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Alienware m15 R5 Ryzen Edition

Alienware m15 R5 review: "Performance that can’t be argued with"

(Image: © Alienware/Dell)

Our Verdict

A solid return to AMD processors for the Alienware laptop range, let down slightly by some odd design choices.

Pros

  • Solid performance in games
  • Understated, clean design
  • Upgradable memory and storage

Cons

  • Gets really, really hot
  • Keyboard and trackpad aren’t great
  • Somewhat expensive

It’s been years since Dell has released an Alienware laptop with an AMD processor, but the new ‘Ryzen Edition’ M15 R5 promises a return to those heady days of pairing AMD chips with Nvidia GPUs. Our review model comes with a shiny new Ryzen 7 5800H processor, and one of those mythical RTX 3060 GPUs we’ve been hunting for on eBay - making it a fully-fledged RTX 3060 laptop; the desire of many.

Being an Alienware gaming laptop, the M15 R5 has a fairly high price point. This model clocks in at around the $1,500 / £1,500 mark, while the highest-spec version clears the two grand mark easily. It’s no small asking price for a gaming laptop, but if it's one of the best gaming laptops - featuring one of the best graphics cards and best CPUs for gaming - then it might just be worth it. Let’s take a look.

Design & features

Specs

Processor:  AMD Ryzen 7 5800H
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060
Memory: 16GB DDR4 RAM @ 3,200MHz
Display:  15.6-inch, 165Hz, 3ms
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Storage:  512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD
Ports:  1x HDMI, 2x USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A, 1x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A, 1x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C, 1x RJ45 Ethernet, 1x 3.5mm global headset jack
Connectivity:  Killer Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2
OS: Windows 10 Home 64-bit
Weight: 5.3lbs (2.42kg)

The new M15 R5 has seen some small adjustments to the chassis design, likely to emphasise the fact that this is a new, Ryzen-powered version of the M15. The overall aesthetic is still familiar; the RGB light ring on the rear is still present, as is the sunken hinge and hexagonal venting above the keyboard. The overall design sees a few more rounded edges than previous models, as well as a new keyboard layout.

This R5 only comes in ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, which is a fancy name for ‘matte black’. It looks good, complementing the bright RGB lighting. In addition to the glowing stadium ring and Alienware logo on the rear, the keyboard has customisable four-zone LED lighting beneath it. The matte finish is a magnet for grubby fingerprints, however, so watch out.

That new keyboard layout we mentioned isn’t actually a good thing, even though the keys themselves feel wonderful to use. The volume control keys have been shunted to a vertical row on the right-hand side, shifting and truncating the keys in the bottom-right corner in such a way that the new layout simply feels a bit unfamiliar. The trackpad is also a bit small for our liking, although it handles well and has a satisfying click. You'll definitely be safer adding one of the best gaming keyboards and a contender for best gaming mouse, for sure.

In terms of build quality, we’d say that the M15 R5 conforms to the industry standard. Like Razer laptops, it’s not flimsy or shoddily constructed by any means, but we definitely have seen laptops with sturdier designs. A slightly more robust hinge would’ve worked wonders here.

Alienware m15 R5 Ryzen Edition

(Image credit: Alienware/Dell)

The M15 R5 has a 1080p display with a snappy 165Hz refresh rate, ideal for twitch shooters like Valorant. Colour reproduction here isn’t the best we’ve seen, but it’s certainly above average. The screen is reasonably bright and has a small bezel (for a fifteen-inch gaming laptop) housing the 720p webcam. Sound is handled by a pair of integrated speakers, which perform well - but are nothing on a PC headset for gaming or some of the best computer speakers, naturally.

The 512GB SSD and 16GB of RAM in our review model aren’t exactly the most exciting components in the world, but we were overjoyed to find that both can be easily replaced by the user with a simple screwdriver. Too many gaming laptops solder their parts to the motherboard, preventing future upgrades. The existing RAM does run at a swift 3,200MHz, which benefits the Ryzen processor significantly.

Physical connectivity is uninspired, with the usual gamut of USB-A, USB-C, and HDMI ports. Ports such as the SD card reader have been axed from this model of the M15 for no clear reason. Three ports (and the AC charger plugin) are located on the rear edge of the laptop, which will be a boon for neat freaks but a potential bane for anyone with limited desk space.

