Alienware m17 R2 Review – Impressive But Needs Some Improvements
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.
RM13,299 (base model)
+ 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
- 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
Unboxing the Alienware m17 R2
Inside the box of the Alienware m17 R2 gaming laptop, you’re expected to get the following items:
- Power brick
- Charging cable
- User guide
- Warranty card
- Safety and regulatory information booklet
- The Alienware m17 R2 gaming laptop itself
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
|CPU||Intel Core i9-9980HK (8C / 16T @ up to 5 GHz), 16M Cache, 45W TDP, 14nm|
|RAM||16GB DDR4 2666Mhz|
|GPU||NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q 8GB GDDR6|
|Storage||512GB NVMe PCIe SSD (PC601 SK Hynix)|
|Display||17.3″ FHD (1920 x 1080) 144Hz IPS display with Tobii Eyetracking Technology|
|Keyboard||Chiclet Keyboard with Per-Key RGB|
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265
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
|Audio||1 x Combo Audio Jack|
|Power||70Wh 4-cell Li-Ion Battery, 240W Power Adapter|
|Dimensions||399.8 x 295.5 x 20.5 mm (W x D x H), 2.63 kg|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Big thanks to Dell Malaysia for loaning us this laptop for the purposes of this review.