Everything's better with OLED. Don't believe me? Then you need to take a gander at the latest Alienware m15 and its captivating 4K display with its sumptuous color, sharp details and clear contrasts. And if you manage to peel your eyes away from this panel, there's the strong Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia RTX discrete graphics that deliver good performance on a par with the competition. However, a somewhat sluggish SSD and less than 4 hours of battery life keep the m15 from rising higher in the ranks. However, it's still one of the best VR-ready laptops and best 4K laptops around.
Alienware m15 OLED pricing and availability
I had fun testing the $2,779 iteration of the Alienware m15. It has a 2.2-GHz Intel Core i7-8750H processor with 16GB of RAM, a 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD, Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q GPU with 8GB of VRAM, an Intel UHD Graphics 630 GPU and that show-stopping 4K, OLED display.
The $1,299 base model offers a 2.3-GHz Intel Core i5-8300H CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB (+8GB SSHD) Hybrid drive, a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GPU with 6GB of VRAM, an Intel UHD Graphics 630 GPU and a FHD panel.
Big spenders might want to check out the $4,299 model with its overclockable 2.9-GHz Intel Core i9-8950HK processor, 32GB of RAM, dual 1TB PCIe M.2 SSDs, Nvidia Geforce RTX 2080 GPU with 8GB of VRAM and 4K OLED screen.
Although Alienware is in the beginning stages of embracing its new Legend design, Epic is still here, looking to take gamers on an intergalactic journey. I, for one, am still ready to answer the call to adventure with this midsize battle cruiser. The laptop is still a head-turner with its Epic Gray anodized aluminum lid, black magnesium underbelly and strategically placed customizable LED lights.
Like the non-OLED system that launched earlier this year, the latest m15 is the lightest Alienware on the market at 4.8 pounds, 14.3 x 10.8 x 0.7-0.8-inches, matching the Acer Predator Triton 500 (4.8 pounds, 14.1 x 10 x 0.7 inches). Both the Razer Blade 15 (4.6 pounds, 14 x 9.3 x 0.7 inches) and the Gigabyte Aero 15 Classic (4.6 pounds, 14 x 9.8 x 0.7 inches) have it beat.
Whether you want to hook up a couple of monitors or just plug in a gaming mouse, the m15 has you covered.
On the right are two USB 3.1 ports with another on the left, accompanied by an Ethernet port and a headset jack.
In the back you'll find a Thunderbolt 3 port, HDMI 2.0, a mini DisplayPort and a power port. You also get Alienware's proprietary port for its Graphics Amplifier, if you want to give the m15 a power-up down the line.
Oh my, OLED! The m15 is 15.6-inch 4K (3840 x 2160) display is simply glorious. It's extremely vivid without relying on oversaturation and offers rich blacks and true contrasts. Watching the Gemini Man trailer was a thing of beauty, particularly the rich gold, red and green of the Myanmar flag as it fluttered lazy in the breeze during a Will Smith monologue. Details were sharp enough that the tiny furrows in his forehead were clearly visible along with beads of sweat traveling down his temple.
Far Cry: New Dawn is made for OLED screens, unlike other postapocalyptic titles, the land is a bounty of emerald-green grass and bubble-gum pink flowers. Throw in mutated albino deer and you've got yourself one breathtaking scene.
The m15's screen blew past the 146% color reproduction average with 265%. The Blade 15 was a distant second at 149% with the Triton 500 and Aero 15 tied at 117%.
Whoever said OLED isn't bright hasn't seen the m15. This bad boy produced 376 nits, crushing the 286-nit premium gaming average. At 277, 262 and 246, the Triton 500, Blade and Aero 15 were far from a match.
The m15's pair of side-mounted speakers are small, but mighty. They easily filled our medium-size test space with warm, clear audio. Finer details like snaps and beatboxing noises on the near acapella version of Kevin Ross' rendition of Prototype were just as present as his clear, sweet tenor. However, I could have used more bass when I was listening to Lizzo's swagtastic Juice.
