The Alienware M15 R6 shares its design with its predecessor but essentially adds 11th Gen Core i7 and GeForce RTX 3080 GPU power, bringing improved gaming performance to this standout gaming laptop.
- Sleek, attractive design
- Comfortable keyboard
- Solid overall and gaming performance
- Pretty display with a high 240Hz refresh rate
- Uses a middle-grade version of the RTX 3080
- Plastic touchpad
In addition to an interplanetary reputation of producing large, powerful gaming desktops, Alienware now offers more portable machines than can still get the job done for enthusiasts and ‘hardcore’ gamers. The Alienware m15 is the Dell subsidiary’s 15-inch gaming laptop, and the latest Alienware m15 R6 is the most updated version.
It features the same head-turning look as the m15 R5, but our configuration ramps up the memory to 32GB, refreshes the processor to Intel’s 11th generation Core i7 processor and offers the power of an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 at a very fair price.
With this feature set, there’s no doubt it’s a high-end laptop, but its value is about the best we’ve seen among systems costing slightly more than two grand. The new Tiger Lake processor is more efficient than the Comet Lake predecessor Alienware m15 R4, but Dell applies a pause in the R6’s 3D performance making the R4 better value – more on that below.
As a whole, this is a fantastic high-end package at a very fair price, with a solid supporting feature set like a 165Hz display and long battery life. It doesn’t quite earn an Editors’ Choice award among gaming laptops. We like both the Razer Blade 14 and the GIGABYTE AORUS 15P YD, somewhat south and north of the Alienware’s price. But it’s one of the best options between the two.
Dell’s Alienware gaming laptops used to be bulky behemoths, we’re glad they have undergone a thorough visual and design evolution over the last few years. We’ve seen some maturation in terms of design and power, moving away from the gaudy towards a look that gamers who live by RGBs will find easier to appreciate.
The Alienware m15 R6, just like its predecessor, the Alienware m15 R5 tends to live in the middle. There’re no colored keyboard keys, and from the inside, it has the character of a stylish ultraportable were it not for the hexagonal heat grille and light-up alien head power button.
On the back, there’s the great big exhaust, but it’s only eye-catching if you leave the LED ring around the perimeter switched on. Interestingly, you can adjust its color and intensity.
The entire body is crafted from a combination of aluminum, magnesium alloy, and plastic. You’ll have to trust your hands on the design part, but we believe the lid is made from aluminum the underside magnesium alloy, and the keyboard plate plastic. You could accuse Alienware of cutting corners in making the part you touch the most out of plastics, and sure, using plastic for the most intricately carved part will reduce manufacturing costs.
Still, the soft-touch finish feels good and the plastic keyboard plate is the least heat-conductive part of the base. Makes lots of sense, right? Elsewhere, the Alienware m15 R6 lacks the kin of keyboard rigidity we’d hope for in a laptop this expensive, with some flex on the keyboard deck. You simply don’t see such a design flaw in the Lenovo Legion 5, or even in the Alienware m15 R4.
Build quality is great, but not intricate like some of the chunkier old Alienware models.
Our review model of the Alienware m15 R6 (AWM15R6-7729BLK-PUS) features a QHD LCD screen, but it’s also available with a 1080presolution panel, something a laptop this powerful deserves really.
A few years ago, we considered ultra-high resolution gaming laptops to be a bit pointless, but as this kit has an RTX 3080 it’s pretty punchy. We hope that soon Alienware’s high-end gaming laptops will start with perhaps a 1440p resolution screen.
Even at 1080p resolution, this is no ordinary laptop screen, though. It packs strong color reproduction and the refresh rate has been pushed from 165Hz in previous models to 240Hz (a 360Hz refresh model is also available). This is fast enough, allowing for proper displaying of frame rates so high they must be beyond the bounds of human perception.
The R6’s maximum brightness is great, and like every other gaming laptop, the screen is matte rather than glossy. Again, the M15 R6’s upsell QHD option is highly attractive. If the lower-spec 1080p were sharper, then the upgrade would not be nearly as appealing.
Keyboard and Touchpad
As ever, we approach gaming laptops looking for the best possible performance, but in a rather unique twist, the Alienware M15 R6 baits us with a luxurious keyboard. It delivers deep key action with a refined mix of springiness and super clonk at the actuation point.
The result is a gaming laptop with a keyboard that feels responsive and fast at the same time. This is one of the most satisfying keyboards we’ve seen on a gaming laptop so far, better than those of almost all rivals. That said, you don’t notice the bowing effect we mentioned earlier during use unless you type with some degree of rage.
In a surprising twist, however, this laptop doesn’t have per-key lighting. Instead, there are four zones, spreading horizontally across its keys. This limits the kind of ‘wow’ effects you can create, but each of the zones can be animated, and set to any color of the rainbow, via the Alienware Command Centre app.
