If you want proof AMD’s Ryzen 5000 laptop CPU has really made it, look no further than the new Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5, which, as its name tells you, will feature an AMD CPU—for the first time in history. Announced Wednesday and due to ship April 20 in the United States, the new Alienware m15 will pack either an 8-core Ryzen 7 5800H or an 8-core Ryzen 9 5900HX, with a starting price of $1,793.98. (If that's too rich for you, check out the budget-friendlier Dell G15 gaming laptops below, also announced Wednesday.
Alienware m15 and Ryzen 5000: Hell freezes over
Having covered Alienware gaming laptops since the very beginning, we can tell you AMD CPUs have never made it this far. Sure, you can say Asus, MSI, Gigabyte and other gaming laptops would like to have a word, but in the “making it” world, getting an AMD Ryzen into such a high-profile brand as Alienware is a crowning achievement for AMD’s Zen 3 cores and its award-winning Ryzen 5000 chips.
Alienware, after all, is backed by mega-PC company Dell, and it's one of the global brands synonymous with ‘gaming’ for mainstream audiences. Who hasn't seen its computers in movie and television show product placements over the years?
Those hoping for an all-AMD Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5 won’t get their wish today, unfortunately, as the laptop will offer either an Nivida GeForce RTX 3060 Laptop or GeForce RTX 3070 Laptop. Both GPUs are rated at a total graphics power (TGP) of 115 watts. With their support for Nvidia’s Dynamic Boost 2.0 technology, you can add another 10 watts to the graphics power for those times when the CPU doesn’t need it. Both TGP ratings would put the laptop at the top of the performance scale. The bottom is as low as 80 watts for the RTX 3070, and 60 watts for the RTX 3060.
Alienware said it has improved the cooling over the previous model. With its Cryo-Tech cooling, thicker liquid-crystal polymer fans, and heat pipes that can balance the load between the CPU and GPU, the company promises about 12 percent more airflow.
Those who have bitterly complained about Alienware's soldered-in main memory on previous versions will be happy to know that the R5 will feature a pair of SO-DIMM slots that are user-upgradeable with up to DDR4/3200 RAM.
Screen options for the 15.6-inch laptop will vary from a 165Hz, 1080p panel with a 3ms response rate, to a 1080p panel with 1ms response, G-Sync, and Nvidia’s Advanced Optimus. The last option is a 16:9 panel at a 240Hz refresh rate, 1ms response and G-Sync with Nvidia Advanced Optimus. Both of the 1080p panels are rated at 300 nits of maximum brightness, while the 1440p panel is rated at 400 nits.
Advanced Optimus is a technology that lets you switch seamlessly between using the power-saving MS Hybrid Graphics mode and the discrete graphics' ability to support Nvidia’s G-Sync. Up to now, most gaming laptops have chosen one or the other. More recently we’ve seen laptops that let you switch between them manually, which required a reboot of the machine. With Advanced Optimus, you get the best of both worlds, automatically. The new Alienware m15 R5 will actually be the first laptop with a Ryzen CPU to support the feature.
The m15 measures about 14 inches by 10 inches, with a thickness tapering from 0.9 inches to 0.5 inches. Depending on the configuration, the laptop will weigh from 5.3 pounds to 5.9 pounds. Part of that weight goes to the husky 86Wh battery, and that's not even counting the 240-watt power brick, which probably weighs another couple of pounds on its own.
The Alienware m15 will offer two keyboard options. If you like quieter keyboards, choose the four-zone, 1.7mm-travel rubber dome switches. If you like to live out loud, go for per-key RGB low-profile Cherry MX switches with n-key rollover.
Bye bye, Amplifier?
Gaming laptops usually have plenty of room for ports, and the Alienware m15 lays in a good supply: 2.5-gigabit ethernet, combo headset jack, three USB-A ports, a full-size HDMI 2.1 jack, and USB Superspeed 10Gbps Type-C. There's one thing missing from that list, though: the Alienware Amplifier Port. Alienware’s proprietary Amplifier allowed Alienware laptops made in the last few years to use external graphics. Many thought Alienware would drop the Amplifier port in favor of Thunderbolt 3’s adoption of eGPU, but the company supported both in its laptops. Company officials, in fact, pointed to the Amplifiers greater bandwidth as a big advantage over Thunderbolt 3. With the Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5, support for eGPU actually goes to zero, because since it doesn’t include a Thunderbolt 3 port either.
You’d think the Amplifier port would be a standout feature for the Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5, but that runs smack into one of the few weaknesses of the Ryzen CPUs: Lack of PCIe bandwidth. On Intel-based H-class CPUs, Alienware would split half of the x16 lanes to support the Amplifier. Like the Ryzen 4000, the Ryzen 5000 is limited to x8 lanes of PCIe Gen 3.0 support. Alienware probably can’t use the same Amplifier design without heavy reengineering.
Dell G15 Ryzen Edition: Budget Ryzen gaming laptop
The new Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5 sounds nice, but that starting price obviously doesn’t help those on more of a budget. That's where Dell’s G15 gaming laptops come in, offering both a Ryzen Edition or an Intel-based version. Also announced Wednesday, the Dell G15 with Intel will go on sale April 13, starting at $900. The Ryzen Edition will hit May 4 with the same starting price.
The Intel G15 features either a 10th-gen quad-core Core i5-10200H or 10th-gen 6-core Core i7-10870H, paired with a GeForce GTX 1650 or GeForce RTX 3060.
The Ryzen Edition offers either a 6-core Ryzen 5 5600H, or 8-core Ryzen 7 5800H. The only GPU option listed is a GeForce RTX 3060.
Memory capacity for both range from 8GB to 32GB. The Intel version tops out at DDR4/2933, however, while the Ryzen version will clock RAM up to DDR4/3200.
The G15 laptops vary slightly with port selections. Both feature three USB-A ports, a full-size HDMI port, and Gigabit ethernet. The GeForce GTX 1650 Intel version and the Ryzen Edition also feature USB-C ports, but Dell lists DisplayPort support only for the Ryzen version. The Intel version with the GeForce RTX 3060 turns the USB-C port into a Thunderbolt 4 port.
Both Intel and AMD laptops feature a smaller 56-Watt-hour battery, but a higher-capacity 86-Watt-hour battery is an option. The display options appear to be the same for both versions: 1080p, 16:9 panels rated at either 120Hz refresh rate with 250 nits' maximum brightness, or 165Hz at 300 nits' maximum brightness.