We tested and compared the Alienware m15 versus m17 in terms of Gaming Performance, Portability, Price, Display Quality, Battery Life and more.
Above you can see the Ranking with the results and below you will find the in-depth reports of each Alienware Gaming Laptop.
Ranking First: Alienware m17
- Even better Gaming Performance than M15 + excellent Turbo Boost utilization
- Awesome 144 Hz gaming Display
- 2.5 Gbps Ethernet, Thunderbolt 3 + quiet fan noise
- More expensive than Alienware m15
When I hear “17-inch laptop”, I always think of the monstrous machines my colleagues used to drag along on LANs. I have never understood what the advantage is when the laptop is as heavy, unwieldy and portable as a CRT monitor.
But today everything is different and the Alienware m17 is the ultimate proof of that. It’s portable, yet incredibly powerful!
I test the device over several days as a video producer with the following daily routine: Take the train to Frankfurt in the morning for about an hour to work, in the office do photo and video editing, take the train home and then go for a spin.
But first of all it’s time to unpack. The white box has a restrained and modern design. I find it a bit strange that the laptop just lies there in the padding.
This feeling you get when you open a foil for the first time to receive your new favorite item is unfortunately absent, except for the foil on the edge of the display and those on the Alienware logo elements.
Even the massive 250W power supply (870g) is only hidden behind a cardboard cover and there are no extras like Velcro cable ties for the power supply or stickers included. I think, everyone who buys such a device is happy about the one or other little goodie.
Off to the train and pulled the laptop out of the bag. You can see the weight. Not exactly light for a laptop, but almost as light as a feather (approx. 5.73 lbs) for a 17 inch laptop with Intel® Core™ i9 processor of the 8th generation and Nvidia Geforce RTX 2080 MaxQ.
Simply incredible that you manage to pack this one piece of hardware into such a thin case and keep it so mobile. First impression of the speed: Fantastic.
Because not least thanks to the NVME SSD, most programs are already up before you press the button 😉 Windows starts up in under 15 seconds and everything else almost instantly.
Keyboard & Touchpad
Check my e-mail first. Here the keyboard is already positively noticeable. It is quiet and does not disturb other rail passengers. With my previous laptop with Butterfly Switches it looked completely different. The Keytravel is also very pleasant. The keys behave like silent MxBrown switches.
I also like the soft touch, because I use my fingers like little hammers and had my problems with the unpadded Butterfly Switches. Not so here. The lighting is bright enough and you can write like on a full keyboard. I only had to get used to the position of the DELETE key and the missing media control.
I find it very cool that there are four programmable keys above the number field. In the Alienware Command Center, macro, keystroke, key combination and text block can be stored on it.
Let’s get to the mouse. The trackpad is one of those things. I think it’s great that it supports MultiTouch and that it is sufficiently dimmed. However, it generates incorrect input here and there, for example when I click on a tab in Chrome and want to move the pointer again immediately afterwards.
Then I double-click – but unintentionally. So it often happens that I drag the tab around. Adjusting the double-click speed didn’t help either. But you get used to it and after a week of getting used to it I get along much better.
By the way, the trackpad can be deactivated via FN+F11, which can be very advantageous when playing with the internal keyboard.
It’s also a pity that the laptop has neither Windows Hello nor a fingerprint reader. This would make spontaneous login much easier.
We are entering Frankfurt. Laptop to and from the backpack. After ten minutes I’m in the office. Laptop on the table and only three cables later I am ready: The m17 is equipped with a Thunderbolt 3 connector and therefore fully compatible with USB-C.
In the office it’s enough to plug in the power supply, the display port and the USB-C dock and off you go. Everything you could wish for is also represented in the other ports: three USB3, HDMI, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt 3, 2.5Gbit network connection (RJ-45) and headphone port. I am perfectly happy with this.
Premiere Pro, Davinci Resolve, After Effects, Photoshop…One day later, I have nothing more to say but WOW. No matter what you do – the Alienware m17 is somehow bored. I mean, you can tell it’s dealing with the workloads, but everything is running so smooth and fast that I haven’t had a lag or any other jerk in my video editing.
