Alienware m17 R5 review

Issues aside, the m17 R5 has one of the best mechanical keyboards on a laptop

Alienware m17 R5 on desk
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Tom's Guide Verdict

The Alienware m17 R5 is a tasteful gaming laptop that can deliver above-average framerates in modern games. Yet despite solid gaming performance, the m17 R5 is ultimately hampered by poor battery life and excessive fan noise.


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    Solid gaming performance

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    Bar-setting mechanical keyboard

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    Tasteful design

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    Surprisingly great speakers


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    Poor battery life

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    Too-loud fan noise

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    Cooling issues when gaming

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    Awkward touchpad placement

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    Overcomplicated Alienware software

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The Alienware m17 R5 is a quality laptop with a sleek design, a large display, an optional mechanical keyboard and booming Dolby speakers. As far as gaming machines go, Alienware doesn't hold back much with this one, which is reflected in the price tag.

The m17 R5's gaming performance is great, with the large laptop excelling at running FHD games at high and ultra settings, delivering frame rates that soar above 60 frames per second (fps). In addition, the combination of an AMD CPU and GPU increases gaming performance, while AMD's upscaling tech makes it possible to run the latest games at 4K resolution.

Aside from gaming, the m17 R5 also turned out great for writing, with an excellent Cherry MX mechanical keyboard that made typing a dream. 

When spending more than $1,500, you may expect a gaming laptop to also work well as a productivity machine. Unfortunately, I found the m17 R5 to be lacking in this regard. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, but it isn’t an all-around great laptop, either. 

Alienware m17 R5 (2022) review: Price and release date

  • Minimal aesthetics for a gaming laptop
  • Only one color to choose from

You can get the Alienware m17 R5 right now directly from Dell's website. The entry-level model with an Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti starts at $1,099, while the entry-level AMD model starts at $1,399. You can also find it at Best Buy or Newegg.

The base AMD configuration packs an AMD Ryzen 6800H CPU, an AMD Radeon RX 6700M GPU, 16 GB RAM, a 512 GB SSD, a 17.3-inch (2560 x 1440) FHD 165 Hz display and a standard keyboard with one zone RGB. 

Our test unit features an AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX CPU and a Radeon RX 6850M XT GPU. In addition to the high-end CPU and GPU, our review unit came with a 120Hz, UHD (3840 x 2160) display, a 1TB SSD and 32GB RAM. Also included was the upgraded keyboard that features low-profile mechanical switches. When built out on Dell's site, this configuration comes out to $2,400, though it's not the most expensive config.

The ultimate Alienware m17 R5 configuration comes out to $3,650. For that much money, you get a ridiculous 64GB RAM, a 4TB M.2 NVMe SSD, a 480Hz FHD (1920 x 1080) display, and the beefy Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti. Unfortunately, the UHD display is unavailable when you get an Nvidia RTX GPU.

Alienware m17 R5 (2022) review: Design

  • Minimal aesthetics for a gaming laptop
  • Only one color to choose from

Alienware has a long history of making hardware that, whether good or bad, drew inspiration from sci-fi UFO-like designs. But tastes have shifted, and Alienware has adapted.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The m17 R5 combines the aesthetics of a modern gaming laptop with the practicality of a productivity notebook. It has small design touches that let you know this is, first and foremost, a gaming machine, like the minimal "17" on the shell, two RGB alien logos and the RGB strip surrounding the ports. Of course, nobody would mistake it for anything besides a gaming laptop, especially when the fans go off, but it can blend in if you shut off the RGB. (Pro tip: FN+F7 toggles the RGB on and off.)

Alienware m17 R5 on desk

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The m17 R5 only comes in one color, "dark side of the moon," but it looks great. It has a gunmetal sheen that's subtle enough not to stick out and scream you’re a PC gamer.

Alienware m17 R5 on desk

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

In addition, this laptop is bulky, weighing nearly eight pounds (7.6 pounds, to be exact). And with a width of over 15 inches, you may need a new bag to accommodate the supersized laptop. So, while you can use the laptop for work, it's best to keep this at home, lest you develop a back problem or workplace enemies — the fan noise can be overwhelming in an office environment.

