Alienware m16 R2 has gaming power, but is designed not to look like it

Alienware m16 R2
(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

There was a point where every gaming laptop was poised as a massive declaration of the gamer identity. But it ends up that even the most hardcore gamers may just want their gaming laptop to just be a normal laptop once in a while. 

And that's what makes the Alienware m16 R2 (newly announced here at CES 2024) interesting — it was designed to be a powerful notebook, but also one that is meant for people who go to work, class, or just want to hide out in the corner of a cafe without lots of rainbows.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Alienware m16 R2
ProcessorUp to Intel Core Ultra 9 185H
GPUUp to Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 Lapgo GPU (115W TGP)
MemoryUp to 64GB DDR5-5600 (32GB x2)
StorageUp to 8TB (2x 4TB) PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD
Display16-inch, 2560 x 1600, 240 Hz, Nvidia GSync/AMD FreeSync, Anti-glare
Battery90 WHr
Webcam1080p, Windows Hello IR
Wireless NetworkingWi-Fi 6E or 7, Up to Bluetooth 5.4
Starting Price$1,649.99 at launch, later entry model starting at $1,499.99
Release DateJanuary 11, 2024

While the original m16 used Intel's HX-grade processors and went up to an RTX 4080 and 4090, the m16 R2 is a change in focus. Instead, it's using H-series Intel Core Ultra chips (starting with the 28W Ultra 7 and adding the more powerful Ultra 9 in the near future) and capping the graphics at an RTX 4070. Making the machine less powerful let Alienware redesign the chassis to be 15% smaller than the previous version.

Left - Alienware m16 is on left, the new Alienware m16 R2 is on the right. (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

That shrink meant eliminating an Alienware trademark: the protruding rear bump. Alienware still has some ports on the back, but there's no RGB-lit oval sticking out of the back, which makes it more portable.

The intake above the keyboard has shrunk down, which allowed Alienware to move the keyboard up and leave room for a larger touchpad. Most of Alienware's laptops have smaller touchpads, but this setup is more akin to a traditional productivity laptop, which makes for a better experience when you aren't gaming (and most people who play games are using a mouse on the side anyway).

That new touchpad has an RGB light ring around it. This is a bit less intense than its sibling the x16, which is totally smothered in RGB, but I think I actually prefer this look. The keyboard, which offers 1.8 mm key travel, starts with single-zone lighting but goes up to per-key RGB with upgrades. There's another RGB point on the lid: the Alienware logo.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

When you want to turn off all of that RGB at once, Alienware has built in a "Stealth Mode." Pressing Fn and F2 turns off the lighting around the touchpad and on the lid, and sets the keyboard backlighting to white, which is enough to let it pass for a productivity laptop. This also sets the laptop to a quiet performance profile, which should increase battery life and decrease noise.

The 16-inch, 2560 x 1600 screen runs at 240 Hz and, as of this writing, is the only display option. RAM starts at 16GB goes up to 64GB of DDR5 RAM, while storage starts at a 512GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD and goes up to 8TB with a pair of 4TB drives in RAID 0.

While I didn't get to spend a ton of time with the new m16, I appreciated that Alienware is making a gaming laptop that is also designed to be functional for other tasks. Let's not pretend people don't use their gaming machines to do homework, go over their budget, polish resumes, browse the internet and send email, too.

Alienware x16 R2 and m18 R2 refreshes

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Some of Alienware's other laptops are getting internal refreshes, but aren't seeing huge changes in terms of design.

The Alienware x16 R2, Alienware's premium 16-inch option, is also getting Intel Core Ultra 7 and 9 processors, as well as support for Wi-Fi 7. It's also getting a new 240 Hz refresh rate display standard, and Alienware is going to offer the 8TB drive option here, too.

Meanwhile, the Alienware m18 R2, the massive, performance-focused gaming notebook, is skipping Core Ultra and instead is moving to the new Intel Core HX processors. In total, Alienware says the system will offer 270W of performance. This system will get Wi-Fi 7, as well as a new vapor chamber to better cool the parts. In the m18 R2, the top storage option will be bumped to 10TB.

Both of these refreshes are also seeing their webcams support HDR, which should make for more vivid images.

The Alienware x16 R2 will come this quarter starting at $2,099.99, while the Alienware m18 R2 has a more specific launch date, January 11, and will start at $1,899.99, with top end RTX 090 and RTX 4090 coming "soon."

Andrew E. Freedman is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware focusing on laptops, desktops and gaming. He also keeps up with the latest news. A lover of all things gaming and tech, his previous work has shown up in Tom's Guide, Laptop Mag, Kotaku, PCMag and Complex, among others. Follow him on Threads @FreedmanAE and Mastodon @FreedmanAE.mastodon.social.