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Alienware m15 R4 Gaming Laptop Review: RTX 30-Series Performance, Eye-Popping Color

RTX 3070 or 3080 takes flight in this starship-like package.

Alienware m15 R4
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

Our Verdict

The Alienware m15 R4 packs plenty of RTX 30-series performance in an attractive design with an amazing screen.

For

  • Sleek design
  • Strong performance
  • Snappy Keyboard
  • Vibrant optional OLED Screen

Against

  • Warm temperatures
  • Relatively short battery life

Nvidia’s RTX 30-series “Ampere” graphics cards have been burning up the desktop market since they launched last fall, and now they’ve come to laptops. Alienware’s m15 R4 is among the first laptops to offer RTX 3070 and 3080 GPUs and has paired them with 10th Gen Intel Comet Lake H CPUs for speedy performance.

But the Alienware m15 R4 ($2,149 to start, $2,499 as configured) is more than just a speedy system with the latest components. Ready to compete with the best gaming laptops, it sports a spaceship-like chassis that’s relatively thin and light, a fantastic tactile keyboard and an optional 4K OLED display that offers epic image quality.

Alienware m15 R4 Specifications

CPUIntel Core i7-10870H
GraphicsNvidia GeForce RTX 3070
Memory16GB DDR 2933 MHz
Storage1TB M.2 PCIe SSD
Display15-inch, 3840 x 2160 OLED
NetworkingKiller Wi-Fi 6 (2x2), Bluetooth 5.1, Killer Ethernet E3000 (2.5 Gbps)
Ports3x USB Type-A Gen 3.2, microSD, Thunderbolt 3, Mini DisplayPort, HDMI 2.1
Camera1280 x 720
Battery86 WHr
Power Adapter240W
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home
Dimensions(WxDxH)14.19 x 10.86 x 0.78 inches (360.43 x 275.84 x 19.81mm)
Weight5.25 pounds (2.38kg)
Price (as configured)$2,499

Design of the Alienware m15 R4

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Alienware m15 R4

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Alienware m15 R4

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Available in lunar light (white) or dark side of the moon (black), the Alienware m15 R4 has the same sci-fi-inspired chassis design -- Alienware calls it “Legend” design -- as its immediate predecessor, the Alienware m15 R3. A sloped front lip and a large rear exhaust with a honeycomb grille and RGB light ring make the m15 look like an alien spaceship. The number 15 adorns the back of the lid in a sci-fi font that looks like it comes straight from a warehouse at Area 51. The space theme continues on the inside, where a honeycombed grilled appears above the keyboard, which matches the color of the deck.

Like other Alienware laptops, the m15 R4 is loaded with RGB. The keyboard comes with either 4-zone or per-key lighting, depending on your configuration, and there are also lights around the rear exhaust and on alien heads on the back of the lid and power button. You can customize all the lights and create your own themes that launch along with your favorite games using the preloaded Alienware Command Center app.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

As befits a laptop of its price and stature, the Alienware m15 R4 is made from premium materials with a magnesium alloy shell and clear coat paint. On the inside, Alienware’s own Cryo-Tech cooling technology uses a CPU vapor chamber, 12-phase graphics voltage regulation and 6-phase CPU voltage regulation to improve performance.

At 14.19 x 10.86 x 0.78 inches (360 x 276 x 20mm) and 4.7- 5.5 pounds ,(depending on your configuration; ours was 5.25 pounds), the Alienware m15 R4 is pretty compact for a 15-inch mobile gaming right with all the trimmings. It’s only a little larger than last years’ Razer Blade 15 Advanced Model (14 x 9.3 x 0.7 inches, 4.7 pounds), which had a last-gen RTX 2080 graphics card, and slimmer than the MSI GE66 Raider (14.1 x 10.5 x 0.8 inches, 5.3 pounds). The 17-inch Gigabyte Aorus 17G YC with its RTX 3080 measures 15.9 x 10.8 x 1.0 inches while weighing 5.95 pounds.

The m15 R4 finds room for plenty of ports. On the right side, you’ll find two USB Type-A Gen 3.2 ports, while on the left live a third USB Type-A port, a 2.5 Gbps Killer Ethernet port and a 3.5mm audio jack. On the back side, there’s HDMI 2.1, a Mini DisplayPort, a Thunderbolt 3 port and Alienware’s proprietary graphics amplifier port.