But of course, performance always depends on the codec, the type of editing and the program. I have tested XAVC-S and Blackmagic BRAW Footage and am thrilled. But I can definitely recommend the upgrade to 32Gb RAM, because with 16Gb it gets quite fast tight.
But what about temperatures and noise? Basically, when I’m connected to the power supply, the CPU always runs on full turbo, i.e. at about 4.5Ghz. The temperatures on the package are thus between 60°C and 70°C. As soon as a video renders, the temps go up to 100°C.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t help to manually set both fans to 100%, the CPU always goes into thermal throttling. But you have to ask yourself if this is really bad, because despite throttling, 12 threads run at 3.5 Ghz and thus above its 2.9 Ghz baseclock. That’s a lot of power and you can feel it. And the best thing about it is that the laptop stays relatively quiet.
Of course you can hear it all over the room. But while I don’t want to talk anymore when the 2016 Razer Blade howls, the m17 pushes air through its cooling fins at a pleasant volume.
It’s definitely not quiet, but a lot quieter than I would have expected, considering the built-in hardware. Even more performance can be achieved with a cooling pad.
The matt UHD display cuts a really good figure, especially when editing photos and videos. The high resolution offers a lot of space and allows me to have everything at a glance and work efficiently even when I’m on the move.
The built-in IPS panel offers 8 bit color depth, covers the sRGB color space, but still needs calibration to be fully operational for professional applications. Also my model has partly massive backlight bleed, which I only noticed when starting games and never during the actual use.
The monitor hinge is so stiff that opening the screen definitely requires two hands. When working on your lap, however, it has the advantage that the monitor doesn’t move by itself, which is great when you’re on the move.
The day in the office is over and it’s time to go home. Every once in a while up to an hour separates me from the next socket. So a laptop must be able to last that long in any case. My test device has a 60 Wh battery installed. Without optimizing the system, I can get by with it for about one to one and a half hours.
So if you need more, you should definitely choose the 90 Wh version. But if you are familiar with the settings and know which set screws to turn, you can get even more out of the 60 Wh battery.
Home at last! I’ve always been a gamer and I’ve done some gaming on my previous laptop, but I can’t compare it to the m17. All games run smoothly on Ultra and it’s just fun.
Currently I’m looking for games that I want to play just for the graphics, because now I finally have a laptop that does it all, and I couldn’t find a game that would really upset the Alienware m17.
Of course the processor is 100% loaded in Battlefield V, but everything runs so smoothly that you don’t have the feeling that the next or even the next but one AAA game will overtax this laptop. I’m not a fan of 4K gaming on a 17 inch monitor. Therefore I always play in Full HD.
Battlefield V with its hammer graphics and RTX support @ Ultra Settings runs at around 60FPS and looks just beautiful. The only thing I did without vertical sync and future frame rendering. Rainbow Six Siege runs with ULTRA Settings at 90FPS on average. Apex Legends also achieves 90FPS on average.
Emergency 5 with the Wuppertal Mod does a respectable 50 to 60 frames, which I find very remarkable. Because EM 5 is basically not well optimized and the hardware is not used properly. CS:GO reaches 200 FPS on average and Wolfenstein even 240 FPS.
The display is of course also a feast for the eyes during gaming and lets you dive into beautiful scenarios. The streak-free 60hz are simply fun.
From the colors to the response time – it’s really a fantastic monitor. I still need my 24-inch consumer monitor in the home office for productive work, but I no longer have to have kills stolen from me by a clouded monitor while I’m playing.
In my application for this reader’s test, I wrote the following: “…the thought that one of these Alienware laptops would ‘destroy’ my Daily Driver with its performance and features to such an extent that it might as well be shot for mercy just puts a smile on my face.
And now I can say that the coup de grâce is truly appropriate. The Alienware m17 convinced me. I’m saddened by Mac OSX as an operating system, but the performance of the Alienware m17 is so outstanding that it is the ultimate winner for me.
