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Alienware m15 review: An evolving Alienware with a practical side

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The Good Slim, portable design, at least for a gaming laptop. Excellent high-end components, decent battery life. Plenty of ports and connections.

The Bad Consider waiting a few weeks for the latest RTX graphics cards. Adding better options like the 144Hz screen drives up the price, and the red color is only available in the top-end model.

The Bottom Line It's not the boldest new gaming laptop design out there, but the Alienware m15 gets the basics right while evolving past the bulky look of older models.

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8.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8
  • Battery 8

At CES 2019, Dell announced a series of new and updated gaming laptops, including new versions of the Alienware m15 and m17, both with new Nvidia RTX graphics cards. This, however, is not a review of one of those models. This is an Alienware m15 we received in December 2018, so it shares the same updated design, but with Nvidia GTX, rather than RTX, graphics.

It's also the version still available from Dell and Alienware right now, as the new RTX GPUs won't be available for laptops until at least Jan. 29. Aside from some expected differences in gaming performance and maybe battery life, the system is otherwise unchanged and our test drive provides an excellent overview of what life with an m15, either GTX or RTX, would be like.

alienware-m15-12
Sarah Tew/CNET

If the new Area-51m is a full step into uncharted design territory for the brand, then the m15 is a half-step. The former bulk of Alienware systems is replaced by a low-profile flat-top lid, this time in matte red. Yes, there's still an alien head logo, but it's on the subtle side. I knew it was a different look and feel because my game-playing, but gaming-laptop-hating, spouse saw the m15 and said, "Hey, that's not too ugly for a gaming laptop."

The m15 starts at $1,399, but for that's for a GTX 1060 graphics card. To trade up to the GTX 1070 Max-Q, along with more RAM, more storage and a sharp-looking 144Hz screen (versus standard 60Hz), it's currently $2,019, although those prices may change with the upcoming RTX versions. All the models share the same Intel Core i7-8750H, even the entry-level one, but only the most expensive configuration swaps the standard silver design for the matte red lid. That's a shame, as it's a pretty good addition everyone should get to enjoy.

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