Gaming Performance on the Alienware m15 R4

One of the first laptops with an RTX 30-series inside, the Alienware m15 R4 is powerful enough to do real 4K gaming with the effects turned up. Our review configuration came with the optional 4K OLED display that’s limited to 60 Hz, but it's so damn sharp that to some, the spectacle may make up for the refresh rates.


With the RTX 3070 in our unit and its Core i7-10870H Comet Lake H CPU, we were able to play Cyberpunk 2077 at RTX Ultra in 4K, the highest possible settings, and the visuals were impressive (more on that in the display section below). However, we were limited to around 42 frames per second (fps) during action scenes, which is more than playable but a tad below the 60 fps that would max out the display’s capabilities. Turning down the settings to RTX Medium improved the frame rate by a few fps, as did setting DLSS to prioritize performance

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Alienware m15 R4

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The Alienware m15 R4 returned an impressive 108 fps in Grand Theft Auto V at 1080p resolution with very high settings. That rate was surprisingly a little higher than the Gigabyte Aorus 17G YC laptop (100 fps) with its RTX 3080 GPU and the same Core i7-10870H CPU. The Razer Blade 15 Advanced Model (RTX 2070) and MSI GE66 Raider (RTX 2080) were about 10% slower.

When we tested with the very-demanding Red Dead Redemption 2 at 1080p and medium settings, the story was much the same. The m15 R4 managed a strong 68 fps, while the on-paper more powerful Aorus 17G YC was slightly behind (64 fps), followed by the two laptops with older cards.

On Shadow of the Tomb Raider at 1080p, highest settings, the m15 R4 returned an impressive 77 fps, but this time the Aorus 17G YC pulled ahead (86 fps) and the Razer and MSI laptops were just a few fps behind.

The numbers for Far Cry New Dawn, running at 1080p and ultra settings, weren't the strongest. The m15 R4 managed a buttery smooth 91 fps, which is about on par with the 17G YC’s 92 fps but a little behind the GE66 Raider’s 99 fps. Though the Raider has an older GPU, it has a faster CPU in the Core i9-10980HK.

It’s worth noting that, as you might expect, playing these same four games at 4K dramatically reduced the frame rates to a modest 34 fps for Grand Theft Auto V, 33 fps for Shadow of the Tomb Raider, 56 fps for Far Cry New Dawn and a barely playable 27 fps for Red Dead Redemption 2. To run at higher resolutions, you may want to turn down other settings.

To see how the Alienware m15 R4 and its cooling system perform when you’re playing a demanding game over time, we ran the Metro Exodus benchmark at the RTX preset 15 times, simulating about 30 minutes of gaming. The system averaged 60.2 fps, but performance declined steadily from 63.9 fps at run 1 to 58.9 on the final run. During that time, the GPU clock speed averaged 1.4 GHz, and the CPU clock speed averaged 3.5 GHz. It had average GPU temperature and CPU temperatures of 77 and 88 degrees Celsius, respectively (170.6 degrees Fahrenheit and 190.4 degrees Fahrenheit).

Productivity Performance of Alienware m15 R4

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Alienware m15 R4

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With an Intel Core i7-10870H CPU, along with 16GB of RAM, a speedy 1TB NVMe PCIe SSD and RTX 3070 graphics, our configuration of the Alienware m15 R4 was more than capable of productivity work and heavy multitasking. Even with 35 tabs open and a 4K video playing, the laptop didn’t miss a beat. In fact, we were able to set the webGL Aquarium test to show 4,000 fish during this multitasking workload and still got 60 fps.

The Alienware m15 R4 scored a solid multi-core score of 7,642 on Geekbench 5 , a synthetic benchmark that measures overall performance. The Gigabyte Aorus 17G with the same Core i7-10870H scored a bit higher at 7,895.T he Core i9-10980HK-enabled MSI GE66 Raider understandably fared much better with 8,379, and the Razer Blade 15 Advanced Model with its Core i7-10875H was slightly behind the rest at 7,319. When it came to single-core performance, the numbers were much closer with the Alienware dipping behind all three of its competitors by a few points.

The 1TB PCIe M.2 SSD in our review unit delivered a speedy 1,055 MBps on our file transfer test, which copies 4.97 GBps of mixed media files from and to the storage drive. That rate is quicker than all of the Alienware m15 R4’s direct competitors except the GE66 Raider, which hit an impressive 1,696 MBps.

It took just 7 minutes and 7 seconds for the m15 R4 to transcode a 4K video to 1080p using Handbrake. That time is faster than the Aorus 17G (8:33) and Blade 15 Advanced Model (8:04) but a few seconds behind the GE66 Raider (6:59).

