Alienware M15 R7: two-minute review
Dell’s Alienware gaming laptops can be a very mixed bag. With an almost ridiculously huge range of models available, there will always be chaff that needs to be separated from the (admittedly more abundant) wheat. Fortunately, the new Alienware M15 R7 sits firmly in the cereal category – a well-rounded 1080p gaming machine with a brilliant 12th Gen Intel processor at its heart.
At first glance, the M15 R7 looks the same as almost every other Alienware laptop released in recent years; a recessed screen hinge, a long ring of RGB lighting along the back edge, and that iconic alien head logo illuminated in bright blue. It’s a proven design that we can’t blame Dell for sticking to – after all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
That being said, at first glance there is perhaps one area where Dell could have improved things here – and it’s not really on the laptop itself. The main chassis weighs around two and a half pounds and its 15.6-inch screen means it’s not the most portable laptop on the market, but our real beef is with the huge, heavy AC adapter. Since battery life isn’t impressive, you’ll have to lug that brick around with you in addition to the laptop itself, which will make the Alienware M15 R7 decidedly less than lightweight.
The overall design is a little cheaper than Alienware’s other X-series laptops (like the Alienware X14 we saw earlier this year), with more plastic used in its exterior construction, so it doesn’t feel as durable as some other models – although that comes with an associated price cut.
Still, this gaming laptop falls into the premium category, with even the most affordable model costing $1,499. However, it’s highly configurable on Dell’s website, so you should be able to find an Alienware M15 R7 to suit your budget – provided you can break that entry price.
Naturally, gaming performance is excellent thanks to plenty of RAM and an RTX 3000-series graphics card. That’s a good thing, too; one of the big draws here is the blazing-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 make it onto our coveted list of very best gaming laptops? We think it is with good odds; although it’s more of a desktop replacement than a portable gaming machine.
Alienware M15 R7: price and availability
- Starting price of $1,499
- The tested version costs $2,350
- Wide range of models up to $4,045
here is Alienware M15 R7 configuration sent to TechRadar for review:
CPU: Intel Core i7-12700H
Chart: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070Ti
RAM: 32GB DDR5-4800
Filter: 15.6 inch 1920 x 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, Ethernet RJ-45, combo audio jack
Connectivity: WiFi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2
Camera: 720p webcam
Lester: 2.61 kilograms
Cut: 2.4 x 35.6 x 27.3cm
Dell’s website allows US and UK buyers to choose from a huge range of possible configurations, essentially building your favorite Alienware M15 R7 before checking out. This feature is also present on the Australian website, but with a much more limited selection.
The most economical option comes with an Intel Core i9-12700H processor, RTX 3050 Ti, 16GB of DDR5, and half a terabyte of SSD storage. At $1,499 (£1,399), this model also has a more restrained refresh rate on its screen, a still respectable 165Hz. That’s a lot of money for the specs given.
We’d actually be inclined to say the model sent to us for review is better value, costing $2,350 (inexplicably more expensive in the UK at £2,479) but offering an RTX 3070 Ti much more powerful, double 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 screen costs AU$4,505.
The highest performance model possible uses an RTX 3080 Ti with an AMD Ryzen 6900HX processor, 64GB of memory and 4TB of storage. Along with Windows 11 Pro and Alienware’s other bells and whistles, this version costs $4,045 and is only available in the US.
- Price and availability: 3/5
Alienware M15 R7: Design
- Bright and super-fast display
- Plastic feels a bit cheap in places considering the price
- The keyboard is good
As we mentioned above, the overall design hasn’t changed much here. The Alienware logo is still illuminated by RGB LEDs on the rear of the display, while another doubles as the power button; a large “15” engraving dominates a quarter of the lid, and the hexagonal-patterned grille for the speakers and air intake still sits above the keyboard.
It’s all good – it’s become an iconic design for Dell’s gaming laptop brand over the past few years, and while we’d be happy to see it shaken up a bit, it still looks good. The all-plastic chassis feels a bit cheap (no longer an issue if you go for one of the over $3,000 models), but the matte finish is nice and does a great job of repelling fingerprints.
