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Alienware m15 Beoordeling

The Alienware m15 (starts at $1,379.99; $2,179.99 as tested) stands apart from its predecessor, 2017's Alienware 15 R3, with a distinct style and a smaller footprint. The latter, in part, is thanks to Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q graphics. That graphics chip comes paired up with a 144Hz display, and the result—beyond muscular, high-frame-rate performance—is a surprise: long battery life. Taken with the compact chassis, it makes the m15 a more mobile gaming laptop than most. While the potent m15 doesn't have any major flaws, it's up against some stiff competition, and the Razer Blade keeps its Editors' Choice crown for its premium design. But this is still a super-solid 15-inch gamer for the alien-head faithful.

A 15-Inch Gamer All About...Portability?

The Alienware m15 is a bit less flashy than the Alienware 15 R3 and its larger counterpart, the Alienware 17 R5 ($1,559.99 at Dell) —there is no side or touchpad lighting—but it's also sleeker and trimmer all around. The lid on our unit is a stylish bright red (officially, "Nebula Red"). The laptop is also available in a more traditional "Epic Silver."

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Both colors have a premium, soft-touch feel. The lid also bears three grooved lines that meet in the center, one of the few design similarities it shares with its counterparts.

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The rest of the chassis is black, with more soft-feel plastic on the keyboard deck and glossy (and cheaper-looking) plastic above the keyboard and on the display bezels. The back of the chassis and bottom of the display are angled in for a slightly edgier look, giving a dash of style to the otherwise straightforward shape.

The side bezels are relatively thin, but the top and especially bottom borders are quite thick. It's not the worst look, but it doesn't fall in line with the super-slim bezels being adopted by more and more machines, such as the Razer Blade and the Asus ROG Zephyrus S ( at Amazon) . As it stands, the bezels look more like wasted real estate.

Despite the thicker bezels, the m15 still has a compact footprint. Where the Alienware 15 R3 stands at 1 by 15.3 by 12 inches (HWD), the m15 measures just 0.83 by 14.3 by 10.8 inches, a more-than-marginal haircut in all three directions. Impressively, it's even slightly smaller than the 13-inch Alienware 13, a true portability-first machine.

That said, it's not quite as small as the Blade (0.68 by 13.98 by 9.25 inches), the Zephyrus S (0.6 by 14.2 by 10.6 inches), or the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin ($1,999.00 at Amazon) (0.69 by 14.09 by 9.75 inches).

High-End Features, Meet Modest Build

The 15.6-inch display is a full HD (1,920-by-1,080-pixel native) IPS screen with a 144Hz refresh rate. The very high refresh-rate ceiling makes a noticeable difference in performance...when you can make use of it. (I'll discuss that more in the performance section below.)

The keyboard is comfortable enough, not on either the mushy or satisfyingly tactile side, while the touchpad is a bit less impressive. It tracks properly, but it feels closer to the touchpads on less-expensive systems than it does to those of other premium machines.

Speaker quality is more in line with the competition. The speakers push out loud enough sound that isn't tinny at high volumes. But, like most laptop audio, the sound lacks much in the way of bass.

You get a choice among many configurations when ordering the Alienware m15. It's not a matter of picking from a couple of other SKU options, but rather, sorting through myriad individual component options and combinations. You can order the m15 with RAM capacities ranging from 8GB to 32GB, display options from 60Hz full HD to 4K, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 or GTX 1070 Max-Q graphics, and a swath of storage type and capacity combinations. The one constant: All models come outfitted with an Intel Core i7-8750H processor, a staple CPU of high-end gaming laptops.

PCMag Logo Alienware m15 Review

In our review tester unit, Alienware supplied 16GB of memory, a 512GB M.2 PCI Express/NVMe solid-state drive (SSD), and the Max-Q version of the GeForce GTX 1070. The SSD is speedy, if not especially roomy given the size of modern game installations. At that capacity, you'll have to uninstall less frequently used games to have enough room for new titles. This is not unique to the Alienware m15, however, as the Blade 15, the Zephyrus S, and the Stealth Thin have the same amount of storage.

For physical connectivity, the m15 is home to three USB 3.1 ports, a USB-C port with support for Thunderbolt 3, an Ethernet jack, HDMI and mini DisplayPort outputs, and an audio jack...

