is. The new m15 is an incredibly powerful laptop in a thin and exceptionally beautiful package, with a clear emphasis on attention to detail. It’s a fine-tuned and undoubtedly high-end design, and while some minor gremlins still remain, this might just be one of the best ways a serious PC gamer can spend their money.
Alienware m15 (R3) Gaming Laptop Tech Specs
- Intel Core i7-10750H Processor
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 8GB graphics
- 16GB DDR4 2666MHz RAM
- 1TB PCIe M.2 SSD
- 1920×1080 300Hz display, 400 nits approx
- AlienFX RGB lighting
- 6-Cell 86Whr battery
- HDMI 2.0, Mini DisplayPort 1.4
- USB Type-C, USB-A 3.2, Ethernet, Aux port
- MicroSD card slot
New & Improved for 2020
At first glance, it may not seem like a lot has changed with the 2020 version of Alienware’s stunning laptops. But a closer look reveals a significant number of revisions aimed at addressing some of last year’s shortcomings.
On the outside, the gorgeous Lunar Light (or available Dark Side of the Moon) shell has received a new “high endurance clear coat” finish to address concerns over wear and durability seen on previous soft-touch surfaces. And it seems to have done the trick — our Lunar Light test unit resisted fingerprints and grease stains, and even after weeks of rigorous use, looked as good as it did when it was fresh out of the box.
Flip open the lid and one more improvement is apparent — the screen bezel now hides a subtle rubber bumper, which helps soften the clatter of the screen as it closes. A small but nice touch.
On the right side edge, you’ll find one new slot for a MicroSD card – an addition that was much requested among gamers, according to Alienware. And the front edge contains two new forward-firing speakers, which helps boost sound quality. (You’ll still want a pair of headphones, though, since these speakers aren’t particularly impressive).
These are great quality-of-life updates, but the most impactful changes take place inside the laptop, and that’s where the m15 really grabs your attention.
True Gaming Hardware
As you’d expect, Intel 10th-gen processors are now fitted across the board in the new m15 lineup, with ours packing a six-core (12 thread) i7-10750H processor that boosts up to a whopping 5.1GHz. That high single-core clock speed is ideal for gaming — especially at high frame rates — while its multi-core performance makes it a productivity powerhouse and a very diversely capable machine.
The maximum RAM option is now up from 16GB to 32GB, which is a bonus, although RAM is soldered to the motherboard and therefore sadly not upgradeable after your purchase.
But gamers will be most keen on the graphics processor — NVIDIA’s enhanced ‘Super’ editions of its RTX graphics cards have been added to the roster of options for this year.
Although our test unit came with the non-super variant of an RTX 2070 (a full-power 2070; not a Max-Q design), it’s still an absolute beast. Destiny 2 cranks along at frame rates in excess of 120FPS with all graphics options set to Ultra. Battlefield V also ran well, boasting 100FPS on high settings, and the m15 could maintain a respectable 60FPS with ray tracing settings on High and DLSS turned on.
These are both high-fidelity, high-intensity action games, and this laptop — at barely 0.8 inches thin and under 5lbs in weight — shrugs them off like a high-end desktop PC.
Ensuring that you’ll get the most out of whatever graphics card you pick for your m15 is a new 300Hz high refresh rate panel. It’s a 1080p display, which is plenty for a 15.6 inch canvas, and sticking with this modest resolution gives the graphics card the breathing room it needs to really rock those high frame rates.
Variable refresh support (G-Sync/FreeSync) is absent in the 300Hz panel, but is arguably unnecessary — with a display that checks 300 times per second for a new image, you’d have to be superhuman to notice any screen tearing or input lag. I found playing with basic V-sync to be razor fast, and if you’re a V-Sync off-type of player, it looks silky smooth anyways.
Besides the blazing fast response, the 300Hz panel also offers impressive color delivery, with 100% RGB color gamut. If you don’t care for color accuracy, you can save a few dollars on the 144Hz display option (300Hz is admittedly overkill anyway), which drops down to a rating of 72% RGB, but makes up for it with G-Sync compatibility.
Conversely, if the m15 will serve as your part-time gaming machine and full-time productivity workhorse, there’s a 4K OLED screen option that boosts color accuracy and brightness further still. But since the 4K panel is only 60Hz and would put excess strain on the graphics card, gamers are absolutely better off with one of the 1080p display options.
Dancing Gracefully Near the Limit
More power means more heat, and Alienware has sought to tackle this problem with a significantly upgraded cooling system on this year’s model.
A full copper cooling array, two larger fans and a vapor chamber have been crammed into the chassis of the new m15, pulling in air from vents on the sides and underneath the laptop, and channeling it out of that large protruding exhaust on the rear. It’s an aggressive system and absolutely necessary for the heat that’s being generated under high performance.
The CPU still gets very hot, though, when given any sort of heavy task. While playing a graphically intense game, CPU temps spike as high as 98 degrees Celsius (C), and will remain above 90 degrees for extended periods even with the fans spinning ferociously. The maximum operating temperature for our test model’s i7 CPU is listed at 105 degrees C, so it seems like the m15 was designed to squeeze out every bit of performance possible.
While these high temperatures would cause most laptops to aggressively dial back performance in order to prevent a complete meltdown, the m15 cranks merrily along at speeds well in excess of 4.4GHz — further evidence that it’s meant to be pushed to the limit.
When placed under long-term load and high temps — my Destiny 2 addiction extends into the early hours of the morning — the m15 never missed a step and didn’t display any signs of reduced power. Very impressive!
What’s more, the GPU — which is doing the real heavy lifting during gaming — remains effortlessly cool, with temps consistently settling in the mid-70s.
My only gripe is that the cooling system fails to keep that CPU-generated heat away from the keyboard, and it becomes quite uncomfortable on the WASD keys during game sessions. Hardcore tuners will likely mitigate this issue somewhat by under-volting the CPU, but this is an advanced process that I suspect most won’t want to tamper with (nor should they be expected to). The lingering heat also shortens battery life, with even casual use reducing the large 86Whr cell’s power-on time to around five hours.
This seems like an issue that could likely be rectified at the manufacturing level with the inclusion of AMD’s cooler and more efficient Ryzen CPUs, which would top my wish list for a 2021 revision.
An Excellent Lifestyle Package
Temperature concerns aside, the m15 is an incredibly well-rounded laptop, packed with premium materials and attention to detail.
The full-sized keyboard is easily the best I’ve ever used on a gaming laptop, and I particularly appreciate the oddball but ingenious placement of the full arrow keys that protrude slightly from the lower edge of the keyboard.
The touchpad is small but responsive and features excellent palm rejection while gaming. The per-key, multi-zone RGB lighting is super bright and tastefully done both inside and out, and lends the entire laptop a futuristic, expensive look without the typically juvenile garishness of other gaming laptops.
The screen hinge is perfectly tensioned for one-handed opening, yet holds firm enough to prevent excess screen wobble. Overall, the m15 feels solid and durable.
Should You Buy the Alienware m15 Gaming Laptop?
For its looks alone, the Alienware m15 stands tall as one of the most desirable laptops available today. It’s simply stunning from all angles, and the build quality feels second to none.
But it’s not just a pretty face — the m15 boasts top-tier specs, and although high processor temps can rear its ugly head, the laptop seems comfortable with the heat, as its beefy cooling system helps to maintain impressively high performance.
The m15 offers ample upgrade options too, starting at $1,499.99 for its most modest configuration. But it’s the RTX 2070 models that really stand out for their high performance and competitive pricing. If you have around $2,000 to spend on a gaming laptop, this is one of the best options out there!