Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5 Review: Zen 3 Laptop Invasion

Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5: System and Gaming Performance

Before running our selection of benchmarks, we applied the latest available Windows and driver updates to the Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5. All of our tests and the system itself use their default, out-of-the-box settings. Our goal is to test the system as it ships from the manufacturer, but after auto-updating, to accurately reflect what buyers can expect from a retail experience. 

ATTO Disk Benchmark
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The ATTO disk benchmark is a fairly quick and simple test which measures read/write bandwidth and IOPS across a range of different data sizes. While we don't typically compare these results across multiple machines, it's useful to gauge whether a particular notebook's storage subsystem can handle being put under pressure. 

chart atto bandwidth alienware m15 r5 ryzen

chart atto iops alienware m15 r5 ryzen

The SSD in our review unit was a Kioxia BG4, which uses Toshiba's 96-layer BiCS flash memory and a Toshiba NVMe storage controller with four lanes of PCI Express 3.0 connectivity. This was s a 512 GB drive rather than the higher-end 1 TB models we often see in many notebooks, and as such, sequential performance was not particularly strong. In addition, the BG4 is a low-power, mainstream drive, with specs to match. All the same, it's still much faster than any SATA SSD. 

Speedometer Web Application Benchmark
Browser Performance
We recently moved on to BrowserBench.org's Speedometer test, which takes a holistic look at web application performance. This test automatically loads and runs several sample web apps from ToDoMVC.com using the most popular web development frameworks around, including React, Angular, Ember.js, and even vanilla JavaScript. This test is a better example of how systems cope with real web applications, as opposed to a pure JavaScript compute test like JetStream. All tests were performed using the latest version of Chrome. 

chart speedometer alienware m15 r5 ryzen

The Ryzen 7 5800H found in the Alienware m15 R5 is wicked fast, just like the Ryzen 9 5900HS found in the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G15 that we recently reviewed. Web tasks are lightly threaded, so the maximum 4.4 GHz boost speed comes into play, along with Zen 3's architectural improvements over the previous generation that give it an extra kick. In short, the m15 R5 should be an excellent productivity machine along with powering the latest games. 

One other note: if you're looking for comparisons with Intel's recently-previewed Tiger Lake-H family of processors, those scores aren't here. Instead, the m15 Ryzen Edition R5 was included in our Core i9-11890HK Preview article. Since the preview unit was not a retail notebook, it's not really fair to put it in our comparisons here. Overall, what we see is that TGL-H is incredibly fast on single-threaded benchmarks like this one. Multi-threaded performance came down to earth a bit since clock speeds had to be dialed back to make room for all those cores. Also, this Alienware notebook has a Ryzen 7 5800H, not the faster Ryzen 9 5900H, so it's not exactly a dollar-for-dollar comparison, either. 

Cinebench R20 and R23
3D Rendering Performance
The previous version of Maxon's rendering benchmark, Cinebench R20, take relatively long to complete, so this is a decent test of a notebook's cooling system. This release also drops the OpenGL test, making Cinebench a pure CPU benchmark this time. We tested both single-threaded and multi-threaded performance here. 

chart cinebench r20 alienware m15 r5 ryzen

Cinebench has favored AMD's Zen-based processors in the past, but it's still kind of funny to see them all pile up together. The Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5 pops up towards the middle of our chart, but it's essentially tied with every other system bearing an eight-core CPU on the list. Single-threaded performance, on the other hand, is a strong suit where only the ASUS Zephyrus G15 and its Ryzen 9 5900HS have a slight advantage.

The newest benchmark from Maxon, Cinebench R23, renders the same scene as R20 but with the company's latest rendering engine with support for all current gen hardware. 

chart cinebench r23 alienware m15 r5 ryzen

Just like before, the more cores the better. On the other hand, this time we see the Zen 3 CPUs pull away from their Zen 2 forebears. The m15 R5's multi-threaded performance is only second to, again, the faster Ryzen 9, and thoroughly trounces everything else on the list. Single-threaded performance is a much closer battle, and the Alienware gets edged out by a couple of Tiger Lake ultrabooks. We'll have to wait for Tiger Lake-H gaming notebooks to see where Ryzen winds up here. 

