Alienware m18 R2 review — this gargantuan gaming laptop means business

A true beast of a laptop in size, performance, and prize

Alienware m18 R2
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Tom's Guide Verdict

The Alienware m18 R2 is a hulking beast of a laptop that delivers equally powerful performance and offers smooth gaming experiences at high framerates. While it's too large to travel with and the cooling design could be better, there's not much about this laptop that's a dealbreaker.


  • +

    Top-tier gaming performance

  • +

    Large 18-inch 165Hz display

  • +

    Tactile Cherry MX keyboard

  • +

    Plenty of ports


  • -

    Bad cooling design

  • -

    Too large to travel with

Why you can trust Tom's Guide Our writers and editors spend hours analyzing and reviewing products, services, and apps to help find what's best for you. Find out more about how we test, analyze, and rate.

The Alienware m18 R2 is a follow-up to 2023's m18 and is the company’s most powerful laptop to date. While it’s bigger than pretty much every other laptop on the market, its performance is equally big. Featuring up to a 14th Gen Intel Core i9 processor and up to an Nvidia RTX 4090 graphics card, this beefy laptop performs well in most scenarios — from playing video games with the highest settings to editing video.

As one of the best gaming laptops, there is little else you could ask for on the Alienware m18 R2. Graphically demanding games run just as well on this laptop as they would on a high-end gaming PC, albeit in a (relatively) smaller, portable package. If that’s not enough, Alienware didn’t hold back on the extras, such as the always-impressive Cherry MX mechanical keyboard that gives laptop keyboards a good name (finally). There are also a generous amount of ports, and even an SD card, which creators will no doubt appreciate.

Though there is little that Alienware got wrong with the m18 R2, the cooling could have been designed better. The right exhaust vent blows hot air directly at your mouse hand, and though it’s not hot enough to cook an egg, it’s also not pleasant after long periods. Besides that, the only other issue is the size. The laptop’s large footprint is at least justified by the performance it delivers. Yet, a notebook this big means you’ll likely have to buy a new backpack and maybe clear a few things from your desk. 

Despite some minor issues, however, the m18 R2 is a treat. It feels like a desktop experience that you can take on the go, allowing you to experience the best PC games whether you’re on the couch or in a cafe.

Alienware m18 R2 review: Cheat sheet

  • What is it? A high-end gaming laptop with a hefty price tag.
  • Who is it for? For people who want the best possible gaming experience on the go.  
  • What does it cost? The Alienware m18 R2 starts at $1,899, with the highest-end model costing $4,200.
  • What do we like? The performance across the board is impressive and the keyboard spoiled me.
  • What don’t we like? It’s too big to comfortably carry around.

Alienware m18 R2 review: Specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Alienware m18 R2 (starting)Alienware m18 R2 (tested)
Display18-inch (2560 x 1600) | 165Hz | 3ms | Nvidiay G-Sync18-inch (2560 x 1600) | 165Hz | 3ms | Nvidiay G-Sync
CPU14th Gen Intel Core i7 14650HX14th Gen Intel Core i9 14900HX
GPUNvidia GeForce RTX 4060Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090
Ports3x USB-A, 3x USB-C (2x Thunderbolt 4), 1x HDMI 2.1, 1x miniDisplayPort, 1x SD card reader, 1x Ethernet, 1x 3.5mm audio3x USB-A, 3x USB-C (2x Thunderbolt 4), 1x HDMI 2.1, 1x miniDisplayPort, 1x SD card reader, 1x Ethernet, 1x 3.5mm audio
Dimensions16.1 x 12.6 x 1.05 inches16.1 x 12.6 x 1.05 inches
Weight9.32 pounds9.32 pounds

Alienware m18 R2 Review: The ups

Alienware is not messing around with the m18 R2. The laptop can easily handle the latest games at the highest settings, making DLSS purely an option rather than a necessity. Add a fantastic mechanical keyboard and enough ports to make MacBook owners green with envy, and you have a gaming laptop that delivers on almost every level. Without a doubt, this is the most powerful laptop I’ve ever reviewed.

Alienware m18 R2

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Superb gaming and overall performance 

After reviewing the aggressively mid Dell G15, I went into this review knowing that big laptops don't equate to big performance. The m18 R2 proved me wrong. It's a true powerhouse, delivering a smooth, stable gaming experience whether I was chasing down a kill in Fortnite or zooming through Night City at full Speed in Cyberpunk 2077.

I played Fortnite with Epic settings and DLSS turned off without an issue. I averaged around 65 fps (frames per second), which was more than enough to ensure a smooth experience. After setting DLSS to balanced mode, my fps was closer to 100. If I had wanted to reach the full 165 fps the monitor is capable of, I could have turned down the settings.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Frame rate test results (@ 1600)
Header Cell - Column 0 Alienware m18 R2
Assassin's Creed Valhalla118 fps
Borderlands 3109 fps
DiRT 5125 fps
Far Cry 695 fps
Grand Theft Auto V107 fps
Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition (Extreme))58 fps
Red Dead Redemption 2 (Ultra)38 fps
Shadow of the Tomb Raider116 fps

In Cyberpunk 2077, I averaged 99 frames per second on high settings with no DLSS and 178 FPS with DLSS. Ray tracing was turned off in both scenarios. Night City looked as grimy and neon-lit as ever on the massive 18-inch display.