If you are looking for a laptop that combines uncompromising performance with mobility, you have found the perfect candidate here, which is why the Alienware M17 is ranking first vs Alienware M15.
Ranking Second: Alienware M15
- Great gaming performance
- Better Price than Alienware m17
- Awesome display
- Very loud
- Ergonomics are not convincing
For me, gaming laptops have always been an unnecessary hermaphrodite being that didn’t really fit in anywhere: compared to normal laptops, they were too clunky and heavy, compared to desktop systems for the same money, they were too weak on the chest.
Moreover, the devices were always so conspicuously designed that anyone from 20 meters away could have seen that I was one of those “crazy people” who spent tens of thousands of Dollars on hardware just to play games with it – so that I could go to university or to the office? Rather no!
Fortunately, a lot has happened in this field over the last few years, and it’s probably mainly thanks to Nvidia and their Max-Q design that gaming-capable hardware finally fits into a case with reasonable dimensions and weight.
Dell’s approach to bring this technology to the market is the new Alienware m15 and m17 series of gaming laptops.
The 15-inch version (m15) was already available with GeForce-10 (GTX) in Max-Q design, but now got a “facelift” with Nvidia’s new GeForce-20 cards (RTX) and Intel® Core™ i9 8th generation processors. I was now allowed to put one of these “new” m15s through its paces.
The “Unboxing” The m15 comes in a thin, brown overpacking, which is supposed to protect the white Alienware box in it from damage and dirt, but has a recess for the practical handle of the actual box in order to be able to transport the whole thing safely.
You don’t have to carry heavy things around either, as the whole package with the measurements of 42x46x12mm (height/width/depth) weighs approximately 10.58 lbs and thus can be carried around comfortably with one hand.
The actual packaging of the laptop is then kept in white-and-black, well done, stable and looks high-quality with the chic Alienware logo and lettering in shiny silver. Apart from a short overview of the technologies built into the m15 (Intel inside, Killer Wireless, etc.), the outline of the laptop itself and some cutouts of the exploded view can be seen on the box, which can also already be seen in Dell’s product video.
The box itself isn’t then covered with adhesive tape, but remains only – but completely sufficient – closed by the protruding plastic handle. This also makes it possible to continue to use the box as a well-protected transport case.
To get to the inside, simply press the handle in and the box can be opened. You should make sure to do this the right way round (outer half up) to prevent the contents from falling out.
Once you have opened the package completely, the m15 and all its accessories are nicely embedded in a stable foam in front of you. The protection material is firmly glued to the box, looks high-quality and stable.
The approx. 20x360x275mm (height/width/depth) large and in the present configuration approx. 5.07 lbs heavy laptop can then be easily removed. Underneath the device there is still a small flyer with the history of Dell Alienware as well as a small box with a short quick start guide and two papers with safety information in it.
A further box, which is firmly glued to the box at the back end, then contains a cold device cable and the massive power supply: with 30x200x100mm (height/width/depth) and a weight of about 2.2 lbs, the 240W power supply is almost half the size and half the weight of the laptop itself!
But that’s it, there’s nothing more in the box. Things like a detailed manual, a recovery USB stick, a mini-display port adapter or even promotional material like stickers or a mouse pad are not included.
On the one hand this is a pity, especially considering the price Dell is charging for the Alienware laptops, but on the other hand you have to ask: do you really need this?
Compared to previous gaming laptops from Alienware and other manufacturers, the design is not only slimmer, but also much more discreet. Apart from the slightly irregular, angular shape, the red top and the slightly larger air vents, you can’t really see what’s actually inside the laptop.
Only the connoisseur knows to interpret the Alienware logos and the lettering under the display and notices that this is a full-grown gaming system.
Personally, I find the design all in all very well done, because in my opinion it finds exactly the right mixture of flashy gaming design and understatement and thus makes the laptop an eye-catcher, but also doesn’t attract too much attention.
The good design is also reflected in the quality of materials and workmanship: The case made of a magnesium alloy with a soft-touch surface, the rubberized wrist-rest and the plastic loudspeaker cover look chic, are very well made and really feel great.
