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Alienware m17 R2 Review – Impressive But Needs Some Improvements
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Alienware m17 R2 Review – Impressive But Needs Some Improvements

by March 24, 2020
Overview
Highlights

Designed for those who want "unprecedented performance" in a rather portable package, the Alienware m17 is a beastly gaming laptop. Is it worth your money? Let's find out.

Warranty

1-year

Price

RM17,056
RM13,299 (base model)

Positives

+ Powerful
+ Ample, speedy SSD storage
+ Portable for a 17-inch gaming laptop
+ Good array of ports
+ 144Hz refresh rate
+ Aesthetically different, yet pleasing
+ Comfortable keyboard for gaming and work
+ Customizable part options by Dell

Negatives

- CPU has major thermal throttling issues
- Alienware Command Centre software needs improvements
- Below average battery life
- Performance essentially on par with i7-9750H + RTX 2070
- Pricey

Pokde Scoreboard
Pokde Rating
Appearance
8.5
Efficiency
4.0
Features
7.0
Materials
8.5
Performance
7.5
Portability
7.0
User Experience
6.0
Value
6.0
Bottom Line

The Alienware m17 R2 is a great1 gaming laptop on paper but when applied, there are a number of areas that need improvement. The Intel Core i7 variant may be the better option.

6.8
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Unboxing the Alienware m17 R2

Alienware m17 R2 Review - Impressive But Needs Some Improvements

Inside the box of the Alienware m17 R2 gaming laptop, you’re expected to get the following items:

Alienware m17 R2 Review - Impressive But Needs Some Improvements
  • Power brick
  • Charging cable
  • User guide
  • Warranty card
  • Safety and regulatory information booklet
  • The Alienware m17 R2 gaming laptop itself

Appearance

Alienware m17 R2 Review - Impressive But Needs Some Improvements

The Alienware m17 R2 is quite different from most gaming laptops today. For starters, you have the white colour scheme along with the Legend design language which results in a rather classy-looking machine. Compared to the previous iteration, this one is actually lighter and thinner.

Alienware m17 R2 Review - Impressive But Needs Some Improvements

Looking at the lid, you can see the number 17 on the bottom-right corner which signifies the model as well as the Alienware logo which can glow. Look further down, you’ll notice the hinge area is black, which contrasts the white lid and giving it a pleasing two-tone look.

Alienware m17 R2 Review - Impressive But Needs Some Improvements

Open up the lid of the Alienware m17 R2 , which can be done with one hand albeit with a bit more effort, you are greeted with a 17-inch display, a trackpad, and a full-sized keyboard complete with Numpad. The Alienware logo can be seen right below the display. The power button is in the shape of logo above the “-” key. The keyboard here has per-key RGB lighting.

Alienware m17 R2 Review - Impressive But Needs Some Improvements

One the left side, you have the Noble Lock port, an air vent, an RJ45 LAN port, a USB-A port, and a combo audio jack. On the right side, you have two USB-A ports and an air vent. Seems a little short on ports, right?

Alienware m17 R2 Review - Impressive But Needs Some Improvements

That’s because the remaining is on the rear, where you can find an HDMI port, mini DisplayPort, Thunderbolt 3 port, Alienware Graphics Amplifier port, and the proprietary charging port. The ports are between the two rear vents. The charging connector itself glow blue when there’s power.

Alienware m17 R2 Review - Impressive But Needs Some Improvements

Moving to the bottom, you have a bunch of air vents in a honeycomb design,product stickers, and two raised lines on the top and bottom to give the laptop a bit of a lift. There are eight visible screws here but there may be more hidden. The speakers are located closer to the lid opening.

For this portion of the Alienware m17 R2 review, I personally like the looks of it. Not only does it have a clean look, it’s one that stands out from a lot of gaming laptops out there. It doesn’t need to look aggressive to let people know that it’s a beastly gaming laptop. Furthermore, the magnesium alloy build gives it a premium look and feel while lowering its overall weight.

