The new Alienware M15 R5 Ryzen Edition slightly cancels progress depending on the way you look at it. As many gaming laptops get thinner, they are heavier and thicker than previous generations. Its design has been tweaked a bit in good and bad ways and has fewer ports than before.
Still, it’s cause for a little celebration, with the Ryzen processors announcing AMD’s return to Alienware products after a 14-year gap when AMD exclusively used Intel CPUs. Even if this laptop can’t win everyone’s heart, it’s welcome. AMD’s high-end mobile processors have been a huge boon for gaming laptops over the past few years, offering long battery life and fast performance that sometimes outperforms and underperforms laptops using competing Intel processors.
The Ryzen 7 5800H processor brings this magic to the M15 R5 Ryzen Edition, and gaming performance via the RTX 3060 doesn’t struggle to achieve over 60 FPS in graphics-demanding games. All thanks to high-power components. This R5 I’ve tested has 16GB of RAM and a 512GB NVMe SSD, and currently has a total cost of around $1,616, which is close to the cheapest version Alienware makes, but not cheap. If money isn’t an issue, you can upgrade to Nvidia’s RTX 3070 and the more powerful Ryzen 9 5900HX with more storage and RAM ($2,379).
The high price is something that cannot be ignored while reviewing this laptop. Especially since Dell (Alienware’s parent company) makes a $1,225 G15 Ryzen Edition with GPU specs similar to what this expensive M15 R5 can do. And if you can be happy with a slightly smaller processor, there is a $900 model with an RTX 3060, but it’s not available yet.
Values don’t work well outside of Dell’s world either. Asus is currently a popular brand of excellent AMD-powered gaming laptops that make it easier to recommend to those looking for a more portable and feature-rich product without sacrificing battery life. Compared to the similar M15 R5 configuration, the ROG Zephyrus G15 offers a QHD display, more storage, a better processor, and a powerful RTX 3070 (a lower-power GPU than you’ll find in the M15 R5) for a few hundred dollars. less. The new Strix G15 Advantage Edition looks more flashy next to Alienware’s laptop, but it offers fast gaming performance and advanced features at an affordable price. These models do not have a webcam, but you can live without a webcam.
The M15 R5 is 19.25 mm (0.75 inches) thick on most machines (thinner at the front but slightly thicker at the back) and weighs 5.34 pounds. Weighs up to 5.93 pounds in some configurations. If you’ve recently opted for an ultrabook, the weight might be daunting, but the high-wattage RTX 3060 graphics chip (125W maximum graphics power, 1,702MHz boost clock) is an asset that will help make it behave similarly to the low-wattage RTX 3070. Compared to thinner laptops with low-power 3070s, such as Asus’ TUF Dash 15, Alienware’s laptops make up for the difference in purely powerful CUDA cores. Despite technically having fewer components, in the future it will probably last longer than the low-power 3070s. Moving around would be a lot more work.
The M15 R5 Ryzen Edition performed well while running demanding games on the highest settings. Red Dead Redemption 2 It reached 63 frames per second. Shadow of the Tomb Raider It ran at around 80 frames per second with ray tracing shadows turned on and DLSS turned on. Horizon Zero Dawn It ran at an average of 68 frames per second. None of them took full advantage of the 165Hz refresh rate of the native 1080p display, but most people will likely have some older games in their library that can be displayed at very fast frame rates on this laptop.
It didn’t take long for this laptop to impress with its gaming performance. It took me a lot less time to learn that it warms to the touch even when there is no app, even when idle, and that games (especially those that require graphics) can be very noisy when running. A fast, quiet gaming laptop is a contradiction, and the M15 R5 is actually one of many criminals. But even after long hours of gaming, I haven’t noticed any signs of thermal throttling, nor have I experienced any unexplained slowdowns. You may want to wear headphones while gaming. The speakers produce sound from the side of the laptop It can be used for YouTube videos or video calls, but it doesn’t provide enough depth or bass for entertainment purposes.
This Ryzen-based gaming laptop can easily handle all kinds of casual browser-based workflows. The long battery life of the M15 R5 shouldn’t surprise me, but it still does, as AMD’s processors have proven to deliver efficiencies to other gaming laptops. Its 86Wh battery lasted about 7 hours of mixed use with continuous use of 10 or so taps, Spotify, Slack, and Microsoft Edge with some video calls. Perfect for Alienware laptops. The M15 R3 we reviewed last year worked in just an hour. However, other AMD based gaming laptops have the M15 R5 bit. The Strix G15 Advantage Edition lasted over 9 hours for my colleague Monica Chin.
One area where the Ryzen Edition has been a bit disruptive is testing the video export of Adobe Premiere Pro. Our video team’s 5 min 33 sec 4K file took a little over 7 mins to finish exporting. It’s not a bad result, but it’s not fast enough for the creators to get the project done quickly, and it’s not as fast as laptops with Intel processors can manage.
The design of the M15 R5 differs from its predecessors in minor ways. Sometimes it’s better. For example, this latest model has a matte texture on all sides, including the screen bezel, which makes it look better than the glossy bezels used in previous generations. Some people might like the two-tone design of the M15 R3 and R4, but the R5 comes in a striking gunmetal silver color and the black plastic covering the keyboard is relatively unobtrusive except for the backlit keyboard and illuminated Alienware logo. . . One of my favorite changes is the inside of the laptop. Alienware makes it easy to upgrade your RAM and storage if you wish. Some older models had RAM soldered to the motherboard, but these models are future-proof.
But Alienware shuffled the keyboard layout and made it worse than before. The keys on the M15 R5 are still enjoyable to type, but they make more typing mistakes because the volume keys are delegated to the right side of the keyboard instead of at the top. Also, the arrow keys were previously placed slightly lower than the rest of the keyboard for easy finding, but on this model these keys have been pushed back, making the right shift key smaller. It might not be a problem once you get used to typing on the M15, but it still feels like a step back.
The port selection is also not very lenient. The Ryzen Edition has three USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports, one USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 port, an HDMI 2.1 port (capable of 4K output at up to 120Hz), a headphone jack, and a 2.5Gbps Ethernet port. Not a bad lineup, but could be better.
This model, and all the other new models Alienware has recently unveiled, lack the proprietary amplifier connectors for external GPU enclosures, which have been officially discontinued. Intel-based versions of Alienware’s latest laptops, such as the M15 R6, X15 and X17, support Thunderbolt eGPUs, but the M15 R5 doesn’t because it doesn’t have a Thunderbolt port. So you’re stuck on the GPU that’s inside. Thankfully, the graphics performance is basically good, but there’s a lot of unused space on the back of the R5 where those amp ports used to be. It would have been nice if the Alienware was full of SD card readers and an additional USB-C port.
The performance of the M15 R5 was not an issue during testing. I don’t think you’ll get tired of seeing the great battery life that AMD’s processors bring, and it’s great that this GPU can fit itself next to expensive components like the RTX 3070.
But overall, Alienware missed out in terms of value. If you want more features for the money, you’ll have to look elsewhere, even if it involves changing some of the M15 R5’s performance for a QHD screen and better portability. The M15 R5 isn’t the surprising value needed (and hoped to be) to keep everyone away from the 2021 gaming laptop leader (so far), the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15.
Photo by Cameron Faulkner / The Verge