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 stands above the rest. Over the years we have seen their products evolve and adopt the latest technology 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 aesthetic.
Unlike the second-generation Alienware X17, X15 And the all-new X14, the 2022 gaming laptop lineup also includes the new Alienware m15 R7. It has the same chassis as last year, but the internals have been refreshed with the latest Intel 12th-generation Alder Lake CPUs and a choice of Nvidia RTX 3060, 3070 Ti or 3080 Ti. I had the opportunity to test one of the three configurations of the m15 R7 offered in India and here’s what I think about it.
If you know last year Alienware m15 R6, you won’t see any differences here. In fact, the new 2022 model uses the same chassis from last year, made from a combination of aluminium, magnesium alloy and plastics. It feels premium with nicely rounded corners and a nice matte finish all around. The dark gray color scheme or the so-called ‘dark side of the moon’ is also very attractive, although I really wish we got it in white. I also liked the honeycomb design scheme in all the air vents which gives the laptop a unique look.
The build is solid and you may notice a small bend on the lid and keyboard deck, but I didn’t notice any quality issues while using the laptop. Like last year’s model, there’s RGB lighting for the keyboard, the Alienware logo on the lid, the power button, and a wrap-around light bar on the back. All lighting can be controlled using Alienware’s Command Center app. Now the laptop is on the heavy side at around 2.6kg and you can definitely feel the bulk at the back thanks to the beefy cooling solution. Plus, if you add the weight of the charger, you’re looking at 3.2kg, which isn’t particularly good for portability.
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, while on the left is 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, a 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 inside by removing a few screws that come with standard Phillips screws. The memory, M.2 SSD and Wi-Fi module are user upgradeable and there is a secondary M.2 slot for further expansion of storage.
There is no compromise when it comes to display. The 15.6-inch QHD (2,560 x 1,440-pixels) resolution LCD panel feels amazing, be it gaming or daily tasks. It has a 240Hz refresh rate and comes with a matte finish to reduce most reflections and also reduce viewing angles. The bezels are very thin and at the top is a 720p webcam with support for Windows Hello face recognition. The display has a 2ms rated response time 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 hardware that powers this machine. It’s sharp, and colors look vivid and punchy. There’s also enough brightness, although I have to admit it’s not the brightest display on a gaming laptop I’ve tested. That being said, the overall experience is very smooth, responsive and pleasing to the eyes. I have absolutely zero complaints.
Notably, you can get the Alienware m15 R7 with a FHD (1,920 x 1,080-pixels) resolution display that offers a 165Hz refresh rate. It 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 over from last year’s model. The keys are comfortable and offer good travel distance and actuation while typing. While there are multiple shortcuts, including a high performance mode that makes the experience perfect, the dedicated volume control and mic mute buttons on the right side are definitely handy.
You get per-key RGB lighting that can be customized by going to the Alienware Command Center. I would like to point out that the secondary key legends are not backlit, which is a bit annoying.
The trackpad is much smaller than one would expect on a 15-inch laptop. But considering you’re going to game using a mouse or controller anyway, that shouldn’t be a big problem. It works well for other tasks with good tracking and support for Windows gestures.
Performance and software
The Alienware m15 R7 is powered by a 12th generation Intel Core i7-12700H mobile processor. It has 14 cores, six of which are performance or P-cores and eight are efficiency or E-cores, 20 threads and a maximum clock speed of 4.7GHz. The review unit I was sent had 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 goes up to 115W. In my testing, the CPU peaked at 146W, which is very impressive and shows that Alienware means business. As for the GPU, the RTX 3070 Ti in the laptop has a maximum TDP of 75W.
