Alienware m17 R5 review: AMD Advantage Gaming Laptop shines

Alienware m17 R5 review: AMD Advantage Gaming Laptop shines

Alienware m17 R5 review: AMD Advantage Gaming Laptop shines

Back in January at CES 2022, AMD rolled out its Rembrandt processors, now better known as the Ryzen 6000 mobile family. AMD made some bold claims about these CPUs, including that they would surpass the previous generation by up to 30% performance boost, despite using fundamentally the same CPU core architecture. AMD’s Ryzen 6000 chips come with all sorts of improvements over the previous generation’s family, and in fact the changes are enough for the company to refer to this core architecture as “Zen 3+”. Many of the updates for Zen 3+ have also been focused on improving Rembrandt’s power efficiency, and improving them.

In addition to these revised CPU cores, the Ryzen 6000 family also comes with software updates that enable a number of new features, such as the AMD SmartShift Max. Smartshift debuted in 2020 inside a single Dell laptop, and it was certainly not satisfactory for AMD’s engineers who had worked so hard with the power balancing function. But this year, you can find it inside the “AMD Advantage” laptops from all vendors. This term describes machines that come with an AMD Ryzen CPU and a Radeon discrete GPU, but also a number of validated system and performance features that ensure an optimized gaming experience.
amd slide
AMD says that the m17 R5 is the fastest all-AMD gaming laptop.

We saw early versions of a bunch of AMD Advantage laptops based on Rembrandt during CES, and among them one of our favorites was the Alienware M17 R5 (video hands-on below). Perhaps because of our overwhelming enthusiasm for the system, Alienware offered to send us one for review. Of course, we eagerly accepted.

So here it is: Alienware M17 R5 all-AMD powered gaming laptop. Let’s dig into the relevant specifications first, then we will discuss this machine’s design, build quality and performance in deep dive details.

Alienware m17 R5 Features and Specifications:

After reading the specification table, there are a number of things that stand out. Not so much as the dimensions and weight. Make no mistake: this is a hefty kid – not the kind of thing you want to lug around all day for business, but that’s not the point of this laptop either.

This is actually a slot machine throughout. From the 45-watt AMD Ryzen 6000 CPU that will increase to 4.9 GHz under load, to its powerful RDNA 2-based Radeon GPU, 120-Hz UHD LCD and the mux chip that connects them all and allows direct output from on. board Radeon RX 6850M XT, this machine definitely does not rotate when it comes to, well, messing around.

We will not go into too much detail on the Ryzen 6000 series processors here, but if you want to read more about these chips, you can check out this review which has a more thorough review of AMD’s mobile flagship CPUs.

However, there are a bunch of features in the system specifications above. The display is simply divine; a true 4K UHD screen that updates at 120Hz, outputs up to 500 cd / m² brightness and can display 99% of the DCI-P3 color space. We did not have a colorimeter on hand to confirm Dell’s claims, but this screen looks both powerful and accurate, with good uniformity. The screen is wonderfully personal and must be seen to be appreciated.

Other nice to have include 2.5G Ethernet connection, 2×2 Wi-Fi 6E and a USB4 port. Sure, it’s just a single port, but it gives you a 20 Gbps connection that you can use with a dock for much more connection.

However, we have some nitpicks about the specifications. There is not much storage space as configured, although you can equip this system with a pair of 2TB NVMe SSDs if you want. 1TB just feels a little cramped when you start installing AAA games to it. Also, although there is a good deal of dial-up connection, it is a bit of a bummer that only one port on the entire machine supports a transfer rate of over 5 Gbps.

However, there are vanishingly small complaints in the big picture. Let’s take a look at the exterior industrial design of the machine.

Alienware m17 R5 design and aesthetics

the front

The mounting end of the machine has a generous size wrist support and a huge trackpad. The landing area under the screen is filled with grids that provide a path for the laptop’s stereo speakers to serenade your ears and also some ventilation for the system’s thermal solution. Although we were not impressed with the sound quality here, we were almost off the volume. This portable audio solution can be loud, which we assume can be a boon if you need to make a Zoom call in a noisy environment, or various other requirements that require louder sound.

When we talk about Zoom calls, up in the frame above the screen there is a 720p webcam. This setup should serve for adequate but not fantastic teleconferencing, although we wish a higher 1080p resolution was supported here. However, this camera supports Windows Hello IR. The camera is also flanked by a pair of microphones, and the sound quality was surprisingly sharp and clear – much better than your regular portable webcam microphone, but that does not say much.

keyboard

The front of the machine is of course dominated by the keyboard – but maybe not as much as we would like it to be. As you can see, the keyboard is a reduced layout, the numeric keypad is missing. The edit block (that is, the home / end, enter / delete, and page up / down keys) has been referred to the small top row, while the far right of the keyboard is occupied by the volume and microphone control keys.

Don’t get us wrong, we love this keyboard. There are rocking Cherry MX key switches with ultra-low-profile mechanical action, and it’s a joy to type on, with a sharp response when the keys are activated, but without the noise of a clicking keyboard. However, the tire layout is unusually slightly limiting for a 17-inch laptop. We really would have preferred a complete setup on a laptop of this size. Not only is it a huge advantage for the machine in productivity workloads, but it also provides a convenient set of keyboard shortcuts while playing. Still, the centered keyboard makes typing a little more comfortable.
sides
Side view of Alienware m17 R5 with IO ports


On the left side of the machine you have an RJ-45 connector and a 3.5 mm combo audio port for headsets. We have another tip about the Ethernet connector: it is reversed so that the clip is on the bottom. This can make it a bit tedious to get the Ethernet cable out of the computer without picking up the whole thing and tilting it upwards.

On the right side of the m17 R5 you get a pair of USB Type-A ports. Both are USB 3.2 Gen 1, which means they top out at 5 Gbps. This is perfectly fine for most standard USB devices, and conveniently located for gamepads and mice. We would have appreciated an extra USB Type-C port on this page as well.

behind

The derier of the m17 R5 has customizable RGB lighting on both the alien logo and around the door cluster and cooling exhaust. You can sync it with the lights on the keyboard or make it do its own thing. The lighting seems to be standard on the cyan color shown here.

Around the back you get another USB Type-A port (5 Gbps, again) and a USB Type-C port that supports the incipient USB4 protocol with a transfer rate of 20 Gbps. Unfortunately, we had no USB4 devices to test with, but this should be a great option for devices like Thunderbolt docks, which can add a lot more connectivity if needed. There is also an HDMI 2.1 port for connecting an external monitor if you wish.

Despite the large valves behind here, a significant amount of exhaust also comes out of the small valves on the sides of the machine. It’s not so much that it will make things uncomfortable, or anything like that, but it may be worth noting if you do not want to heat up a cold drink next to the machine.

But it’s enough to stare at the matter, right? Let’s see how this baby copes.

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