The Alienware m15 R4 marks the point at which another big boy gaming laptop maker enters the fold. Given the change, and the fresh excitement that a new generation of the best graphics card and best CPUs for gaming brings, we're starting to see the effect it's having on the prebuilt markets, and specifically that of the best gaming laptops. While the reputation of Alienware gaming laptops precedes itself, in performance - and price tag - it's exciting to see what one offers when sporting a brand new RTX 3070 graphics card.
Design & features
Processor: Intel i9-10980HK
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070
Memory: 32GB DDR4 RAM
Display: 15.6-inch, 300Hz
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Storage: 1TB PCIe M.2 SSD
Ports: 1 x MicroSD-Card Reader, 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, 1 x HDMI 2.1b with HDCP 2.2 Output, 1 x Mini DisplayPort 1.4, 1 x Thunderbolt 3, 1 x Alienware Graphics Amplifier Port, 1 x Power/DC-In Port, 1 x Wedge-Shaped Lock Slot, 1 x Killer Networks E3100x Gigabit Ethernet NIC, 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A with Powershare Technology, 1 x Audio Out (Compatible with inline mic headset)
Connectivity: Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650i 802.11ax 2x2 Wireless LAN, and Bluetooth 5.1
OS: Windows 10 Home
Weight: 4.65lbs (2.11kg)
The same design language of recent years is draped over the R4 variant of the m15, and that's fine. The design of Alienware gaming PCs and laptops can be seen as divisive or as acquired tastes but I like this: it's sleek and different. It's the same as it has been in the duration of this phase of Alienware design really - nothing has changed that much in design and build, but still, it's nice. The sleek white finish, and emblazoned emblem, and RGB lighting all combine on the machine to make for something which is very cool, I think.
The keyboard and mousepad are classic Alienware too, though the touchpad isn't illuminated like the Alienware Area-51m which is a little sad on the cool front count, but a fair compromise. The keyboard is satisfying to use, and RGB-imbued so all is well here.
The laptop's screen hinge set forward on the machine ('toward you') to allow for the ports and fans at the machine's posterior. This is surprisingly neat and tidy still; whereas other laptops would just whack the hinge at the exact point where the top meets bottom, the forward hinge fits in the design and offers the space for those rear ports which is helpful. Speaking of, you'll be well set on the ports front, with plenty of USB ports, USB-Cs, and display options at hand - as you can see from the breakdown.
The supporting component selection is very solid too, and while the CPU is not the very latest from Intel - the one here is 10th gen, not 11th - it's still a top-grade chip that you can rely on, and that'll benefit from all the wizardry now available to gaming laptops (balancing power between the CPU and the GPU, being one excellent feature in RTX laptops nowadays). And elsewhere the 1TB SSD will be plenty to get you going and 32GB of RAM should see you right for whatever you the use machine for - and for a good few years at that.
How does the Alienware m15 R4 fare on some industry tests?
Port Royal: 6435
PCMark 10: 6526
Cinebench CPU: Multi-core: 9,605cb; Single-core: 1,249cb
CrystalDiskMark: 2,905 MB/s read; 3,362 MB/s write
Tom Clancy's The Division 2: Ultra at 1080p: 94 fps; High at 1080p: 124 fps
Metro Exodus: RTX (ray-tracing on Ultra) at 1080p: 66 fps; High at 1080p: 97 fps
Shadow of the Tomb Raider: Highest at 1080p: 114 fps; High at 1080p: 121 fps
Total War: Three Kingdoms: Ultra at 1080p: 85 fps; High at 1080p: 118 fps
In short, the performance is tremendous. The widely reported excellence of the 30-series GPUs in a top gaming laptop is no truer than with the Alienware m15 R4, and shines through in gaming performance. It simply is a great 1080p gaming powerhouse, absolutely chewing through any game at that resolution, and often at max, ray-tracing settings.
However, it is almost like the 1080p screen is both simultaneously great to game at with the components powering it, but also holding the components back slightly. The 3070 dominates at 1080p but so much so that it feels like it needs to be unleashed at the 1440p resolution which would suit it better. At 1080p, the laptop does demonstrably outstrip our ASUS ROG GA15 gaming PC, but not so much that the gaming experience would be truly transformative: it's just a bunch more frames per second above an already-very-acceptable level. It's also worth pointing out that while this performance is emulated by other big boys with 30s-series cards, like the Blade Pro 17 (2021), you can still get relatively similar performance levels - and certainly similarly enjoyable gaming experiences if you aren't just chasing frame rates, from the likes of slightly older gaming laptops like Razer's Blade 15 Advanced (2020) and even Blade Pro 17 (2019). Not that this should put you off, but it is a good reference point.
However, while a 1440p resolution screen might be a better match for the 3070 all around, having it at 1080p and utilizing that nippy 300Hz refresh rate means that anyone who plays twitchy or online shooters competitively - or just prefers that genre and wants super smooth gameplay - will be extremely well served.
A small complaint, though, is that under any sort of load, the fans do get loud. Really, very loud; louder than my actual desk fan which was blowing into my face during testing.
It's also a great machine to use more generally, as a day-to-day laptop. The keyboard is great to type on, the screen is lovely and vibrant and clear, it's sturdy and robust, and even the speakers give the audio a good go. The Alienware Command Centre software is great too, much honed since my original time with that back in 2008 - and can be used to mitigate the noisy fans somewhat, and generally offer some customization and preferential settings tweak whatever you use the machine for.
Overall - should you buy it?
In short, this is an easy gaming laptop to recommend. It'll give the best gaming PCs a run for their money in terms of performance, and toning down the component selection means you compensate for the Alienware premium and the new-component premium a little too to get that performance.
The RTX 3070 particularly feels like a great choice, especially as the laptop is not trying to claim 4K gaming; it's still just a beast at 1080p. (Though I'd also be wary of trying to power it through the best 4K monitor for gaming.) But equally, it also feels it largely outgrows the 1080p screen and would offer an even better price and performance point with a 1440p resolution screen - unless you plug it into one of the best gaming monitors, best portable monitors, or even best curved gaming monitors with a 1440p resolution. But as it doesn't, this remains a tight 1080p gaming laptop configuration.
For reference, the starting price point is about right, too, for Alienware laptops: you can pick up a 3060-powered model for prices starting at $1,800 - with deals and price cuts already occurring. The RTX 3070 laptop price - such as the model we tested - start at just over the $2k mark, however, so will require a bit more investment. Still, though, it doesn't feel truly gobsmacking like Alienware models of recent times.
You might not get the GDDR6X memory that the 3080 has over its brethren, but you do get all the other Ampere architecture bonuses and features - the 3070 is in a way my favorite card of the bunch, and this sort of configuration proves why. What I really want to see is the 30-series laptops combined with the much-touted and rumored 1440p screens - that should really be a sweet, sweet spot for gaming. However, until then, or if you just want a faster-than-fast 1080p gaming laptop with the latest from Nvidia under the hood, then this is a cracking laptop to go for.