f5-nz logo
Story image

Hands-on review: Alienware m15 r2: supercomputer or superweapon?

23 Jan 2020

Alienware’s latest creation, the m15 r2 gaming laptop, is a testament to how much punch the evil scientists at Alienware could pack into a fifteen-inch laptop, without skimping on portability.

First impressions

The m15 is a seriously cool laptop. From unboxing it from its glossy black box to the final chime of the Windows setup, everything feels refined, simplistic and highly polished.

Somehow, the m15 manages to combine the chic of a Tesla with the power of a superweapon.

But with a $2800 price tag, your own Death Star is probably a cheaper option.

Looks

With laptops tending to lean towards the bezel-less, paperthin frame popularised by the Macbook and Surface Pro, it’s refreshing to see a computer manufacturer trying something different. The ice-white colour is pretty synonymous with Alienware by this point, and the m15 is no different. It definitely has its curves, and it flaunts them where it can.

Dell seems to have noticed the little things, too. From the glowing ring around the end of the power cord, to the grinning alien logo that doubles as a power button, the attention to detail helps to complete the package.

Visually, it just looks good.

But you can’t ignore its flaws.

Mainly, the gigantic horizontal cooling fan Frankenstein-ed to the laptop behind the screen. The mega-fan might have something to do with the weight, too, which is frankly an issue. Coming in at a little over 2kg, it isn’t something to hold while you walk around the room in a conference call. Thankfully, with the weight brings sturdiness, with everything from the hinges to the screen feeling sturdy enough to handle even the most careless laptop user.

Dimension-wise, the m15 is somehow sleek and bulky at the same time. What matters most is that it’s sleek enough to shimmy into a backpack, which realistically is the greatest test of a laptop ⁠— a test it passes with flying colours.

Performance

Where the m15 really begins to shine is its performance.

The m15 is powered by the latest and greatest ninth-generation Intel i9 core, and together with an obscenely powerful RTX 2080 graphics card and 16GB of DDR4 RAM, the computer has no difficulty running the hottest games on the market. From Halo Reach to the latest Call of Duty, everything eventually falls to the m15. The RTX graphics card also allows for ray tracing in compatible games, offering a level of futureproofing not typically found in laptops.

The 15-inch OLED display is crisp to a fault and makes gaming and entertainment a pleasure. Colours are vibrant, and the thin bezel surrounding the screen is inoffensive. The laptop’s speakers are surprisingly good too, with the snazzy honeycomb-style speakers sitting pretty above the keyboard.

Speaking of the keyboard, I found it had a surprising level of functionality when using it, although I wouldn’t go writing any novels on the m15 anytime soon.

When I slammed the oversized cooling fan earlier, I may have been a bit harsh. For what it is, the laptop creates some heat, and mounting the fan behind the screen is innovative and pretty smart by Alienware. Keeping it out of sight and out of mind, the fan is surprisingly quiet.

Verdict

While this is realistically a gaming PC hidden within a laptop, the Alienware m15 definitely doesn’t forget its roots. Its brilliant display and crisp sound are definite winners, while the performance is enough to rival most high-end gaming computers. Despite its unforgiving weight, the m15’s surprising portability and sturdiness is definitely something to be commended.

The m15 isn’t for the faint of heart: it’s a commitment — a commitment to the bulky lifestyle the m15 brings. You can expect to groan as you lift it out of your bag but can also expect a gaming experience that can compete with the best of them.