Laptop Mag Verdict
The Alienware m17 R5 serves up big performance and endurance with a beautiful 4K display and comfy keyboard at a premium price
Sleek, futuristic design
Great gaming and overall performance
Super comfortable keyboard
Superb battery life
Loud, clean audio
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CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 6900XT
GPU: AMD Radeon RX 6850 XT/AMD Radeon Graphics
Storage: 1TB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD
Display: 17.3-inch, 4K
Size: 14.1 x 10.2 x 1.1 inches
Weight: 5.6 pounds
I’ve been reviewing gaming laptops for about 14 years now and I have to say that I love the current state of the industry. We’re now at a place where it’s truly a competition — instead of Intel and Nvidia ruling the gaming laptop space, AMD is here making some serious noise and OEMs are starting to dance to AMD’s beat.
The latest team to make beautiful music with AMD? Alienware with the m17 R5. Boasting a AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX processor and a Radeon RX 6850 XT GPU, the laptop is not to be trifled with. Thanks to AMD Advantage Suite, this system is optimized up the wazoo to ensure that you’re getting the best performance out of the system no matter the situation. You also get Cherry MX keys, a stunning 4K display, great speakers and a slick design to boot.
There are a few flaws, but there’s a lot to love about the $2,799 Alienware m17 R5 so much so that it earned its way onto our Best gaming laptop and Best AMD Ryzen laptops page. Read on to find out why the notebook is deserving of all the accolades.
Alienware m17 R5 pricing and configurations
I spent a week tooling around the $2,799 AMD Advantage model of the Alienware m17 which has a 3.3-GHz AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX processor with 32GB of RAM, a 1TB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD, an AMD Radeon Graphics, an AMD Radeon RX 6850 XT GPU with 12GB of VRAM and a 3840 x 2160 display with a 120Hz refresh rate and 3ms response rate. It’s pricey, but uber powerful.
The base model is a little more wallet friendly at $1,919. That gets you the 3.2-GHz AMD Ryzen 7 6800H processor with 16GB of RAM, a 512GB NVMe M.2 SSD, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU with 4GB of RAM and a 1920 x 1080 panel with 165Hz refresh rate and a 3ms response rate.
Alienware m17 R5 design
The more I see an Alienware notebook with the current Legend 2.0 design language, the more I dream of electric sheep. Any while I normally review laptops with the Lunar Light finish, this time around I’m on the Dark Side of the Moon with the m17. It’s a grayish black that exudes mystery. Dare I touch the anodized aluminum lid? I dare. And to my extreme pleasure, it’s very fingerprint resistant.
Just like the other laptops in this line, the number 17 is etched in the bottom left corner in bold, futuristic lettering that’s simultaneously glossy and matte. The hinge gives way to the onyx black vent that hosts a series of ports encased in the honeycomb vents. An alien head tops it off literally and figuratively, waiting for you to customize its color.
Opening the laptop reveals the keyboard deck done up in some more of that Dark Side of the Moon. The keyboard glows seductively in its default turquoise lighting sandwiched between more honeycomb-shaped vents and the touchpad. Another glowing alien head acting as the power button sits ensconced in the venting.
The 15.6 x 11.8 x 0.6~0.9-inch m17 is a desktop replacement on the weightier side of the spectrum at 7.3 pounds. It’s heavier than the MSI Vector GP76 (6.4 pounds, 15.6 x 11.2 x 1 inches), the Razer Blade 17 (6.1 pounds, 15.6 x 10.2 x 0.8 inches) and the Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 16 (5.7 pounds, 14 x 10.5 x 0.8 inches).
Alienware m17 R5 ports
Ports aplenty. Enough to give the Alienware m17 a serious battlestation in its own right an even bigger arsenal. Starting on the right, you have a pair of USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports. On the left, there’s an expandable Gigabit Ethernet port with a headset jack. Along the back sits a USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 2 ports, another USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports, a full HDMI 2.1 and the DC-in.
Alienware m17 R5 display
The Alienware m17’s 17.3-inch, 4K display with a 120Hz refresh rate and 3ms response rate is simply stunning. I was captivated by the trippy atmosphere in “The Silent Twins” trailer. Actors Letitia Wright and Tamara Lawrence’s warm brown complexions glowed with each of their faces framed by their gently feathered hairstyles. The electric blue book cover of copies of “The Pugilist” drew the eye as did the velvet red curtains and the bright pink dress and magenta parrot-headed women with their dead white eyes in the background. I saw the delicate creases in the lead actors’ silk blouses with relative ease thanks to the sharpness of the display.
Was CyberPunk 2077 made for the m17? No, but it sure seemed like it. The neon skyline of Night City glittered almost as brightly as the stars in its sky. And when it was time for a wardrobe change, I chose a metallic red jacket that I really wish I had in real life. I could see every zipper, gear and stripe on this thing, not to mention the slight grooves in my cybernetically enhanced face.
