Alienware m18 R1 review

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Gaming laptops featuring an 18-inch screen have become quite popular this season, and the Alienware m18 has joined the ranks alongside Asus’ ROG Strix Scar 18 and the Razer Blade 18. Out of the three, the m18 stands out as the bulkiest, weighing 4kg compared to its rivals’ 3.1kg. Its design elements, such as the protruding rear and the glowing RGB alien head on the lid, unmistakably reveal its gaming-oriented nature.


lienware m18 R1 Specifications

  • Processor: 24-core (8 P-cores, 16 E-cores) Intel Core i9-13980HX
  • Graphics: 16GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 (up to 150W)
  • RAM: 32GB DDR5-4800
  • Display: 18in non-touch IPS, 480Hz, 1,920 x 1,200 resolution
  • Storage: 1TB M.2 PCI-E Gen4 SSD
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi 6E
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth 5.2
  • Webcam: 1080p
  • Connectivity:
    • 2 x Thunderbolt 4
    • USB-C 3.2 Gen 1
    • 2 x USB-A 3.2 Gen 1
    • HDMI 2.1
    • mini-DisplayPort
    • 2.5Gb Ethernet
    • SD card reader
    • 3.5mm combo jack
  • Battery: 97Wh
  • Operating System: Windows 11 Pro
  • Dimensions: 410 x 320 x 26.7mm (WDH)
  • Weight: 4kg
  • Warranty: 1 year on-site warranty

There are two options available for the IPS panels: one with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 and a refresh rate of 165Hz, and the other with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,200 and a refresh rate of 480Hz. In our technical tests, both versions performed similarly, boasting a peak brightness of around 330cd/m2 and DCI-P3 coverage slightly below 80%. While not extraordinary, their matte finish effectively minimized reflections.

Achieving a 480fps frame rate demands serious firepower, which is why Dell equipped our review unit with top-of-the-line components: a Core i9-13980HX processor, GeForce RTX 4090 graphics, and 32GB of DDR5-4800 memory. Unfortunately, in the UK, it is only available with an i7-13700HX or i9-13900HX processor. With the latter option, along with the same components and a 1TB SSD, it carries a price tag of £3,759.

Alienware m18 R1

Enhanced by the impressive cooling system made possible by its large chassis, the test unit effortlessly breezed through our gaming benchmarks. While we provide detailed graphs on page 59, it’s worth noting that in Shadow of the Tomb Raider at 1080p resolution, the m18 achieved 192fps, surpassing even the ROG Strix Scar 18 with its 181fps. Similarly, in Far Cry 6, the m18 took the lead over the ROG Strix Scar 18, delivering 123fps compared to the latter’s 107fps at 1080p resolution.

The performance story remained consistent in Red Dead Redemption 2, as it achieved a remarkable 135fps at 1080p, surpassing the ROG Strix Scar 18’s 123fps. Similarly, when faced with the challenges of Borderlands 3, the Alienware m18 R1 emerged victorious with an impressive 176fps at 1200p.

However, the m18 didn’t fall short in our productivity tests either. It scored a strong 2,031 in the single-core section of Geekbench 5, slightly lower than the Asus with the same CPU. But it quickly made up for it by reaching 21,005 in the multicore section, outperforming its rival by around 1,800. This dominance extended to our Handbrake video-transcoding test, where it completed the task in just 2 minutes and 39 seconds, a whole ten seconds faster than the ROG Strix Scar 18.

Alienware m18 R1

Another standout feature was the mechanical keyboard that accompanied our test unit. While this £50 optional addition, the CherryMX ultra-low profile keyboard, provided a satisfying experience with smooth and silent key presses. The keys were well-spaced, and the wide chassis offered ample room to include a number pad on the right side. Additionally, the per-key AlienFX RGB effects were enabled, although I personally stuck with the default blue color for the entire keyboard during testing. The only minor drawback was the size of the touchpad, which felt disproportionate given its relatively small 5.1-inch width.

A set of two 2W speakers is positioned near the front of the keyboard deck, right where your palms rest. While they deliver clear sound at maximum volume level, thanks to Alienware’s high-quality 1080p webcam, they lack bass and depth. Consequently, music lacks impact and game explosions fail to match the onscreen visuals. However, most gamers prefer wearing headphones for a more immersive experience and to avoid the noise generated by the four fans inside the laptop’s chassis.

To access the laptop’s internal components, I had to remove the bottom of the chassis, which required unscrewing eight crosshead screws. Once opened, a range of user-replaceable parts became accessible. The battery can be swapped out after removing a few screws, as can the Killer Wi-Fi 6E card and the two supplied DDR5 SODIMMs (our review unit came with twin 16GB units). Additionally, the supplied M.2280 SSD is easily replaceable, and there’s room to add three M.2240 drives for extra storage.

The laptop features a single USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 port on the right side, while the left side offers a headphone jack, two USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports, and a 2.5GbE port. However, the back panel is where the real connectivity options shine, including two Thunderbolt 4 ports, one USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 port, HDMI 2.1, mini-DisplayPort, an SD card slot, and a power connector.

When it comes to the power cord, it’s worth noting that the m18 R1 has one of the thickest cords I’ve seen for a laptop, and the 330W power brick itself weighs over a kilo. In terms of battery life, it performs predictably, lasting for 4 hours and 33 minutes in our light-use test with the 165Hz screen and dropping to 2 hours and 58 minutes with the 460Hz panel.

In conclusion, this gaming laptop offers high-quality performance and fully utilizes its components. Even if you opt for the most affordable version with a Core i7-13700HX, RTX 4060, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD priced at £2,299, you can expect excellent results. The main drawback, however, is its sheer bulk.

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