Gaming laptops are specialised bits of kit, so if you’re looking for gaming performance beyond the likes of the PS5 and Xbox Series X then you’ll have to pay for it – and the cost of the best gaming laptops can easily spiral.
The Alienware M15 R7 is definitely on the cheaper end of the scale – but it’s still a four-figure investment. For that money you’ll likely want it to replace your work laptop or desktop setup, as well as offer a strong gaming experience.
Some of the top-end gaming laptops can run up to three or even four times the price of this Alienware machine, but does that mean this is a quarter of the laptop? Absolutely not.
ALIENWARE M15 R7 REVIEW: Price & Availability
The Alienware M15 R7 is available now, priced at $1199 and up. My review unit was this entry-level model, with the AMD Ryzen 7 6800H processor, Nvidia RTX 3060 GPU with 6GB of GDDR6 video RAM, and a 512GB SSD.
Upgrades for the processor, GPU, memory, and storage are available, with a top-of-the-line unit (with Ryzen 9 6900HX processor, Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti GPU with 16GB of GDDR6, 64GB of RAM, and 2TB of storage) costing $3449.
As for UK availability, my model isn’t available at the moment (it should be priced around £1,149) but the closest spec you’ll likely find now is a more expensive model with 32GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce 3070 Ti GPU instead.
ALIENWARE M15 R7 REVIEW: SCREEN & DESIGN
The Alienware 'alien head' logo is heavily used on this laptop, with the trademark on the power button above the keyboard and the back of the screen.
The laptop has the same extended base design as other Alienware laptops, with power input, HDMI 2.1, USB-A, and a Thunderbolt 4 connection on the back. A Gigabit Ethernet port and a 3.5mm headset socket are on the left side, while two more USB-A sockets on the right provide a decent amount of connections.
Alienware is still bucking the trend of powering laptops over Thunderbolt 4, opting instead for a large barrel-style power connector and a large power adapter. This chonker supplies 240 Watts of power to the laptop, and you will need it: the battery life is best described as poor (as it is for any gaming laptop, realistically). The combined weight of the laptop (2.4kg / 5.3lbs) and the charger make this a shoulder-straining 2.72kg / 6lbs package to carry around.
Several screen options are available for the M15 R7 AMD Edition, with my review unit fitted with the cheapest option: a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution 165Hz LCD panel. With a peak brightness of just over 300 nits, this has excellent image quality, producing bright, clear colours and sharp, vivid detail. It lacks the vivid colours of the OLED screens on more expensive models and can’t match their super-high 240Hz and 360Hz refresh rates, but it's still great.
The speakers beneath the screen produce clear, bright sound, but lack separation to my ears: it was harder to use noises to determine where enemies were coming from than with models like the Dell XPS 15 that puts the speakers beside the keyboard.
The Alienware M15 R7's keyboard is large and well-spaced, but I found the keys to feel rather soft and squishy, even though each key required a lot of force to activate. I found myself bashing on the keys to ensure the key press was recognised. That’s fine for those who like to express their anger at the pain of human existence on their keyboards, but some prefer a more delicate touch.
This review model came with a single zone LED backlight on the keyboard, but a $40 upgrade gets you the AlienFX individual key RGB lighting, while an additional $50 on top of that gets you CherryMX mechanical switches, which would be a great upgrade for those who prefer a more positive feel.
The touchpad feels rather small compared to the rest of the laptop, and I found it to be rather over-sensitive and jittery, sometimes confusing a finger slide with a tap. The sensitivity is adjustable, but it is unusual to have to tweak this right out of the box.
One thing I also found annoying was the noise of the fans: whenever you start a game or, well, do anything that requires a bit of processing oomph, the noisy fans kick in. Start Photoshop and the fans go from a gentle hum to a low woosh. Load an image, and the whoosh rises to a low roar. Run a filter, and the whoosh rises again. Switch the laptop into performance mode, where everything runs at top speed, and the fan rises to a rather loud roaring noise.
It therefore feels like there is very little spare capacity in the cooling system: it has to kick in as soon as things get a bit toasty inside, and the fans aren’t quiet, even at their lowest speed. The laptop also gets rather warm even when the fans run at full: after a long session of gaming, I measured the temperature on the top and base of the case at a toasty 70C/158F.
ALIENWARE M15 R7 REVIEW: PERFORMANCE & FEATURES
The M15 R7 is a very fast gaming laptop for the price, offering excellent performance for both games and other tasks: it runs 3D games at a frame rate that takes advantage of the 165Hz refresh rate screen, albeit with a few graphics features turned off. To do so, as I've said, it's a rather noisy beast, with the fans cooling the powerful processor and GPU often sounding like an angry hive of bees that have been sucked into a vacuum cleaner.
I tested the M15 R7 with a number of modern 3D games, including Doom Eternal and F1 2022. Both games looked great, with smooth motion and an immersive feel in Doom Eternal that ran at frame rates of between 170 and 190fps in the high graphics preset, meaning that the 165Hz screen was running at full capacity. However, the 6GB of graphics RAM in my review unit meant that it couldn’t handle the Ultra or Ultra Nightmare graphics modes that require more.
The demanding racing game F1 2022 managed a very playable 50fps with all of the graphics options set to maximum at the same native resolution, and turning the graphics options down to high upped this to a very smooth average of 134fps, again taking good advantage of the 165Hz screen for smooth motion.
Benchmarking tests also produced solid results, with the Alienware M15 R7 scoring 8769 in the Time Spy test of 3D Mark and 2099 in the more up-to-date Speedway test. These scores put this laptop among the top-tier performers, especially at this price.
The brains of the M15 R7 is an AMD Ryzen 7 6800H: an 8-core, 16-thread processor that runs at 3.2GHz most of the time but which can speed up to 4.7GHz on a single core when the going gets tough. That’s combined with an Nvidia RTX 3060 mobile GPU and 16GB of fast DDR5 RAM on my review unit, which was the entry-level version of the laptop.
An 86Whr battery powers the M15 R7, but the battery life here isn’t great. I found that it lasted 5 hours and 32 minutes in the PC Mark 10 battery test, which simulates a series of office tasks. That’s not bad for a gaming laptop, certainly enough to work on a short flight or watch a movie. The battery life drops precipitously when you start playing games though: I completely exhausted the battery with a 45-minutes session of Doom Eternal. The bottom line here? If you take the M17 R5 AMD Edition anywhere, don’t forget the power adapter or stray too far from a power source.
ALIENWARE M15 R7 REVIEW: VERDICT
The Alienware M15 R7 AMD Edition is a good gaming laptop at an excellent price. That’s a question of compromise, though: it is not the fastest, doesn’t have the best screen, or the largest amount of blinky LED lights.
What it does have, however, is enough performance to run 3D shooters at a decent frame rate and a high refresh rate screen that shows them off well. And the starting price of $1199/£1,149 for a laptop with great gaming performance seals the deal.
If you're looking for a gaming laptop with a little bit more oomph and battery life, and don't mind stretching the budget a touch, try the Asus ROG Zephyrus. We also love the Acer Nitro 5 as a top-tier budget choice.
Perhaps you're really thinking of pushing the boat out? You could double the budget (and then some) and plump for the Acer Predator Helios 16 which has an absurd 240Hz refresh rate screen.