Dell Alienware m15 R7 review: pushing the limits | 91mobiles.com


Alienware was one of the first brands to define the gaming laptop category and today it continues to be a cut above the rest. Over the years we’ve seen their products evolve and adapt the latest tech to deliver excellent performance. At the same time, the manufacturer (now owned by Dell) has managed to maintain a unique identity with its space-age-inspired aesthetics.

Apart from the second-gen Alienware X17, X15 and the all-new X14, the 2022 gaming laptop lineup also includes the new Alienware m15 R7. It features the same chassis as last year, but the internals have been refreshed with the latest Intel 12th-gen Alder Lake CPUs and the option of either an Nvidia RTX 3060, 3070 Ti or the 3080 Ti. I had a chance to test one out of the three configurations of the m15 R7 offered in India, and here’s what I think about it.

Design

If you are familiar with last year’s Alienware m15 R6, you are not going to see any differences here. In fact, the new 2022 model uses the same chassis from last year which is made from a combination of aluminium, magnesium alloy and plastic. It does feel premium though, with nicely rounded corners and a nice matte texture all around. The dark grey colour scheme or as it’s called the ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ is also very appealing, although I really wish we could get this in white. I also loved the honeycomb design scheme on all the air vents, which gives the laptop its distinct look.

The build is sturdy and you might notice minor flexing on the lid and keyboard deck, but I didn’t feel any quality issues while using the laptop. Like the last year’s model, there is RGB lighting for the keyboard, the Alienware logo on the lid, the power button, and the wrap-around light bar on the rear. All of the lighting can be controlled using Alienware’s Command Center app. Now the laptop is on the heavier side weighing about 2.6kgs, and you can definitely feel the bulk at the back due to the beefy cooling solution. Plus if you add the weight of the charger you are looking at 3.2kgs which is not particularly good for portability.

The I/O is the same as last year so you get two USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports (one with PowerShare) on the right side while the left has a 2.5G ethernet port with a 3.5mm headphone and mic combo jack. Moving to the back, there’s a USB-C port with Thunderbolt 4, another USB 3.2 Gen 1 port, DisplayPort 1.4, an HDMI 2.1 port and a barrel port for charging. The laptop also comes with Bluetooth 5.2 and Wi-Fi 6 AX1650.

The laptop is easily serviceable and you can get to the internal by removing a few screws that come with standard Phillips screws. The memory, M.2 SSD and Wi-Fi module are user upgradable and there is a secondary M.2 slot to further expand storage.

Display

There are no compromises when it comes to the display. The 15.6-inch QHD (2,560 x 1,440-pixels) resolution LCD panel feels excellent, be it gaming or day-to-day tasks. It comes with 240Hz refresh rate and a matte finish to cut down most of the reflections and even the viewing angles were spot on. The bezels are fairly thin and at the top there is a 720p webcam with support for Windows Hello face recognition. The display has a rated response time of 2ms, and also comes with features like Advanced Optimus, ComfortView Plus (built-in blue light filter) and Nvidia G-Sync for a tear-free experience.

Having a QHD display is definitely the sweet spot for gaming especially considering the size and the hardware powering this machine. It is sharp, and the colours look vivid and punchy. There is ample brightness too, although I do have to admit it isn’t the brightest display on a gaming laptop that I have tested. Having said that, the overall experience is very smooth, responsive and pleasing to the eyes. I had absolutely zero complaints.

Notably you can get the Alienware m15 R7 with FHD (1,920 x 1,080-pixels) resolution display that offers a 165Hz refresh rate. But that is only available if you opt for the base variant of the laptop which comes with an RTX 3060 GPU.

Keyboard and trackpad

The keyboard and trackpad, like the entire chassis, are carried forward from last year’s model. The keys feel comfortable and offer a good travel distance and actuation while typing. The dedicated volume control and mic mute buttons on the right side are definitely handy while there are multiple shortcuts, including the High Performance mode that make the experience wholesome.

You get per-key RGB lighting which you can customize by heading to the Alienware Command Center. I do want to point out that the secondary key legends are not backlit, which was slightly annoying.

The trackpad is fairly smaller than what one would expect on a 15-inch laptop. But considering you are going to game using a mouse or a controller anyway, so it shouldn’t be a huge problem. It does work well for other tasks with good tracking and support for Windows gestures.

Performance and software

The Alienware m15 R7 is powered by the 12th-gen Intel Core i7-12700H mobile processor. It features 14 cores out of which six are performance or P-cores and eight efficient or E-cores, with 20 threads and a maximum clock speed of 4.7GHz. The review unit I was sent included 16GB of DDR5 dual channel memory running at 4800MHz and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti GPU. The base TDP of the 12700H is rated at 45W which can go up to 115W. As per my testing, the CPU peaked at 146W, which is quite impressive and shows that Alienware means business. As for the GPU, the RTX 3070 Ti on the laptop has a maximum TDP of 75W.

