Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5

After reviewing numerous iterations each year of the Alienware gaming laptop, we are familiar with the modern Alienware design m15. The newest, the m15 Ryzen Edit R5 (starting at $1.567.99; $1.649.99 as tested), does exactly what it says on its box: It brings AMD’s new Ryzen processors to bear for media editing and gaming. The CPU is faster than Intel competitors and can be used in conjunction with the Nvidia GeForceRTX3060 GPU to attain higher frame rates. Overall, this package is very attractive, at a fair price. There are nice support features such as a 165Hz monitor and long battery lifetime. It does not quite win the Editors’ Choice award among gaming notebooks. We are a fan of the Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition and Acer Predator Triton 300SE. They cost slightly more than the Alienware. This is still one the best options of both the two.

Welcome to Dark Side (of Moon).

While the interiors of this edition are the best, the exterior is something we are familiar with. This new Alienware laptop design only has been available since 2019, beginning with the m15R2. However, we have seen quite a number of laptops in our labs that are 15- and 17.

Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5 left angle

I really like the modern styling. The honeycomb vents at the back and the rear-ringed LED are futuristic and sci-fi. Although we are usually sent laptops with Alienware Lunar Light, the review unit came with the dark Dark Side of the Moon paint job. This styling may not appeal to everyone but it is an intentionally designed design language. It also looks more like other laptops from a distance if you wish yours to blend in.

Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5 rear view

The build quality of the R5 is solid and has a premium feel. The R5’s chassis now has a new finish–what the company refers to as a “high endurance clearcoat with silky -smooth finish”–and it feels nice to the touch. The lids on the previous models felt more like metal.
Even though it prioritizes portability over power, the m15 has a lot of mobility. It is lighter than premium competitors such as the MSI Stealth 15M. The machine measures 0.89x14x10.7 inches (HWD), and weights 5.93lbs. It is still a substantial gaming machine, but not as thick or heavier as the Razer (0.67in thick and 4.44 pounds).

Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5 right angle

The display measures 15.6in diagonally. It combines HD (1080p), a 165Hz refresh rates and Nvidia-G-Sync. This display is perfect for gaming. It even includes the component combination that we have reviewed. As you can see, it’s very responsive. The screen looks very good with nice colors. Additionally, the sides and top bezels appear quite thin. It blends into the hinge and is thicker at the bottom, but it will not be noticed while you are playing. You can also choose to have a full HD 360Hz (or QHD 240Hz) display.

Alienware R5 front view for Alienware Ryzen Edition m15 Ryzen

Next we move on to the keyboard. On our model, it is only a basic laptop keyboard. But, you can upgrade to the Cherry-designed mechanical keyboard as well as Alienware’s m17R4. It was great on the bigger laptop. I think it would feel equally good here.

Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5 keyboard

For the more traditional keyboard, its standout feature, with its four-zone customizable rearlighting, is what makes it unique. Beyond that, it simply provides a comfortable typing session with bouncy keys. The touchpad is a little less impressive and a bit small but it is still usable.

Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5 rear ports

A decent port selection completes the system. The headset jack and Ethernet ports are located at the left edge. Two USB Type-A ports are found on the right flank. Most connections are at the back.
Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5 left portsAlienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5 right ports

Component Check

Let’s start with the exterior build. The base model starts from $1,567.99. You get an eight-core and 16-thread AMD Core R7 5800H process, 16GB memory, Nvidia GeForce Radeon RTX 3060 processor, 256GB solid drive, and the 165Hz screen. Our review unit cost $1,649.99. It is nearly identical. However it doubles the storage by adding a 512GB SSD. The Ryzen R9 processor, RTX3070 graphic card, more storage and RAM can all be added to the unit. Purchases include two SO DIMM slots that allow you to upgrade your memory.

Alienware R5 power buttons for Alienware’s m15 Ryzen Collection m15 Ryzen

Our model is affordable and appropriately equipped for its purpose. The only downside to our model is the 512GB SATA SSD. Although it has a decent capacity, it can be quickly filled with today’s large games. With the exceptions of entry-level models I would like for it to be 1TB or larger in 2021. However, it would increase its price. We’ll be watching how the performance pans out over time, but it’s a good specification combination for midrange games. I think the price premium is reasonable for the standard build quality, as well the extra features (the key lighting, advanced thermal arrangement, and other construction materials) that go into the system.
To be clear, the leap from the R4 to R5 m15 R4 is actually the Ryzen Edition. There’s currently no Intel version. To learn more about choosing a laptop’s processor, read our laptop CPU guide. Additionally, you can find information about the different Nvidia GeForce RTX30Series GPUs here.

Ryzen Differentiation: Performance Testing

Now we will take a look how the M15 R5 performed in our benchmark tests. Despite its many features, it is priced in the midrange gaming category. You shouldn’t expect it compete with high-end Razer Blade 15 or Alienware V15 R4 gaming systems. These two models cost well over $2,000. We will use these results to compare it to other midrange systems. Below is a list of the system comparisons and their basic specs.

Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5 comparison chart

As we mentioned, the Blade 15 ($2,899) and m15R4$2,499 (as tested) pack more power. However, it’s helpful to see which components are (or not) superior. On the other hand, the MSI Stealth 15M $1,699 (tested) is close in price to m15 R5, and a 14-inch Acer Predator Triton 300SE $1,399.99 astested represents the smaller side. Find out more about how laptops are tested.

Productivity and Storage Tests

PCMark 8 and 10 are performance benchmarks created by UL. PCMark 10 simulates different workflows for content creation and productivity in real life. It allows us to test the system’s performance on office-centric tasks including word processing, spreadsheet jockeying web browsing, and videoconferencing. PCMark 8 features a storage subtest which is used to determine the system’s boot drive speed. Both tests return a proprietary numeric score. Higher numbers equal better.

Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5 PCMark

AMD’s Ryzen processors should be able to beat Intel in CPU-intensive tasks. This is what we’ve come to expect. PCMark 10 doesn’t test a processor too hard, but it provides a measure for everyday competence. It shows that the Alienware Alienware m15R5 is more than capable. All laptops pass the minimum acceptable standards, but the Alienware m15R5 can multitask better than the rest. The high end processors will be measured better in the three following tests.
First Maxon’s Cinebench R15 CPU-crunching Cinebench R15. The Cinebench R15 has all the threads to make full use of all available processor threads and cores. Cinebench concentrates on the CPU and not the GPU to render complex images. The score is a proprietary score that indicates whether a particular PC can perform CPU-intensive tasks.

Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5 Cinebench

Cinebench is often used as a predictor of the Handbrake trial for video editing. Handbrake is another tough, threaded work out that’s CPU-dependent, scales well with cores, and threads. It shows a test system converting a 12-minute 4K video clip (the Blender demo-movie Tears of Steel) into a 1080p MP4 file. The results will be lower because it’s a timed testing.

Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5 Handbrake

We also use a benchmark Adobe Photoshop image editor. We applied a number of complicated filters to a JPEG standard test image, using an early 2018 Creative Cloud version Photoshop. We count each operation and add them up. Here, as with Handbrake – lower times are good.

Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5 Photoshop

It’s not surprising that Ryzen-powered Ryzen 15 R5 is the top performer in all three of these tests. The Ryzen R7/R9 chips outperform Core i7/Core i9 CPUs when it comes to media creation and edit. While there is a slight gap in some of these tests, Cinebench’s AMD advantage is quite telling. The R5 is better than any other laptop if you are a content writer or media editor and wish to use your laptop for work, whether it’s professionally or casually.

Graphics Tests

Two gaming simulations are used for each test. 3DMark, which measures relative graphics power, renders sequences of 3D graphics designed for gaming that highlight particles and lighting. Sky Diver, and Fire Strike, are subtests for 3DMark. Both DirectX 11 benchmarks. Sky Diver, however, is more appropriate for midrange and integrated graphics systems, while Fire Strike requires high-end and gaming computers to excel. These scores are proprietary.
Unigine Superposition also renders and panned through a 3D scene. But it measures results as frames per second. The test was run at both 720p or 1080p resolutions and with low and very high image quality settings, respectively. 30 frames per seconds is the standard for smooth animation. But serious gamers prefer 60 frames per second or more.

Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5 Superposition

Razer Blade15 and Alienware m15 R4 should outperform the R5 in these tests, however the R5 did quite well. This is due in part to the wattage mentioned above. Alienware tends towards the maximum power for a GPU in its systems which aren’t quite as thin and efficient as some other brands. This can be translated into usable real-world raw power. While the CPU may be an excellent tool in increasing these numbers, Ryzen processors generally haven’t given us the same advantage in gaming and media tasks.

Real-World Gaming Evaluations

The synthetic tests mentioned above can be helpful in measuring general 3D aptitude. But it’s difficult to beat full retail gaming for judging game performance. Far Cry 5 or Rise of the Tomb Raider is both modern, high quality titles that have benchmarks built in to illustrate how the system handles real-world gameplay at different settings. We ran them at 1080p resolution at the game’s medium and best image quality presets. Normal and Ultra for Far Cry 5 (DirectX 11), Medium for Rise of the Tomb Raider (DirectX 12).

Alienware R5 Far Cry 5Alienware R5 Rise of the Tomb Raider

The m15 R5 seems even more stunning here than in the synthetic tests. For bragging rights, you may be tempted to buy an RTX3070/3080, but the Ryzen Edition has frame rates that are close to those of more expensive gaming rigs. While performance maniacs might be satisfied with an additional 10 to15 frames per second, 103fps in these titles’ highest settings is quite respectable. Alienware Command Center software comes with Full Speed performance mode. But, I find the extra heat and fan noise to be not worth it.
The m15 R5 gives shoppers the best value and offers more bang for their buck than most of the more costly systems. The Predator is a smaller, less expensive option. However, the Predator’s smaller size and higher price result in lower performance despite having the same GPU. The Alienware Ryzen R7/GeForce RTX 3060-based Alienware delivers high-end frame rates for a midrange price.

Battery Rundown test

After charging the laptop fully, we set it up to power-save mode. We also turn Wi Fi off and put our laptop in airplane mode. We then loop a video, a locally stored file of Tears of Steel that is 720p.

Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5 battery life

Last but not the least, Ryzen Edition provides impressive battery runtime. While not quite a chart-topper in this class, the Ryzen edition is still impressive. It lasts long enough to be useful for traveling or short gaming sessions without the need to charge. Although these 15-inch versions are smaller and lighter than some, they can’t be used for long trips. The Alienware is not the most compact gaming laptop out there, so it won’t work in every situation. But, it’s handy to have an option if you do need it.

A Strong Midrange Contender

Although the overall design of this system is familiar, we aren’t going to be surprised by its Ryzen based improvements. The m15 Ryzen Ed is very affordable in terms both of performance and specs. Our test configuration combined very powerful gaming performance with class-leading processing efficiency. The screen also has high refresh rates. This all is in a beautiful and unique chassis.

Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5 closeup

There aren’t many faults, but the system is heavy for today’s 15-inch gamers. Predator 300 SE remains the best value for money in midrange, and we love the compact size. But, if you have more to spend, the AMD Alienware might be worth a look.

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