Apple MacBook Pro 15 vs. Alienware m15: Which 15-inch Powerhouse Is Best?

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Ever wonder who’d win in a battle between a MacBook and an Alienware? So did we. That why we pitted the Apple MacBook Pro 15 and Alienware m15 against each other in a head-to-head battle between two of the sleekest 15-inch laptops out there.

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One is built for writing papers, editing photos and videos and everything in between, while the other is a gaming notebook with a lot of tricks under the hood. But in a battle of two disparate systems, which one reigns supreme?

  Alienware m15 Apple MacBook Pro
Starting Price (as configured) $1,169/$3,629 $2,399/$4,199
CPU 2.2-GHz Intel Core i7-8750H CPU 2.9-GHz Intel Core i9-8950HK CPU
RAM 32GB 32GB
Storage Dual 1TB NVMe PCIe SSDs 2TB SSD
GPU Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q GPU/ Intel UHD Graphics 630 AMD Radeon Pro 560X GPU
Key Travel/Actuation 1.1 millimeters, 68 grams 0.7 millimeters, 63 grams
Display 15.6 inches, 1920 x 1080, 60 or 144 Hertz 15.4 inches, 2880 x 1600, Retina Display with TrueTone technology
Battery Life (hours:minutes) 6:25 10:21
Size 14.3 x 10.8 x 0.7-0.8-inches 13.8 x 9.5 x 0.6 inches
Weight 4.8 pounds 4 pounds

 

Design

Thanks to their trademark looks, you’d never have a problem pointing out a MacBook or an Alienware in a lineup. The MacBook has the design that launched a legion of clones. The laptop continues to captivate with its silver, slim aluminum chassis with simple rounded corners. The backlit half-eaten fruit emblem has become synonymous with understated quality.

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However, Apple’s minimalist design language has become ubiquitous almost to a fault. Outside of a Space Gray color change up now and then, the company rarely shakes things up. But at 4 pounds, 13.8 x 9.5 x 0.6 inches, it’s little wonder why the notebook consistently finds itself in messenger bags the world over.

alienware-m15

With its angular edges, customizable backlighting and aggressive-looking vents, the Alienware m15 screams “take me to your leader.” Comprised of anodized aluminum colored the company’s Epic Gray, the system looks like an intergalactic battle cruiser disguised as a laptop. The glowing alien head crowning the lid, invites you to probe deeper to unlock its secrets.

Winner: Alienware m15

Ports 

If you’re looking for a plethora of ports, you’re going to find slim pickins on the MacBook. The laptop only has four Thunderbolt 3 ports and a headphone jack. It’s incredibly future-forward, but also means that if you’re looking to use a traditional mouse or an external hard drive, you’re going to be investing in a lot of dongles.

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The m15, on the other hand, is practically bursting with ports. The slim battlestation features a trio of USB 3.0 ports, a Thunderbolt 3 port, HDMI 2.0, mini DisplayPort, Gigabit Ethernet, a Noble Lock slot, headphone jack and a proprietary port for the Alienware Graphics Amplifier.

Winner: Alienware m15

Display

Available with a 60 or 144-Hertz refresh rate, the m15’s display is tailor-made for gamers. The 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 panel is incredibly vibrant, with the 60-Hz screen able to reproduce 150 percent of the sRGB color gamut while the 144-Hz display hit 154 percent. But that’s pretty much par for the course for Alienware laptops.

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Typical of most MacBooks, the 15-inch Pro has a Retina Display that is simply gorgeous. The 15.4-inch, 2880 x 1800 panel is the first to feature Apple's TrueTone technology "uses advanced multichannel sensors to adjust the color and intensity" of the screen. TrueTone worked as advertised, automatically adjusting the color balance under our office’s fluorescent lighting, which was great for watching videos. But when we switched to typing in Google Docs, the normally white background looked cream.

The m15’s  60-Hz screen is plenty bright at 284 nits, which topped the premium gaming laptop average (278 nits) while the 144-Hz display missed the mark at 241 nits. But the MacBook Pro topped both models with a luminous 354 nites. When we measured color reproduction, the MacBook delivered 117 percent of the sRGB gamut, which is less vibrant than both versions of the m51.

Winner: Apple MacBook Pro

Keyboard

In the pursuit of thinness, Alienware ditched our highly-rated TactX keyboard in favor of an island-style board. Unlike the company’s previous 15-incher, the m15 manages to fit a full-sized keyboard and a num pad.

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If measurements were king, I’d tell you to run from the m15 with its 1.1-millimeter key travel (1.5mm is our minimum threshold for comfortable typing). But that 68 grams of actuation force really makes the typing experience. I was surprised by how comfortable the keyboard was. It wasn't bouncy per se, but had enough feedback that my fingers never bottomed out.

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Plus, you can trick out the keyboard (and all the other lighting zones) via the revamped Alienware Command Center software. It’s a cleaner, easier-to-navigate interface compared to its predecessor. In addition to creating a custom light show, you can also record macros for specific games.

Apple is no stranger to keyboard controversy thanks to faulty butterfly switches and errant debris. However, it looks like the company has finally righted the ship, making sure that there’s a membrane under each switch. Although the key travel is only 0.7mm, the 60g actuation made for snappy feedback, but I still wish it wasn’t so shallow. Still, the MacBook Pro’s keyboard delivered a comfortable experience, allowing me to type for long periods of time.

Winner: Alienware m15

Performance

When it comes to overall performance, it’s hard to top a MacBook Pro, especially a fully tricked-out system. Ours came equipped with an Intel Core i9-8950HK processor and 32GB of RAM. And even though it’s a gaming laptop, the m15 isn’t a slouch when it comes to performance thanks to its Core i7-8750H CPU and 32GB of RAM.

