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Alienware m17 R5 AMD Advantage review

BY:

Sangram Rana

It is unclear whether or not AMD should get the credit for the Alienware m17 R5 AMD Advantage. Alienware did a great job with the design and thermals, and AMD made a performance package that doesn’t miss a beat. If you can afford it, this is the best laptop for gamers.

ALIENWARE M17 R5: TWO-MINUTE REVIEW

Is AMD Advantage, which the red team calls machines that use Ryzen/Radeon instead of mixing and matching with Intel and Nvidia, really an advantage? This Alienware M17 review has to start with that question, but we won’t make you wait: the answer is yes.

Even though AMD is the main focus, this is still a great gaming laptop. It is as smooth as butter with grease on a Teflon plate. If its numbers weren’t so good, it would be easy to blame that feeling on its crazy 120Hz 4K screen. As is, the all-AMD m17 can play your games just as well as any other.

Given the money you’ll spend to get it going, it’s only fair. At $2,350 (about £1,950 or AU$ 3,410), the price is about the same as a fully-equipped gaming desktop PC with a more straightforward path for upgrades. You can change the RAM and SSDs here—a bit more storage wouldn’t hurt—and we don’t think the processing package will feel old soon, but this is always something to think about when spending a lot of money on a high-end laptop.

And this laptop is top-notch. The chassis is a work of art. It is made of intense enough materials and has just the right amount of RGB lighting. It also has some brilliant design touches. The back end sticks out to eliminate exhaust gases, make room for ports, and push the screen in front of you. The ports that make it onto the sides of the m17 are the ones you need for peripherals and are placed right where you’ll want to attach them.

The keyboard is good, but the review unit needs the upgraded mechanical version. Instead, it had Dell’s membrane board. It’s good for gaming and doesn’t have a number pad, which is good because it gives the keyboard room to breathe and your fingers room to move. The trackpad works fine, even though it is slightly off-center. The battery even lasts longer than you might think.

And none of that matters because this is a big, expensive gaming machine. This Alienware m17 AMD Advantage review shows that AMD has made up any ground it may have lost to Nvidia in the graphics department. When you push it, it does make noise, but the results speak for themselves.

ALIENWARE M17 R5: PRICE AND AVAILABILITY

At the time of writing, you’re out of luck if you’re not in the US. Dell doesn’t sell the Alienware m17 R5 AMD Advantage spin anywhere else. Our review model’s specs will cost you a not insignificant $2,350 (around £1,950/AU$3,410). However, if you’d instead step down from a Ryzen 9 to a Ryzen 7 6800H (and take the forced downgrade to an RX6700M GPU), you can cut $300 off that price.

Switching to a 1080p screen (with a friendly 360Hz refresh rate) and settling for 16GB RAM and 512GB storage can bring the price down to a more reasonable $1,700. Getting rid of the AMD Advantage trick and lowering the specs to an RTX 3050 Ti and 165Hz FHD screen brings the price down to $1,250, which is close to half of what our full-throttle example costs.

If you live in other places, you can still get the Alienware m17 R5 in many different specs. You can find exactly how much each will cost on Dell’s website, but AMD graphics aren’t yet available.

ALIENWARE M17 R5: DESIGN

  • Gorgeous, well-laid-out chassis
  • Clever cooling paths and port placement
  • Heavy – but worth it

Alienware’s big-boy laptop shell, which can also be found on the x17 line in a slightly slimmer form, may still be the sexiest laptop design on the market. That’s a personal opinion based on the idea that you like curves, subtle hexagons, and a rounded back end more than the sharp gamer angles of some competitors. But we stand by our opinion that it’s beautiful.

Alienware’s big-boy laptop shell, which can also be found on the x17 line in a slightly slimmer form, may still be the sexiest laptop design on the market. That’s a personal opinion based on the idea that you like curves, subtle hexagons, and a rounded back end more than the sharp gamer angles of some competitors. But we stand by our opinion that it’s beautiful.

The design skills of Dell don’t end there. The company’s favourite central screen hinge is here, and it’s strong and the perfect way to hide what might be a big chin if it weren’t for it. A scalloped base makes it look like the inside dimensions aren’t as big as they are. The only side ports are a pair of Type-A sockets on the right and 2.5G Ethernet and audio on the left. This means that left-handed people must run a mouse cable around the back. The setup feels smooth and comfortable if you play games at a desk.

You might be tempted to leave this on a flat surface because it’s heavier on laptops at 7.3 lbs/3.3kg. However, it’s not as severe as its bulk might suggest, nor is it as big as Alienware might have made it because of its hardcore internals.

It can be improved in some ways. There are two PCI-E SSD slots under the bottom panel, and the DDR5 is provided by two SODIMMs instead of a soldered-on package. You could also switch out the wireless card if you wanted the extra bandwidth of Wi-Fi 6E. This has the 2×2 MediaTek MT7921, which only goes up to Wi-Fi 6.

ALIENWARE M17 R5: PERFORMANCE

  • Slick gaming performance
  • Great feeling keyboard
  • Automatic APU/GPU switching is cool

For the price, you’d expect the Alienware m17 to have a performance that will blow your mind, and it does. Our review model, which has AMD’s crazy octa-core Ryzen 9 6900HX CPU and the company’s soon-to-be-released 12GB Radeon RX 6850M XT GPU, cuts through almost everything with ease, and its screen looks great while it does it.

There’s an “almost,” but we’re unsure if that’s a reason to criticize this m17. Cyberpunk 2077 felt smooth enough to play, and it now supports FSR 2.1 probably doesn’t hurt. However, its benchmark numbers didn’t reach the high marks we’d expect, staying around 40 FPS no matter what settings we used. We’re going to call that a one-off. Dirt 5 felt like it had unlimited frame overhead and ran smoothly even at the maximum resolution of the m7, while Total War: Warhammer III was a piece of cake.

Even without the mechanical switch upgrade, the m17’s keyboard is tight and deep enough to give positive feedback, making gaming fun. The layout is so good and comfortable that we never even thought about using an external keyboard. This does what was asked, and it’s hard to find anything wrong with it. If we have to be picky, extreme situations can lead to an understandable and maybe too much fan noise, but the m17 is happy to be quiet when doing desktop tasks.

Moving windows around seem too simple for a machine this price and with these gamer-friendly specs, but you’re going to do it, so it’s manageable. The trackpad is big and easy to use, and it clicks well. The 4K screen is a joy to watch, and the intelligent no-reset switching between the APU and GPU is a nice touch that helps save some battery life. If you can bring yourself to, you can work on the Alienware m17.

Let’s try to find something to criticize, no matter how small. Could a numerical pad have been put in the space around the edges of the keyboard? Yes, almost certainly, but given the primary use of the m17, we’re glad that the main keyboard layout wasn’t shrunk. Could it have been the trackpad? There’s a reason why it’s a bit off to the side, but since it’s still close to the middle, it didn’t bother us. Could the M17’s webcam have been better? Again, 720p needs to be improved, even though our review machine also had an IR sensor for Windows Hello.

Pros Cons
Powerful performance Expensive price tag
Large display Heavy and bulky design
High-quality build Short battery life
Customizable RGB lighting Loud fan noise under heavy load
Advanced cooling technology Limited port selection
Plenty of storage options Webcam placement is not ideal for video calling

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