Below the keyboard is the touchpad, much less interesting than the keyboard. Just the classic-old school gaming laptop pad that seems crammed as if it isn’t going to be used that often. Just don’t expect it to be as intuitive as what you have on the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4.
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 16GB GDDR6 with ROG Boost
- Latest 5th Gen AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX Processor (16M Cache, up to 4.5 GHz)
- 165Hz 3ms 15.6” Quad HD 2560 x 1440 IPS-Type Display
The Alienware M15 R6 is a bad-ass gaming and productivity laptop, with enough raw power to run modern games at the highest settings. However, there’s one crucial part you need to consider that we’ll get to in a moment.
We’re reviewing the high-end spec of this laptop. It packs an Intel Core i7-11800H CPU, 32GB of RAM, and 1TB SSD storage. It has double the RAM and storage of midrange gaming laptops commonly available online, but in most use cases the performance will be similar.
The Nvidia RTX 3080 (8GB DDR6) is the main highlight here, though. It’s so powerful, even in its mobile version, many recent games will play with aplomb even at max settings – in part thanks to the QHD display resolution. The Witcher 3 pushes at 101fps with everything maxed out. You can as well play Control with ray-tracing enabled, all the eye candy turned on, and you won’t even need to use the performance-enhancing DLSS to hit the best frame rates.
That said, the Alienware M15 R6’s RTX 3080 seems to be hard-capped at 125W power consumption including 10 watts of dynamic boost. That right there is the issue we were talking about. Considering that some RTX 080 laptops are configured with up to 165 watts, this seems quite low, especially for an Alienware laptop. Even the R6 with the RTX 3070 options stacks up better with 130 watts.
However, in many games, the difference in actual frame rate may not be all that massive. Still, the lower TGP remains a real ego bruiser for a gaming laptop this powerful, just keep in mind that some rival gaming laptops of similar size and weight may have a performance advantage.
For instance, the Lenovo Legion 7 and Asus ROG Strix Scar deliver better scores on some games, and the 17-inch Alienware M17 R4 also uses the most powerful laptop version of the card available.
Beyond that, the M15 R6’s cooling system is excellent – it brings cold air in from the top, via the top-left part of the keyboard, then blows hot air out of the grille at the back. Heat isn’t spread across the keyboard fairly fast as you play, making the entire laptop feel a bit warm.
The Alienware M15 R6 we’re reviewing has a pretty large battery, but you may realize it drains fast unless you put the laptop in the right mode. Just streaming YouTube at middling brightness will see it drain from full charge to zero in just under 3 hours 41 minutes.
However, adjusting the refresh rate to 60Hz and using the Nvidia Control Panel tool to set the integrated graphics into the main processor as the primary GPU improves the battery affair, with the same streaming lasting over 7 hours and 9 minutes. Fingers crossed; you shouldn’t have to do all the tweaks as it seems the Nvidia GPU was draining the battery.
Elsewhere, the Alienware M15 R6 doesn’t offer the best when it comes to connectivity, but there’s probably enough to satisfy most of its target audience. All you’re getting is an Ethernet port on the left side next to a headphone jack. Two more USBs sit on the other side.
The rest of the connectors are spread across the back: a USB-C with Thunderbolt, an additional USB, and a classic HDMI. This is an HDMI 2.1 connector, a pretty good thing.
The Alienware M15 R6 with the Tiger Lake update is mainly more efficient and frugal, but that doesn’t make it necessarily faster. While Alienware increased the CPU performance on its latest offering, the 3D performance has been throttled due to the lower TGP.
This laptop uses a middle-weight version of the Nvidia RTX 3080 graphics card, while most of its rivals and siblings including the Alienware M15 R4 have an RTX 3080 version that can suck up more juice when you let the fans spin faster. And it doesn’t have some of the niceties of the top Razer and Lenovo models. Also, you don’t get a particularly great touchpad, you’ll need an external gaming mouse.
However, the Alienware M15 R6 will run all of today’s games at max settings beautifully, and it has a great keyboard, which should never be taken for granted. It would shine even brighter if the underlying plate were a little sturdier, but this keyboard is excellent for both work and play.
In terms of competitors, the GIGABYTE AORUS 15P YD produces a marginally higher gaming performance while remaining cooler, but it also has higher consumption. The ASUS ROG Strix Scar 15 (2021) also offers significantly higher 3D performance and also stays cooler. In addition, it offers longer battery life and is super-portable if you need something powerful that you can carry around.
But if you’re a fan of Alienware and Intel, the Alienware m15 R6 in its stylish glory is a great choice.
Last update on 2022-06-23 at 21:31 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API