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Alienware m15 R2 review: Sublime style and speed for gamers on the go

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The Good The Alienware m15 R2 is a beautiful thin-and-light gaming laptop that can be configured with all the components you need to play the latest AAA games at the best graphics settings.

The Bad RAM can't be increased post-purchase. The laptop runs really hot at peak performance. Alienware's control software needs work. And, yes, the m15 R2 is expensive.

The Bottom Line Alienware's m15 R2 delivers immersive gaming performance in a thin, vibrant design that looks like the future of portable gaming. Just make sure you give it plenty of room to breathe.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Battery 8

Alienware's m15 R2 is the company's thinnest 15.6-inch laptop yet at 18.3 mm (0.7 inch). Modeled after the giant Area-51m announced at CES 2019 and its Legend industrial design, this m15 also has one of the coolest-looking designs I've seen this year. It expertly walks the line between the sleek simplicity of Razer's Blade 15 and the flashiness of Acer's Predator Triton 900 or Asus' monster Mothership. It's more coupe than sedan, though, especially when you turn on all the lights. 

The new m15's base price is $1,500, essentially starting where Dell's G5 15 starts to top out, and skyrockets from there depending on the CPU, graphics, memory, storage and display you put in it. Alienware offers up a lot of option across its configurations and you should choose carefully. The only thing that's not soldered into the system are its dual PCIe M.2 SSDs. Also, Dell is currently offering both the old and new m15, and the older m15 is the better deal at the moment. 

It seems you're paying a premium for the new design and cooling, Tobii eye-tracking (which is pretty interesting if you're into game streaming) and a handful of other improvements that, frankly, are worth it if you've got the money. Though you may want to skip at least one of the components being offered. 

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Alienware m15 R2


Alienware m15 R2
Price as reviewed $3,330
Display size/resolution 15.6-inch 240Hz 1,920x1,080 display
CPU 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-9750H
Memory 16GB DDR4 SDDRAM 2,667MHz
Graphics 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 with Max-Q design
Storage 1TB (2x 512GB PCIe M.2 SSD) RAID 0
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.2
Operating system Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

Hot, hot, hot

High-performance gaming laptops as thin as the m15 R2 can get really hot. Shocking, I know, but despite Alienware's Cryo-Tech v3.0 cooling system and its fire-resistant, Kevlar-like liquid-crystal polymer fan blades -- all 106 of them -- and copper finstacks and copper-composite heatpipes, the system goes well beyond warm (and the power supply, too, for that matter) when you push the components as hard as you can. 

The six-core Intel Core i7-9750H processor got up to 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 Celsius), which could have potentially impacted its performance slightly compared with others we've tested with bigger chassis. Alienware allows the system to give its full performance when set to Performance mode in the BIOS. This can be disabled and it won't get as hot as the system then puts tighter, more balanced limits on the CPU, an Alienware spokesman told me. And although the processor ran hot, even after playing for 3 hours straight the laptop never hiccuped in the slightest and the palm rests remained cool. 

In general you'll want to use this in a cool environment, off your lap, and make sure air can move freely through the system. That said, the thin design might be costing you a little CPU performance, which makes going with the highest-end option, Intel's eight-core i9-9980HK, maybe not the best way to spend $450 extra. 

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When your CPU can boil water. 

Screenshot Joshua Goldman/CNET

Alienware's Command Center software lets you monitor the system as well as adjust performance and fan speed and control the lighting system, which includes the keyboard, the elongated oval Tron light around the rear vents and ports and the Alienware logo on the lid and power button. The keyboard has per-key RGB lighting and you can set up profiles for each game you've installed. I found the software to be fairly unintuitive -- I spent way too much time hunting around the interface to figure out how to use it. The Help menu didn't live up to its name, either. 

More fun to use is the Tobii eye-tracking system for both gaming and nongaming tasks. For example, it'll sense when you've looked away and automatically dim the screen, or it will automatically place the cursor wherever you're looking as soon as you touch the laptop's touchpad. 

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