A few weeks ago we reviewed Asus’ ROG AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX gaming PC and were left suitably impressed with it. Now it is Alienware’s turn to be put to the test in the form of the Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5. Although less time and effort has been put into styling the Alienware m15 R5 than the ROG laptop that does not affect how well it games.
Once again I put the gaming machine through its paces with the “chore” of playing a number of games on it including Battlefield V Year 2 Edition, Forza Horizon 4, Titanfall 2: Ultimate Edition, Aces of the Luftwaffe (yes, I love this old skool game), Moto Racer 4 and a few more. I also used the laptop as my workhorse for a couple of weeks and came away suitably impressed.
Hardware and design
The design of the laptop looks like very much an afterthought on the outside when it is off. The front lid has the usual RGB Alienware logo but very little else. The sides and equally plain but the rear has a RGB oval around it. No colour in this machine aside from the RGB light variety. Of course it has been given a “colour” name by Alienware: Dark Side of the Moon with High Endurance Clear Coat and Silky Smooth Finish…….
As is the standard fare with most laptops these days the bezels around the 15.6-inch display are fairly minimal. The top bezel this time though has a HD webcam which supports Windows Hello — handy because there is no fingerprint sensor anywhere to be found on the laptop.
The display itself is a 15.6-inch 1080P display with a 165Hz refresh rate in standard mode. I tested it with a number of games and managed to easily clock up that 165Hz refresh rate most of the time. This 165Hz rate is possible whether the power cable is plugged in or not which is a nice bonus — something the ROG G15 did not do (it dropped to 60Hz on battery power). Higher refresh rate displays for this laptop are available in overseas markets but not here — at this stage. Gaming did not miss a beat with “only” 165Hz refresh rate and it was a refresh rate that so many games we tried supported on this laptop. The display is once again a matte display making it easy on the eye when gaming in all sorts of lighting conditions.
The keyboard itself is very different to that in the ROG G15. As soft and buttery as the keys were on the G15, the clicky the keys were on the Alienware R5. The Alienware mSeries 4-Zone AlienFX RGB keyboard is something you need to get used to but after using it for a couple of hours of work I loved the travel of them with each key having quite a bit of travel and nicely tactile to the touch. It is a laptop keyboard so don’t expect miracles, but it is quite decent for gaming.
Alienware have not included many dedicated gaming buttons for quick shortcuts for various gaming features and functionality — the only real one being the mic mute button (which my son found by accident after panicking, thinking his gaming headset was broken). The touchpad is smaller than that on the G15 but it did not bother me one little bit — never while working and even less while gaming.
Port-wise there are enough but the laptop is not overly endowed with ports but there is one strange choice — the left-hand side Ethernet port. The rear of the laptop has a USB-C USB 3.2 Gen2 port, a SuperSpeed USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type A port, a HDMI 2.1 port and the power DC in port. Unfortunately the Ethernet port is not on the rear which, given the number of other ports on the rear, is a big surprise. If all of these ports are likely to be used, why isn’t the Ethernet port there? I survived but could have done with that port being on the rear for a nicer setup. The right-hand side houses a couple of USB-A ports as well to round out the ports.
There are just two 2W speakers on the R5 which isn’t great, especially when you consider they are downward firing speakers. Sitting on a desk they weren’t too bad (not great though) but on a lap the speakers were a bit muffled. As a gamer though it is likely you will be using headphones anyway but this is one place Alienware cut corners, and not in a good way.
Underneath the laptop are more air vents — yes there are some above the keyboard and a couple of small ones on each side of the laptop. I did not have any issues with the laptop overheating at any times and that was with the laptop running full tilt to test out the battery life.
The laptop is powered by the AMD Ryzen™ 9 5900HX chipset paired with the NVIDIA® GeForce RTX™ 3070 8GB GDDR6 graphics card and 16GB of DDR4 3200MHz RAM. The RAM can be upgraded by the user if you wish as there are two SODIMM slots. The above combination meant that while gaming the laptop did not miss a beat — although do not expect the battery life to not suffer with power like this.
