The brand new Alienware M15 R5 Ryzen Version is a slight undoing of progress, relying on the way you have a look at it. As many gaming laptops are going thinner, this one is heavier and thicker than previous generations. Its design has been tweaked barely in methods each good and unhealthy, and it has fewer ports than earlier than, too.
Regardless of all of that, it’s a trigger for a small celebration due to the Ryzen processor it makes use of, marking AMD’s return to Alienware merchandise after a 14-year hole when the model completely used Intel CPUs. And it’s a welcome return, even when this laptop computer received’t attraction to everybody. AMD’s high-end cell processors have been a boon to gaming laptops for the final couple of years, bringing lengthy battery life and quick efficiency that generally outpaces and undercuts laptops which have competing Intel processors.
The Ryzen 7 5800H processor brings that magic to the M15 R5 Ryzen Version, and gaming efficiency with its RTX 3060 doesn’t wrestle to get above 60 FPS in graphically-demanding video games — all due to being a high-wattage element. This R5 that I examined has 16GB of RAM and a 512GB NVMe SSD for a complete value of about $1,616 at the moment, which isn’t low cost regardless of being near essentially the most reasonably priced model that Alienware makes. If cash isn’t a problem, it may be upgraded to the extra highly effective Ryzen 9 5900HX with Nvidia’s RTX 3070 and extra storage and RAM for $2,379.
The excessive worth is one thing that I couldn’t ignore whereas reviewing this laptop computer, particularly since Dell (Alienware’s father or mother firm) makes a $1,225 G15 Ryzen Edition that has similar GPU specs that ought to come near what this pricier M15 R5 can do. And, if you happen to can accept a barely lesser processor, there’s a $900 mannequin within the works that has the RTX 3060, but it surely isn’t obtainable but.
The worth doesn’t fare nicely exterior of Dell’s world both. Asus is at the moment the go-to model for glorious AMD-based gaming laptops which are simpler to suggest for individuals who need one thing extra transportable and feature-packed, with out sacrificing battery life. In comparison with the same M15 R5 configuration, the ROG Zephyrus G15 provides a QHD show, extra storage, a greater processor and a strong RTX 3070 (albeit a lower-powered GPU than you’ll discover within the M15 R5) for a number of hundred dollars much less. The brand new Strix G15 Advantage Edition seems extra garish subsequent to Alienware’s laptop computer, but it surely additionally has quick gaming efficiency and high-end options for a cheaper price. Neither of those fashions characteristic a webcam, however that could be one thing you may dwell with out.
The M15 R5 is 19.25mm (zero.75 inches) thick for many of the machine (thinner on the entrance, however barely thicker within the again) and it weighs 5.34 kilos. Some configurations weigh extra, going as much as 5.93 kilos. Its heft is jarring if you happen to’ve picked up an ultrabook not too long ago, but it surely’s an asset in serving to its high-wattage RTX 3060 graphics chip (125W most graphics energy, 1,702MHz enhance clock) to carry out equally to a low-wattage RTX 3070. In comparison with thinner laptops which have a low-powered 3070, like Asus’ TUF Dash 15, Alienware’s laptop computer makes up for the distinction in CUDA cores with sheer energy. It can possible be a stable performer nicely into the longer term — maybe longer than some lower-powered 3070s — regardless of having a technically lesser element. It’ll simply be extra of a chore to lug round.
The M15 R5 Ryzen Version fared nicely whereas working some demanding video games at their highest settings. Pink Lifeless Redemption 2 managed to succeed in 63 frames per second. Shadow of the Tomb Raider ran at about 80 frames per second with its ray tracing shadows characteristic and DLSS switched on. Horizon Zero Daybreak ran at a mean of 68 frames per second. None of them got here shut to completely profiting from the default 1080p show’s 165Hz refresh charge, however most individuals possible have older video games of their library that ought to be capable of show at very quick body charges on this laptop computer.
It didn’t take lengthy for this laptop computer to make an excellent impression with gaming efficiency. It took even much less time to study that it will get heat to the contact even whereas idling with no apps, and that when video games (particularly graphically-demanding ones) are working, it will probably get very loud. A quick and quiet gaming laptop computer is an oxymoron, and the M15 R5 is basically simply considered one of many offenders. However I didn’t discover indicators of thermal throttling after lengthy durations of gaming, nor did I encounter unexplainable slow-down. You simply would possibly wish to put on some headphones whereas gaming. The audio system shoot sound out of the edges of the laptop computer. It’s serviceable for YouTube movies or video calls, but it surely doesn’t ship sufficient depth or bass for leisure functions.