Only the edge around the display, which is also made of plastic, could be made better, as it’s not only very thin and wobbly, but also reflects quite strongly.
Another point of criticism is fingerprints: as good as the material of the laptop feels as soon as you actually touch it, you immediately leave marks and streaks everywhere, which can then only be wiped off with a damp cloth, but are difficult to wipe dry due to the soft-touch surface.
Ports & Interfaces
Dell installs a total of three USB 3.0 ports (type A) in the m15, of which two are on the right and another one on the left side as seen from the user. The single port on the left also has Dell’s PowerShare technology, which allows other devices, such as smartphones, to be charged even when the laptop is turned off.
On the left side is also the Gigabit Ethernet port, which is controlled by a Killer Networks RJ-45-e2500, as well as a combined 3.4mm jack connector for the headset. By the way: Dell has also installed a Noble security lock on the left for those who need it.
However, the most interesting one is on the back, as Dell has placed both a USB 3.1 Type-C and the port for the in-house graphic accelerator here, apart from the obligatory connection for the adapter, an HDMI and a mini display port.
Here I would have liked to find out if these two ports have to share bandwidth or if it would actually be possible to run two devices like e.g. a graphic amplifier and an external 10 Gbit Ethernet adapter in parallel – but due to the lack of appropriate hardware I couldn’t find out.
But what I can definitely say is that there are not only enough connections for almost everything imaginable, but that they are also excellently manufactured like the whole notebook. Everything has its firm seat in the base, here nothing wobbles or even falls out.
The only thing I wouldn’t have found bad would be if Dell had been able to move the Ethernet port to the back – but that’s whining on a high level!
Apart from the ports for cables and additional devices, the m15 also has wireless means to communicate with other peripherals and the outside world: WiFi and Bluetooth. As standard, the m15 has an 802.11 ac 2×2 adapter and Bluetooth 4.1. As Dell has given the test model the “killer” upgrade (Killer 1550), it not only has a WIFI adapter optimized for gaming, but also Bluetooth 5.0 with a significantly increased range and data rate.
Apparently, the old version of the m15 still had problems with this network card, which led to Windows not being activated and connection problems. These problems have apparently been solved, I at least didn’t have any problems with connectivity during my test.
Display, Sound & Keyboard / Touchpad
Dell offers the m15 with different display variants: Full-HD with 60Hz and 144Hz, as well as Ultra-HD with 60Hz – so there should be something for every taste. All of them are IPS panels, whereby Dell even offers a UHD OLED panel in the US shop in the laptop’s top version.
What you should keep in mind when choosing a display is that the Full-HD versions “only” have a color coverage of 72% sRGB, whereas the UHD display has 100% coverage.
So if you plan to use the concentrated computing power of the m15 for mobile editing of videos or image processing, this panel would probably be better suited for you.
Dell has built an FHD 144Hz variant into the tested model, which feels much more fluid, especially in comparison to my usual 60Hz monitor.
Whereby you can really feel the difference when playing fast shooters. But the display is also very good in general: it’s matt, has a sufficient, even brightness, wide viewing angles and good black values – pixel errors or similar didn’t strike me. The edges of the display are, as claimed by Dell on the product page, quite narrow with 7mm at the sides, but quite thick at the top and bottom.
This allows Dell to use a quite reasonable webcam with Full-HD resolution, which is quite useful for Skype sessions and upcoming twitch streamers in terms of image quality and positioning. This also applies to the integrated microphone.
Below the display, Dell has installed stereo loudspeakers in a 2.0 configuration over the entire width of the screen, which, let’s put it this way: as good as the display is, the built-in loudspeakers are moderate. You really can’t recommend listening to music or watching a movie longer with them.
But as soon as you plug in headphones, the picture changes: Dell has installed a really good sound chip here and has also provided it with super tuned profiles. Additionally, the output of up to 7.1 sound via the HDMI connection is possible, which I unfortunately couldn’t test.
The built-in keyboard of the laptop is quite ok for a laptop. It is smooth-running and has a short release path typical for notebooks, but offers a full-fledged number pad and a total of four keys for freely configurable macros.
