Alienware M15 R7: Two Minute Review
Dell’s Alienware gaming laptops can be a very mixed bag. With an almost ridiculously large number of models available, there will always be some chaff that needs to be separated from the (admittedly more abundant) wheat. Thankfully, the new Alienware M15 R7 sits firmly in the grains category — a well-rounded 1080p gaming machine with a gleaming 12th-gen Intel processor at its core.
At first glance, the M15 R7 is the same as almost every other Alienware laptop released in recent years; an indented screen hinge, a long ring of RGB lighting along the trailing edge, and that iconic alien head logo illuminated in vibrant blue. It’s a tried and true design that we can’t blame Dell for – after all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
That said, on the face of it, there might be one area that Dell could have improved upon here — and it’s not really on the laptop itself. The main chassis weighs about two and a half kilograms and the 15.6-inch screen means it’s not the most portable laptop out there, but our real success is with the huge, heavy power adapter. Since the battery life isn’t impressive, you’ll have to carry this brick next to the laptop itself, making the Alienware M15 R7 definitely less than lightweight.
The overall design is slightly cheaper than Alienware’s other X-series laptops (such as the Alienware X14 we saw earlier this year), with more plastic used in the outer construction, so it doesn’t feel as durable as some of the other models – although this does come with a price cut to match.
Still, this gaming laptop is very much in the premium product category, with even the most affordable model costing a tidy $1,499. It’s highly configurable on Dell’s website, though, so you should be able to find an Alienware M15 R7 to suit your budget, provided you can break that entry-level price.
Of course, the gaming performance is great thanks to plenty of RAM and an RTX 3000 series graphics card. It’s just as well; one of the big draws here is the super-fast 360Hz refresh rate of the 1080p display, a love letter to esports gamers for whom framerate is king.
Does this new Alienware M15 R7 deserve to climb the ranks and be on our coveted list of the very best gaming laptops? We think it has a good chance; even if it’s more of a desktop replacement than a portable slot machine.
Alienware M15 R7: Price and Availability
- Starting price of $1,499
- Tested version costs $2,350
- Wide range of models up to $4,045
Here is the Alienware M15 R7 configuration sent to Ditching for review:
PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-12700H
Graphic: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti
RAM: 32GB DDR5-4800
Screen: 15.6″ 1920×1080, 360Hz, 1ms
Storage: 1TB PCIe SSD
Ports: 2x USB-A 3.2 Gen 2, 1x USB-A 3.2 Gen 1, 1x Thunderbolt 4, 1x HDMI 2.1, RJ-45 Ethernet, combo audio jack
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2
Camera: 720p webcam
Weight: 2.61 kg
Mate: 2.4 x 35.6 x 27.3 cm
On the Dell website, US and UK buyers can choose from a huge range of possible configurations, essentially building your favorite Alienware M15 R7 before heading to checkout. This feature is also present on the Australian website, albeit with a much more limited selection.
The most budget-friendly option comes with an Intel Core i9-12700H, RTX 3050 Ti, 16GB DDR5, and half a terabyte of SSD storage. Clocking in at $1,499 (£1,399), this model also has a more low-key on-screen refresh rate, a still respectable 165Hz. It’s a lot of money for the given specs.
We’d actually be tempted to say that the model we’ve come to review is better value for money, costing $2,350 (inexplicably more expensive in the UK at £2,479), but with a much more powerful RTX 3070 Ti, double that. of the RAM and storage, and that super-fast 360Hz display. This exact version isn’t available in Australia, but a comparable model with a 1440p display costs AU$4,505.
The highest possible model uses an RTX 3080 Ti along with an AMD Ryzen 6900HX processor, 64GB of memory and 4TB of storage. With Windows 11 Pro and Alienware’s other bells and whistles, this version costs a whopping $4,045 and is only available in the US.
- Price and availability: 3/5
Alienware M15 R7: Design
- Bright, super-fast screen
- Plastic feels a bit cheap in some places considering the price
- keyboard is good
As we mentioned above, the overall design hasn’t changed much here. The Alienware logo is still lit by RGB LEDs on the back of the screen, while another doubles as a power button; a large ’15’ etching dominates a quarter of the lid and the hexagonal pattern grille for the speakers and air intake still sits above the keyboard.
This is all fine – it’s become an iconic design for Dell’s gaming laptop brand in recent years, and while we’d love to see it shaken up a bit, it’s still aesthetically pleasing. The all-plastic chassis feels a bit cheap (more of an issue if you opt for one of the $3,000+ models), but the matte finish looks good and repels fingerprints very well.