Performance is top notch and the laptop delivered excellent results in almost every single task. Now primarily this laptop is meant for gaming, and it definitely lives up to its name. Fast-paced FPS games like Apex Legends at 1440p resolution should run around the 100fps mark and can go over 200fps if you pull down the resolution to 1080p with medium settings. I also loved how well Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered rendered on this laptop. Even at the highest graphics settings, it managed to deliver over 60fps at 1440p resolution. Enabling ray tracing does hit the performance but with DLSS you can maintain a good balance between frame rates and render quality.

Gaming at 1440p Medium High Very High/
Ultimate
Horizon Zero Dawn 86fps 84fps 84fps
Rise of the Tomb Raider 116fps 120fps 101fps
Apex Legends 139fps 128fps 95fps
Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition 63fps 59fps 55fps
Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered 83fps 76fps 61fps
Gaming at 1080p Medium High Very High/
Ultimate
Horizon Zero Dawn 105fps 93fps 91fps
Rise of the Tomb Raider 139fps 135fps 120fps
Apex Legends 225fps 201fps 165fps
Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition 85fps 77fps 68fps
Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered 110fps 85fps 74fps

Coming to synthetic benchmarks, it was business as usual. With over 20,000 points on 3DMark Firestrike, and over 13,000 points in Cinebench R23 multi-core, both the CPU and GPU can be pushed to their limits for the best performance. Even the 1TB PCIe Gen 4 M.2 SSD cranked out over 6,400Mbps and 4,200Mbps sequential read and write speeds respectively on CrystalDiskMark. Essentially, apart from gaming, the laptop is an excellent choice for creative professionals who deal with heavy images or videos on a daily basis.

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To cool all the power-hungry hardware, the Alienware m15 R7 comes with the Alienware Cryo-tech cooling technology. As with most heavy-duty gaming laptops, it comes with two cooling fans and lots of copper but there is also the use of an exclusive Element 31 gallium-silicone thermal interface material which is available on the RTX 3070 Ti and RTX 3080 Ti configurations. The laptop has air vents on the sides, bottom and right above the keyboard and all the hot air is pushed out from the rear exhaust vents.

Now taking the hardware to its limits, I was surprised to see the CPU hitting 100-degrees almost immediately and even touched 107-degrees at one point. However, I did not see any noticeable drop in performance. You see, the new 12th-gen chips have been designed to sustain high-temperatures a lot better than the previous versions. As for the GPU, it peaked at about 89 degrees while I was playing Spider-Man for about an hour. Even at such high temperatures, I did not find the keyboard or trackpad areas to be too hot to use. Overall, a great job by Alienware, albeit the cooling fans. These tend to be extremely loud when dealing with high temperatures. As soon as you turn on the high-performance mode, the fans take their time to speed up and sound as if the laptop is going to lift off! Just make sure you use a good pair of headphones, especially while gaming.

The down-firing speakers are loud and quite good for watching movies or listening to music. But there isn’t any bass and on some occasions I noticed the speakers crackling at full volume. As for wireless connectivity, the performance was stable using both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

As for the software, the laptop comes with Windows 11 preinstalled and a big list of pre-loaded software. These are mostly Alienware and Dell support software which honestly seem quite unnecessary and potentially hog valuable resources. The only useful tool, which was surprisingly not present on the laptop, is Alienware’s Command Center. It lets you set thermal profiles, control RGB lighting, manage your games library and much more. At first, the app feels confusing and overwhelming to use as some of the settings need to be saved as profiles, but over time you get the hang of it.

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Battery

The 12th-gen Alder Lake mobile chips from Intel are quite power-hungry and that was evident while testing the battery. The laptop features an 86Whr unit which sounds pretty decent for a 15-incher, however as a daily driver, I was not able to get anything beyond two to three hours. Of course, there are ways to reduce power consumption and get a little more juice like switching to the battery saver or silent mode, switching off all the RGB, pulling down the resolution and refresh rate, and so on. But if you plan on carrying this machine around, you can’t really walk out without the charging brick.

Speaking of which, the 240W charger is hefty and large, although I do have to give credit to the company for its attempt at making it slimmer. Also, the power cord in the box came with a large 16A plug instead of 6A. This raised an issue, at least for me, as I have very limited large-sized sockets around my house. I did, however, switch to one that had a standard 6A socket, and that worked perfectly fine.

Verdict

There’s something special about owning an Alienware laptop. It’s a unique breed altogether and I was completely enamoured during my two weeks of testing this beast. However, I would be lying if I said that it is the perfect gaming laptop. It excels at raw gaming performance and even serves as a solid everyday computing machine. The space-age design is a head-turner and the fast display options make it worth the money. But there are minor quirks though. Battery life is underwhelming, the fans can get extremely loud, and the sheer weight questions its portability. It is also more expensive compared to similar offerings by Lenovo, ASUS and MSI. But if you can live with these issues, then the Alienware m15 R7 is worth your money and time.

Editor’s rating: 4 / 5

Pros:

  • Premium design and build
  • Excellent gaming performance
  • Good surface temperatures
  • Respectable I/O ports

Cons:

  • Heavy to carry around
  • Riddled with bloatware
  • Extremely loud fans at high speeds



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