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.
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.
In the UK, similar configurations run from £1,599 to £1,949, and they go from AU$2,798 to AU$3,999 in Australia.
|Price as reviewed||$2,019|
|Display size/resolution||15.6-inch 1,920x1,080 144Hz display|
|CPU||2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H|
|Memory||16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz|
|Graphics||8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 with Max-Q Design|
|Networking||802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 5.0|
|Operating system||Windows 10 Home (64-bit)|
My previous favorite Alienware of all time was the 13-inch Alienware 13, with its stunning OLED screen. This display here isn't as fantastic, but it's overall just about as portable, slimmer, with a slightly larger footprint, and not much heavier, at 4.5 pounds vs. 5.1 pounds. I still love that OLED screen, but the better CPU, GPU and bigger screen have made this one of my main everyday laptops right now (especially as I'm doing a lot of work in Photoshop and Illustrator lately).
The Alienware Command Center software, found on every Alienware system, offers controls for the backlit multicolored keyboard, as well as thermal controls and CPU/GPU monitoring. To keep the body slim, the keyboard is a flat island-style one, and shallow enough that it may give some older Alienware fans a heart attack. I found it fine for everyday use, but the keys do have a lighter, less substantial feel than more traditional gaming laptops.
The Alienware m15 performed admirably compared with other late-2018 laptops with similar CPUs and GTX 1060 or 1070 graphics. It helps that this is just a standard 1,920x1,080 screen, not a more ambitious higher resolution. That said, when you push the system, the fans kick in (as they should), and they're on the loud side.
The m15 gets a lot right, both on paper and in person. Reasonably slim body, above-average performance, plenty of ports and connections, 144Hz screen option and even the cool matte-red cover. It lacks the design leaps of faith that have pushed systems like the Asus Zephyrus, Razer Blade or even the new Alienware Area-51m in bold new directions, so it's more about the chops than the flash. Think of it as a mild-mannered gaming laptop that's subtle-looking enough to not get you banished to the den.
|Alienware m15||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 with Max-Q Design; 512GB SSD|
|Razer Blade 15 (late 2018)||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 with Max-Q Design; 256GB SSD + 2TB HDD|
|Razer Blade 15 (mid 2018)||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 with Max-Q Design; 512GB SSD|
|Lenovo Legion Y730||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2HGz Intel Core i7-8750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti; 2TB HDD + 256GB SSD|
|Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 (2018)||Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070; 512GB SSD|