As I made my way though the world of Cyberpunk 2077, FreeSync Premium was front and center preventing all manner of screen tearing, latency and stuttering which is generally not a vibe when gaming. FreeSync Premium is an adaptive sync technology that synchronizes the display’s refresh rate with the GPU to keep your images super smooth.
Premium requires a 120Hz minimum refresh rate at 1080p which is perfect since the 4K iteration of the laptop sports that exact refresh rate. It also has low frame rate compensation (LFC). With LFC, if your game’s frame rate drops below the monitor’s lowest supported refresh rate, frames automatically display multiple times. This ensures you’re within the panel’s supported refresh rate range maintaining that oh-so-necessary smooth gameplay.
The colors seemed incredibly vibrant on the m17 which is why I was really surprised when we measured the panel’s color reproduction capability. It only measured 76.2% on the DCI-P3 color gamut, which is below the 85.3% premium gaming laptop. The Zephyrus Duo 16 did slightly better at 78.2% and the Vector GP76 82.3%. The Blade 17 was the ultimate winner with 117.6%.
There was a redemption story of sorts for the m17 in terms of brightness with the laptop averaging 436 nits. That score easily surpassed the 344-nit category average as well as the Vector (318 nits) and Blade 17 (294 nits). But the Zephyrus proved to be the brightest in the land with 578 nits.
In case you want to mess with the display settings, the Alienware has Dolby Vision preinstalled. It includes f three presets (Bright, Dark and Vivid) to help you to achieve your optimal viewing experience. Since I want my colors bright and my contrast deep, I prefer Vivid, but you should definitely play around with the software.
Editor’s Note: The Alienware m15 R5 is the first gaming notebook to feature a panel with a whopping 480Hz refresh rate. Stay tuned for the review of this iteration of the system.
Alienware m17 R5 audio
The Alienware m17 side mounted speakers produce big sound fitting of the laptop’s size. It easily filled my smallish living and dining rooms with loud, crisp audio. Listening to the easy, breezy bop that is WizKid and Tems’ “Essence,” the horns and hypnotic percussion shared the soundscape with the delicate keyboard and had enough separation where I could focus my attention on each part of the instrumental. The somewhat monotone vocals were silky smooth and clean.
Similar to most laptops, the low end could use a bit more oomph as the speakers were quickly overwhelmed by the thumptastic “Rodeo” by the City Girls.
As I made my way to my next mission in Cyberpunk 2077, I was impressed with the small details. For instance, I could here the tinkling from the many zippers on my jacket as I moved along with the sound of fabric rubbing against itself. And when I hacked a cloaked enemy with my sword, I was rewarded with a meaty, squelchy thud.
If you there’s Dolby Vision, you can be sure that Dolby Atmos can’t be too far behind. Preinstalled on the m17, Atmos features a number of presets so you can achieve your ideal audio. You get six presets (Game, Dynamic, Movie, Music, Voice and Custom) and some Movie and Music have four additional presets such as Detailed, Balanced, Warm and Off while Game has those presets plus presets for FPS, Racing, RTS and RPG.
There’s even a Performance mode that’s supposed to give you an edge during competitive gaming. And for FPS fans, there’s Sound Radar which pinpoints where an enemy combatant is creeping around. No more getting the drop on you with this enabled.
Alienware m17 R5 keyboard and touchpad
The Alienware m17’s Cherry MX keyboard with its ultra low profile keys is an absolute pleasure to type on. You get ASMR-inducing clicks from the stainless steel key switches paired with firm feedback and a 1.8mm key travel. Buoyed by mini key-shaped trampolines, I hit 80 words per minute on the 10fastfingers typing test, which is significantly better than my usual 70 wpm.
And while you’ll come for the clickety clack of the island-style keyboard, you’ll stay for the light show provided by the 16.8 million RGB option provided by the AlienFX utility found in Alienware Command Center. It’s here that you can choose individual colors for each individual key, alien heads and rear vent or choose one of the six preinstalled themes (Color, Rainbow Wave, Breathing, Spectrum, Scanner, Static and Color) to customize your rig. You can also set macros, fan speed and power files.
The m17’s large touchpad meant that I was never in danger of encountering an edge as I performed multitouch gestures like pinch-zoom or three-finger flick. The large touchpad responded with near instantaneous response. The bottom corners of the input device provided a healthy click when depressed.
Alienware m17 R5 AMD Advantage
So what exactly is the advantage? Well, when it comes to AMD Advantage, it’s a suite of smart technologies designed to enhance and optimize your mobile computing experience. That means with the right settings, you can squeeze every precious piece of performance out of the 8-core system and its 16 threads running concurrently. In layman’s term, you’ve got a seriously powerful system by way of AI systems adjusting on the fly to keep the system at the top of its game (no pun intended).