Even though I was in the heat of battle in Far Cry: New Dawn, pinned behind cover, taking pot shots to thin out the herd, I couldn't ignore the heavy synths and bass punctuating the action. But the instrumental wasn't so powerful that it overtook the real action -- namely, the resulting screams and large boom from the grenade I tossed into a cluster of enemies.
In addition to customizing colors and aggregating games, Alienware Command Center also acts as an audio hub. Comprised of six presets (Alienware, Music, Racing, Strategy, Shooter and Com), I found that Alienware and Music were the best overall presets as they delivered full, balanced sound.
Brightly colored, customizable and cushy, the m15's keyboard is surprisingly clicky despite its somewhat shallow 1.2 millimeters of key travel (1.5mm is our minimum). But 80 grams (60g is our threshold) of actuation force can do that for you. I never bottomed out while typing, even as I was typing out this review and I hit my usual 70 words per minute on the 10fastfingers typing test.
Graphics, Gaming and VR
The Alienware m15's Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q graphics card with 8GB of VRAM helps the system hang with some of its closer competitors. Even though I was in imminent danger, I marveled at the gentle ripples I made in the aquamarine waters as I tried to sneak to my next checkpoint in Far Cry: New Dawn. When the jig was up, a well-placed circular saw blade from my saw cannon gruesomely found a home in a nearby enemy, chewing up his flesh at 59 fps in 1920 x 1080 on Ultra settings. The frame rate rose to 73 fps on High and dropped to 33 fps at 4K on High and 23 fps on Ultra.
That's not to say there aren't a few misfires. The laptop notched just 49 fps on Rise of the Tomb Raider, which is below the 61-fps category average. The Aero 15 (RTX 2070) performed somewhat better with 55 fps. The Blade, which also has a 2070 Max-Q GPU, managed 60 fps, while the Triton 500 and its 2080 Max-Q GPU just barely beat the average with 62 fps.
On the Hitman benchmark, the m15 hit 102 fps, pulling past the 99-fps average. The Aero 15 and the Blade achieved 98 and 96 fps, respectively. The Triton 500 delivered 86 fps. When we ran the test on 4K, the m15 obtained 48 fps.
The m15 tied the Blade on the Grand Theft Auto V test with 76 fps. That's enough to beat the 74-fps category average along with the Aero 15 (75 fps) and the Triton 500 (60 fps).
During the Middle-Earth: Shadow of War test, the m15 was just a frame below the average (84 fps) at 83 fps. It was better than the Triton 500 (80 fps), but couldn't contend with the Aero 15 (85 fps) or the Blade (91 fps). Pushing the resolution up to 4K, the m15 delivered a frame rate of 38 fps.
If you're so inclined, you can easily plug in a VR headset like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive into the m15 and go on a virtual adventure. The laptop maxed out the SteamVR Performance test at 11, matching the Triton 500 and Aero 15 and beating the 10.8 average.
In case you aren't currently saving the world or creating your own, the notebook automatically switches from its discrete GPU to its Intel UHD 630 GPU.
Even though Intel 9th Gen is the newer kid on the block, the m15's 8th Gen 2.2-GHz Intel Core i7-8750H processor with 16GB of RAM still has plenty of power. The notebook streamed an episode of Jessica Jones - Season 3 on Netflix while running a mix of Twitch, YouTube, Tweetdeck and Slack in 20 additional pages in Google Chrome, all with no signs of slowdown.
The laptop delivered solid results during our testing, scoring 22,029 on Geekbench 4.3, a synthetic general performance test. It's just a hair below the 22,077 premium gaming laptop average. With their own Core i7-8750H CPUs, the Blade and Triton 500 scored 22,379 and 20,990, while the Aero 15 with its 9th Gen Core i7-9750H processor netted 23,522.