Geekbench 5
Single and Multi-Core Performance
Geekbench is a cross-platform benchmark that simulates real world processing workloads in image processing and particle physics scenarios. We tested the notebooks featured here in Geekbench's single and multi-core workloads. We've retired Geekbench 4 because version 5 performs many of the same tests, which have been updated with the latest CPU architectures and features in mind. 

chart geekbench alienware m15 r5 ryzen

With eight cores and 16 threads, we expected a little bit more in Geekbench. The Alienware m15 trails the leaders by around 13%. Geekbench's synthetic nature probably means we shouldn't read too much into it, as performance in the real world is much more important. 

PCMark 10
Productivity and System-level Benchmarking
PCMark 10 uses a mix of real-world applications and simulated workloads to establish how well a given system performs productivity tasks, including image and video editing, web browsing, and OpenOffice document editing.  While these scores appear to be all over the place, the systems are sorted by their overall PCMark score, which is the third (gray) bar in each cluster. 

chart pcmark alienware m15 r5 ryzen

The Ryzen 7 5800H's lightly-threaded chops once again make this Alienware machine shine. Once again only playing second fiddle to the ROG Zephyrus G15, the Alienware m15 R5 is a speedy notebook that would make an excellent office machine when it's not being tasked with playing the latest games. Across the board, including all of the recorded subtests, this system only came in second to a more expensive step-up model from ASUS. 

Now it's finally time to get down with some 3D graphics and gaming tests.

3DMark Benchmarks
3D Performance
3DMark has several different graphics tests which focus on different types of systems. We start with Time Spy, which is 3DMark's headline benchmark. This test presents a pretty significant challenge for the system's CPU and GPU using DirectX 12's APIs... 

chart 3dmark time spy alienware m15 r5 ryzen

The fastest machines here have the fastest GPUs, whereas the the RTX 3060 in the Alienware machine we're testing is a step down from those. That's fine, since the price reflects that disadvantage, and the performance itself is very solid. The midrange, but full-powered GeForce RTX 3060 configuration here seems to be a good bit faster than anything from the last generation. 

Next up, let's take a look at the Extreme preset for the punishing 3DMark Fire Strike test. This DirectX 11 test has been around for a while, but it's still pretty challenging. 

chart 3dmark fire strike alienware m15 r5 ryzen
Once again, the Alienware m15 R5 lands itself a the third-place spot behind two notebooks with speedier GeForce RTX 3070s. Since that GPU is an option for this Ryzen-powered notebook, it's just a matter of an upgrade if that extra performance is important. 

Lastly, the Port Royal test uses DirectX Ray Tracing (DXR) to illuminate a scene. So far, the only notebook GPUs that can power this benchmark come from the NVIDIA camp, since AMD's Big Navi graphics core architecture hasn't made it into a mobile platform yet. 

chart 3dmark port royal alienware m15 r5 ryzen

It seems the GeForce RTX 3060 in the Alienware is about as fast as a Turing-based GeForce RTX 2070 from the previous generation when it comes to DXR effects. 

Far Cry 5
Gaming Performance
Far Cry 5 takes the franchise to Montana with lush environments and incredible graphics fidelity. We ran this laptop through the built-in benchmarks with Ultra Quality settings.

chart farcry 5 alienware m15 r5 ryzen

In our first true gaming benchmark the Alienware m15 R5 performs quite well. It's tied with a bunch of machines with high-end graphics from the last generation along with the Ryzen-powered Zephyrus G15, which has a faster graphics processor but a smaller 80 Watt limit. The extra power for the GeForce RTX 3060 in the m15 R5 goes to get the most out of that GPU. 

