In this comprehensive Alienware m17 R5 review, we dive deep into the features, performance, and design of this powerful gaming laptop. The Alienware m17 R5 is a tasteful gaming laptop that delivers above-average frame rates in modern games, thanks to its combination of an AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX CPU and a Radeon RX 6850M XT GPU. Designed to meet the needs of even the most demanding gamers, the m17 R5 boasts a sleek design, a large display, an optional mechanical keyboard, and booming Dolby speakers. However, despite its solid gaming performance, the m17 R5 is ultimately hampered by poor battery life, excessive fan noise, and a few driver issues. Let’s dive into the details.
Design and Build
Minimal Aesthetics for a Gaming Laptop
The m17 R5 features a minimal design that strikes a balance between a modern gaming laptop and a productivity notebook. Alienware’s iconic “Legend 2.0” design language is on full display, with subtle design touches like the minimal “17” on the shell, two RGB alien logos, and an RGB strip surrounding the ports. The laptop is only available in the “dark side of the moon” color, featuring a gunmetal sheen that is subtle enough not to scream “gamer.”
Build Quality and Dimensions
The build quality of the m17 R5 is excellent, with a sturdy chassis that can handle the rigors of daily use. The laptop measures 15.64 x 11.76 x 1.05 inches (HWD) and weighs 7.3 pounds, making it a fairly bulky device. It may not be the slimmest or lightest gaming laptop on the market, but it offers a robust build quality and impressive performance in exchange.
Display and Audio
Vibrant 4K 120 Hz Display
The Alienware m17 R5 offers a choice of four display options, including a stunning 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) panel with a 120Hz refresh rate and 3-millisecond response time. Our review unit came with this high-resolution display, which offers an average brightness of 435 nits and excellent color accuracy. The display is ideal for streaming content and gaming, although demanding games may struggle to maintain a consistent 60 fps at the native 4K resolution.
Rich Dolby Atmos-Powered Speakers
The m17 R5 also impresses in the audio department, with Dolby Atmos-powered speakers that deliver loud and clear sound. The speakers are good enough to drown out the fan noise during gaming sessions, and the inclusion of the Dolby Access software allows users to adjust the EQ based on their preferences.
Performance and Gaming
Gaming Performance: Best for 1080p Gaming
The Alienware m17 R5 excels at running games in 1080p at high and even ultra settings. Our review unit, equipped with an AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX CPU and a Radeon RX 6850M XT GPU, delivered impressive frame rates in various games, often soaring above 60 fps. However, gaming performance does take a hit when playing at the native 4K resolution, with most demanding games struggling to maintain a consistent 60 fps.
AMD FSR Improves Performance
One standout feature of the m17 R5 is the support for AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) technology, which intelligently upscales image quality while the game runs at a lower resolution. This can significantly increase frame rates in supported games, making it possible to enjoy smoother gameplay even at higher resolutions.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Best-in-Class Mechanical Keyboard
The m17 R5 features an optional Cherry MX mechanical keyboard that offers an excellent typing experience. The low-profile mechanical keys provide the right amount of travel for both typing and gaming, and the clicky switches offer satisfying tactile feedback. However, this premium keyboard comes at an additional cost of $150, and it may not be available with every configuration.
Touchpad Placement Issues
While the keyboard is truly outstanding, the touchpad’s placement leaves something to be desired. Positioned too close to the keyboard, the touchpad often interferes with typing, as the palms of users’ hands may inadvertently brush against it. This can be an annoyance for those who use the laptop for productivity tasks, although it’s less of an issue for gaming, where an external mouse is often preferred.
Battery Life and Heat Management
Surprisingly Good Battery Life
Despite its powerful components and large display, the Alienware m17 R5 offers impressive battery life. In our tests, the laptop lasted around four hours for everyday tasks like web browsing and document editing. However, when gaming, the battery life is significantly reduced, lasting around an hour.
Heat Management and Fan Noise
The m17 R5 does struggle with heat management, with temperatures reaching up to 144°F under heavy load. This can make the laptop uncomfortable to use, especially during prolonged gaming sessions. The fan noise can also be quite loud, although it’s not as bad as some competing gaming laptops.
Software and Drivers
Alienware Command Center
The Alienware Command Center software allows users to customize their laptop’s lighting, manage their game library, and tune power management settings. However, some users have reported driver issues and inconsistencies, which can negatively impact the overall experience.
AMD Smart Access Graphics
The m17 R5 also features AMD Smart Access Graphics technology, which automatically switches between the dedicated GPU for gaming and the integrated graphics for less demanding tasks. This helps to improve battery life and overall performance, although some users have reported brief system freezes when the graphics switch back and forth.
Verdict: A Potent Gaming Laptop with Room for Improvement
The Alienware m17 R5 is a powerful gaming laptop that offers impressive performance, a sleek design, and a range of configuration options. However, it is hampered by poor battery life, excessive fan noise, and driver issues that can detract from the overall experience.
If you’re looking for a gaming laptop that delivers strong performance and a unique aesthetic, the m17 R5 is worth considering. However, be prepared to deal with some minor annoyances and inconsistencies, and keep an eye on updates that may address these issues in the future. For those seeking alternatives, the Razer Blade 17, Asus ROG Strix Scar 17, and Origin EVO17-S are all worthy competitors that offer similar performance and features.