When we ran the Handbreak test, the m15 took 9 minutes and 10 seconds to transcode a 4K video to 1080p. It left the 10:09 average, Aero 15 (10:04), Triton 500 (11:04, Dual 512GB NVMe PCIe SSD) and Blade (12:53) in the dust.
During the File Transfer Test, the m15's 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD took 11 seconds to duplicate 4.97GB of multimedia files for a transfer rate of 462.7 megabytes per second. That's well below the 668 category average. The Blade (512GB PCIe SSD) and Aero 15 (512GB PCIe NVMe SSD) outpaced it with scores of 636.2 and 727 MBps, but the Triton 500 blew them all out of the water with a 1,696.4 MBps transfer rate.
As much as I'm digging the OLED, I'm not feeling the m15's battery life. This version of the m15 lasted only 3 hours and 51 minutes on the Laptop Mag battery test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness). It's better than the 3:32 premium laptop battery average as well as the Triton 500 (3:04). However, it's nowhere near the 6:25 turned in by the last Alienware m15 we reviewed or the 5:02 and 6:58 that the Blade and Aero 15 delivered.
To be fair, the previous Alienware m15 had a lower-res LCD (1080p) and less robust specs overall, so it's hard to say how much of the endurance hit is due to the resolution of this newer 4K model, or that it uses OLED technology.
After 15 minutes of liberating Hope County from the Highwaymen in New Dawn, I measured key points on the laptop. The touchpad measured a cool 87 degrees Fahrenheit. The space between the G and H keys was much warmer at 103 degrees, which surpassed our 95-degree comfort threshold. The undercarriage was even hotter at 124 degrees. However, I used the m15 in my lap for over an hour with no ill effect.
Alienware's 1920 x 1080 webcams are some of the best you'll find on a notebook, gaming or otherwise. Although there's some visual noise, it's not nearly as bad as what you'd find on other shooters.
It was sharp enough to clearly discern the blue-and-white pattern in my shirt. However, it did wash out the blue a bit, changing it from a lilac color to more of a light blue.
Alienware Command Center
Alienware gave its Command Center software an update that's cleaner and more intuitive than the past iteration. Want to trick out all those lighting zones in your favorite colors? (Of course you do.) Click on the FX tab to mix and match the 16.8 million available colors with the 12 available effects and map them across the six designated zones on the laptop. Speaking of mapping, you can create macros and assign them to specific buttons.
However, one of the best features is the new game library that aggregates all your games into one place regardless of the platform. So you can have games from Steam, GOG and the Windows Store in an easy-to-access format.
Software and warranty
Alienware runs a pretty tight ship when it comes to bloatware. Aside from the usual Windows 10 flotsam like Drawboard PDF, Dolby Atmos and Candy Crush Soda Saga, there's little to no bloat on the m15.
Instead, you get helpful Alienware-branded software like Digital Delivery that serves to enhance your computing experience, ensuring your software is up to date. SupportAssist is your one-stop shop for system maintenance, keeping track of system diagnostics. You can also tune performance, optimize your network and check for viruses.
The m15 features Nvidia GeForce Experience with its gamer-centric software suite, including BatteryBoost and Game Optimization. There's also Killer Control Center, which lets you prioritize network bandwidth, as well as test its speed and strength.
The Alienware m15 ships with a one-year hardware-service warranty with on-site and in-home service after remote diagnosis. See how Alienware fared on our Tech Support Showdown, Best and Worst Brands list and Best and Worst Gaming Brands rankings.
How do you make a great laptop even better? By adding a seriously beautiful OLED display to the slimmest laptop in Alienware's catalog and not skimping on high-powered components. This is easily one of the most satisfying gaming laptops I've tested this year. I just wish the fun lasted longer on a charge.
If you want a slim gaming rig for less money, the Razer Blade 15's ($2,599) is $180 cheaper than the m15 and a faster SSD. But if you're looking for an incomparable viewing experience, the Alienware m15 OLED is the gaming laptop for you.
Credit: Laptop Mag