As Dell can’t escape the current RGB mania either, the keyboard (next to the two Alienware logos) of course also glows in all possible freely configurable colors, whereby not every key can be set individually, but the whole keyboard is divided into four zones from left to right.
The touchpad is then located centrally under the space bar and thus slightly offset from the laptop’s center. Here I have to say that this is one of the best I’ve ever used: it has super gliding characteristics, reacts quickly and reliably, is very precise and the mouse keys have a valuable tactile feel.
Hardware, Cooling & Battery
If you carefully open the nine screws on the bottom and the two on the back, you can easily remove the bottom and have a view of the underlying hardware.
The four heatpipes (2x CPU/GPU, 1x CPU, 1x GPU), which transport the heat to the two heat sinks in the back corners, catch your eye – the fact that both computing cores share two heatpipes will be interesting in later benchmark tests.
The two radial fans then suck in cold air from below and blow it through the heatsinks to the rear and cooled on the sides to the outside.
Therefore, you should be careful not to place the laptop on the sofa or the bedspread when playing games, as it can’t bring its optimal performance if not enough air can be sucked in from below.
Beside the cooling, the battery also takes up some space under the hood. Dell offers two different battery sizes for the m15: 60Wh and 90Wh. The smaller 60Wh battery installed here can play YouTube content in Full HD for almost 3.5 hours on a full charge when the loudspeakers and display brightness are set to 50% each.
A bit more than 4.5 hours are in it for light work and internet surfing. However, when you play a game, the energy supply literally melts away and lasts for a maximum of 1.5 hours, maybe hours if it’s not too demanding.
But at least the battery can be recharged relatively quickly with the included 240W AC adapter, whereby it takes at least about 40 minutes until the battery is 100% again.
Alternatively, a larger battery can be used, but then the additional 2.5″ space for a mass storage device is not necessary. Unfortunately I can’t say whether a later upgrade to the larger energy storage is possible. It looks like this and is also quite conceivable, as Dell hardly ever uses different cases and boards with different batteries, but there is no absolute security.
Thus, everyone has to decide at the time of purchase whether you need a cheaper 2.5″ mass storage or whether you’d rather last longer without a mains connection.
With the smaller battery, the test device thus has room for a total of 3 data carriers: 2x M.2 and 1x 2.5”-SATA. By default, every m15 comes with at least one M.2 SSD with 256GB (Toshiba KXG50ZNV256G), but there are numerous other options, leaving the configuration to the customer’s needs and budget.
In the existing test device, Dell has, apart from the M.2 for the operating system, also built in a 2.5″ SSD (Seagate ST1000LX015-1U7172) with 1TB memory for data (games). This leaves one M.2 slot free for later upgrades, whereby an exchange of the existing data carriers would also be possible without problems.
The main memory and WiFi adapter could also be replaced without any problems if a defect is present or an upgrade is necessary. Depending on the configuration, Dell uses 8, 16 or 32GB RAM, while the test device has two 8GB DDR4-2666 bars from Hynix (HMA81GS6CJR8N-VK) installed.
Installed in the tested laptop, but of course not so easily replaced, is a board with Intel® HM370 chipset, an Intel® Core™ i9-8950HK processor and an Nvidia RTX 2080 in Max-Q design.
In the Command Center, which I think is quite successful, you can actually set everything you need: Fan control, performance profiles, various sound settings, RGB lighting and much more.
It’s also interesting that the software automatically recognizes the installed games and you can assign your own profiles to them, e.g. for a strategy game the sound setting is automatically changed to “strategy”, or you can create macros for role-playing games, which are then only active when the respective game starts.
Besides the Alienware Command Center, Dell has also installed a program for updating drivers and other Dell software, which also works quite well and is quite useful.
BUT: Already after booting the laptop, between six and seven gigabytes (!) of a total of 16 GB of RAM are already occupied, whereby I couldn’t really find out what for until the end of my test.
Since there was still enough reserve, it didn’t really cause any problems for me, but since Dell also offers the m15 with only 8GB RAM, you have to ask yourself how this should work.