Display on Alienware m15 R4

Alienware m15 R4

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Alienware sells the m15 R4 with two different screen options: a 1080p, 300 Hz screen and a 4K OLED display with vibrant color but a 60 Hz refresh rate. Our review unit came with the OLED screen, and it was just eye-popping to behold. When I watched a 4K nature video, colors, like the red in a parrot’s feathers and the green in a frog’s skin, seemed incredibly vibrant -- as colorful as I’ve seen on any laptop screen.

Images were also bright and sharp for gaming. When I played Cyberpunk 2077, the facial lines on character, such as Jackie, were well-defined, and colors, like the reds and pinks of neon lights, were quite vibrant, though they didn’t pop as much as they did in the video. When I fired up Shadow of the Tomb Raider, water rippling in a lake had a very realistic sheen to it, and the green in trees really stood out.

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According to our colorimeter, the screen reproduces an impressive 149.5% of the DCI-P3 color gamut, which is nearly double that of its competitors without OLED screens, which all covered 79 or 80% of the gamut. OLED screens measure as brighter if only a portion of the pixels are white, so, with a smaller white square, our screen averaged an impressive 461 nits and, with the entire screen white, it was a still-strong 361 nits. Its IPS-based competitors were all stuck at around 300 nits.

Keyboard and TouchPad on Alienware m15 R4

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The Alienware m15 R4’s tenkeyless keyboard is really snappy and great for typing or gaming. Thanks to its generous 1.7mm of travel, I never bottomed out while hitting a strong 99 words per minute (wpm) on the 10 Fast Fingers typing test with a 2.5% error rate. Both were improvements over my typical 95 wpm and 3-5% error rate.

The keyboard features customizable RGB backlighting and comes in two configuration options: one with 4-zone lighting and another with per-key RGB. Either way, you can customize the colors and enable effects using the included Alienware Command Center software.

The 2.4 x 4.1-inch glass touchpad has just the right amount of friction, providing smooth navigation. Using Windows Precision touchpad drivers, it quickly and accurately responded to all our gestures, from pinch-to-zoom to three-finger swipe.

 

Audio on Alienware m15 R4

The front-mounted speakers produce music that’s mostly accurate and relatively loud, if not overly smooth. When I played AC/DC’s guitar and drum-heavy “Back in Black” at full volume, I could hear a clear separation of sound with some instruments coming from one side or the other. However, there was just a slight hint of tinniness on the drums.

A Taste of Honey’s bass-centric “Get Down, Boogie Oogie Oogie” sounded perfectly clean, thanks to its lack of harsh percussion. The top volume was loud enough to fill a small room, but I wouldn’t recommend using the Alienware m15 R4 to DJ a party, unless you attach external speakers.

The speakers are definitely good enough for gaming. When I played Cyberpunk 2077, the thumping music in a club scene felt really immersive, and gunshots were loud and clear.

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The Alienware Command Center software has an audio settings section, which allows you to control the equalizer and contains profiles for a variety of situations, from music to gaming and movie-viewing. I found that the default profile, labeled “Alienware” sounded nearly identical to the Music profile and is probably your best bet overall.

Upgradeability of the Alienware m15 R4

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You can upgrade the storage on the Alienware m15 R4, and the good news is that there are two M.2 2280 slots. To open up the laptop, all I needed to do was to loosen the eight Philip’s head screws on the bottom, two of which come out, and then use a spudger to pry the cover off.

Underneath, there are two M.2 slots under copper heatsinks. If your configuration only comes with one SSD, this means that you have an expansion slot that’s readily available. You just need to remove the heatsink covering the slot, pop it in and you’re good to go. Unfortunately, the RAM is soldered on and can’t be removed.

Battery Life on Alienware m15 R4

Alienware m15 R4

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

We don’t expect long battery life from a gaming laptop this powerful, but you will get a few hours of endurance on the Alienware m15 R4. The laptop lasted 4 hours and 1 minute on our battery test, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. The Razer Blade 15 Advanced Model (5:02) and MSI GE66 Raider (4:57) both lasted about an hour longer but have older-generation graphics cards. The Gigabyte Aorus 17G, however, has a more powerful RTX 3080 and lasted 40 minutes longer than the R4.

Heat on Alienware m15 R4

As with many thin gaming laptops, the skin temperature on the Alienware m15 R4 can get uncomfortably warm. We don’t recommend holding this on your lap with shorts on while you’re gaming.

