Alienware M15: compact gaming laptop with comprehensive upgrade options

    Alienware gaming laptops have always stood out with their powerful chassis. This not only made their appearance recognizable and memorable, but also allowed the use of durable materials and serious cooling systems. However, time is passing, and now mobile solutions, including gaming, are in trend. The answer to this challenge was the brand new Alienware M15 - a completely new laptop in the model line of the brand. Much more lightweight and compact, but at the same time not losing those key advantages for which fans love this series. It is about him that we want to tell you in detail today. Welcome to cat!

    Appearance and Ergonomics

    Alienware M15 next to familiar to many users Alienware 15 R4 and 17 R5 looks very interesting. Almost like David next to Goliath, but everyone here, of course, is good in his own way. The M15 takes moderate dimensions - a computer with a 15.6-inch display weighs 2.16 kilograms and a thickness of 2.1 centimeters. This is the level when the laptop becomes portable enough to take it with you without much difficulty. For comparison, Alienware 15 R4 weighs a little less than 3.5 kilograms, and the 17-inch model is about 4.5.

    Familiar with gaming laptops, not by hearsay, readers rightly notice "but it is not the easiest and thinnest in the class!". True, the developers did not strive for this at all. They did not pursue records, but tried to preserve not only the corporate identity, but also to ensure that the computer remained strong - minimization in no way should lead to a drop in quality.

    Almost the entire computer case is made of magnesium alloy - from the same material, for example, they make the cases of “top-end” SLR cameras. Main advantages: durability combined with lightness and wear resistance. The cover has a matte surface that is very pleasant to the touch, and it can be not only bright red, like the model that came to our review, but also silver. Without the recognizable alien head, which has long been the Alienware logo, the case, of course, could not have done. When you turn on the laptop, his eyes and outline begin to glow.

    And, at the same time, in our opinion, the computer turned out to be quite not catchy. In his appearance, of course, it is clear that he is playing, but it will hardly be shameful to sit with such in the office or take to meetings. In this place, do not rush to condemn us with the phrase "what kind of meetings can there be with a gaming computer ?!" - In addition to gamers for a good filling, such a technique is very loved and appreciated by the staff of the video production studios. Well, in any case, versatility is always good.

    The working panel around the keyboard has a matte soft-touch coating. Fingerprints remain here, but are visible only upon closer examination. But the glossy insert in the upper part above the keyboard may not appeal to everyone, because here the handprints are much more noticeable. The frame around the screen is also glossy, rather thin on the left and right, but there is still no top and bottom. There is much to strive for in the future.

    On flat surfaces, the Alienware M15 stands firmly and firmly. Four thin, but at the same time wide rubber legs cope with protection against slipping very successfully.

    Reliable metal hinges hold the lid on the weight, and when closed, it is additionally attracted to the body with magnets. You can tilt the screen back about 160 degrees, and in none of the selected positions will it in any case outweigh the working panel. The lid itself does not bend when pressed, and when opened, it does not walk like a wave from side to side. On the whole, it is difficult to complain about the build quality of Alienware M15 - as we already wrote above, special attention was paid to this moment during development.


    By tradition, the connectors on the chassis of Alienware laptops are located not only at the side ends, but also at the rear. Let's start with him. It contains all the main interfaces for connecting external monitors and projectors: HDMI, mini DisplayPort and USB Type-C with support for Thunderbolt 3. Also here is the input for the power adapter.

    Another unusual wide connector is the Alienware Graphics Amplifier Port. It is needed in order to connect a powerful external box to a laptop with some serious video card inside. The accessory is branded, and in Russia, unfortunately, is not yet officially sold. It looks like this:

    Not on the left side of the Alienware M15 are the Ethernet port, full-sized USB 3.1 and a combined audio jack.

    At the opposite end are two more “large” USB 3.1 ports.

    Input Devices

    Compared to Alienware 15 and 17, the Alienware M15 has a completely new keyboard. The keys are no longer adjacent to each other, they are island. At the same time, a full-fledged digital unit with narrower buttons appeared on the right side of the main block of keys. There are now not five, but four additional buttons for recording macros, and on the left side of the keyboard panel they have moved to a place directly above the digital unit.

    If this laptop becomes the first Alienware gadget for the user, then it’s hardly necessary to get used to the course of the keys. But after the “large” 15- and 17-inch brand laptops already mentioned above, the feeling will be different. At least simply because the depth of depression is less: 2.2 mm for Alienware 15/17 and 1.4 mm for M15. From the point of view of gaming, this is a compromise, however, significantly reduced body thickness requires sacrifice. But from the point of view of long typing, it is more likely even a virtue - typing the text of this review on the M15 keyboard was extremely convenient. Another plus in terms of versatility.

    The only obvious minus for some users here may be reduced, not only in height but also in the width of the F1-F12 buttons, as well as ESC, Home, End and Delete. Our experience has shown that you can get used to it, but we cannot rule out the possibility that you have a different opinion on this matter.

