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Dell Alienware m18 R1 Review


The new Alienware m18 R1 launched in India in April 2023 with some of the most powerful hardware configurations aimed to offer a premium gaming experience. The unit we got for this review comes with a 13th Gen Intel Core i9-13900HX CPU, and a Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 GPU. On paper, this combination is more than enough to run any AAA game that has launched this year or even in 2023. However, reality is sometimes different than what is written on the paper.

During my time with Dell Alienware m18 R1, I tested the hardware with multiple gaming and performance benchmarks. I also played the latest AAA titles like Immortals of Aveum to see how the laptop holds up against one of the most demanding Unreal Engine 5 (UE5) game that launched in 2023.

Has Dell managed to integrate all the hardware components offered in Alienware m18 R1 in a seamless manner? Is this gaming laptop worth your time and money? Let’s find answers to these questions and more in our Alienware m18 R1 here.

Before we get started with that, let’s first have a look at the specifications of Alienware m18 R1.

Specifications

Dell Alienware m18 R1
CPU 13th Gen Intel Core i9-13900HX (36 MB cache, 24 cores, 32 threads, up to 5.40 GHz Turbo)
GPU Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080, 12 GB GDDR6 Video Memory
Memory 32GB (2x16GB) DDR5 RAM clocked at 5200 MT/s
Storage 2TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD
Display 18-inch display with QHD+ (2560 x 1600 pixels) resolution, 165Hz refresh rate, 3ms response time, Nvidia G-Sync support along with Dynamic Display Switch (DDS), 100% support for DCI-P3 color gamut
Battery 97 WHr (6 Cell)
Webcam FHD (1080p at 30 fps) Infrared camera, Dual-array microphones
Connectivity Intel Killer Wi-Fi 6E AX1675, 2×2, 802.11ax, Bluetooth
Ports 1x USB Type-A port with USB 3.2 Gen-1 port with PowerShare, 3x USB Type-A port with USB 3.2 Gen-1 ports, 2x USB Type-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 Gen-2 protocol with DisplayPort Alt Mode and USB4 support, 1x RJ45 Ethernet port, 1x Universal audio port, 1x HDMI 2.1 port, 1x power-adapter port, 1x mini-Display port
Weight 4.04 kg

Benchmarks

Gaming benchmarks

Now, let’s get right to the business and talk about the gaming performance on the laptop. I ran 12 different AAA titles to see how well the laptop does and what is the kind of FPS players can expect from the Dell Alienware m18 R1.

After hours of benchmarks and days of testing, the laptop was able to deliver over 120fps in seven games which is impressive to say the least. Performance on Cyberpunk 2077 is also decent, as the laptop managed to give an average FPS of 72 without DLSS.

I played Doom Eternal to see if there are any potential frame drops or game engine-related issues on the laptop, but I did not find any. Troy: A Total War Saga offered an average of 82fps, Control gave 73fps on average, Red Dead Redemption 2 benchmark gave 109fps average, and the benchmark mode in Borderlands 3 gave an average of 106fps. Beyond this, the laptop maintained more than 120fps on average in games like Forza Horizon 5, Hitman 3, Gears 5, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, and Immortals of Aveum.

Performance benchmarks

Besides games, I also ran multiple synthetic benchmarks to evaluate the CPU and GPU performance of the laptop. These tests are meant to give an estimate the laptop’s peak performance capability while offering a comparison with other laptops that IGN India has reviewed so far.

Unsurprisingly, Dell Alienware m18 R1 performs trades blows with other laptops that feature Intel Core i9-13900H or i9-13980HX and Ryzen 9 7940HS. Among all the laptops tested so far, Dell Alienware m18 R1 has the best Intel XTU 2 score.

However, there are some tests like PC Mark 10 where it falls short of laptops with Intel Core i7-13700H. It also did not perform as well in benchmark tests like the Unigine Superposition. While the laptop can hold its own while offering great performance. Inspecting the scores, some laptops with a weaker CPU-GPU pairing come close to the Dell Alienware m18 R1 scores.