Some of those ports are on the back edge. There, the machine also includes a proprietary connector for the Alienware Graphics Amplifier ($174.99 at Dell) . That's the company's external GPU solution, for connecting a desktop-size graphics card to your laptop.

As for wireless connectivity, the Alienware m15 features 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0, though the latter is optional.

Testing: Alienware Shows Its Gaming Roots

For the performance benchmarks, I compared the Alienware m15 with a handful of machines that are either similarly priced or similarly outfitted in terms of components. I should note here that at PC Labs, we recently began testing with a new suite of benchmarks and so, for the time being, have a limited set of data to compare the new results against.

To help alleviate that problem, we back-tested a handful of recent gaming laptops to get as many relevant points of comparison as we could. We don't have the data from a couple of the aforementioned thin flagship gaming laptops, but the sample set below still provides a clear idea of how the m15 stacks up.

As comparisons, I've used the Zephyrus S, the similarly equipped Acer Predator Helios 500, the midrange Asus ROG Strix Hero II, and the new entry-level version of Razer's Blade 15, the Blade 15 Base Model. You can see their specs in the chart above.

Productivity and Storage Tests

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PCMark 10 and 8 are holistic performance suites developed by the PC benchmark specialists at UL (formerly Futuremark). The PCMark 10 test we run simulates different real-world productivity and content-creation workflows. We use it to assess overall system performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheet use, web browsing, and videoconferencing. The test generates a proprietary numeric score.

PCMark 8, meanwhile, has a specialized storage test that we use to assess the speed of the PC's subsystem. This result is also a proprietary numeric score.

Although the m15 did trail the two higher-end laptops in PCMark 10, they're all quick machines that make fast work of everyday home and office tasks. The same goes for the storage tests, even though the gap is slightly more pronounced in numbers. Less so, in reality: The m15's drive is a snappy M.2 SSD that doesn't seem in any way slower in hands-on general use.

Media Processing and Creation Tests

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Next is Maxon's CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 test, which is fully threaded to make use of all available processor cores and threads. Cinebench stresses the CPU rather than the GPU to render a complex image. The result is a proprietary score indicating a PC's suitability for processor-intensive workloads.

We also run a custom Adobe Photoshop image-editing benchmark. Using an early 2018 release of the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, we apply a series of 10 complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG test image. We time each operation and, at the end, add up the total execution time. The Photoshop test stresses CPU, storage subsystem, and RAM, but it can also take advantage of most GPUs to speed up the process of applying filters, so systems with powerful graphics chips or cards may see a boost.

While the m15 may have fallen slightly behind on PCMark, that was not the case on these two media tests. It eked out about the same (or in some cases, better) results than its similarly outfitted competitors. Should you edit media or take on other CPU-intensive tasks for work or pleasure when you're not gaming, the m15 won't be an obstacle.

Synthetic Graphics Tests

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Next up: UL's 3DMark suite. 3DMark measures relative graphics muscle by rendering sequences of highly detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics that emphasize particles and lighting. We run two different 3DMark subtests, Sky Diver and Fire Strike, which are suited to different types of systems. Both are DirectX 11 benchmarks, but Sky Diver is suited to laptops and midrange PCs, while Fire Strike is more demanding and made for high-end PCs to strut their stuff. The results are proprietary scores.

Next is another synthetic graphics test, this time from Unigine Corp. Like 3DMark, the Superposition test renders and pans through a detailed 3D scene and measures how the system copes. In this case, it's rendered in the company's eponymous Unigine engine, offering a different 3D workload scenario than 3DMark, for a second opinion on the machine's graphical prowess. We present two Superposition results, run at the 720p Low and 1080p High presets. These scores are reported in frames per second (fps).

The m15 ended up close to or ahead of the Asus ROG Zephyrus S on each one of these tests, pointing perhaps to superior cooling, given the shared core components. It's not a world of difference, but with the shared GPU, CPU, and amount of memory, the Alienware m15 seems a little better optimized. That makes sense, given the slightly larger chassis with more room for cooling. The Zephyrus S sacrifices a lot on the altar of thinness.

