I have reviewed a few gaming laptops before, but never an Alienware. But I should have! Dell’s Alienware is one of the best gaming laptop brand, if not the best. Designed for high end gaming, the Alienware series pack powerful hardware, including the best mobile GPUs from both AMD and NVIDIA, Latest powerful processor from both Intel and AMD, and IPS screen. Also, they are highly customizable. Anyway, today I am here with their latest model, Alienware 15 Review. And trust me; this one is not an exception.
Basically Alienware 15 is a gaming laptop with a 15.6 inch Ultra HD IPS display, an NVIDIA GTX 970M dedicated GPU, an Intel Core i7 6700 HQ processor, 8 GB of DDR4 RAM, and 1.5 TB of storage split between a hard drive and solid state. It is a very powerful machine and you can tell by just taking a glance at the specs. In our review, I tested this beast from every possible aspect. So, in case you are planning to get a gaming laptop, read our review and decide, if this $1200 beast worth your money!
- Stylish design
- Excellent performance
- Amazing screen
- Good keyboard
- Decent price/performance ratio
- Sizable storage
- Extensively customizable
- Relatively heavy and thick
- Inadequate cooling system
- No optical drive
- No touchscreen
- Brand: Dell
- Model: Alienware 15 R2
- Processor: Intel Core i7 6700HQ
- Chipset: Skylake
- Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M
- Memory: 8 GB Dual Channel DDR4 at 2133MHz
- Storage: 512GB PCIe SSD + 1TB HDD
- Optical Drive: none
- Display Type: IPS Anti Glare Display
- Screen Size: 15.6 inch
- Screen Resolution: 1920 x 1080
- Audio: Klipsch stereo speakers
- Keyboard: Chiclet style keyboard
- Navigation: 3.9 x 2.1 inches touchpad
- Camera: 2 MP webcam
- Video Ports: HDMI, mini Display port and Graphics Amplifier port
- Audio Ports: Separate headphone and microphone jack
- Total USB Ports: 4
- USB 2.0 Ports: 0
- USB 3.0 Ports: 4
- Media Ports: SD reader
- Wi-Fi: Killer 1535 802.11ac 2×2
- Bluetooth: 4.1
- Ethernet: Killer E2400 Gigabit Ethernet IPV6
- Battery: 8 cell Lithium Ion 92 Wh
- Battery Life: 7 hours
- Width: 15.19 inches
- Depth: 10.64 inches
- Height: 0.94 inches
- Weight: 7.07 pounds / 3.2 kg
- Operating System: Windows 10 Home 64 bit
- Warranty: 1 Year Premium Support
- Base Price: $1199
- Price of the Reviewed Model: $1849
Build and Design
The Alienware 15 R2 2015 edition has the same Alienware trademark style, just like its predecessors. But if you compare it with the previous models, even with its 7 pound weight and 1 inch thickness, it is slimmer and yeah, lighter! But don’t be too positive, as it’s still heavier and thicker than the average 15.6 inch laptop. But I am still surprised with the improvement.
Now, speaking of build, The Alienware 15 has a good and sturdy one. Most part of the laptop is made of matte black plastic and carbon fiber with aluminum coating. You can see the metallic coating around the bottom edges of the chassis and the entire back of the display, along with the lid. The display is impressively rigid and resists most flex or twisting unless you apply an abusive amount of pressure while trying to twist the display. Moreover the display is well protected with a strong lid. Overall, the whole chassis is quite solid and should hold up to standard and rough use (and yeah, little abuse surely won’t be able to harm it).
The bottom of the Alienware 15 is raised a few millimeters by rubber mounts to allow for airflow to the large section of vents along the bottom panel. This cooling setup is quite effective for gaming on a desk, but less so when the laptop is constricted by fabric such as when the laptop is placed on a bed or couch. The bottom area also features a removable panel that provides access to the replaceable drives inside, without voiding the warranty!
The keyboard of the Alienware 15 remained somewhat the same. If you have seen any previous recent Alienware gaming laptop, you can easily relate the keyboard. Anyway, to specify the details, the keys are comfortably large with good travel from the rubber dome key caps, making typing a breeze and responsive enough for gaming. The layout is also excellent, with large space bar, shift and control keys, as well as full-sized arrow keys. Along with these, four zones of AlienFX backlighting are surely a bonus!
However, they had to remove the dedicated number keys in order to provide macro keys, and that changed the layout of the board. So, you may need to spend some extra time getting used to the layout of this keyboard if you’re used to having a dedicated number pad. Still, the keyboard felt incredibly nice, once I became comfortable with the layout.