A fair comparison for performance benchmarks can be drawn between Dell Alienware m18 R1 and Acer Predator Helios 16 since both gaming laptops have the same CPU and GPU. Dell Alienware just about edged Acer Predator Helios 16 when it comes to scores, but it is a close call.

Please note that the performance benchmarks and their scores help get an estimated idea of the laptop’s performance. It does not necessarily reflect the practical performance the laptop can potentially offer, and that statistic is more evident from the FPS delivered by the laptop in different games, as well as its ability to keep the temperatures in check without affecting performance, during long gaming sessions.

Battery and Thermals of the Dell Alienware m18 R1

The laptop’s battery is dependent on which performance preset you go with. Whenever I tried to do non-gaming tasks on the laptop on maximum performance preset, the battery ran out very quickly which is understandable since the laptop’s CPU and GPU are using out power even if I am not particularly using them at their peak.

m18 R1 delivers a good battery life on balanced, quiet, and there is a specific profile preset for battery in Command Center. It makes a significant difference to the battery life while helping you use the laptop on the go. This is the one and only positive factor I have discovered about the laptop when it comes to its portability.

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Dell has also added the ExpressCharge feature in the laptop which lets you charge at a faster. But this will adversely affect the battery health in the long run. Hence, it is advised to only use this feature when required.

Coming to thermals of the laptop, I tested this aspect by trying to push the hardware with Immortals of Aveum. Overall, the Alienware m18 R1 did a fair job to keep the temperatures tolerable. The maximum temperature went to 84 degrees Celsius with 76 as average. This is where Dell Alienware’s Command Center and the laptop’s ventilation capacity comes into play.

The laptop offers impressive performance when it is set at the maximum performance setting in the Command Center. At the same time, it generates more heat and to deal with it, the m18 R1 lets the fans loose while throwing the “acoustic comfort” out of the window. Don’t take me at my word for it though as Dell directly implies this in the Command Center. As per the image below, you want best performance, you’re going to hear the laptop loud and clear.

Acoustic Comfort gets 1-star rating from Dell at Max settings

Dell has kept both thermal and acoustic comfort at a lower priority in the maximum performance preset. This means the laptop is designed to go as fast as possible. To be fair, I did not find thermals as a problem during my time with this laptop, but the charger can get extremely hot, so be cautious about it.

Display and Design

If you’re wondering why I believe that the battery backup is the only positive factor for portability, here’s why: Design. This is a heavy laptop, and not in the sense that gaming laptops usually are. This is the heaviest laptop that IGN India has reviewed till date, and sadly for laptops, that is a big negative factor. Generally, gaming laptops hover in the 2-3 kg category. Anything around 3-3.4 kg is already a heavy enough laptop that you cannot easily carry around with you.

Dell Alienware m18 R1 is 4 kg heavy. There’s no practicality that my mind can conjure up where it makes sense to recommending this laptop’s portability. The only edge case I can figure is the ability to carry it more easily and comfortably than a desktop as the display, computing and the peripherals are all integrated.

The 18-inch display, as amazing as it is, also does not help with portability since both size and weight become an issue to deal with for portability. The 18-inch display means that most of the standard laptop backpacks will not be able to hold this, since they are generally manufactured by keeping 14-16-inch laptops in mind.

Currently, Dell is also not offering a laptop backpack as an add-on to this unit, or any special offer attached to this purchase. A first-party backpack that can accommodate this large and heavy a laptop would be ideal for interested buyers. For now, getting such a bag is an added investment unless you already have a bag.

This lack of a practical portability is likely to pose as a major issue for those who require their laptop, not just for gaming, but also for their college or work. Carrying this laptop with you every day to work or office is likely to pose challenges, coupled with a charger that has its own weight to add to this.

As mentioned above, the laptop has an 18-inch display which offers QHD+ resolution at 165Hz refresh rate and 3ms response time. On paper, it may seem like there is not a big difference between a 16-inch and 18-inch display, but that’s not true. The screen of this laptop is massive, and it really enhances the gaming experience you have on this laptop. Consuming content like movies and splitting windows for some work is much better on Dell Alienware m18 R1.

