Finally, A Slimmer Alien

Alienware m15.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

I’ve been waiting for Alienware to release a gaming laptop with NVIDIA’s Max-Q optimizations for a long while. The Alienware m15 is that laptop, and it combines a slimmer, more modern design with the company’s signature aesthetic.

The Alienware m15 sort of reminds me of a spaceship. The lid is divided into three sections, mimicking the look of disparate panels welded together on the hull of some ship from the future. The company’s signature alien head logo is visible on the lid as well, and features customizable RGB illumination so you can set it to your preferred color.

Build quality on the laptop is super solid as well, thanks to its use of magnesium alloy, which is both strong and light. The laptop feels rigid and well put together, so Alienware hasn’t sacrificed much in moving to a slimmer design.

However, if we’re talking about the burgeoning category of Max-Q laptop, the m15 is actually still a little on the thicker side. Many laptop, like the Gigabyte Aero 15X, Razer Blade, and MSI GS65 Stealth Thin, all come in at under 20mm. So while the m15 is a welcome improvement over the old Alienware 15, it definitely isn’t a leader in terms of portability.

Furthermore, while the side bezels have slimmed down significantly, the laptop still has rather chunky top and bottom bezels, so its footprint isn’t the smallest either. There’s also an infuriating amount of glossy plastic framing the display, which kind of makes the whole notebook look a bit cheap, even though it really isn’t.

That aside, I like that Alienware has managed to squeeze a full-sized keyboard with a number pad onto the laptop. One of my complaints about the Alienware 15 was how there wasn’t a very efficient use of space in the implementation of the keyboard, which was framed by huge amounts of empty space and didn’t feature a number pad.

The keyboard produces decent tactile feedback and feels pretty good to type on. Elsewhere, I also enjoy the soft-touch finish on the palm rests, which convey an impression of quality. Alienware has also gone with a Windows Precision Touchpad here, so your gestures feel quite pleasantly accurate and precise. The left- and right-click buttons are built into the touchpad now as well, and I prefer this look to having separate physical buttons.

However, the touchpad has a plastic coating instead of glass and isn’t quite as large as, say, the one on the Razer Blade. This means that while it’s decent, it still doesn’t feel quite as good. I was also disappointed to see a lack of per-key RGB backlighting customizations.Instead, the laptop features six independent lighting zones, including four on the keyboard itself, the power button, and the alien head logo on the lid.

The stereo speakers on the laptop are built into the sides. They’re not actually located under the grille that you see above the keyboard, even though there are two openings below the grille that look like they could house speakers. That said, the speakers are average at best. Overall, clarity seemed lacking, and vocals had an odd nasal quality to them. There was also noticeable distortion at higher volumes, which isn’t at all what I’d expect from a laptop that costs this much.

The good news is that the IPS display on the laptop is pretty good. The matte panel shows off  bright and vivid colors, and it’s one of the few gaming laptop where I didn’t feel like the display could use a boost in brightness.

When it comes to networking options, the laptop is equipped with a Killer Wireless-AC 1550 chip, which is capable of a maximum throughput of up to 1.73Gbps and is pretty much in line with the rest of the competition.

To cap things off , the Alienware m15 keeps cool using a dual-fan design that pulls in cool air from the bottom and top vents and exhausts hot hair out vents at the side and rear. It also features four copper fin stacks to help dissipate heat from critical components. The fans do get pretty noisy under load, but they’re not the loudest I’ve experienced on a gaming laptop and they do a decent job of keep the palm rests cool.

My Reading Room
There are two USB 3.1 (Gen 1) ports on the left.
My Reading Room
The Alienware Graphics Amplifier port sits at the back, so you can use the laptop with an external GPU dock.
My Reading Room
My Reading Room
A powerful notebook dragged down by an incredibly steep price and questionable design decisions.
My Reading Room