During my search for RAM eaters I noticed the “SupportAssist”. This is a software from Dell, which is supposed to monitor the system and warn of errors and offer problem solutions. The program consumes almost 700MB of RAM – why?
The m15 can fully convince in the generic benchmarks. Sure, a laptop won’t break any records here, but a graphics score of almost 8000 points in Firestrike is already an announcement, especially considering the laptop’s dimensions. Let’s see if it can also deliver such a convincing figure in games.
All graphic settings are set to the maximum possible in the tests. If it didn’t run smoothly and had to be turned down a bit, this is included with the respective game.
Tom Clancy’s The Division 2
Internal benchmark: 7860 points
In The Division 2, the frame rate at maximum settings was actually constantly above 80, with an average of 92FPS.
The game I was most looking forward to on this laptop (keyword raytracing) caused me the most problems: As soon as I had activated DX12 and DXR, the game wouldn’t start anymore or crashed again and again during the start! Only after I had reinstalled the driver of the graphics card, I got back into the menu at all and could finally try raytracing.
In the mission (War Story) “Tiralleur” I tested various settings and then decided on the following: Everything on “Ultra” or as high as possible, DXR quality on “medium” and FX count on “high”. So I could play with constantly over 70FPS and enjoy raytracing.
In Anno 1800 with “ultra-high” settings, the frame rate jumped wildly back and forth (50-85FPS), but at no time did it seem jerky and was very playable.
Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG)
In PUBG, the FPS never actually dropped below 100 in “Ultra” settings, with an average of about 120, a little less depending on the visibility.
With “Epic” Settings, a similar picture as in PUBG was drawn: In open landscape I had an average of about 103FPS, in rooms the frames rose to over 130.
The m15 also has more than enough power for Apex: on average about 98FPS
About 95FPS on average. If there is a bit of a lot going on on the screen, the frame rate drops to around 70, which is still more than fluid.
Since Dell also advertises with the VR qualities of the m15 or m17 series, I had to try that, of course: The graphics and computing power is more than sufficient for graphically “adapted” VR games like The Climb. But if you want to play graphically more demanding games like Ark in VR, the m15 has to fight hard.
The m15 not only fights well in generic benchmarks, but can also convince with its performance in games. All current titles run absolutely smoothly on the Alienware laptop in the highest possible settings (except for BF5) and are therefore quite fun.
The only thing I noticed negatively while playing is that the keyboard gets quite warm. If you plan to play for several hours at a stretch, you’re probably well advised to use an external keyboard to avoid sweaty hands.
First of all, I want to make one thing very clear: There are no technological miracles! Even if many a company with a fruit as its logo would like to sell this to its customers: technical devices are always a balance between performance and mobility.
If I want performance, I have to do without mobility, if I want mobility, I can’t count on high graphic settings and massive FPS. However, Dell has created a gaming laptop with the Alienware m15, which in my opinion has very well plumbed this fine line between the two worlds.
Design, material and workmanship of the m15 are really very good, and the compact size and light weight are also clear plus points. The Alienware definitely has the performance necessary for a gaming laptop, whereby I was even surprised how well such a small device performs here.
The display is fully suitable for gaming with its 144Hz, the sound (headphones provided) is also on a high level.
As already mentioned, there are a few concessions to be made in such a compact design: the battery life isn’t exactly top-notch, especially the endurance for light work or surfing the internet could be increased considerably. The built-in loudspeakers also suffer from the small overall size of the laptop and can only be used as a stopgap if no headphones or external speakers are available.
Would I buy or recommend this laptop?
Yes, definitely! The m15 is a good package of design and performance with few and justifiable or understandable weaknesses. Would I change anything in the existing configuration?
I would probably order the laptop with a larger battery and standard M.2-SSD with 256GB and then upgrade an M.2-SSD for data myself, which is why the Alienware m15 is ranking behind versus the Alienware m17.
Its definitely a great Gaming Laptop though and cheaper than the m17, so if you can’t buy the m17, go for the m15 without worries!