The performance is outstanding and the laptop delivers excellent results in almost every single task. Now primarily this laptop is meant for gaming and it certainly lives up to its name. Fast FPS games like Apex Legends at 1440p resolution will run around the 100fps mark, and if you drop the resolution to 1080p with medium settings, over 200fps. I also like how well Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered is rendered on this laptop. Even at the highest graphics settings, it can deliver over 60fps at 1440p resolution. Enabling ray tracing can hurt performance but with DLSS you can maintain a good balance between frame rates and render quality.
|Gaming at 1440p||medium||high||too much/
|Horizon Zero Dawn||86fps||84fps||84fps|
|Rise of the Tomb Raider||116fps||120fps||101fps|
|Metro Exodus is an improved edition||63fps||59fps||55fps|
|Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered||83fps||76fps||61fps|
|Gaming at 1080p||medium||high||too much/
|Horizon Zero Dawn||105fps||93fps||91fps|
|Rise of the Tomb Raider||139fps||135fps||120fps|
|Metro Exodus is an improved edition||85fps||77fps||68fps|
|Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered||110fps||85fps||74fps|
When it comes to synthetic benchmarks, it’s business as usual. With over 20,000 points in 3DMark Firestrike and over 13,000 points in Cinebench R23 Multi-Core, both CPU and GPU can be pushed to their limits for best performance. The 1TB PCIe Gen 4 M.2 SSD also topped CrystalDiskMark with sequential read and write speeds of 6,400Mbps and 4,200Mbps, respectively. In particular, apart from gaming, the laptop is an excellent choice for creative professionals who deal with heavy images or videos on a daily basis.
To cool all the power-hungry hardware, Alienware m15 R7 comes with Alienware Cryo-tech cooling technology. Like most heavy-duty gaming laptops, it comes with two cooling fans and lots of copper, but it also uses the unique Element 31 gallium-silicon thermal interface material available in 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 pushing the hardware to its limits, I was surprised to see the CPU hit 100-degrees almost immediately and hit 107-degrees at one point. However, I didn’t notice any noticeable drop in performance. You see, the new 12th-generation chips are designed to withstand high-temperatures much better than previous versions. As for the GPU, it reached around 89 degrees when I played Spiderman for an hour. Even at such high temperatures, I didn’t find the keyboard or trackpad areas too hot to use. Overall, great job by Alienware, despite the cooling fans. They are very loud when dealing with high temperatures. As soon as you turn on high-performance mode, the fans take their time to rev up and the laptop sounds like it’s about to take off! Make sure you use good headphones especially during gaming.
The down-firing speakers are loud and great for watching movies or listening to music. But there wasn’t any bass and on a few occasions I noticed the speakers breaking out at full volume. As for wireless connectivity, performance was consistent using both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
As far as software is concerned, the laptop comes with a large list of Windows 11 preinstalled and preloaded software. These are mostly Alienware and Dell support software, which honestly seem pretty redundant and take up valuable resources. The only useful tool surprisingly absent from the laptop is Alienware’s Command Center. It lets you set thermal profiles, control RGB lighting, manage your games library, and more. At first, the app feels confusing and overwhelming to use as it requires some settings to be saved as profiles, but you’ll get the hang of it over time.
The 12th-generation Alder Lake mobile chips from Intel are very power-hungry, and that was evident when testing the battery. The laptop has an 86Whr unit, which sounds pretty good for a 15-incher, but as a daily driver, I couldn’t get anything more than two to three hours out of it. Of course, there are ways to reduce power consumption and get some more juice, such as switching to battery saver or silent mode, switching off all RGB, lowering the resolution, and lowering the refresh rate. But if you plan to carry this machine around, you can’t go out without a charging brick.
Speaking of which, the 240W charger is heavy and bulky, although I have to give credit to the company for trying to make it slimmer. Also, the power cord in the box came with a larger 16A plug instead of 6A. This raises a problem, at least for me, as I have very limited large-sized sockets around my house. However, I switched to one that had a standard 6A socket and it worked fine.
Owning an Alienware laptop is special. This is a completely unique breed and I was totally hooked in the two weeks I tested this beast. However, I’d be lying if I said it’s a perfect gaming laptop. It excels in raw gaming performance and also serves as an everyday computing machine. The space-age design is a head-turner and the speedy display options make it worth the money. But there are minor complications. The battery life is very short, the fans are very loud and the heavy weight calls into question its portability. It is quite expensive compared to similar offerings from Lenovo, ASUS and MSI. If you can live with these issues, the Alienware m15 R7 is worth your money and time.
Editor’s Rating: 4/5
- Premium design and build
- Excellent gaming performance
- Better surface temperatures
- Respective I/O ports
- Heavy to carry
- Plagued with bloatware
- Very loud fans at high speed