While the m18 R2 impressed me with other graphically intensive titles like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition (116 fps at full resolution and 58 fps at extreme settings and full resolution, respectively) it absolutely crushed modern titles such as Hades II, easily averaging 164 fps. The experience was buttery smooth, making it that much harder to go back to playing it on my Steam Deck OLED.

Big display for gaming

Alienware m18 R2

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The 18-inch display is one of the major attractions of this laptop. With a resolution of 2560 by 1600 and 165 Hz refresh rate, I didn't miss my larger PC monitor, as it was big enough to give me the gaming experience I wanted.

The vibrant, saturated backdrops in Fortnite looked as good as ever, while the neon-draped glow of Cyberpunk 2077 popped amidst the dimly lit alleys and backstreets. However, the display's overall brightness wasn't as bold as on other laptops in this price range.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Display benchmark results
Header Cell - Column 0 Alienware m18 R2
Nits (brightness)260

Alienware also offers an FHD version (1920 by 1080 resolution) with a much higher refresh rate of 480Hz. While a higher refresh rate will certainly appeal to competitive gamers who need as many frames per second as possible, the higher-resolution screen is a much better proposition for most people, offering the right balance between resolution and refresh rates. Paired with the RTX 4090 GPU, this screen shone whether I was gaming or watching soccer highlights on YouTube.

I would have liked a feature that defaults to a lower refresh rate when the laptop is unplugged since higher refresh rates are a huge drain on the battery. The Razer Blade 14 (2023) had this feature, so it would have been good if the m18 R2 did as well. Aside from that and the low brightness, however, there's not much more I could have asked for from this display.  

Top-tier laptop keyboard

Alienware m18 R2

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I said the same thing about the Alienware m17 R5 last year, and I mean it again this year: I love this mechanical keyboard. The tactile feel of the low-profile Cherry MX switches is perfect, as I’m a huge proponent of tactile switches. The actuation force makes the switches even more tactile than the famous Cherry MX Brown switches.

While most people may not be used to such a high actuation force, I didn’t find it tiresome after long periods thanks to the short travel distance. The 1.8mm of travel is just enough to feel like a real keyboard without sacrificing reaction speed when gaming. I heard some pinging when hitting the keys too hard, which keyboard enthusiasts might find annoying, but it wasn’t too bad to be distracting.

Plenty of ports (and an SD card slot!)

Alienware m18 R2

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

You won’t be wanting for ports as this laptop has just about all the ones you'd want.

In addition to several USB-A and USB-C ports, an Ethernet port, and a full-sized HDMI 2.1 port, there’s also a Mini Display port 1.4. And, I can’t believe I’m saying this in 2024, there’s a freaking SD card slot. What else do you need?

Alienware m18 R2 Review: The downs

The Alienware m18 R2 doesn’t have significant flaws. However, there are a few things that bugged me.

Alienware m18 R2

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Sub-par cooling layout  

The exhaust port on the right side is the thing that bugged me most about the Alienware m18 R2. Playing with a mouse and keyboard felt uncomfortable with the exhaust blowing out hot air directly on my hand. The air isn’t hot enough to cause any damage or severe pain, but it’s an annoyance that tarnishes an otherwise great gaming experience.

Elevating the m18 R2 with a laptop stand or playing with a controller are quick workarounds to this problem. But that proves that playing with a mouse and keyboard can be frustrating. At least the keyboard is not hot when gaming, which has been a problem in past laptops I’ve reviewed.

You’ll need a new bag and desk

Alienware m18 R2

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

It should go without saying by this point that this is a huge laptop. Like really huge. Still, the m18 R2 is so large that it’s worth mentioning again.

At 16.1 x 12.6 x 1.05 inches and 9.3 pounds, it's too big to put on your lap, use on a flight, or carry in a normal-sized backpack. It didn’t fit into any of my backpacks, so I couldn't take it anywhere. If I owned the m18 R2, I would probably invest in a bag with an oversized laptop pocket.

Aside from the issues that come with lugging it around, I found it hard to find surfaces to place this laptop on. In the end, I ended up using it exclusively on my kitchen island. And when I wasn’t using it, I cleared out a section of my bookshelf to store it. If you have a small desk, you might want to consider other places where you might use it.

Alienware m18 R2: Verdict

As far as gaming laptops go, you’d have a hard time finding another that performs as well as the Alienware m18 R2. While pricey, the m18 R2 doesn’t disappoint when playing the latest games at the highest settings on that huge 18-inch display. And if you’re a creator, the addition of a full HDMI port, Mini Display port, and an SD card, means you can quickly go from shooting to editing on large monitors in a matter of minutes — you can leave the stupid USB dongles/hubs at home where they belong.

Granted, the m18 R2 is very big, so you’ll have to plan around that. That laptop bag you’re used to taking on flights may have to make way for a much bigger one, but that’s a small price to pay when you get a full-fledged desktop experience you can (kind of) take on the go.

If you want a smaller (and cheaper) Alienware laptop, the Alienware m16 R2 is an excellent choice. But if you want big performance on an equally big gaming laptop, the Alienware m18 R2 is the machine to get right now.