On a similar note, the Acer Predator Helios 500 and its chunkier body came out on top. As shown in the Superposition test results, this has a meaningful effect of a few frames per second—not something that will make or break your 3D experience, but a tangible difference, nonetheless.

Real-World Gaming Tests

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The synthetic tests above are helpful for measuring general 3D aptitude, but it's hard to beat full retail video games for judging gaming performance. Far Cry 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider are both modern, high-fidelity titles with built-in benchmarks that illustrate how a system handles real-world video games at various settings. These are run at 1080p on both the moderate and maximum graphics-quality presets (Normal and Ultra for Far Cry 5; Medium and Very High for Rise of the Tomb Raider) to judge performance for a given system. Far Cry 5 is DirectX 11-based, while Rise of the Tomb Raider can be flipped to DX12, which we do for the benchmark.

Because of the timing on our new testing-procedure rollout, we don't have comprehensive performance data from past machines to compare using these games. That said, the m15's own results are telling, and we had a pair of useful comparisons available within our competitive set...

On the maximum graphics presets, the m15 averaged 74fps on Far Cry 5 and 84fps on Rise of the Tomb Raider. That's well higher than the 60fps target, meaning you won't often, if at all, see the frame stutter that happens when you dip below 60fps. For such a thin laptop (as with the Zephyrus S, which posted similar numbers), the m15 has impressive full-size performance.

It is worth noting, though, that these frame rates don't approach the display's 144Hz refresh rate. As such, these sorts of games won't really take advantage of the display. But visually simpler games such as Fortnite and some MOBAs should see much higher frame rates.

Battery Rundown Test

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After fully recharging the laptop, we set up the machine in power-save mode (as opposed to balanced or high-performance mode) and make a few other battery-conserving tweaks in preparation for our unplugged video rundown test. (We also turn Wi-Fi off, putting the laptop in Airplane mode.) In this test, we loop a video—a locally stored 720p file of Tears of Steel, an open-source movie from the Blender Foundation—with screen brightness set at 50 percent and volume at 100 percent until the system conks out.

As you can see, the Alienware m15's battery life is mighty for a gaming laptop, bucking the trend of most of its competitors. Thin gaming laptops tend to have poor battery life, but at nearly eight and a half hours, the m15 bucks the trend. The Razer Blade is the only other competitor in this lot that comes close.

That's plenty of time for use off the charger, unlike the Zephyrus S, which feels like it constantly needs to be plugged in during normal use. While gaming will chew through the battery faster, the m15 lasts long enough that you could get a decent chunk of time in (maybe for playing a simpler title or slow-paced strategy game on an airplane tray, for instance). Since battery life is the main gripe I've had with some machines in this class, the m15 deserves praise.

Slim, Fast, and Reasonably Priced

The machines making up 2018's gaming-laptop elite have been polished up by generation after generation of tweaking, and the bar is very high nowadays. And indeed, the Alienware m15 has no deal-killer shortcomings. It boasts the power needed for greater-than-60fps gaming, packs long battery life, and comes in a slim chassis. The 144Hz screen is a nice touch, even if it won't get pushed to the limit in most demanding games.

The build quality is more average than remarkable, though, which is a key thing to note in this premium-priced tier. The keyboard and touchpad, too, while perfectly serviceable, don't stand out, and the design and materials are good, not great.

Still, the Alienware m15's power and small footprint are admirable, and it's not missing any key feature. But taken all together, the Razer Blade maintains its Editors' Choice title among thin gaming laptops for its eye-catching build, while (like the Zephyrus S) the Alienware m15 stands as a worthy alternative. Considering it includes roughly the same components as the Blade, it's also the less-expensive option, making it an appealing choice if your budget dictates putting the core componentry ahead of pure build quality.


  • Slim design.

  • 144Hz display.

  • Strong HD gaming performance.

  • Good battery life for a gaming laptop.

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  • Build quality doesn't feel quite as premium as some competitors.

  • Chunky top and bottom screen bezels.

  • Ho-hum touchpad.

The Bottom Line

The Alienware m15 makes good on its slim form with lots of gaming grunt and long battery life. It's a very solid 15-inch gaming laptop, though a few bits—bezels, body materials—need sprucing up.

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