Some of the technologies utilized include SmartShift Max which uses a series of sensors to measure data such as temperature and power consumption to a machine learning algorithm that controls optimization for both the CPU and GPU. So when you’re gaming, the system can maintain higher clock speeds because the algorithm tells the machine to prioritize thermals and the total platform budget to the GPU which translates to higher frame rates. Conversely, SmartShift Max performs the same function for the CPU when you’re dealing with a heavy workload, providing the processor a boost when needed. You can monitor everything in real time with AMD Software: Adrenalin Edition.
Next on the roster is SmartShift Eco. As the name suggests, this technology focuses heavily on power profiles, automatically switching between discrete and integrated graphics when the machine is plugged in or running off the battery, extending the power when gaming. There’s also AMD Smart Access Memory that allows Ryzen 6000 processors to access the entirety of the 12GBs of GPU memory over a fast PCI Express 4.0 link thus eliminating a potential bottleneck caused by forcing the GPU to move data in small chunks due to having access to a small amount of memory at a time.
Alienware m17 R5 gaming and graphics
Alright, alright. Enough talk about algorithms and machine learning. Let’s talk actual game performance. During our testing, the Alienware m17 and its AMD Radeon AMD Radeon RX 6850 XT GPU with 12GB of VRAM showed that it takes its fun and games seriously.
At 1080p on the Assassin’s Creed Valhalla benchmark, the Alienware notched 112 fps, cruising past the 81-fps premium gaming laptop average. The competition didn’t stand a chance with the Blade 17 and Zephyrus Duo 16 with their Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti GPUs reaching 89 and 85 fps, respectively. The Vector (RTX 3070 Ti GPU) hit 86 fps. Switching over to 4K, the frame rate dropped to 44 fps which is still playable.
There was a reversal on the Grand Theft Auto test, with the m17 achieving 104 fps, which is just below the 109-fps category average and results posted by the Blade 17 (132 fps) and Zephyrus Duo (123 fps). At 4K, the m17 obtained 33 fps.
During the Metro: Exodus (1920 x 1080) DirectX 11 Ultra benchmark, the Alienware delivered 84 fps, topping the Zephryus’s 68 fps and the 72-fps premium gaming laptop average. Running the test on 4K saw the Alienware with a result of 41 fps.
When we ran the Far Cry New Dawn test, the m17 reached 89 fps, matching the Zephyrus, but missing the 96-fps average which the Blade 17 managed to achieve. The Vector was the winner at 113 fps. On 4K, the m17 fell to 66 fps.
On the Borderlands 3 benchmark, the Alienware snatched victory with 112 fps, skating by the 85-fps average. The Blade 17, Zephyrus and Vector couldn’t grab the brass ring with scores of 99, 97 and 93 fpsl respectively. The m17 produced 44 fps at 4K.
For our last test, we used the Red Dead Redemption 2 benchmark where the Alienware m17 hit 76 fps, defeating the 68-fps category average. It was slightly short of the Vector and the Zephyrus which got 78 fps. The Blade 17 surpassed them all with 84 fps. During the 4K run, the m17 gave us 24 fps, which is below our playability threshold.
And for those non-gaming moments, the laptop switches over to its integrated AMD Radeon Graphics.
Alienware m17 R5 performance
In case you were wondering if the Alienware m17 worked as hard as it plays, the answer is yes. The 3.3-GHz AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX processor with 32GB of RAM brushed off everything I threw at it, including the 60 Google Chrome tabs that had a mix of Google Docs, Sheets and Presentations in addition to Tweetdeck, Twitch, YouTube and a mix of news sites.
The laptop did just as good on our synthetic tests, starting with the Geekbench 5.4 test which measures overall performance. The m17 reached 9,851, thrashing the 8,070 premium gaming laptop average. The Blade 17 (Intel Core i7-12800H CPU) managed to edge out the Alienware with a score of 9,875 while the Vector (Intel Core i9-12800HK CPU) achieved 12,434. The Zephyrus with its own Ryzen 9 6900XT CPU reached 10,124.
The m17 took 5 minutes and 30 seconds to transcode a 4K video to 1080p on the HandBrake test. That’s faster than the 5:49 average and the Blade 17 (7:19). However, both the Vector and Zephyrus were quicker to the tune of 4:40 and 5:26.
When we ran the file transfer test, the m17’s 1TB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD duplicated 25GB of multimedia files for a transfer rate of 1,766.7 megabytes per second, shattering the 1,334.7MBps average and the Vector’s (1TB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD) 719.9MBps. However, it wasn’t enough to hold off the Zephyrus (2TB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD) which obtained 1,828.5MBps.
Alienware m17 R5 battery life
AMD continues to impress on the battery life front. The Alienware m17 managed to last 6 hours and 7 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test which consists of continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. Is that anywhere near the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14’s ridiculous time of 11:32?
