Alienware m15 review

Everyone knows the name Alienware. The company is synonymous with PC gaming and its laptops—adorned with the glowing alien logo—are always popular choices for gamers who want the option of gaming on the go. The company sent me its latest gaming laptop to try out, and it also happens to be the thinnest 15-inch laptop the company has ever released. Here’s what I thought of the new Alienware m15.

The review unit I received is very similar to this one, the primary difference being my review unit had an Nvidia GTX 1070 video card with 8GB of DDR5 RAM, instead of the GTX 1060 with 6GB of RAM. And my review unit was red …

Alienware m15 review

First impression: looks like the high-performance sports car of gaming laptops

When I opened the box, I was greeted by the Nebula Red finish of my review unit. The m15 is big—it has a 15.6-inch display after all—but it’s impressively thin. Just 2.1 cm at its thickest point, and it weighs 2.16 kg. Aggressively angled cooling vents dominate the back and rear sides, and the Alienware logo (glowing when powered up) is on the top of the lid. Open the display, and another glowing Alienware logo is centered above high gloss honeycomb speaker grills.

Alienware m15 reviewThe overall effect is like a high-performance sports car, in laptop form factor. And just like a sports car, the rubberized finish on the m15 attracts fingerprints if people touch it. 

With components like an 8th generation, 6-core Intel Core i7 processor, Nvidia Max-Q graphics, a 15.6-inch Full HD IPS display and PCIe SSD system storage, the Alienware m15 is a lot more than a cool-looking case. If you want to upgrade those specs, you can access the components but the entire bottom case has to be removed to do so.

Great gaming performance and an excellent display

As you would expect from an Alienware laptop, the gaming experience is top notch. Going thin has not hurt the m15 at all. The chiclet keyboard has just 1 mm of travel, but it’s still quite usable. Playing Fortnite, the graphics were buttery smooth, even with settings all maxed. The display, in particular, is a standout. It’s very bright, the colours really popped and it had great viewing angles.

After several Fortnite sessions, my teenagers declared that a mouse is in order though, finding the built-in trackpad a bit frustrating.


Alienware m15 specs (as tested)

  • 15.6-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) 144Hz Anti-Glare IPS, 300-nits 72% color gamut, Narrow-Border Display
  • 8th Generation Intel Core™ i7-8750H processor (6-Core, 9MB Cache, 2.2GHz up to 4.1GHz w/ Turbo Boost)
  • 16GB DDR4, 2666MHz RAM (2x8GB)
  • 128GB PCIe M.2 SSD + 1TB (+8GB SSHD) Hybrid Drive
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 video card with 8GB GDDR5 RAM
  • 3 x USB 3.1 Type-A, 1 x Thunderbolt, 1 x HDMI 2.1, 1 x Mini-Display port 1.3
  • Alienware Graphics Amplifier port
  • Killer 1550 802.11ac 2×2 WiFi and Bluetooth 5.0
  • LED backlit keyboard with programmable AlienFX Lighting support
  • Primary Battery: Lithium Ion (60 Wh) Battery
  • 1.79 to 2.1 cm thick, weighs 2.16 kg
  • Windows 10 Home 64bit English

Decent battery life—for a high-powered, super thin gaming laptop

Before trying it out for what it’s actually designed for—gaming—I wanted to see how the Alienware m15 managed in terms of battery life. Why would you care about how long it can go unplugged? For one thing, it’s a portable gaming system. While I suspect that 90% of the time it’s going to be used sitting on a desk or table and plugged in, the key to being able to use it while on the go is battery life.

The other reason I was interested, is that with their increasingly slim form factors, gaming laptops are gaining appeal as a general purpose high-performance laptop. A few years ago, carrying around (or more accurately lugging around) a gaming laptop for daily use was a pretty ridiculous concept. They were thick, heavy and had laughable battery life. However, something like this new Alienware m15 has a lot of appeal. It’s powerful—which is useful for other tasks like video and photo editing—as well as gaming, it has a big and high-quality display, it has style, and it’s thin and light enough to realistically be carried around. 

Alienware m15 review

Here’s the scoop. I set it up with the power management skewed toward battery savings (but not all the way), set the display brightness at about 80% and streamed 1080p video. I got about four hours of use on a full charge before getting a low power warning. Turning down the brightness a bit and being a little more aggressive with power management should be able to extend that to five hours. Not the all-day battery life I get out of my current laptop, but five hours is enough to actually be useful. For many people, this may be good enough to make the Alienware m15 more than just a really good gaming laptop.

The downside of combining thin with powerful

One of the challenges of designing gaming laptops has always been cooling. Even with the modern Nvidia Max-Q mobile graphics chips and Intel’s latest mobile processors, there is still a lot of heat being generated. And the Alienware laptop is quite thin, so things can heat up quickly. I was caught off guard the first time the cooling fans cycled up to full blast (during a system update). I honestly went to the window thinking there was a plane passing close by, it was that loud. 

Fortunately, that has only happened a few times, but it’s worth knowing that if you push this laptop to its limits, you’re going to hear it …  

Is this your next gaming laptop?

Alienware m15 review

There’s a lot to like about the Alienware m15. It’s a very nice machine, with a sleek design, plenty of power on tap and a great display. If you’re in the market for a high-performance laptop it’s definitely a contender. If you’re not convinced yet, Best Buy has the Alienware m15, plus all the top brands in gaming laptops to compare it against.

Brad Moon
Editor Computing solutions
I’m a long-time electronics and gadget geek who’s been fortunate enough to enjoy a career that lets me indulge this interest. After 13 years as a product manager with a leading Canadian tech company, I transitioned into a full-time career of writing about technology. I’ve contributed to a range of publications and websites including Forbes, Wired, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, About.com, MSN Money, the Winnipeg Free Press, InvestorPlace Media, Shaw Media and—combining technology and my three kids—I’ve been a Core Contributor to the award winning GeekDad blog since its launch in 2007.