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On the Geekbench 4 test, the MacBook scored 23,138, but the Alienware wasn’t too far behind with 21,450. When we ran the Excel Productivity test, the MacBook paired up 65,000 names and addresses in 52 seconds while the m15 finished in 1:03.

Equipped with a 2TB SSD, the MacBook tore through our File Transfer test with read and write speeds of 2,724/2,600MBps, respectively. The m15 and its pair of 1TB NVMe M.2 PCIe SSDs achieved 1,017.9, which would be incredible under normal circumstances but looks average compared to the MacBook.

The Alienware did slightly better on the video transcoding test, taking only 9 minutes and 51 seconds to transcode a 4K video to 1080p. The MacBook completed the job in 10:16.

Winner: Apple MacBook Pro

Gaming, Graphics and VR

Here is where the Alienware m15 shines. Thanks its Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q GPU with 8GB of VRAM, the laptop can run games at high settings with above-average frame rates. The MacBook and its AMD Radeon Pro 560X? Not so much. Macs aren’t known for their gaming prowess, and finding Mac-friendly AAA titles can be a hassle.

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When we ran the Dirt 3 benchmark, the MacBook hit 83 frames per second, which is great -- but the Alienware obtained a much more impressive 123 fps.  

Winner: Alienware m15

Battery Life

You really shouldn’t expect a gaming laptop to last more than 1 or 2 hours. But this is an Alienware. The m15 lasted 6 hours and 25 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which consists of continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. It’s downright impressive for a gaming notebook. But it’s just a walk in the park compared to the MacBook, which clocked in with 10:21.

Winner: Apple MacBook Pro

Value

If you want an Apple laptop, you’re going to pay out the nose for the privilege.  Our review unit was specced at a whopping $4,699, and includes an 8th Gen Intel Core i9-8950HK CPU, 32GB of RAM, a 2TB SSD and a discrete AMD Radeon 560X GPU with 4GB of memory.

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The starting configuration is a little easier on the wallet at $2,399. For the price you get a Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and an AMD Radeon Pro 555X with 4GB of VRAM. Want more memory and graphics power? The price jumps to $2,799 for a 512GB SSD and an AMD Radeon 560X GPU with 4GB of memory.

Alienware is a lot gentler on the pockets. Our review unit was a bit pricey at $3,629, but it had a 2.2-GHz Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 32GB of RAM, two 1TB NVMe M.2 PCIe SSDs, an Intel UHD Graphics 630 GPU, an Nvidia GeForce GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q GPU with 8GB of VRAM and a 60Hz 1920 x 1080 panel.

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The base model is a much more affordable $1,169.99 and has a 2.2-GHz Intel Core i7-8750H CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB (with an 8GB SSHD) Hybrid drive, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU with 6GB of VRAM and a 60Hz 1920 x 1080 display.

The $1,879.99 configuration bumps you up to Nvidia’s next-gen RTX cards with a GeForce RTX 2060 GPU with 6GB of VRAM. You also score a 256GB PCie M.2 SSD with a 1TB (with an 8GB SSHD) Hybrid drive. The top-of-the-line system is currently $2,861.99 and offers 16GB of RAM, a 512GB PCie M.2 SSD with a 1TB (with an 8GB SSHD) Hybrid drive, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q GPU with 8GB of VRAM and a 4K, 60-Hz display.

Winner: Alienware m15

  Apple MacBook Pro 15 Alienware m15
Design (10) 7 8
Ports (5) 3 5
Display (15) 15 10
Keyboard (5) 3 5
Performance (20) 20 15
Gaming (20) 10 20
Battery Life (15) 15 10
Value (10) 5 10
Total 77 83

 

Bottom Line

At the end of the day, the Apple MacBook Pro 15 and the Alienware m15 are two different laptops with two different use cases. The MacBook, with its sleek, lightweight design, powerful Core i9 processor and lovely Retina display targets creative professionals, students, and everyone in between. The Alienware is a gaming laptop through and through, but has more than enough performance to do everything the MacBook can do –– if you don’t mind carrying around a glittering light show wherever you go.

And starting at $1,169 compared to the $2,399, the Alienware m15 is a much more cost-effective option. But if you want a lightweight productivity machine, the MacBook Pro 15 is the way to go.

Credit: Laptop Mag

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3 comments
  • Derek Peterson Says:

    From the moment I saw the Alienware won the Design section, it was very clear how this competition was going to end up 😖

  • E B Sea Says:

    In the port argument, the Alienware only has one Thunderbolt 3 port, and you talk about the gaming port. However, the Mac has 4 Thunderbolt 3 port, any of which can be used for an external chassis that can house another video card. Or you could use more than one of the ports for those chassis. I would agree that is a very overlooked statement in the ports and would make the ports more equivalent. Most computer monitors now can connect over USB-C, and a USB-C to HDML adapter is < $10. I would agree that your port comparison is invalid.

  • ViewRoyal Says:

    Can the Alienware laptop run macOS?
    Can the Alienware laptop run both macOS and Windows apps simultaneously?
    Can the Alienware laptop work seamlessly with iCloud services and iOS devices?
    Will the Alienware laptop be supported with free OS upgrades for many years in the future?
    Will the Alienware laptop retain a high resale value several years from now?
    Does the Alienware laptop have the best and easiest accessible technical support available for both hardware and software?

    If the answer is "No" for these questions, then the Alienware laptop isn't even worth considering.

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