The version of the laptop we tested (with the AMD Ryzen 9) comes with a 1TB PCIe M.2 SSD which is much nicer than the 512GB included in the G15. Although you may not install that many games on your personal device it came in handy allowing us to install a multitude of games to test it out on various types of games.
The 3D mark results for the Alienware R5 were better than that in the ROG G15 but in a real world use they were extremely similar.
Once again, this laptop is designed for gaming and although I would have liked more dedicated gaming keys and possibly an improved native software experience it was still fun. The Alienware Command Centre is where you are meant to be able to customise your system for your games. You can do so but to a lesser extent than you could with the ROG G15. You can alter the RGB lighting theme on a per game basis but you cannot alter CPU usage and power consumption in any great detail.
Within the library you can change each setting for the games but that is just using the dropdown menus — so easier to use but less detailed.
The problem I had with the command centre was that rather than recognise all the games installed (automatically or manually) it would only recognise the store’s app that was used to install them — eg. Epic games, Steam etc.
To open each game either use shortcuts or the app store you used to install them. Once open though the games ran extremely well and given there is 16GB of RAM with the powerful AMD Ryzen 9 and the RTX3070 graphics card it should come as no surprise.
The laptop comes pre-installed with Windows 10 Home and the hardware is Windows 11 ready. Microsoft has already said the update will be free, so when that launches later this year you’ll be ready to go.
There is very little third party bloatware with the Alienware R5, instead Alienware opting for their own software to help you get the best out of the machine. Within their apps are great hint and tips and tricks and ways to tweak the machine to how you like it.
Battery and power
The 6-Cell Battery, 86WHr (Integrated) is powered by a 240W adapter — another huge adapter as seems to be the case with gaming laptops these days. With a rundown test it performed okay — and just okay.
Using it as my workhorse for marking assignments, setting exams, writing EFTM etc I was able to get around five to five and a half hours of battery life from it and while gaming I was able to get around one and a half hours. Not great but it is distinctively a gaming machine and with the specs mentioned above and a standard refresh rate of 165Hz for the display you should not expect miracles.
Should you buy it
Gaming laptops are not cheap. Simple as that and the higher spec you go the more expensive the laptop. The Alienware M15 Ryzen Edition R5 Gaming Laptop, in the spec we reviewed, will set you back $3,699 but if you are willing to compromise on a few items — namely, R7 instead of R9, RTX 3050 instead of RTX 3070, 512GB instead of 1TB — you can pick it up for $2,159.
The Alienware R5 Ryzen 9 gaming laptop comes with a better GPU, more RAM, a webcam and a bigger hard drive than the Asus ROG G15 but the display has a lower refresh rate and the design is very basic compared to the G15. The G15 also has much better gaming-dedicated software to get the best experience out of your laptop.
In the end the Alienware M15 Ryzen Edition R5 is priced about where it should be. It’s not as pretty as the G15 (when off) but the specs on it are slightly better hence the increase in price. Would that make a difference in real world gaming? Unlikely although if you like to game without your charger the ability to use the full refresh rate on battery power is something the ROG G15 could not do.
The Alienware M15 Ryzen Edition R5 is a gaming laptop I can recommend to hardcore gamers but the battery life is not sufficient for those casual gamers who also want to use it as their daily laptop workhorse. For more information head on over to Dell Australia and check out the different configurations available.
CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX
Graphics: NVIDIA® GeForce RTX™ 3070 8GB GDDR6
RAM: 16GB RAM
Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1080pp), 165Hz, 3ms
Storage: 1TB SSD
Ports: 1 x USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 2, 3 x USB Type-A 3.2 Gen 1, 1 x HDMI 2.1, 1 x 3.5mm combo jack, 1 x RJ45 Ethernet
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2 Killer™ Wi-Fi 6 AX1650 802.11ax 2×2 Wireless LAN
Camera: HD Webcam
Size (W x D x H): 356 x 272 x 22.85mm