Dell Offers Work-Around For Alienware M18 Gaming Laptop Display Issue With RX 7900M

alienware m18 advantage
Remember that Alienware M18 R1 laptop that we made some fuss about awhile back? We reviewed the original NVIDIA-powered version, but there's a new AMD Advantage model that uniquely comes with a mobile variant of Navi 31 called the Radeon RX 7900M. Sadly, reviewers and early adopters have complained of black screens, stuttering games, and even boot problems, to say nothing of the effect on battery life. Don't fret, though, as Dell has a fix for you—but you may not like it.

To give a little background, the Alienware M18 R1 is the only place to find this graphics adapter. It's the only laptop with AMD's Navi 31 inside, and surely an engineering achievement considering the massive power draw and heat output of that processor. The machine worked fine in Dell's labs, but some reviewers and buyers have been suffering all sorts of issues with the machine. What gives? It's because they updated the graphics driver.

dell rx 7900m graphics driver

Indeed, that's Dell's solution to solve the problems with the Alienware M18 AMD Advantage Edition: downgrade the graphics driver to the 31.0.14076.3 version from September. Dell refers to this package as the "A01" version, indicating that it's the initial release driver for the laptop.

Hardware enthusiasts and PC techs will be well familiar with the idea that laptop OEMs publish their own graphics driver packages. For many years, NVIDIA and AMD's reference drivers wouldn't even install on laptop hardware, as the OEMs demanded users stick to their own, certified driver packages. That practice has somewhat fallen by the wayside as last-minute GPU drivers become ever more important to having a smooth gaming experience.

In this case, though, it seems to be a requirement. Neither Dell or AMD have explained why the older driver is required for stable operation of the M18, and it's particularly odd given that the driver predates the release of the laptop by more than a month. If we were to speculate, we'd expect that it has to do some specific power management settings that are included or configured in the older driver that aren't found in newer drivers. To be clear, that's pure speculation on our parts, though.

amd driver recommended
AMD's site still recommends 23.11.1 for the RX 7900M.

NotebookCheck confirms that after rolling back the display driver to the Dell-recommended version, almost all of the problems with the Alienware M18 R1 vanished. That's good news, but it's still frustrating and confusing for users. AMD's website and the Adrenalin software both recommend the latest 23.11.1 driver that apparently causes major problems on this system, and the old driver from September lacks optimizations for the latest games, such as Alan Wake 2 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III.

Hopefully Dell and AMD can get this situation resolved so that users can start using the AMD drivers right from the site. Having to wait for Dell to release approved driver packages is a real downer for people who spent some $3,000 on a gaming laptop and want to play the latest games on it.