The big gaming laptop story at CES 2021 is that PC manufacturers are adding Nvidia’s new GeForce RTX 30-series GPUs to every new machine. Alienware is no exception, and will add 30-series cards to its Alienware m15 and Alienware m17 R4 laptop lines. However, Dell’s gaming subsidiary will also leverage new AMD technology this year, though, in its Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 desktop. That should satisfy fans of either GPU manufacturer.
At CES 2021, Tom’s Guide received a digital briefing from Dell, in which the company expounded on two new laptops and one new desktops, all three debuting this month. The products aren’t cheap, though: The least expensive desktop variant runs for $1,080, while the laptops start at $2,150 apiece, and go up from there. Every piece of hardware described below will start shipping on Jan. 26.
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Like many other gaming laptops, the Alienware m15 will kick off 2021 with the inclusion of Nvidia’s powerful GeForce RTX 30-series GPUs. What’s potentially more interesting is that the m15 will offer display panels with up to 360 Hz refresh rates, and storage options of up to 4 TB — way more than you’d get in a standard gaming laptop.
As before, you can get the Alienware m15 in a variety of configurations, so we’ll compare the cheapest and most expensive options:
The base Alienware m15 R4 will cost $2,150, and include an Intel Core i7-10870H CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 30-series GPU (Alienware does not specify which one), 8 GB RAM, a 256 GB SSD, a 1080p display at 360 Hz and a four-zone RGB keyboard.
At the other end of the spectrum (with no price announced, but think “expensive”), there’s the Alienware m15 model with an Intel Core i9-10980HK CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 30-series GPU (which one, again, is a mystery), 32 GB RAM, 4 TB + 512 GB SSD storage, an OLED 4K screen at 60 Hz, and a per-key RGB keyboard.
Every model will include an Ethernet port, three USB-A ports, a microSD card reader, a Thunderbolt 3 port, a mini-Display port, an HDMI 2.1 port and an Aliewnare Graphics Amplifier port. The laptop measures 14.2 x 10.9 x 0.8 inches, and weighs between 4.7 and 5.5 pounds.
For gamers in the market for a larger laptop, consider the Alienware m17 upgrade. It’s similar to the 15-inch variant, albeit with a bigger screen. And, like the Alienware m15, the m17 starts at $2,150, and works its way up depending on how fancy you want to get.
In terms of internal specs — CPU, GPU, RAM, storage and so forth — the m17 configuration options are exactly the same as the m15 options described above, right down to the indeterminate GeForce RTX 30-series included.
The big differences are present in the screen options. At minimum, you get a 1080p display at 144 Hz with G-Sync technology; at maximum, you get a 4K display at 60 Hz with Tobii eye tracking. (It’s not OLED, however; the m15 may actually have the prettier screen in practice.)
The port situation is also the same s described above, including the Alienware Graphics Amplifier port for those who want to turn the laptop into a hybrid desktop at home.
This laptop measures 15.7 x 11.6 x 0.8 inches, and weighs between 5.5 and 6.6 pounds, depending on your configuration.
Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10
Finally, for those who want a powerful gaming machine but don’t need it to be mobile, there’s the Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 upgrade. It’s similar to the 2020 model, but with AMD’s Ryzen 5000 series CPUs and Radeon RX 600 XT series GPUs. This time around, you can also get up to 128 GB RAM, which is double the system’s previous limit.
As you might imagine, there are a ton of different configurations available, since desktops are relatively easy to customize. There are 16 different processor options alone, to say nothing of RAM, storage and GPU. The cheapest model will cost $1,080, but the most expensive one will be a lot more. (Alienware hasn’t announced an upper limit just yet.)
For $1,080, you get an AMD Ryzen 5 3500 CPU, 8 GB RAM at 3200 MHz, a 1 TB HDD, an AMD Radeon RX 5300 GPU, a Wi-Fi 5 networking card two programmable lighting zones and a 550-watt power supply.
If you go the complete opposite route, you could outfit the Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 with an AMD Ryzen 9 5950X CPU, 128 GB RAM at 3400 MHz, 2 TB SSD plus 2 TB HDD storage, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 GPU, an optical DVD/RW drive, a Wi-Fi 6 networking card, three programmable lighting zones, and a 1000-watt power supply with liquid cooling. (While a Blu-ray option would have been nice, it still sounds like a very fancy rig.)
Alienware’s general pitch has been the same for many years: premium gaming gear at premium prices. It’s good to see that the Ryzen Edition R10 could be a little more affordable at the lower tiers, even if the laptops start costly and just go up from there. Still, Alienware gear is also generally very good, and this year’s models should follow suit. We’ll know for sure when we get our hands on them in the next month or so.
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Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.