Alienware m17 R5 (2022) review: Ports

  • Great selection of ports
  • Port placement could have been better

While it’s a good idea to travel with a USB hub, you won't need it with the Alienware m17 R5. The port selection is spread around the laptop, with two USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports on the right side and an Ethernet and audio port on the left side. 

Alienware m17 R5 on desk

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The rear holds most of the ports, including the power port, a full-sized HDMI 2.1 port and a USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 port, which has power delivery and DisplayPort capabilities. You also get an additional USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 port.

Overall, the laptop has a good selection of ports, but I'm not sure I agree with the placement. I would have liked the Ethernet port on the rear as well, and I would have preferred to have one of the USB-A ports on the left to even things out. Also, as someone who edits photos and videos, I would have appreciated the addition of an SD card reader. Though the m17 R5 is not a creator’s laptop, an SD card slot seems like a given when spending this much.

Alienware m17 R5 (2022) review: Display and audio

  • Vibrant 4K 120 Hz display
  • Rich Dolby Atmos-powered speakers 

The Alienware m17 R5 is available in four display options. Three of those are 1080p displays ranging from 165Hz to 480Hz. The very high refresh rate on those displays is a good match for gamers that put gaming performance above all else. However, if you're hoping to also stream TV and use editing software, the 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) display is a much better pick. This high-resolution display, which has a 120Hz refresh rate and 3-millisecond response time, is what we had on our test unit.

In our testing, we found that m17 R5's UHD display is one of the brightest among similar laptops. It had an average brightness of 435 nits, with the center of the display being the brightest point, with a rating of 460 nits.

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Alienware m17 R5 (2022)Asus ROG Zephyrus G14Razer Blade 14 (2022)
Nits (brightness)435473332

The color accuracy of the display produced rich, vibrant colors that drew me in from the get-go. The display scored 107.5% in our sRGB testing — that’s on the higher end of color-accurate laptop displays. However, the DCI-P3 score wasn't great (76.2%), so it's not the best monitor for video editing and especially color correction or grading. The screen's brightness was especially noticeable when I played Hi-Fi Rush, helping the game's colorful aesthetics really pop, which is how I bet the developers imagined the game should be played.

Alienware m17 R5 on desk

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Moving on from the display, the m17 R5 wowed me with its Dolby Atmos-powered speakers. They're loud enough to drown out the sound of the fans when gaming. In most cases, I rarely had to increase the volume past the 30 mark. The inclusion of the Dolby Access software is appreciated, as I was able to adjust the EQ based on my preferences. I especially noticed the clarity and volume of the speakers when playing Hi-Fi Rush, a game with licensed music that sounds better when it’s on full blast. Music sounded even better when using headphones, with the Dolby Access Software making a difference. The EQ differences were even more apparent when wearing headphones, and I settled on the "detailed" setting when listening to music.

Alienware m17 R5 (2022) review: General Performance

  • Good for all-around productivity 
  • Too big and heavy to take to the office

The performance will vary depending on your configuration, but in our testing, the m17 R5 aced everything we threw at it. While the laptop is intended for gaming, it can transition to productivity just as easily. The powerful processor and GPU combo make this a dual threat for video and photo editing applications.

In our testing, the m17 R5 completed our video encoding test (which times how long the laptop takes to transcode a 4K video down to 1080p using Handbrake) in 5 minutes and 30 seconds, putting it above laptops like the Asus Zephyrus G14, which completed the same test in 5 minutes and 48 seconds, and Razer Blade 14, which did it in 7 minutes and 20 seconds. Essentially, this performance translates to faster rendering times in programs such as Premiere Pro and DaVinci Resolve.

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Geekbench 5 multi-core CPU25GB file copy speed testHandbrake video editing time
Alienware m17 R5 (2022)9,8511,766 Mbps5:30
Asus ROG Zephyrus G1410,0041,260 Mbps5:48
Razer Blade 14 (2022)7,471908 Mbps7:20
Alienware x14 (2022)13,3531,156 Mbps5:04

The m17 R5 also had a respectable Geekbench score. Though not the fastest among similar laptops, the multicore score of 9,851 is good enough for all-around productivity and gaming. The thinner Alienware x14 (Core i7-12900HK, GeForce RTX 3060, 16GB RAM) beat it handily with a score of 13,353. But the m17 R5 is at least close to another of our best gaming laptop picks, the aforementioned Zephyrus G14, which notched a multicore score of 10,004.

