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REVIEW: Alienware M15 R6 Gaming Laptop – Brains, Brawn, And Beauty

I’ve reviewed a few gaming laptops for SmartHouse, from big names like MSI and Lenovo – but I’ve never touched an Alienware machine before, which was something I’d been hoping to address.

When the top-end Alienware M15 R6 finally landed on my desk, with its 11th-gen Intel processor and Nvidia RTX 30-series GPU, it was clear that the iconic gaming brand was making some big promises… and when I sat down to play it, I quickly found out that it followed through on just about every one.

Design and Features

First things first: the build quality is solid, even if it is a mostly plastic chassis. Alienware has a distinctive aesthetic for its machines in its “Legend” industrial design language – you can always tell when you’re looking at one, and not just by the logo – and it comes through here as well, with the “Tron” lighting oval around the rear ports giving it a neat sci-fi feel.

The keyboard is responsive and comfortable to type on, with RGB lighting zones available along with per-game lighting configurations. Alienware says it can handle around 16.8 million distinct colours, which is certainly more colours than I’ll ever need on a keyboard, but it’s good to have the options available.

The trackpad is a bit on the dinky side, though, and I wouldn’t want to use it for an extended period. Fortunately, not a lot of people game using the trackpad (and hey, if you do, more power to you, I guess).

A heads up for anyone who isn’t familiar with Alienware: the power button can be a little hard to find here. It’s the little glowy alien head just above the keyboard. A neat aesthetic feature, and it is marked in the quick start guide that comes in the box, but they might want to consider labelling it on the machine itself as well.

You won’t be lacking for connectivity on the M15 R6: three USB-A 3.2 ports; one USB-C 3.2 port with Thunderbolt and mini-Display Port capability; HDMI 2.1 output; RJ45 Ethernet; and a 3.5mm combination headset jack mean you’re generally covered for anything you want to plug into it. It also comes with Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth built-in for wireless connections.

Display and Sound

The laptop I reviewed came with a 15.6-inch Nvidia G-Sync compatible FHD 360Hz IPS display, and there is no other way to describe it but “stunning”. The colours are bright, with a real pop to them, and when combined with the lightning-fast refresh rate, really brought out the beauty in every title I played.

The rain-soaked, neon-slicked streets of Cyberpunk 2077’s Night City looked breathtaking, while the wilds of Eorzea and Norvrandt in Final Fantasy XIV were more vibrant than I’d ever seen them, even on my normal PC’s dedicated gaming monitor. Yes, it’s only 1080p, and yes, more manufacturers need to start seriously looking at 1440p gaming displays, but that 360Hz speed – which comes standard with the RTX 3080 configuration on the M15 R6 – makes it well worth the lower resolution.

Alas, as is so often the case with gaming laptops, I have to take points off for the speakers. Bottom-firing (aargh!), 2W apiece, and with thin, tinny sound, they really aren’t up to scratch. What’s frustrating is that gaming laptops can have good speakers! I’ve seen them on the MSI GE76 Raider Dragon Edition Tiamat – nicely sized, decently powerful, and most importantly, top-firing.

It’s a real shame when the sound gets skimped on like this. I know most gamers will be using headsets anyway, but that’s no excuse to not put in a good pair of top-firing speakers so we have the option to use them if we want them.

Performance

The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 graphics, combined with the 11th-generation Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB of 3200MHz DDR4 RAM, really delivered on this machine – I don’t know if I’ve had a smoother gaming experience. Cyberpunk 2077 ran consistently above 50 frames per second on ultra settings with all the ray tracing bells and whistles, even pushing 70 at times. I never felt as though the hardware was getting in the way.

Control, as well, performed admirably at native 1080p resolution and maximum graphical settings, averaging a respectable and very playable 50-60 fps. This jumps out to 90-100 fps with DLSS enabled, which as always, doesn’t hurt the graphical fidelity all too much (though sometimes features like in-game signs will appear as blurry blobs before the AI upscaling recognises the text and it pops in).

In less taxing games – for example, Final Fantasy XIV – the performance was jaw-droppingly smooth. At frame rates in the 100-200 range, even on the highest settings, the game ran like buttered silk, and I was able to really see just what a 360Hz display can do when it puts its mind to it.

A word of warning, however: this laptop can get pretty toasty after extended gaming sessions, and that unfortunately means the super loud cooling system will kick in quickly. Combined with the tinny sound from the speakers that we mentioned earlier, this can make it hard to hear what’s happening. The fans even keep going for some time after you close the lid. Best to keep this one on a desk rather than on your lap.

Verdict

While the price tag of $4499 for the tricked-out, top-end model is certainly an eye-popping one, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to say that the Alienware M15 R6 is worth every cent. This is a fantastic gaming rig with a gorgeous display backed by real grunt in the silicon, and even my few little bugbears – the loud fans, the heat, the disappointing speakers – aren’t enough to detract from how impressed I was overall.

If you want a powerful, cool-looking, top-of-the-line notebook that can handle any game you throw at it, then you will absolutely not go astray with this one.

Pros

· Spectacular performance

· Top-end 11th-gen Intel Core processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 graphics

· Gorgeous 360Hz FHD IPS display

· Sleek, futuristic, iconic Alienware design

Cons

· Runs hot

· Loud cooling system

· Lacklustre sound

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