Alienware m15 R2 Review: Beautiful OLED, Beastly Performance
Alienware m15 R2: Powerful Mobile Gaming In A Sleek, Gorgeous Package
Alienware may just be the most well-known gaming desktop and notebook brand on the planet. The company's gray alien logo graces everything from proper, upgradeable desktops like the Aurora R9 to the huge desktop-replacement Area-51m notebook complete with actual desktop hardware. What we have on hand today isn't quite so big and bulky, however: the new 2019 edition of the company's workhorse m15 gaming notebook, the m15 R2. We had a chance to spend some one-on-one time with this sweet portable machine back at Computex, but now it's come through our labs from the alien mothership for an extended visit.
When we first pulled the m15 R2 from its box, we were a little surprised how small it is. Sure, it's bigger than a non-gaming focused system like the XPS 15 9570 we recently looked at, but this system has to keep quite a bit more hardware cooled sufficiently so we can get our game on. Alienware says these systems weigh just 4.7 pounds, and our digital scales confirmed that mass for us. It's roughly as wide as any 15.6" notebook, including the aforementioned XPS 15, but it's about an inch and a half deeper. That's because the system's main vents rest behind the display's hinge, exhausting hot air out the back and away from our hands while we were gaming. Let's take a look at what hardware lurks beneath the Lunar Light exterior.
|Processor||Intel Core i7-9750H (6 Cores w/HyperThreading, 2.6 GHz base, 4.5 GHz max turbo)|
|OS||Windows 10 Home 64-bit|
|Display||15.6" 3840x2160 60 Hz OLED display with 1 ms response time + Tobii Eye Tracking Technology|
|Graphics||NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 with Max-Q Design|
|Storage||512 GB Toshiba NVMe SSD (PCIe x4)|
|Memory||16 GB DDR4-2666 RAM|
|Audio||Integrated Realtek with Stereo Speakers|
|Camera||720p webcam (non-IR)|
|Networking||Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650 (2x2 MIMO) and Bluetooth 5.0|
|Ports: Left||1x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type A, 1x 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet (Killer E3000 NIC)|
|Ports: Rear||1x HDMI 2.0 1x Thunderbolt 3 with USB Type-C Connector
1x Alienware Graphics Amplifier port
1x AC Adapter Input
|Ports: Right||2x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type A|
|Keyboard||RGB Backlit chicklet-style tenkeyless with 1.7mm key travel|
|Battery||Four-cell 76 Watt-hour (built-in)|
|Dimensions||11.67 x 8.17" x tapered thickness of 0.27" to 0.51" (296 x 207 x 7-13 mm)|
|Warranty||1-year warranty with on-site/in-home service after remote diagnosis|
|Price||Starting at $1,299 (as configured $2,659) - Find Them At Dell.Com|
A gaming notebook needs to pack a lot of powerful hardware into a portable package, and powerful hardware is something the m15 has in spades. This beast has a Core i7-9750H, which is a six-core CPU with Hyper-Threading and a maximum boost speed of 4.5 GHz. If that's not fast enough, a Core i9-9980HK is available. 16 GB of DDR4-2666 memory keeps the CPU fed in an 8 GB x 2 dual-channel configuration. NVIDIA's GeForce RTX Max-Q family of GPUs are available, and our review unit's GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q has 8 GB of VRAM of its own. Primary storage is handled by a 512 GB NVMe SSD, and the system has a second M.2 slot for another drive.
There are three display options available for the m15: a standard 1920x1080 60 Hz LCD that can represent 72% of the sRGB color spectrum, a faster 144-Hz 1080p panel that displays 100% of the sRGB color gamut, and a high-end 3840x2160 60 Hz OLED panel with HDR400 certification and DCI-P3 color coverage. It's that OLED display that caught our eyes at Computex and that's what we've got on hand today. Just like you'd expect from an OLED unit, the contrast ratio is insane and the colors pop vibrantly. The high pixel density means that text and icons in Windows are razor-sharp at the m15's default 250% scaling in Windows 10. Along with those fantastic colors and contrast, the display looks great at a steep angle, and there's not even a hint of ghosting in the display. While the upgrade cost is a bit steep at $400, you're definitely getting something a cut above a traditional 60 Hz IPS display here. Above that beautiful display is a 720p webcam for chatting, but there's no infrared camera present for Windows Hello biometric authentication, and there's no fingerprint sensor in our review unit, either.
Below the display is the m15's excellent keyboard. When absolute thinness isn't imperative, such is the case when not building an ultraportable PC, gaming notebook manufacturers are free to give notebooks a keyboard with plenty of travel. The one Alienware includes with the m15 feels great while typing. The keys have a small tactile bump when you press them, so they aren't linear switches like Cherry MX Reds. Personally, I love and use MX Browns exclusively, so I have no complaints aside from the lower travel distance inherent to a notebook keyboard, but linear fans might opt for an external keyboard. Below the keyboard is a functional but unexciting multi-touch trackpad. We imagine most gamers are going to use a mouse with their PC the vast majority of the time, but the trackpad is there for the times you need it, and it performs its purpose well.
Dell included plenty of connectivity on the m15. There are USB 3.0 ports on both sides, along with Gigabit Ethernet port driven by a Killer E2600 chip, a 1/8" four-pole headset jack, HDMI 2.0, Mini DisplayPort 1.4, a Thunderbolt 3 port with a USB Type-C connection, a dedicated external graphics port which works with Alienware's Graphics Amplifier, and (of course) an AC adapter jack. Speaking of the AC adapter, our unit came with a 240W power brick, but less-endowed systems can come with a somewhat smaller 160W unit. Wireless connectivity is provided by either an Intel 8265 with 802.11ac wireless networks and Bluetooth 4.2, or a Killer 1650W that supports 802.11ax Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0. As far as wireless speeds go, the Killer 1650W had no problem maxing out our 150 megabit Internet connection while downloading from Steam or the Windows Store.