This Ryzen-based gaming laptop computer can deal with any type of informal browser-based workflow with ease. It shouldn’t have shocked me that the M15 R5 has nice battery life, since AMD’s processors have confirmed to deliver effectivity to different gaming laptops, but it surely nonetheless did. This one’s 86Wh battery lasted for about seven hours of combined use, by means of sustained use of Microsoft Edge with 10 or so tabs, Spotify, Slack, and a few video calls. That’s nice for an Alienware laptop computer. The M15 R3 that I reviewed final 12 months clocked in at only one hour. Although, different AMD-based gaming laptops have the M15 R5 beat. The Strix G15 Benefit Version lasted over 9 hours for my colleague Monica Chin.
One space the place the Ryzen Version bought a bit hung up is with a video export take a look at in Adobe Premiere Professional. Our video workforce’s five-minute, thirty-three second 4K file took simply over seven minutes to complete exporting. That’s not a nasty end result, but it surely’s not going to be quick sufficient for creators to rapidly flip round initiatives and never almost as quick as laptops with Intel processors can handle.
The M15 R5’s design is totally different from earlier fashions in minor methods. Typically, it’s for the higher. For example, this newer mannequin is matte-textured throughout, together with on its display screen bezels, which seems higher than the shiny bezels utilized in earlier generations. Some individuals would possibly just like the M15 R3 and R4’s two-toned colour design, however the R5 is available in a gunmetal silver colour that’s putting, and the black plastic masking the keyboard is comparatively freed from distractions, apart from the backlit keyboard and illuminated Alienware emblem. Certainly one of my favourite adjustments is within the laptop computer: Alienware permits you to simply improve the RAM and storage in order for you. Some earlier fashions had RAM soldered onto the motherboard, however this one’s extra futureproof.
Alienware shuffled across the keyboard structure, although, and it’s worse off than earlier than. The M15 R5’s keys are nonetheless pleasing to sort on, however I make extra typing errors as a result of the quantity keys have been delegated to the correct aspect of the keyboard as a substitute of the highest. Additionally, the arrow keys had been beforehand positioned a bit decrease than the remainder of the keyboard to make them simple to search out, however these have been shoved up on this mannequin, leading to a smaller proper shift key. This may not be an issue when you get accustomed to typing on the M15, but it surely nonetheless looks like a step backwards.
The port choice isn’t as beneficiant, both. The Ryzen Version options three USB-A three.2 Gen 1 ports, one USB-C three.2 Gen 2 port, an HDMI 2.1 port (able to 4K output at as much as 120Hz), a headphone jack, and a 2.5Gbps ethernet port. It’s not a nasty lineup, but it surely may very well be higher.
Lacking from this mannequin, and all different new fashions that Alienware not too long ago unveiled, is the proprietary amplifier connector for its exterior GPU enclosure, which has been officially discontinued. Intel-based variations of Alienware’s latest laptops, just like the M15 R6, X15, and X17, will help Thunderbolt eGPUs, however the M15 R5 received’t as a result of it lacks a Thunderbolt port. So, you’re simply caught with the GPU that’s inside. Fortunately, the graphics efficiency is nice by default, however there’s quite a lot of unused house on the R5’s rear the place that amplifier port was once. It could have been good if Alienware had stuffed it with an SD card reader and an additional USB-C port.
The M15 R5’s efficiency didn’t come into query throughout my testing. I don’t suppose I’ll ever tire of seeing the good battery life AMD’s processors deliver, and it’s nice that this GPU can maintain its personal subsequent to pricier parts just like the RTX 3070.
However as a complete, Alienware missed the touchdown in the case of worth. In order for you extra options on your cash, even when it entails swapping among the M15 R5’s energy for a QHD display screen and higher portability, you must look elsewhere. The M15 R5 isn’t the jaw-dropping worth that it wanted to be (and that I’d hoped it might be) to steer everybody away from the 2021 gaming laptop computer frontrunner (to date), the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15.
Pictures by Cameron Faulkner / The Verge