If you're getting this machine, you're mainly concerned with games. And not surprisingly, the m15 is more than capable. Our review model included the NVIDIA GTX 1070 Max-Q, an Intel Core i7-8750H CPU, 16GB of RAM an NVMe SSD, and a 1080p 144Hz screen. It was pretty much built to push games to their limit at that resolution.
While playing Overwatch with Ultra graphics settings, I saw between 110 and 130 frames per second. And in Forza Horizon 4's benchmark, it reached an average of 77 FPS in 1080p with Ultra settings. If you need more GPU power, you can also plug in Alienware's custom amplifier and tap into a desktop graphics card.
The 1080p 144Hz 15.6-inch screen is ideal if you're interested in high frame rates, but there are also 1080p and 4K options at 60Hz. The 4K screen is the better choice if you're concerned about color accuracy though, since it covers 100 percent of the SRGB gamut, compared to just 72 percent on the 1080p monitor. With the high refresh rate display, the m15 can easily handle frame rates up to 144 FPS smoothly, without any of the hiccups you'd see on slower standard screens.
It also helps that everything simply looks great on the display, from the rain drops against the camera while racing in Forza, to the mayhem of huge Destiny 2 and Overwatch firefights. Thanks to Dell's display expertise, it's a great notebook for watching video too, though it's not as comfortable as true ultraportables when you're lounging on the couch.
Even though Alienware had to move away from its huge exhaust cooling, the m15 still managed to stay under 85c while I was gaming. It did a solid job of pushing out heat, only the bottom back of the machine got too hot to touch after a play session. Just be sure to let the m15 cool down before you put it on your lap.
While it's strange to say this about a gaming notebook, I also really liked the Alienware m15's keyboard and trackpad. Typing felt great, with a solid amount of responsiveness and key travel. The trackpad was smooth and accurate, and it did a great job of differentiating between left and right clicks. We've found that notebook makers sometimes skimp on these components, like with MSI's Stealth Thin, which had an incredibly stiff trackpad. They probably figure users are relying on mice most of the time, but you still need a good trackpad for productivity apps.
With the optional 90 W/hr battery, the Alienware m15 delivered battery life on-par with other thin gaming notebooks. In our benchmark, which involved looping an HD video until the power ran out, it lasted eight and a half hours, while Razer's Blade lasted twenty minutes longer. In everyday use, the m15 kept going between four and five hours. But of course, playing any games would drain that even quicker. That battery is a $50 upgrade over the standard 60W/hr unit, and it's a no-brainer at that price.
The only major downgrade I noticed compared to Dell's larger Alienware machines was sound. Its speakers are loud, but pretty tinny. They're better than most other thin gaming notebooks, at least.
Pricing and the competition