The M15 R5 also comes with the Alienware Command Centre pre-installed, but you can save yourself some time and ignore it because it truly sucks. Wonky proprietary software for system tweaking is nothing new, but it certainly takes guts to do it this poorly. The ACC offers a lot of features, but is slow, clunky, and unintuitive; a nightmare for the inexperienced techie trying to create a fan speed profile or adjust the RGB lighting.

Alienware m15 R5 Ryzen Edition

(Image credit: Alienware/Dell)

Performance

Benchmarking

How does the Alienware m15 R5 fare on some industry tests?

Firestrike: 18061
Timespy:
8040
Cinebench CPU: 
1686
CrystalDiskMark: 2,348 MB/s read; 1,427 MB/s write
Tom Clancy's The Division 2: Ultra: 101fps; High: 109fps
Metro Exodus: RTX (ray-tracing on Ultra): 48fps; High: 61fps
Shadow of the Tomb Raider: Highest: 110fps; High: 121fps
Total War: Three Kingdoms: Ultra: 126fps; High: 112fps

You might imagine that the star of the show here is the RTX 3060 GPU that powers this laptop’s gaming capabilities, but that’s not really true. The 5800H processor is the real hero of this machine, offering processing power inline with its Intel counterparts but at a lower price-per-part and with superior battery life.

Note that while this is good for using your laptop on the go, gaming without being connected to mains power will result in significantly reduced performance due to GPU wattage throttling. This is the case for virtually every gaming laptop, though, not an issue exclusive to the M15.

Both single-core and multi-core workloads are easily handled by the 5800H, as it chewed through our processor benchmarks with ease. The RTX 3060’s performance is solid, if not spectacular, offering good 1080p performance in most games at max settings. CPU-bound titles (like the Total War series) actually performed a lot better on average thanks to the 5800H.

The M.2 NVMe drive inside this machine falls short of the figures we’ve come to expect to see from similar SSDs, but it is still seriously fast, to the point where load screens in games are extremely brief. While this might be a weaker NVMe offering, it’s still orders of magnitude faster than a conventional hard drive.

Alienware m15 R5 Ryzen Edition

(Image credit: Alienware/Dell)

Our main issue with the M15 R5’s performance wasn’t actually a performance issue, per se, but rather how hot the machine got while running. This wasn’t just during games, either: just leaving the system idling after booting it up resulted in the underside of the laptop heating up to almost 55C.

The heat seemed to be concentrated on the base and the area above the keyboard, so sitting at a desk and using the M15 was perfectly comfortable. Placing this laptop on your actual lap, though, is out of the question. After a mere fifteen minutes of basic word processing, the M15 was uncomfortably hot against our thighs.

The reason for this heating issue is unclear, as the M15 has a sophisticated thermal solution including two fans, a vapor chamber, and four separate copper heat pipes. The fans did get noisy during stress tests, but not to an unbearable degree. Thermal monitoring didn’t indicate any worryingly high component temperatures, either. It’s not a huge problem - the M15 is big and heavy, so it’s best placed on a surface anyway - but it could prove annoying for some users.

Overall - should you buy it?

The Alienware M15 R5 Ryzen Edition is a bold new outing for Dell’s out-of-this-world brand, showcasing the potential power of AMD’s latest laptop CPUs with a supporting spec list that makes for a fierce gaming machine that could rival some of the best gaming PCs at the RTX 3060 PC level, easily. The option to swap out the memory and storage (the M15 actually has two compact SSD slots, so you can add a second drive without needing to remove anything) means that this laptop is more future-proof than many competitors.

We do wish it ran a little cooler, but the performance can’t be argued with and this is one of the best-looking Alienware laptops we’ve seen in a while. Our complaints feel minor in the face of the M15 R5’s capabilities and aesthetic; this is a solid gaming laptop with plenty to offer the discerning gamer.

The Verdict
4

4 out of 5

Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5

A solid return to AMD processors for the Alienware laptop range, let down slightly by some odd design choices.

More info

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