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Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5 review: Fast but toasty

Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5 review: Fast but toasty

Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5

The Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5 is the first AMD-powered gaming notebook from Dell's gaming brand in over a decade. My review set comes with the flagship Ryzen 9 5900HX processor and Nvidia's second-best GeForce RTX 3070 mobile graphics. But its high-end hardware is undermined by how warm the notebook gets, and in turn, how loud the cooling fans can become.

Quick specs

  • 15.6-inch Full-HD display (165Hz)
  • AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX with Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070
  • USB-C, 3x USB Type-A, 2.5Gbps Ethernet port, HDMI
  • 2.5kg

Alienware has retained its sci-fi-like aesthetic for the m15. The familiar LED-lit alien head logo is still there while the notebook's all-black matte look is handsome and feels good to the touch. The 15.6-inch screen looks nice with narrow bezels and its 165Hz refresh rate should be good enough for most. But the Alienware Command Center app feels buggy and slow. Some of its features also didn't seem to work properly. For instance, it can supposedly scan the computer for games to add to its library, but this feature only added one out of my three installed games. And for some reason, the app stopped working for the LED backlighting after several days. I couldn't get any of my changes to stick. Even pressing the Fn key shortcut for the keyboard backlight did not do anything till I reinstalled the app.

Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5
Credit: Vincent Chang/Can Buy or Not

Despite its 15-inch form factor, the m15's keyboard lacks a number pad. But it has decent key travel and exhibited barely any flex when pressed. However, my review set only has a four-zone RGB backlighting scheme, not per-key lighting. If you want per-key backlighting, you can upgrade to the CherryMX ultra low-profile mechanical keyboard for an extra S$233. The touchpad could also be larger, but most users would attach their own mouse anyway. The m15 has two USB ports on the right, which potentially adds clutter to where my mouse is placed. But at least there's another USB port along with the HDMI and USB-C ports at the rear of the laptop. You also get an Ethernet jack on the left, but I feel there's plenty of room for a couple more ports.

Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5
Credit: Vincent Chang/Can Buy or Not

With a PCMark score of 7,027, the m15 performs in the same ballpark as other AMD-powered gaming notebooks like the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro. However, the m15 was slightly slower than the Legion 5 Pro in games such as Metro Exodus, despite both laptops sporting a similar GeForce RTX 3070 graphics. The m15 scored around 70fps at 1,920 x 1,080 pixels at Ultra setting compared with 75 for the Lenovo. Perhaps heat is a factor here. The m15 runs warm even while it's idling in Windows. And the vents and the area above the keyboard get uncomfortably hot when gaming. As a result, the fans become very loud, so much so that my daughter thought it was raining.

At around S$3,399, the Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5 is a bit more expensive than some of its rivals. For instance, the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro is around S$2,900 with a higher-resolution display, but a slower AMD chip. I also found the Lenovo to be slightly faster in gaming benchmarks, and more importantly, runs much cooler. On the other hand, the m15 may look more like a “proper” gaming notebook with its striking and flashy appearance. You can get the m15 on Lazada or from Dell directly.

Update (Oct 1): Alienware alerted us that the m15 has a special CPU TCC Offset setting in the BIOS that can alleviate the thermal issues mentioned. Basically, the AMD CPU in the m15 will operate at up to 100 degrees Celsius. But users can lower this maximum operating temperature limit by adjusting the offset. Simply input a figure between 0 (no change) to 15 (set the temperature limit to 85 degrees Celsius) and save the setting.

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To test this feature, I set the maximum CPU temperature to 85 degrees (offset of 15). This obviously helps with the heat, but it also affects CPU-intensive benchmarks. For instance, PCMark 10 went from over 7,000 to around 6,800. The good news is that most games will probably be unaffected. I tried Metro Exodus and the benchmark performance was around the same, so it's worth trying out if you're worried about the heat. Still, I think having to throttle the CPU manually isn't the best solution here, especially if it's not done automatically or with a simple Windows-based setting.

Note: Review set provided by Dell Alienware.

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Powerful gaming laptop that's probably best used in a cool environment.

Buy it at Lazada
Buy it from Dell

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