Naturally, the 360Hz display is a defining feature of the Alienware M15 R7, and we’re happy to say it’s just a good display all around. Peak brightness is good and color reproduction – while perhaps not the best we’ve seen in a gaming laptop – is crisp 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 quite good, with a nice amount of travel (around 1.8mm) on the keys, which means typing errors are kept to a minimum. There’s a small amount of flex in the keyboard if you press down on the center keys very firmly, but that’s hardly surprising given the plastic build. The trackpad is a bit smaller, but it’s very responsive and you’ll probably hook up a mouse to play anyway.
We have built-in Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2, a new standard inclusion for gaming laptops these days. In terms of physical connectivity, there are three USB-A ports, an RJ-45 Ethernet, an HDMI port, a headphone jack and a Thunderbolt 4 port – but be aware that the latter is replaced by standard USB-C on the 3050 Ti the cheapest. models.
Alienware M15 R7: performance
- Amazing for 1080p gaming
- The thermal performance is very good…
- …but the fans are very loud as a result
Here’s how the Alienware M15 R7 fared in our benchmark test suite:
3DMark Night Raid: 42,028; Fire Strike: 24,099; Time spy: 10,852
Cinebench R20 multi-core: 6,311
Geek Bench 5: 1762 (single-core); 13,447 (multi-core)
PCMark 10 (Modern Desktop): 7,569
PCMark 10 (battery life test): 3 hours and 4 minutes
TechRadar Battery Life Test: 3 hours and 59 minutes
Total War: Warhammer 3 (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 Alienware M15 R7 review model absolutely dominated gaming benchmarks at Ultra 1080p settings, comfortably clearing 60fps in everything we threw at it. Esports titles like Valorant and CS:GO should make good use of that 360Hz refresh rate, with frame rates easily reaching into the hundreds.
Ray tracing in Cyberpunk 2077 saw our performance take a hit, but it shouldn’t take much tweaking in the settings to lower your graphics a bit and stay above 60fps. If you’re going for a model with the 1440p display, we’d advise sticking with the RTX 3070 Ti or 3080 Ti, as less powerful GPUs might struggle a bit more at that resolution (although DLSS is still an option, course).
Synthetic benchmarks also offered solid performance, with the RTX 3070 Ti storming the 3DMark test suite with excellent results. Intel’s clever performance/efficiency core design, found in the i7-12700H at the heart of this system, means CPU-related benchmarks like GeekBench 5 also saw impressive numbers.
The thermal design at play here is definitely solid, as the chassis never got more than a little hot (never uncomfortably hot) and we didn’t see any significant component throttling, even during stress testing. With proper care, the Alienware M15 R7 should last for years without thermal issues degrading the life of its internal components.
Of course, the trade-off for that top-notch heat dissipation is a pair of extremely loud fans, some of the loudest we’ve seen in our many years of testing gaming laptops. Putting it in “high-performance mode “made us fear it was about to take off and blast a hole in the wall of our office, but fans would even kick in with a loud groan during basic tasks like navigating through Chrome or digging in Windows settings. In short: invest in a good headset.
Alienware M15 R7: battery life
- Good, but unimpressive
- Enough to watch a movie, at least
- Lots of RGB that need to be disabled
Gaming laptops are hardly known for their long battery life, but the 89Wh battery that powers the Alienware M15 R7 is decidedly lackluster. The laptop lasted just over three hours on the PCMark 10 battery life test, and that was with all superfluous RGB lighting turned off to save power.
Video playback fared a bit better, hitting almost four hours, which means you should at least be able to watch a movie without needing to plug in provided you start with a full charge. Gaming, however, probably won’t give you more than 2 hours before you need to plug in that heavy AC adapter. Sure, many gaming laptops are exactly the same, but we’ve seen better yet.
Buy it if…
Don’t buy it if…
First revision July 2022
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