    Since the computer is gaming, then, of course, the matter was not without backlighting. You can control the diodes in the pre-installed Alienware Command Center program - you only need to update it through the Windows Store after buying a laptop. The main part of the keyboard is divided into three zones, the backlight of each of which can be adjusted separately. The digital block is another, already the fourth, zone.

    Also, two Alienware logos have their own backlight diodes. One of them is located on the M15 cover from the outside, the second - exactly above the keyboard panel and at the same time acts as a power button. In addition to the ability to select colors from the entire RGB range, you can also choose different effects: ripple, blink, wave, etc. There is also a separate mode for those who do not like all these diode entertainment. It is called simply and succinctly: "standard blue." The brightness of the backlight is adjusted using a special slider all in the same Alienware Command Center in a very wide range.

    The touchpad in the Alienware M15 is rather an office. Again, in order to reduce the size under the touch panel, there are no more separate buttons to simulate the right and left mouse click. The whole panel has now become one big button. But the touchpad area has become larger. In games, like from any other touchpad of any other laptop, the panel is rather useless. But in office affairs, she honestly holds the bar at the level of "much higher than average": a finger glides along the site easily, positioning is very accurate, and multi-touch gestures are fully supported.

    Hardware and Performance

    Alienware M15 in all configurations intended for the Russian market runs on the processor Intel Core i7-8750H. This is a very successful 6-core chip with support for 12 streams of calculations that has long been well established in a wide variety of gaming laptops. The frequency varies from 2.2 to 4.1 GHz, the TDP level declared by the manufacturer is 45 watts. If we compare this solution with the previous chip of the same class and the more powerful i9-8950HK, then in Cinebench R15 we get the following results:

    In addition to the Core i7-8750H, the Alienware M15 that came to our test is equipped with two 8 GB RAM slots, an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 graphics card in the MAX-Q design, a 1 TB HDD and a 512 GB SSD drive. Such "hardware" quite expectedly demonstrates good results in the general test of the PCMark 10 system performance. Below we give the results obtained in all three tests (Express, Standard, Extended) in comparison with other Dell computers previously tested specifically for Habr. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that the laptop scores the most points in the most complex and long test of Extended. This is an additional hint that it can be not only gaming, but also used in creative production.

    We won’t say anything special about HDD speed, we’ll just give a screenshot from the CrystalDiskMark 6 test. Such components can’t surprise for a long time: it's just a place to store large amounts of data and nothing more. With the SSD, the situation is more interesting - the speed indicators are not record-breaking, but at the same time, quite high. Neither in games, nor when copying and downloading files, this drive will definitely not become a system bottleneck.

    The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 graphics card in the “lightweight” design of the MAX-Q is such a reasonable compromise between good power and power consumption, as well as heat dissipation. In terms of performance, it lags literally by 10-12% from a full-fledged mobile 1070, but at the same time it does an excellent job with all relevant modern games. We tested the M15 with this discrete graphics in several projects, and in all of them the FPS level at high settings exceeded the cherished mark of “60 frames per second”. Often the same thing happens at the maximum settings, although there are exceptions in which the FPS can fall to the range of 40-50 fps. For example, in a very fresh Metro: Exodus and relatively fresh Assassin's Creed Odyssey.

    We also give a separate comparison of Alienware M15 with the GTX 1070 MAX-Q with the economical Dell gaming laptops - G3 15 and G5 15 with the GTX 1050 Ti and 1060 MAX-Q, respectively - in the 3D Mark Fire Strike and WoT Encore gaming benchmarks.

    In idle mode, Alienware M15 makes almost no sounds. When the load increases, the fans may at first quite suddenly make themselves felt, but then their noise will gradually decrease in proportion to the complexity of the task. On average, you can focus on the mark of 40 decibels. This is when the cooler is clearly audible close, but the volume does not distract and does not bother. During games, of course, the noise will be higher and with a very strong load can reach up to 50 dB. By the standards of compact gaming laptops, this is slightly above average. However, all this is relevant for standard factory settings: if necessary, experienced users may well engage in undervolting (this, however, is at your own peril and risk), disable TurboBoost and, as a result, make the laptop quieter.

    Alienware M15's temperature is also significantly higher than that of many office laptops familiar to many. In a simple temperature of the surfaces of a computer, usually does not exceed 30 degrees. During games at maximum settings in some places (above the keyboard and in the same place, but on the bottom of the PC), the temperature can approach 50 degrees. For long gaming marathons, we recommend in addition to a laptop to purchase any - even the simplest - cooling pad.


    The Alienware M15 display diagonal is 15.6 inches, the resolution is absolutely the same in all configurations - 1920 × 1080 pixels, the matrix type is also IPS. But at the same time, the refresh rate can be different: 60 Hz in the basic versions and 144 Hz in the advanced ones. If you mostly prefer measured and calm games like Civilization and Total War, then there’s no point in chasing a high frequency of development. But if you prefer dynamic games like CS and any other shooters, then it can be a useful help. We will not tell another story about how it incredibly boosts your skill - a lot of copies are broken on disputes about this. But as to the fact that the picture is getting smoother, and playing in the end is simply more pleasant because of this, no one seems to have any doubts.