Of course, the 360 Hz display is a defining feature of the Alienware M15 R7, and we’re happy to say it’s just a good display. Maximum brightness is good and color reproduction – while perhaps not the absolute best we’ve seen in a gaming laptop – is vibrant and clear. A 1440p version with a 240Hz refresh rate is available on select SKUs, if higher resolution is more important to you.
The keyboard is pretty good, with a nice amount of travel (about 1.8mm) on the keys meaning typos are kept to a minimum. There’s a little bit of flex in the keyboard when you press the center keys very firmly, but that’s not surprising given the plastic construction. The trackpad is a little on the small side, but it’s very responsive and you’ll probably plug in a mouse for gaming anyway.
We’ve built in Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2, a new standard for gaming laptops today. In terms of physical connectivity, there are three USB-A ports, RJ-45 Ethernet, HDMI port, headphone jack and a Thunderbolt 4 port – but keep in mind that the latter is replaced by a regular USB-C on the cheapest 3050 Ti models.
Alienware M15 R7: Performance
- Great for 1080p gaming
- Thermal performance is very good…
- …but the fans are very loud as a result
Here’s how the Alienware M15 R7 performed in our series of benchmark tests:
3DMark night raid: 42,028; Fire Attack: 24,099; Time spy: 10,852
Cinebench R20 multicore: 6.311
Geek Bench 5: 1,762 (single wire); 13,447 (multi-core)
PCMark 10 (modern office): 7,569
PCMark 10 (battery life test): 3 hours and 4 minutes
Slice Mag Battery Life Test: 3 hours 59 minutes
Total War: Warhammer III (1080p, ultra): 78 fps; (1080p, Low): 202 fps
Cyberpunk 2077 (1080p, ultra): 81 fps; (1080p, Low): 116 fps
Dirt 5 (1080p, Ultra): 76 fps; (1080p, Low): 173 fps
Unsurprisingly, the RTX 3070 Ti powering our test sample of the Alienware M15 R7 absolutely dominated gaming benchmarks with 1080p Ultra settings, comfortably hitting 60 fps in whatever we threw at it. Esports titles like Valorant and CS:GO should make good use of that 360Hz refresh rate, with framerates easily running into the hundreds.
Ray-tracing in Cyberpunk 2077 gave our performance a hit, but it shouldn’t take a lot of settings adjustments to turn your graphics down a bit and stay above 60fps. If you’re going for a model with the 1440p display, we’d recommend sticking with the RTX 3070 Ti or 3080 Ti, as the lower-power GPUs will likely struggle a bit more with this resolution (although DLSS is still an option is, of Course).
Synthetic benchmarks also offered solid performance, with the RTX 3070 Ti storming through the battery of 3DMark tests with excellent results. Intel’s nifty core performance/efficiency design, found in the i7-12700H at the heart of this system, means that CPU-bound tests like GeekBench 5 also delivered impressive numbers.
The thermal design at play here is absolutely solid, as the chassis never got more than a little warm (never uncomfortably hot), and we didn’t see any significant component throttling, even during stress testing. If you take good care of it, the Alienware M15 R7 should last for years without thermal issues affecting the life of the interior.
Of course, the trade-off for this top-notch heat sink is a pair of extremely loud fans, some of the noisiest we’ve seen in our many years of testing gaming laptops. Setting it to ‘high performance mode’ made us worry that it was about to take off and shoot a hole in our office wall, but the fans even started a loud whine during basic tasks like browsing Chrome. or dig through the Windows settings. In short: invest in a good headset.
Alienware M15 R7: Battery Life
- Fine, but not impressive
- Enough to at least watch a movie
- Lots of RGB that needs to be turned off
Gaming laptops are hardly known for long battery life, but the 89 Whr battery that powers the Alienware M15 R7 is decidedly lackluster. The laptop barely lasted more than three hours in the PCMark 10 battery life test, and that was with all external RGB lighting turned off to save power.
Video playback went a little better, almost four hours, meaning you should at least be able to watch a movie without plugging in, provided you start with a full charge. However, gaming is unlikely to give you more than 2 hours before you need to plug in that hefty AC adapter. Sure, many gaming laptops are exactly the same, but we’ve still seen better.
Buy it if…
Don’t buy it if…
Also think about…
First reviewed in July 2022
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