Alienware m17 R5 on desk

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The file transfer benchmark is another in which the m17 R5 excelled. In our file transfer speed test, which tests how quickly a laptop duplicates 25GB of multimedia files, the m17 R5 clocked a transfer rate of 1,766 MBps. If you're planning to transfer a lot of large files between the laptop and an external drive, the Alienware m17 R5 won't disappoint.

Alienware m17 R5 (2022) review: Gaming Performance

  • Best for 1080p gaming
  • AMD FSR makes a significant difference

The Alienware m17 R5 excels when running games in 1080p at high and even ultra settings, but performance does significantly dip when playing games in UHD (3840 x 2160). Out of all the games we tested — including Metro Exodus, Red Dead Redemption 2, Shadow of the Tomb Raider and DiRT 5 — none could reach 60 fps when running at UHD resolution with high settings. 

When playing Fortnite in UHD with epic settings, the framerate hovered around 43 fps. Though that's a playable framerate, it's not great for multiplayer shooters, where higher framerates equate to quicker response times. Lowering the resolution to FHD (1920 x 1080) did increase the frame rate to 67 FPS on epic settings, which is good because a 60 fps framerate is what you want in a frenetic shooter. When playing in FHD with medium settings, the frame rate jumped up to 97 fps. This tracked with the other games we tested; most of them ran between 75 and 110 fps when playing in FHD with high settings. 

Alienware m17 R5 on desk

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

When it came to newer titles, such as Warhammer: 40,000 Darktide, the game ran at 52 fps with high settings on FHD resolution. Despite a litany of bugs, Darktide is a beautiful, grimdark game with some of the best graphics to date, and it looked incredible on the m17 R5. Even though it missed the 60 fps mark, it ran well because of AMD's Fidelity FX Super Resolution (FSR). Much like Nvidia's DLSS, this technology can run games at a high resolution by intelligently upscaling image quality while the game runs at a lower resolution, which can drastically increase the frame rate. Without FSR 2.0 turned on, the game ran like a stop-motion film, which says a lot about the technology's ability to carry a GPU past its actual performance.

Alienware m17 R5 on desk

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Playing Hi-Fi Rush resulted in a similar experience. The colorful, cel-shaded game doesn't look like it demands much from the GPU, but it's surprisingly resource hungry. With vibrant graphics and a gameplay loop that requires precision button presses to match the rhythm of the beat, Hi-Fi Rush needs a stable frame rate. Though the latest version of FSR isn't available for this game, I turned on FSR 1.0, which improved my framerate and kept the game running smoothly at nearly 120 fps — that's the max refresh rate of the review unit's display.

Games that didn’t offer FSR were still able to benefit from AMD’s Radeon Super Resolution (RSR), which works on any game so long as it’s running in full-screen mode. It doesn’t work as well as FSR, but it does provide increased performance at no major cost to the GPU. RSR is what I used to upscale Fortnite from FHD to UHD.

Alienware m17 R5 (2022) review: Keyboard and touchpad

  • The best keyboard I've ever tried on a laptop
  • Trackpad placement causes issues when typing

I've used a lot of laptop keyboards, and this is hands-down the best I've ever used. The low-profile mechanical keys have the right amount of travel for both typing and gaming. The clicky keys may be off-putting if you're using this laptop around others, but they are satisfying as clicky mechanical switches should be. Kudos to Alienware for working with the legendary Cherry MX brand on this keyboard. 

Alienware m17 R5 on desk

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The one downside of the keyboard is that it's not available with every configuration, and it costs $150 extra. I'd say it's worth the extra bit of cash, but as you'll read further below, I hardly used the keyboard due to the heat.

And while the keyboard is great, the touchpad got in the way of my enjoyment. I have nothing against the touchpad, but I take issue with its positioning. It’s located so near the keyboard that the palms of my hands frequently rub up against it, which moves the cursor and makes writing with it frustrating. Maybe it's because I have wider hands or I rest my palms on the laptop's surface, but this isn't a problem I've had before with other laptops. As much as I like the keyboard, I’m not about to change how I type just so I can use it properly.

