The new Alienware m17 R5 Ryzen Edition is a bit of an oddity in 2022. In a sea of Intel/ Nvidia configurations, it’s rare to find an all AMD system featuring CPU and GPU from team Red. It’s unclear why this is so given the many benefits of a closed ecosystem brings such as AMD SmartShift and Smart Access Memory and Graphics. And that’s not even talking about AMD’s lead in laptop power efficiency over Intel.
AMD Advantage aside, it’s really the shocking sticker price that got my attention. The m17 R5 Ryzen edition with a AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX, Radeon 6850M XT graphics, 32GB of DDR5 memory, 1TB SSD, Cherry MX mechanical keyboard and 17.3-inch 4K 120Hz display costs just $3800! That’s significantly cheaper (over $1000) compared to the nearest competitors from Asus or Razer. If that doesn’t peak your interest, then please, read on because there’s more goodness.
Aesthetically, the design of the m17 R5 remains unchanged from previous iterations — the Legend Industrial design has aged well and this remains one of the better and unique looking laptops on the market. At 17-inches, it’s a bit heavy, weighing 3.3 kilos but it’s still pretty thin at 1.08-inches. It comes in on color — ‘Dark side of the moon’ — and the premium plastics feel solid while stubbornly rejecting fingerprints and smudges.
The big chassis allows for improved thermal performance inside as well as plenty of ports on the outside. There’s two USB Type-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports on the right and on the left are an 2.5Gbs Ethernet port and a 3.5mm audio combo jack. The remainder of ports live on the backside that also has the wraparound LED ring. Notably, you get an HDMI 2.1 for 4K 120Hz and a USB Type-C with DisplayPort 1.4 and Power Delivery.
The 17.3-inch IPS display comes in either FHD 165Hz or 4K 120Hz — the latter being what I got. It’s a beautiful with excellent colors, sharpens and a quick 3ms response time is plenty quick for gaming. It supports AMD FreeSync which works beautifully with the Radeon 6850M XT which, while powerful, still can’t drive most AAA games at 4K120Hz. The adaptive sync is very necessary to keep things running smooth and tear-free. The display sits on a solid, book-binder style hinge which keeps it wobble and sag free. It also has a Windows Hello Webcam for quick sign-in and video calls.
The panel is HDR400 certified with support for Dolby Vision HDR but it doesn’t have any local dimming and 400nits of peak brightness makes for a rather lacklustre contrast and definition in HDR. The blacks are often washed out with poor definition while the highlights just don’t get bright enough. I tried to test Dolby Vision in the Disney+ app but it didn’t work and I couldn’t find any compatible PC games either.
But looks aside, games run very well at heighest settings in 1080p and 1440p though 4K was a much bigger struggle barely hitting 30fps. That was disappointing given the generous 12GB of DDR6 memory, Smart Access Graphics and FSR available to the AMD Radeon 6850M XT. You’ll definitely need to use FSR upscaling but even now, it’s still not as good as NVIDIA DLSS.
Outside of games, the Ryzen 9 6900HX performs as well as expected, excelling in multi-threaded work loads. However, I have seen Intel’s latest HX processors outperforming AMD but you wouldn’t notice it outside of heavy rendering programs. Everyday tasks and apps run fast, smooth and quiet. In fact, the m17 R5 is perhaps the quietest gaming laptop I’ve tested yet. Most gaming laptops are much too loud, necessitating headphones to keep out the raucous but not so with the m17. The improved Cryo-tech cooling technology within keeps the CPU around 70C and GPU about 76C during extend gaming sessions.
Battery life on the m17 R5 was a big let down. The best I got out of the 97Wh battery was 2.5 – 3 hours and that was with RGB lighting off, display brightness under 50% and battery saver running. Typically, AMD based gaming laptops are much better on battery than Intel systems but not this time. I was expecting at least 5–6 hours out of such a big battery. So, don’t leave home without your power brick. Oh, and it can’t charge via USB either which further sucks.
The Alienware m17 R5 checks off almost all the right boxes – great design and build, great performance and thermals, plenty of ports and an unbeatable price. I wish the battery was better and a 1440p QHD display would be better suited to the hardware. Still, it’s hard to argue with its sub $4000 price. As far as 17-inch gaming laptops go, this is one really good bargain especially if you get it on discount for closer to $3500.