    Of course, for configurations with a screen with a refresh rate of 144 Hz, we recommend the GeForce GTX 1070 graphics card. It is much better than the GTX 1060 from the younger configurations, will reveal the potential of such a display and at the same time will not drop FPS in games.

    Another important advantage of Alienware M15 displays is the low IPS response time of up to 12 ms when changing a white pixel to black and vice versa. This also has the most positive effect on the image in dynamic game projects, where it is extremely important that the picture on the display is updated as quickly as possible. This is also very useful when watching a video.

    The color gamut of the IPS-panel with a refresh rate of 144 Hz reaches almost 90% of the sRGB range, so you definitely will not have to complain about color rendering flaws. The experience of IT reviewers already familiar with this laptop shows that if you take a little time to calibrate, it will become even better. The level of maximum brightness significantly exceeds the mark of 300 nits, which can conditionally be considered completely comfortable for normal work with a laptop indoors. In principle, even on the street you can work if you wish, but this is hardly the same gadget with which you want to do this often. The viewing angles are also in full order - it’s definitely not necessary to select “the very only” display position painfully, you can reject it at absolutely any convenient angle, except for absolutely extreme ones, and everything that happens on the screen will be perfectly visible.

    Concluding the talk about the Alienware M15 display, just in case, we draw attention to the fact that there are also configurations of this laptop with matrices with a resolution of 3840x2160 pixels. They are not officially delivered to Russia. But such a screen is, for example, in one of the "top" versions of Alienware 17 R5.

    Upgrade Opportunities

    Another important advantage of the Alienware M15 is its very flexible upgrade capabilities by modern standards. This is also due to the fact that the developers wanted to make the computer as thin as possible, but without prejudice to the design. While many competitors' ultra-thin laptops have RAM soldered to the board, here you can replace it yourself without any problems. And to access the compartments for the M.2 SSD, you don’t have to pull out the entire board from the laptop, spending a lot of time disassembling it, you just need to unscrew a few screws and remove the bottom cover. And here is a picture that will open before you.

    Firstly, you can replace a 2.5-inch HDD-drive - both on a more capacious, and on an SSD in a similar form factor.

    Secondly, an SSD is always used as a system disk, which is installed in the M.2 2280 slot. There is also another M.2 bay for an additional drive right next to it. It turns out as many as three places for the devices responsible for data storage - great!

    There are two slots for RAM. In the younger versions, one RAM bracket with 8 GB is used, in the middle - two 8 GB strips, and in the older ones - two 16 GB.

    You can also replace the wireless adapter yourself.

    Battery Life and Charging

    Gaming laptops usually have this kind of autonomy, but the Alienware M15 is a nice exception to the rule. Despite the fact that only modifications with a battery of 60 W * h are delivered to Russia (there are still versions without a compartment for the HDD, due to which the battery is more capacious - 90 W * h, we may also bring them, but a little later), even they keep awake. The test for the full discharge of the battery running with an endless repeat of Full HD video at maximum brightness discharged the battery in exactly 4 hours. If you deal exclusively with office affairs on the M15 and do not resort to discrete graphics, then the gadget can hold on for about 8 hours.

    The Alienware M15 version with GTX 1070 graphics has a fairly large 180W power adapter. It weighs about 600 grams. A noticeable increase in overall weight, but the graphics card is powerful here. From 0 to 90%, the laptop charges with its help in an hour, and it takes 90-100 minutes to fully charge. The M15 with a GTX 1060 inside the adapter is not as powerful (150 watts) and, as a result, more compact.

    How much is and where to buy?

    Alienware M15 does not pursue ultra-compactness, but, at the same time, it remains both quite portable and powerful enough for gaming in all modern AAA-projects in Full HD resolution. At the same time, the computer has retained all its corporate features, including excellent build quality, and offers very flexible upgrade options by modern standards. In addition to gamers, this laptop can also be recommended to anyone involved in video editing and 3D-graphics.

    The cost of Alienware M15 starts at about 120,000 rubles. This budget includes a configuration with a Full HD screen with a standard refresh rate of 60 Hz, an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card, 8 GB of RAM and a bunch of 1 TB and 128 GB HDD + SSD, respectively. The processor, recall, is the same everywhere: it is a six-core Intel Core i7-8750H. Versions with a GTX 1070 graphics card and a screen with an increased scanning frequency start from 160,000 rubles and often include 512 GB SSDs plus a minimum of 16 GB RAM. Modifications with GeForce RTX graphics will appear on the Russian market in late April - early May.

    You can purchase a laptop from our many distributors. Regarding large orders of these computers or any other Dell and Dell EMC equipment in general, we, as always, recommend that you contact us directly in personal messages on Habré. And you can ask questions about already purchased products in our official group on VK . Thanks for attention!

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