Specifications

CPUIntel Core i9-9980HK (8C / 16T @ up to 5 GHz), 16M Cache, 45W TDP, 14nm
RAM16GB DDR4 2666Mhz
GPUNVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q 8GB GDDR6
Storage512GB NVMe PCIe SSD (PC601 SK Hynix)
Display17.3″ FHD (1920 x 1080) 144Hz IPS display with Tobii Eyetracking Technology
KeyboardChiclet Keyboard with Per-Key RGB
ConnectivityWireless:
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265
Bluetooth 4.2
I/O:
3 x Type-A USB 3.1 Gen 1 (1 with Powershare)
1 x Thunderbolt 3
1 x Noble Lock Port
1 x Mini DisplayPort 1.4
1 x HDMI 2.0b
1 x RJ45 LAN (KILLER Ethernet E3000)
1 x Alienware Graphics Amplifier Port
1 x Proprietary Charging Port
Audio1 x Combo Audio Jack
Array Microphones
Power70Wh 4-cell Li-Ion Battery, 240W Power Adapter
Dimensions399.8 x 295.5 x 20.5 mm (W x D x H), 2.63 kg

Performance

Alienware m17 R2 Review - Impressive But Needs Some Improvements 34
Alienware m17 R2 Review Benchmark: CrystalDiskMark

Starting off with CrystalDiskMark, you can see that the Alienware m17 R2 gaming laptop has a very fast SSD storage inside. This will ensure speedy loading / boot-up times virtually all the time. It also means that if it’s oddly slow, you need to get that checked straightaway.

Alienware m17 R2 Review - Impressive But Needs Some Improvements 35
Alienware m17 R2 Review Benchmark: Cinebench R15

In Cinebench R15, it seems that the Intel Core i9-9980HK powering the Alienware m17 R2 seems to be more on par with the Intel Core i7-9750H, albeit with a higher multi-core score. Another laptop running a similar CPU scored noticeably higher for both core tests.

Alienware m17 R2 Review - Impressive But Needs Some Improvements 36
Alienware m17 R2 Review Benchmark: Unigine SuperPosition

As for Unigine SuperPosition, a rather similar pattern can be observed. However, this can be attributed to the fact that the RTX 2080 GPU in here is the Max-Q variant which has lower power than its regular variant.

Alienware m17 R2 Review - Impressive But Needs Some Improvements 37
Alienware m17 R2 Review Benchmark: 3DMark Time Spy

The same thing can be said in 3DMark’s Time Spy benchmark. While it is one of the higher performing machines in our list, the performance seems to be more akin to an i7-9750H and RTX 2070 combo.

Alienware m17 R2 Review - Impressive But Needs Some Improvements 38
Alienware m17 R2 Review Benchmark: 3DMark Port Royal

In 3DMark’s Port Royal benchmark for ray-tracing however, it performs better than the aforementioned combo. As this test is more reliant on GPU, we’re not surprised to see a big difference between the Max-Q and normal variant machines.

Alienware m17 R2 Review - Impressive But Needs Some Improvements 39
Alienware m17 R2 Review Benchmark: Gaming

Gaming is where I learned a lot about the Alienware m17 R2 gaming laptop. All of the games ran in Full HD, with the exception of that one Final Fantasy XV denoted with 4K, at the highest settings and it did decently. However, I expected it to do better.

Looking into my data and I believe the lower scores are due to temperature issues. The GPU ran fine but the CPU was running at high temperatures, consistently in the 90°C+ area and at times reaching 100°C. It was facing thermal throttling issues in every game, with it occurring more in some games than others.

As for battery life, we managed to get an hour and 58 minutes in PCMark’s Modern Office endurance test and an hour and 2 minutes in PCMark’s Gaming endurance test. With my own personal use of web browsing, light editing, music, and a bit of YouTube videos, I found myself with slightly over 2 hours of use. Not surprising given the CPU its packing but it definitely needs improvement.

If you’d prefer a gaming desktop instead, check out our review of the Alienware Aurora R9 by clicking right here.

User Experience

Alienware m17 R2 Review - Impressive But Needs Some Improvements

On paper, the Alienware m17 R2 is a very powerful gaming laptop. It’s powered by the Intel Core i9-9980HK and GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q. It also has 16GBs of RAM and an ample 512GB speedy SSD storage. Sure, the Max-Q variant isn’t as strong as its regular counterpart but it’s still great, especially since this is running a Full HD resolution display.