Gears 5
Gaming Performance
Gears 5 was one of the fall blockbusters we had a chance to dig deeply into, and on top of looking great, it's a blast to play. Due to the relative newness of the game, we don't have a ton of notebooks represented, so we intermingled some desktop GPU results for reference. We used the High preset at 1920x1080, same as before, to test this game. 

chart gears5 updated alienware m15 r5 ryzen

Gears 5's performance is a bit of a surprise. We know from our investigative piece on how many cores it takes for a great gaming experience that Gears 5 doesn't really care about multi-threading. Seeing the m15 R5 fall to GeForce RTX 3070 notebooks is not a surprise. However, beating one of them -- the ROG Zephyrus G15 -- is a bit of a surprise. This seems like a situation where the thinner ASUS notebook and its lower thermal budget hurts performance, as the Alienware stormed right on by and score a second-place finish.

Middle Earth: Shadow of War
Gaming Performance
Middle Earth: Shadow of War is a fun and and beautiful title set in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings universe. To test the game's performance relative to other systems, we set the resolution to 1920x1080 and turned the visuals up to the High preset. The frame rates here are the average reported by the built-in benchmark.

chart mesow alienware m15 r5 ryzen

The Alienware m15 R5 performed admirably here considering its midrange GPU. Once again a real-world gaming scenario that doesn't use much in the way of extra CPU threads allowed the full-powered GeForce RTX 3060 in the Alienware machine to speed on past its ASUS rival. 

Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Gaming Performance
The finale in the rebooted Tomb Raider trilogy, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is easily the best-looking of the bunch. It's also brimming with Tobii eye-tracking hardware support, and leading edge graphics technologies. To test this game out, we again turned the visuals up to High and tested at the Full-HD resolution of 1920x1080.

chart sottr alienware m15 r5 ryzen

In a gaming test that, weirdly enough, does use more CPU cores, the GPU is once again the deciding factor and the Alienware falls back behind the ROG Zephyrus G15. Still, this system's performance in a pretty graphically-intensive game is excellent, and never dips below 60 fps. This title will play silky smooth thanks to the notebook's considerable horsepower. 

Battery Performance
Gaming and Video Playback Performance
We ran a pair of battery tests with the Alienware m15 R5 Ryzen Edition: our own custom video playback loop and PCMark 10's Gaming test. In both instances, Windows 10's Focus Assist was enabled to block all notifications and the screen was calibrated to as close to 115 lux as possible according to our light meter. On the battery slider built into Windows, we selected the middle option of the three available, which is labeled "Better Performance"... 
 
chart battery hh m15 r5 ryzen

Battery life was extremely good. We got more than six hours of video playback, so the Alienware m15 R4 is very frugal with its six-cell 86 Wh battery. The ASUS ROG Zephyrus did just edge it for first place, but that notebook has a slightly larger 90 Wh battery and only a four-minute advantage.  

PCMark's battery test loops the Fire Strike demo and records how long it takes to expend the battery. Gaming performance when unplugged from thee wall could be quite variable from one laptop to the next, since they may all treat the performance requirements differently and prioritize battery over frame rates. In the case of the Alienware m15 R5, we ran the Fire Strike Extreme benchmark on battery power and scored 7,086, which is a 26.6% reduction from the AC-powered score that's over 9,000. Hopefully the battery is extended enough to make that worthwhile. 

chart battery pcmark m15 r5 ryzen

The PCMark 10 Gaming battery test wasn't quite as kind to the Alienware m15 R5. While the machine's performance was quite excellent, that comes at the cost of power draw. As a result, we got just a bit more than an hour out of the battery. That's not unusual, as we can see on this chart, as the divide seems to be between good performance short life, or less good performance (bordering on inadequate) and longer battery life. We'd take the former every time, since gaming away from the wall should be pretty rare. A less intensive test probably would last longer, too; we don't anticipate Solitaire would drain the life quite as fast. 

Overall, the Alienware m15 r5 Ryzen Edition is a very speedy notebook with solid battery life. Now let's move on to the tear-down section and see how its thermal system keeps everything cool. 


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