As for the touchpad, they were always somewhat decent in Alienware laptops. With acceptable gesture recognition, and two large physical mouse buttons and sufficient space, the touchpad of the Alienware 15 is good as well. However, if you are planning to game on the laptop, I’d still recommend using a standalone mouse for as a touchpad just is not meant for it.
To be honest, the connectivity feature of the Alienware 15 is rich. From HDMI port to Graphics Amplifier port, it has almost all necessary connectivity features.
On the left, there are two USB 3.0 ports, separate headphone and microphone jacks along with the power connector.
While on right, there are 2 more USB 3.0 ports, Ethernet port, and the SD card reader slot.
Surprisingly, there are ports on the back as well. On the back, there are HDMI and mini Display port, and the port for the Alienware Graphics Amplifier.
The display of the Alienware 15 is one of the nicest I’ve seen on a laptop. Not only it is great for gaming and consuming media in general, but it also sports excellent quality in many areas. Basically, it is a 15.6-inch display having FHD (1920 x 1080) resolution and IPS panel featuring matte anti-glare finish and a maximum brightness rating of 220 nits. It’s pretty good, and you can tell it just by looking at the specs.
Considering that even high-end GPUs like the GeForce GTX 970M find their limits with 3K and 4K resolutions, an FHD screen with 1920×1080 pixels is still ideal for gamers. Also, thanks to the matte finish, it really does eliminate annoying reflections. The viewing angles of the display are nothing short of first rate. But the contrast is among the best we’ve seen on any laptop with incredibly deep black levels. In our test, the performance was even higher than the advertised 220 nits.
As expected, the color quality of the IPS display was excellent, with good levels of vibrancy without being overly saturated, as well as near perfect color tone. Overall, it is an excellent laptop for movies, images, and of course gaming!
The Alienware 15 comes with 2 front facing Klipsch stereo, enhanced by Creative’s Sound Core3D-EX DSP and Sound Blaster Pro Studio audio software. With right customization, you can get a near perfect audio experience. Overall, the speakers are good, with a wide range from lows to highs with rich, distortion-free sound at low and mid-range volume levels. But at high volume level, there will be a significant amount of distortion and the bass will start to fall. To be honest, I expected better speakers given the size and weight of this notebook. There is no dedicated subwoofer and the stereo speakers are quite small. So, if you want to game with quality sound, you will have to depend on external speakers or headphone.
The CPU of the Alienware 15 is Intel Core i7 6700 HQ, a quad-core, eight-thread 65W SKU clocked at 3.4 GHz with a Turbo Boost frequency of 4 GHz. It is from the Intel 14nm Skylake line, which happens to be Intel’s latest architecture and sports DDR4 memory controller.
On the graphics side, the Alienware 15 powered by Nvidia’s GTX 970M, one of the fastest mobile GPU going around. This GPU is based on the same 28nm Maxwell GM204 core as the desktop class GTX 980 and GTX 970, with 5.2 billion transistors. However, it is slightly less powerful than the desktop version.
Other components include 8 GB of dual-channel DDR4 2133 MHz RAM, a 512 GB PCIe SSD , a 1 TB 7200 RPM hard drive, and Killer E2400 networking that includes Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 4.1.
While this powerful CPU doesn’t improve system performance hugely on mainstream tasks such as web browsing and document editing, as illustrated in PCMark results, there is a significant improvement in other areas, where a powerful processor is really needed.
On the other hand the GTX 970 is powerful enough to run any available game at native resolution and decent FPS. I really enjoyed playing Fallout 4 and Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain on the laptop without having any lag or FPS drop.
You probably noticed that gaming laptops always struggles with keeping the balance between battery life and performance. Well, with 8 cell 92 Wh Lithium Ion battery, the Alienware 15 doesn’t struggle much! I was able to get a maximum of 6 hours and 35 minutes from the laptop when I tested it under medium pressure. And for a gaming laptop, it clearly is not bad! But if you want an intense gaming on battery, you will be having a hard time, as this laptop will dry out roughly at 85-90 minutes.
Heat and Noise
As with most gaming laptops, the Alienware 15 suffers from a noisy fan once the CPU and the GPU start to heat up during gaming. If you want a portable gaming device, you have to live with the noise! On the other hand, the ventilation system of the laptop is overall decent and it runs cool most of the time. Even under heavy pressure.
To be honest, the Alienware 15 is not a thin, light, or portable laptop. It’s not something you’ll want to move very often. It’s not going to replace your work laptop that you take on the train every day. This is a heavy and powerful laptop, designed to sit on your desk for extended gaming sessions, with the option of portability for LAN parties and other gaming events. So, if you are looking for an elegant 15 inch gaming laptop, and are not too concerned about portability, then the Alienware 15 is the best choice for you.