Alienware m17 R2 Review - Impressive But Needs Some Improvements

Speaking of display, this one is using a 17.3-inch Full HD 144Hz display with Tobii Eyetracking. Viewing angle is decent and the colours aren’t the best around (72% sRGB) but it’s more than enough for consumers. We’re certain that they’re focusing more on speed as its more beneficial for gamers. It should be able to provide high frame rates for you to enjoy the refresh rate, albeit at the cost of lowering the settings at least a little bit.

Alienware m17 R2 Review - Impressive But Needs Some Improvements

Bezels aren’t as thin as the other Dell machines but there’s still a good amount of real estate. As for Tobii Eyetracking, it’s nice to have but in all honesty, most of you most likely won’t bother using this as there’s little reason to do so other than the novelty which quickly wears off.

Alienware m17 R2 Review - Impressive But Needs Some Improvements

For running temperatures, the GPU ran perfectly fine regardless of the game or task that was running but the CPU runs too hot. Thermal throttling was present in every game I play but it’s fine for lighter workloads. It’s either Dell work on vastly improving the CPU temperature, or you should avoid the i9 variant at all costs. I believe the i7 variant will fare better, and the lower price is a bonus incentive for you.

Alienware m17 R2 Review - Impressive But Needs Some Improvements

The Alienware m17 R2 has a good array of ports. You have three USB Type-A ports, a USB-C port (Thunderbolt 3), an RJ45 LAN port, an HDMI port, a Mini DisplayPort, and a combo audio jack. If you need better GPU performance, you can make use of the Alienware Graphics Amplifier port to connect to an eGPU. My only complaint here is the lack of an SD card reader.

Alienware m17 R2 Review - Impressive But Needs Some Improvements

As for the keyboard, we have a per-key RGB chiclet keyboard complete with a Numpad. It’s actually one of the most comfortable laptop keyboards I’ve used thus far, with it being enjoyable for both gaming and work. It feels like a low-profile pseudo-mechanical keyboard. It’s worth noting that there’s a slight flex if you press on the keyboard with some force.

Alienware m17 R2 Review - Impressive But Needs Some Improvements

The trackpad itself works fine but the click feels rather shallow, as if it could stuck at any moment. In case you’re not used to Alienware, the power button is the brand logo on the top right, above the “-” key.

Alienware m17 R2 Review - Impressive But Needs Some Improvements 40

If you’d like to personalize the laptop, you will need to make use of the Alienware Command Center software. You can tailor game settings, adjust RGB lightings, and do some simple overclocking. While I like how it looks, I don’t feel like the software is intuitive. It’s rather confusing to use, even when you simply want to adjust the keyboard lighting. Furthermore, it seems to have trouble running when running on battery power.

Alienware m17 R2 Review - Impressive But Needs Some Improvements 41

As it is an Alienware gaming laptop, you have the Alienware Mobile Connect software, which is easily my favourite. You can use it to interact with your Android smartphone using the PC. Anything from calls, texts, notifications, using apps, and more. It’s incredibly helpful if you need to mirror your smartphone’s display and transfer files easily.

iOS supports isn’t available yet but it’s expected to be added soon.

Alienware m17 R2 Review - Impressive But Needs Some Improvements

On the sound department, the speakers on the Alienware m17 R2 is better than expected. It’s not particularly loud and the bass is clearly lacking but it manages to produce some good clarity. You’re definitely better off with your favourite pair of headphones but this will actually do well enough if you find yourself without one.

Alienware m17 R2 Verdict

Alienware m17 R2 Review - Impressive But Needs Some Improvements 42

The Alienware m17 R2 is a great1 gaming laptop on paper but when applied, there are a number of areas that need improvement. It looks good, it’s powerful, it’s rather portable for a gaming laptop of this size, and the keyboard is some of the best I’ve tried on a laptop.

However, the CPU has major thermal throttling issues, the battery life is below average, the Alienware Command Center software isn’t intuitive, and it is rather pricey. It’s not a bad gaming laptop but I would personally go for the Intel Core i7 variant with all the issues in mind.

With that, I award the Alienware m17 R2 gaming laptop with our Bronze Pokdeward.

Alienware m17 R2 Review - Impressive But Needs Some Improvements 43

Big thanks to Dell Malaysia for loaning us this laptop for the purposes of this review.

About The Author
Aiman Maulana
Jack of all trades, master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one. YouTuber, video editor, tech head, and a wizard of gaming. What's up? :)

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