Updated: Aug 21, 2021
With the help of AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX’s relatively quick clock speeds and GeForce RTX 3070’s pristine graphics rendering, the Alienware m15 R5 Ryzen Edition impressed us. Just by hearing about the specs, we knew that we were in for a treat. Aside from its top-of-the-line graphics card and system-on-chip, the gaming laptop boasts 16GB DDR4 3200MHz RAM and 1 TB PCIE NVME SSD Storage.
Before we dive into the computer’s performance, we noticed that the laptop’s design mirrors the look of the other Alienware products. Though that isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker for us, users who anticipated a new aesthetic for the device might be disappointed.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about performance. Fair warning: the laptop will run incredibly hot if you immediately use it once receiving the item because the laptop will maintain a default temperature of 100 degrees celcius.
Speaking of which, we tested the processors’ capabilities with the Cinebench R23 software. By applying the balanced fan profile and the high-performance setting, we saw that the AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX clocked 11,183 points in the multi-core and 1,398 points in the single-core.
Upon transitioning to the full speed fan mode, the multi-core tallied 11,713 points, while the single-core racked up 1401 points.
Afterwards, we took the DaVinci Resolve 17 for a spin to see how fast the GPU works. When the M15 R5 is in full speed mode, the computer’s render speed is quicker than real-time for 1080p graphics. What amazed us in this test is that the RTX 3070 can execute close-to-real-time rendering of 4K images.
But let's talk about temperatures, and it’s as we’ve mentioned. The system maintains 100 degrees celsius throughout. The only difference between the modes would be the power draw on the CPU and the sustained GHz on all cores, about 45 watts against 55 watts and 3.6GHz against 3.75GHz thereabouts.
On the full speed setting, rendering is a bit faster but the difference between the two modes in this category is not that big. Aside from that, nothing new came out of this round of testing. The computer’s temperature as well as the processors’ power draw and clock speeds across all cores stayed the same.
When it comes to playing games on the laptop, it is an enjoyable experience with the 1080p 165 Hz display.
The RTX 3070 adds to this amusement as it lets you run eSports games such as "Counter-Strike: Global Offensive" as well as Triple-A games like "Shadow of the Tomb Raider" with ease. Not only that, but the GPU was able to maximise the display’s high refresh rate.
Likewise, ray tracing performance shone through as it achieved 75 to 117 frames per second across different titles.
CPU temperatures in balanced and full speed mode are still the same: 100 degrees celcius on the Ryzen 9 5900HX. The RTX 3070 recorded normal temperatures in different scenarios, too.
Since we’re on that topic, here are some tips on how to fix the thermal issue we mentioned earlier. We found out that you can solve this problem by accessing the BIOS on your Alienware system and changing the CPU TCC offset from zero to any number from one to 15.
Having a TCC offset value of zero means that your computer will maintain its default temperature. If you set the value to one, then the temperature will drop to 99 degrees celcius, meaning that your maximum CPU operating temperature will be 100 degrees celcius subtracted by the TCC offset value you will assign to it.
Once we set our TCC offset value to 10, we decided to put everything to the test again. By using the Cinebench R23 programme again, we saw the Ryzen 9 5900HX achieve 9864 points in multi-core and 1318 in single-core. This happened when the computer was set to balanced fan profile.
Performance somewhat improved when the laptop was configured to full speed mode, where the laptop scored 10,886 in the multi-core test and 1407 points in the single-core test. This shows that the CPU performance dipped when we raised the TCC offset value since the temperature limit was now limited to just 90 degrees celcius.
But when we looked at the temperatures, the CPU drew lower voltages and wattage while still maintaining clock speeds that are nearer to the base clock speed of 3.3 GHz.
On the other hand, render speeds didn’t waver much when we applied TCC offset 10. But it did take a minute longer for us to render a 4K video in balanced mode.
Wondering whether the tweaked settings would affect our gameplay, we ran different games, leading us to experience similar frame rates compared to before. Like the last time around, the graphics were excellent. RTX titles like Battlefield V revealed that the processor performed almost the same in this test.
Even though we experienced better laptop performance after changing the thermal limit, we decided to kick things up a notch by playing with the computer’s settings again. We went to the BIOS, toggled the MUX switch and ran the m15 on dedicated graphics.
This allowed us to make the most out of the RTX 3070. After we applied these settings, we got 10-25 per cent more frames when playing different games with standard rasterisation. Ray tracing performance improved by 5-10 per cent, affecting how we saw shadows and light in-game.
Though it could affect your battery life, optimising your processor can produce more benefits than disadvantages. So we suggest that you go for it.
With all that said, let’s take a look at the other specs of the Alienware m15 R5 Ryzen Edition. Weighing in at 2.42kg, it’s in the middle of light and heavy. The display improved as the glossy bezels are now gone. Phew.
In terms of panels, you have two options: 1080p 165Hz or 1440p 240Hz. No matter what you choose, you can still enjoy a 15.6-inch screen with a 1920 x 1080 resolution that gets up to around 350 nits in brightness. With a high refresh rate as well, the laptop makes for versatile usage. You can do anything on it, from playing games to creating visual content.
Though, before you go to game night, just remember that the laptop’s webcam and microphone are simply decent. Nothing more, nothing less.
Sure, the webcam can capture 720p images. But since it does not support Windows Hello or any other form of authentication, it led us to give it a thumbs down.
The keyboard gave us a pleasant surprise as new media keys controlling speaker volume and microphone recording volume were added.
Moving on to the trackpad and the speakers, we gave them a passing grade since it's just passable and nothing too amazing.
Looking at the ports, there is an obvious difference as Alienware no longer supports the graphics amplifier. But the essentials are still there: the HDMI 2.1 port, USB 3.2 Gen1 and Type-C ports, a 3.5mm combo audio jack and an RJ45 Ethernet port.
With an 86Wh battery, the laptop also has decent battery life that will last up to seven hours when you’re not using energy-draining apps.
When we looked under the hood, we saw a few upgrade options for the computer in terms of the dual RAM slots and two slots for PCIe NVME SSD.
Now finally, we come to price.
The Alienware m15 R5 Ryzen Edition does have a starting price of US$1,379.99, but that option doesn’t really scream performance. If you’re looking for this specific variant with the Ryzen 9 5900HX and the RTX 3070, this will set you back US1979.99 or S$3,398.99.
Needless to say, once you do spec the machine up, it does cost quite a bit. But we do really like the Alienware m15 R5 Ryzen Edition and I personally do think that the TCC offset functionality is really awesome. The only thing is that you’re definitely paying for the brand and less performance for the price in comparison to others. But if you like the Alienware aesthetic, you do you.
Content by Soon Kai Hong