No, but the Alienware’s time is still hella impressive for a gaming laptop, it easily surpassed the 4:45 premium gaming laptop average. Meanwhile, the Blade 17 and Vector posted times of 4:33 and 2:45. The dual screened Zephryus Duo 16 had a time of 5:49 with both screens on and 7:06 with just the main display.
Alienware m17 R5 heat
With every iteration of Alienware, the company tweaks the cooling system. With good reason as gaming laptops have powerful components in a relatively tiny space which is an invitation for a self-inflicted fire crotch. To that end, Alienware has its CryoTech cooling system. Focused on performance, the system consists of four copper heat pipes and a dual intake, quad-exhaust design that draws cool air from the top and bottom vents, and pushes exhaust out the left, right, and rear vents in order to protect your lap. The copper is 1.3% lighter which Alienware says increases the airflow by 6%.
There’s also Alienware’s patent-pending Smart Fan control technology that allows individual fans to spin-up, slow-down or remain steady independent of each other. The action is determined by the various sensors within the system. The CPU and GPU fans have 26% more fan blades that are 17% thinner, and 2% larger in diameter. Last, but certainly not least the m17 R5 includes the largest vapor chamber Alienware’s ever employed. It’s 3.5 times larger than its predecessor.
To put the revamped system to the test, I played CyberPunk 2077 for awhile, but at 15 minutes, I measured key spots on the system. The touchpad registered 93 degrees Fahrenheit, just a couple degrees below our 95-degree comfort threshold. The keyboard’s center hit 116 degrees while the bottom was a hot 136 degrees. Well, not exactly hot as I used the laptop in my lap with only the thin fabric of my dress between my thighs and the system and came out no worse for wear.
Alienware m17 R5 webcam
A 720p webcam on a laptop that’s almost $3,000? For shame Alienware! Still, the integrated shooter is passable in a pinch, like a quick video chat session. If you want to stream, I suggest taking a gander at our best webcam page and picking out something nice for yourself.
Despite the resolution, I was really impressed with how well the camera handled my skin tone. I look like I’m glowing. And while that might be due to genetics, at 5:42 a.m. when I’m dead tired, I’m going to give the m17 some credit. It did a good job of picking up some of the color in my locs, particularly the green and purple. The blue and pink, not so much. And even though there’s visual noise in the test shot, the camera still captured the fine striations in my gray dress.
Alienware m17 R5 software
I’ve already touched on Alienware Command Center which aggregates your games library, creates macros and unique light profiles and controls power and audio profiles. But the Alienware m17 comes with a few more important pieces of software. There’s Alienware Digital Delivery which allows you to purchase software at the time of purchase. When you receive the laptop, everything you bought will be there, waiting to be installed. You also get Alienware Update which keeps all your pertinent software up to date with the latest drivers and updates.
On the AMD front, you have AMD Link for Windows which allows you to connect to your gaming laptop via smartphone, tablet or TV for a remote gaming experience. The AMD Radeon Software hub is where you can tweak settings for FreeSync, GPU Scaling Hotkeys and color reproduction. You can also choose between performance presets and factory reset the system.
Outside of Windows 11 software, the Alienware m17 R5 is delightfully free of bloatware. It ships with a 1-year limited warranty. See how Alienware fared during Tech Support Showdown and Best and Worst Brands, our annual special reports.
Andre 3000 and Big Boi, Salt n’ Pepa and Eric B & Rakim. Now you can add AMD and Alienware to the list of iconic duos. The collaboration has lived up to the hype and did just what they set out to do, create the most powerful 17-inch AMD gaming laptop in the Alienware m15 R5. Both the AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX and Radeon RX 6850M XT GPU deliver big numbers on performance, enough to give their Intel and Nvidia-powered competitors a run for their money more often than not.
And that’s with no small help from the AMD Advantage software suite designed to squeeze every bit of performance out of the system no matter the situation. The lovely 4K display, powerful speakers, ultra-low profile Cherry MX are the literal cherry on top. Oh and with that Legend 2.0 design, it’s just a stunner of a system.
However, for $2,799, I definitely want a 1080p webcam and for the system to be a bit more dominant with that performance. I want to win all the time, not 80% of the exchange. If you’re not convinced by an all-AMD system, check out either the Asus Zephyrus Duo 16 or the MSI Vector GP76 although both will cost you a pretty penny at $3,999 and $2,699, respectively. But if you’re ready to embrace AMD, and I think you are, the Alienware m17 R5 is the absolute way to go.
Sherri L. Smith has been cranking out product reviews for Laptopmag.com since 2011. In that time, she's reviewed more than her share of laptops, tablets, smartphones and everything in between. The resident gamer and audio junkie, Sherri was previously a managing editor for Black Web 2.0 and contributed to BET.Com and Popgadget.