After running the Metro Exodus benchmark for 15 minutes, the keyboard measured a toasty 53.9 degrees Celsius (129 degrees Fahrenheit), and the bottom center hit 51.7 degrees Celsius (125 degrees Fahrenheit). The back bottom was the warmest spot, reaching a full 57.8 degrees Celsius (136 degrees Fahrenheit), while the touchpad was relatively cool at 36.7 degrees Celsius (98 degrees Fahrenheit). The fan was running loud and nearly constantly during this test.

Webcam on Alienware m15 R4

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The Alienware m15 R4’s 720p resolution webcam captures pictures that were color-accurate but noisy. When I shot a selfie, the red on my hat, shirt and in a set of bins behind me really popped, as did some yellow and blue objects. However, there was a lot of speckling from sunlight coming in through a window.

Like other Alienware laptops, the m15 R4 comes with Tobii eye tracking sensors. The Tobii software comes preloaded, and I found that setting it up was a breeze. It asked me to calibrate it for my eyes. The software then showed a bubble, which moved accurately around the screen to follow my glances.

Software and Warranty on Alienware m15 R4

The Alienware m15 R4’s main piece of first-party software is the Alienware Command Center, which lets you  control the RGB lighting, set the power policy, overclock the CPU and GPU (if your CPU allows it) and change the audio profile. 

There’s also the Killer Control Center app ,which lets you control the Killer Wi-Fi card that can be set to prioritize gaming internet traffic over other background tasks, such as Windows updates, that might slow down your play. I really like the Wi-Fi analyzer screen on this tool because it showed the relative strength of all the networks in the area, even several of my neighbors’ routers. 

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Like every other Windows laptop, the R4 comes with  a little bloatware: two free-to-play games, a trial of Microsoft Office, a link to download Photoshop Express and Hulu.

Dell backs the Alienware m15 R4 with a standard 1-year warranty, which you can extend if you pay extra.

Configurations of Alienware m15 R4

Like many other Alienware laptops, Dell sells the m15 R4 with a variety of configuration options. You can get it with a Core i7-10870H or Core i9-10980HK CPU, an RTX 3070 or 3080 GPU, up to 32GB of RAM and up to 4TB of SSD storage in RAID 0. The display comes in either 1080p, 300 Hz or 4K, OLED 60 Hz varieties, and the chassis is either Lunar Light (white) or Dark Side of the Moon (black).

The system starts at $2,149 and comes standard with the Core i7 CPU, RTX 3070 graphics, the 1080p screen, 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. 

Our review configuration of the Alienware m15 R4 is $2,499. For that price, you get the laptop with an Intel Core i7-10870H CPU, RTX 3070 GPU, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, a 1TB M.2 SSD and the 4K, OLED display panel. 

Prices for other configurations were not available at press time.

Bottom Line

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The Alienware m15 R4 offers plenty of performance in a sci-fi-styled chassis that’s relatively thin and light for its class. The snappy, deep keyboard feels absolutely fantastic for typing or gaming ,and the optional 4K, OLED panel is one of the most vibrant we’ve seen.

There are some trade-offs here: the laptop skin temperature can get pretty warm, the battery life is mediocre and the 4K display tops out at 60 Hz. On the other hand, getting a AAA game running at 4K and more than 60 fps at high settings can be a challenge, even with RTX 30-series graphics cards. If smooth frame rates are more important than sharp resolution and eye-popping color, the 1080p, 300 Hz panel might be more your speed.

Whatever your display preference, the Alienware m15 R4 is an impressive gaming laptop that’s worth its premium price.

  • DivineJustice
    "With the RTX 3070 in our unit and its Core i7-10870H Comet Lake H CPU, we were able to play Cyberpunk 2077 at RTX Ultra in 4K, the highest possible settings, and the visuals were impressive (more on that in the display section below). However, we were limited to around 42 frames per second (fps) "

    In Tom's hardware very own cyberpunk benchmarks the desktop 3070 barely reaches 47 fps with 4k on medium settings without ray tracing enabled.

    https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/Z7UMzmP3QTVZdroeadHvv3.png
    How is it that the laptop 3070 can reach 42 fps with everything maxed out?

    The desktop 3080 itself reaches only 49fps with 4k max RTX with DLSS on:
    https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/cdfRncbJt2xdVxf2iVHjxi.png
    Only a 7fps difference between the laptop 3070 and a desktop 3080?Is there some big mistake here?
    Reply