Alienware m17 R5 (2022) review: Software

  • Confusing Alienware software

With three Alienware-specific software suites and a separate Dolby Access app for managing sound and display settings, it's not easy to find what you're looking for right away. The My Alienware app is the most unnecessary of the bunch; it only gives you the most basic information on your laptop and provides Alienware links for things like the warranty or user manual.

Alienware's Update tool is much more useful and something I wish I had on my desktop. I use Driver Easy to manage my drivers, which costs $30 per year, but the Alienware driver software does it for free. And it does it well. I was even able to update the BIOS from this software, which, if you've done this before on a desktop, is not the most intuitive process. While the unmitigated fear of a random blackout happening had me anxiously staring at the progress bar, everything turned out alright. 

The Alienware Command Center is the one you'll use the most often. This is where you'll create different RGB lighting profiles, program the dedicated macros keys, adjust power plans, and even do some overclocking. While it has its uses, I mostly stayed away from it because I found it confusing to navigate. Also, I don't pay much attention to RGB customization or macros. As for overclocking, I have better options, such as AMD's Adrenalin software or MSI's Afterburner. 

Alienware m17 R5 (2022) review: Battery life and heat

Like the m15 R5 before it, the m17 R5 doesn't have great battery life. When using the laptop on battery power to surf the web and work on Google docs, the battery just barely made it to four hours. Worse yet, performance slowed down to a crawl when the laptop was running on battery power. Opening a new tab was considerably slower, and there was a significant delay in Google docs between key presses and the letter appearing on-screen. 

Alienware m17 R5 on desk

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

As the battery neared the end, the performance dipped so low it became unusable. I tried adjusting the power plan to give me more juice while on battery, but the problem went deeper. Ultimately, I kept it plugged in when I was working, surfing the web, and especially when playing games. The battery life lasted around an hour when gaming, and it was so warm to the touch in some places that I stopped using the keyboard to play games.

Battery test (gaming)

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Time (hours:mins)
Alienware M17 R5 (2022)1:01
Asus Zephyrus G14 (2022)1:00
Razer Blade 14 (2022)1:27

In our lab tests, the laptop registered 91 F degrees at its hottest spot with non-gaming use. However, when gaming, the hottest spot registered at 144 F. I used an infrared thermometer gun to gauge the temperature, and the entire surface of the laptop registered temperatures between 100 to 109 F while I was gaming. The hottest zone was at the top of the keyboard near the center around the F5 key. In that area, the temperature easily reached 130 F within 30 minutes of gaming. Though it wasn't hot enough to wince when touching the keys, prolonged use of the keyboard didn't feel great.

I resorted to playing games with an external keyboard or a gamepad, which is a shame because the laptop’s clicky, mechanical keyboard is so nice. Still, the heat never reached excessive-enough temperatures to cause a crash or BSOD. 

However, with fans that sound like an F-16 flyover, I'd have hoped the temperatures would be much cooler.

Alienware m17 R5 (2022) review: Verdict

The Alienware m17 R5 is not an all-around great laptop if you plan to use it for productivity. It's too big and loud to take anywhere, and the disappointing battery life means you'll always have to be plugged in. Combined with a touchpad that's too close to the keyboard, I don't recommend this laptop for work. But this is a gaming laptop, and it doesn't disappoint when it comes to that task. 

The m17 R5 can play any game in your library, even newer GPU-intensive games, but there are some caveats. Though the 4K display is great for streaming content, don't expect to play many games at that native resolution since the internal specs aren't powerful enough to produce a consistent 60 fps in demanding games. With AMD's FSR and RSR upscaling tech, you can still take advantage of the vibrant, 4K display, but be prepared for the m17 R5 to get hot. 

If you're looking to jump into PC gaming but want the convenience of a laptop, then the Alienware m17 R5 is one of the better choices. As long as you don't mind playing exclusively near a power outlet, the m17 R5 delivers a high-end PC gaming experience. But, ultimately, you don't get a gaming laptop just to end up tethered to a wall outlet. The gaming performance, though good, doesn't warrant a sub-par battery life that will have you running to the nearest power strip after an hour or two of gaming. That's why if you want to play untethered like laptop gaming should be, then you're better off with something like the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14, the top choice in our list of the best gaming laptops