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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5 (2021) gaming laptop review

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You might have noticed an uptick in AMD-powered laptops showing up all over the place, seemingly overnight. The Ryzen 5000H series CPUs steadily overpowering Intel’s offering is a huge reason companies such as Alienware are releasing AMD systems again. In this case, Alienware is bringing AMD back, after over a decade of Intel dominance, with the sleek m15 Ryzen Edition R5 gaming laptop. 

Technical Specs

Processor: AMD Ryzen R7 5800H
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 6GB GDDR6   
Memory: 16GB, 8GBx2, DDR4 3200MHz
Display: 15.6″ FHD 165Hz 3ms with ComfortView Plus
Resolution: 1920 x 1080p
Storage: 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD
Battery: 6-Cell 86WHr Integrated
Connectivity: 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports, 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 port, and one USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port
OS: Windows 10 Home/Professional 64 Bit
Dimensions: 13.94 x 10.2  x 1.07 inch
Weight: 5.07lbs
Warranty: One year limited
Price: $1649.99

The new Legend 2.0 design of the m15 is more subdued than you might imagine for an Alienware product. The stadium loop lighting located on the back of the laptop is still one of my favorite details that I’ve seen on any gaming laptop. It gives the m15 personality without it being distracting to the user. I like the all-black only design; it gives the laptop a more professional look should you decide to nix the stadium loop lighting in public or if the situation doesn’t call for an attention-seeking (although cool-looking) ring of light. 

This configuration of the m15 Ryzen Edition R5 is the more affordable option, though still comes with a $1,649 price tag. Though you can trick this out a laptop with an RTX 3070 and either a QHD (at 240Hz) or FHD (at 360Hz) but expect to pay a pretty penny. The 1080p 165Hz display that comes stock, however, was the right fit for the RTX 3060. There’s no sense in paying 360Hz prices on anything less than an RTX 3080, anyway. 

Beyond pricing, there has been one main thing that’s nagged Alienware laptops for years, and that has been its laptops’ thermals. It’s no surprise that Alienware laptops run hot and this one is no exception. After a few rounds of Mercenaries (an action-focused score attack mode) in Resident Evil Village, you can hear the fans working their damnedest. This thing generates a lot of heat internally, 84°C degrees max temp on GPU and 98°C degrees on CPU which is one of the hottest I’ve come across for a while, in a gaming laptop. 

Now for playing games, I was pretty much expecting those temps. What I didn’t expect is how hot the m15 Ryzen Edition R5 got when just typing up this review on my lap. I gave it about 20 minutes before the heat on my thighs became unbearable. To Alienware’s credit, the surface temperature of the m15 never got too hot so I didn’t feel too much hot air blowing out of the system as I worked on the keyboard in non-lap settings. 

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 Minor heating complaints aside, the m15 Ryzen Edition’s gaming performance makes you wonder why an Alienware/AMD team-up didn’t happen sooner. The RTX 3060 isn’t the most powerful GPU out there but it gets the job done keeping pace with some other closely priced Intel/RTX 3070 laptops.

This config of the Alienware m15 R5 definitely does alright hitting over 60fps at 1080p in nearly all of the gaming benchmarks with the only exception being Metro Exodus, on Ultra with RTX switched on, which averaged around 56fps. There is a small caveat with these benchmarks, as the m15 R5 is the first gaming laptop we’ve tested so far with an RTX 3060. That’s why we’ve compared it with other gaming laptops of a similar price point, which is why we’ve included a couple of Intel systems sporting an RTX 3070 and one AMD-powered machine with an RTX 3070 and Ryzen 5800H CPU. 

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I’ve been completely obsessed with getting SS rankings in Resident Evil Village’s Mercenaries mode. Hence, I also made sure to go for a few rounds on the m15 outside our usual benchmarking suite. I was hitting an average of 45fps with some notable dips of 10-15 frames per second on Balanced graphical settings and ray tracing off.

That being said, I was surprised to see how close some of the scores were. The m15 R5 hung towards the middle-lower end of the bunch compared to some other RTX 3070-powered systems.  

The 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD filled up pretty quickly, but man is it fast! I’m convinced if more people got to play games on an NVMe SSD, there’s no way they would go back. The only drag is that these bad boys are pricey, so I get why there’s only 512GB in this config (though there is up to 2TB available in the configuration options) without jacking up the system’s price beyond most people’s budgets.

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Not to sound like a broken record but the AMD Ryzen 7 5800H continues to impress by delivering the productivity and gaming performance you want in a gaming laptop. Pair it with the modest RTX 3060 and the m15 turns into a great pro-laptop and an entry to mid-range gaming laptop. The real issue is that you can easily find other laptops sporting an RTX 3070 and a better display for around the same price range. Machines like the Asus TUG Gaming A15 for only an extra $100 or the Intel-powered Asus Dash 15

The Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5 is a slick-looking and powerful system that suffers from a lot of the same issues we’ve encountered with previous Alienware laptops. Thermal performance and premium pricing have regularly been a thing, and the fact this RTX 3060 model costs as much as some RTX 3070 gaming laptops out there is going to be a real sticking point for many PC gamers. But if you are dead set on an Alienware gaming laptop consider holding out for the new X-series machines the company has just announced. They promise better thermal solutions along with a bunch of design upgrades.

The Verdict


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Alienware m15

The Alienware Ryzen’s gaming laptop offers impressive performance for an RTX 3060 machine, but suffers from poor thermal performance.

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