Dell Alienware m18 R1 carries nothing different in terms of its look, as its design is identical to previous laptops in this series. It has a black body with the signature hive-style vents on the back side. Here, you also get two Type-C ports with DisplayPort support, a HDMI 2.1 port, a USB-A port, and a MicroSD card port alongside the charging port. This backside port and vent area is surrounded with a thin customisable RGB light strip.

Alienware m18 R1: Keyboard and Trackpad

The placement of trackpad and keyboard is ideal on the laptop and there’s enough room on either side of the laptop for anyone to find support while typing or playing games using the in-built keyboard. This may not seem as much of a plus point, but an added comfort is always appreciated since it was something that bothered me with Legion Slim 5i when I reviewed it.

As for the keyboard, the keys are all standard size with no compromises in the size of certain keys to fit everything like on other laptops. This is particularly true for the numpad which often gets shrunk in size to make more room for other keys, but that’s not the case with this laptop.

The customizable nature of RGB lighting on the keyboard offers a lot of creative freedom. You can change the color of each individual key. Dell also allows you to control the RGB colors of the Alienware power button logo, the Alienware logo at the back of the screen and the RGB strip on the back.

The customizability of the RGB on the keyboard allows you to highlight the keys that are most useful to you during gaming such as WASD. The software has already set WASD keys as a pre-set category (among others) while allows you to simply change their color without having to manually select them. All this customisation can be done using AlienFX section in the Alienware Command Center application.

Software

On the software side, Dell Alienware Command Center is the heart of this laptop. It is the key if you want to get the best out of the laptop as it as the hub to monitor and tweak the CPU and GPU performance of this laptop. So, you need to learn to use it properly if you are not familiar with the Command Center.

For monitoring, you can check different performance indicators such as the GPU temperature, power consumption, VRAM usage, and frequency in the Command Center. There are also metrics available for the memory (RAM) and C Drive (Storage) that you can track.

As mentioned in the performance section, the Command Center comes with multiple performance preset profiles. It makes it easier for a user to pick the right profile based on their needs at any given time.

These preset profiles also allow users to enable or disable the ExpressCharge feature. There is also a Quiet profile, which brings down the GPU-CPU performance but keeps the laptop from making any noise. Then, you have Balanced, Peformance, and Max. The Max profile is built for gaming, and it will boost your CPU and GPU’s performance to deliver better results. However, this profile will lead to a lot of fan noise and an increase in the internal system temperature.

There is also an option to choose the default profile for the system at launch along with the settings for each game you have installed. This is a handy feature as you can choose the Max profile for demanding games, and something more conservative for games that ask less of your CPU and GPU.

Value for money?

Dell Alienware m18 R1 belongs in the higher end of the premium gaming laptop category. Thanks to its specifications which include the latest Intel processor and Nvidia RTX 4080 GPU, the Dell Alienware m18 R1 costs INR 3,74,389 in India.

The review unit we were sent is the 2TB storage variant, which is not available in the country. If it were, that would make this laptop even more expensive. For laptops that carry a price such as this, it becomes essential to look at the pros and cons and evaluate whether the price feels worth paying for. At the same time, if you are considering spending this much amount of money, it is likely that you know what you want or you have more than enough to spend.

Regardless of the price, when it comes to performance, a gamer does not need to worry about any issues on this laptop. Though, there is no denying that despite paying this much, there are some areas of compromise. One of those compromises is the portability and comfort. If you have the money, are hardly going to carry this laptop anywhere and everywhere, and have no problem having 4 kg weight, there is no reason not to pick it up and enjoy its display and performance.

However, if you intend to use a laptop as more of a laptop than a desktop, I cannot seem to find a reason to suggest Dell Alienware m18 R1 even with the performance. This is because there is no point in having a laptop that you would hesitate to take with you while travelling. Like I said, it boils down to the compromises you are comfortable with.

If you are looking for value-for-money, the Dell Alienware m18 R1 is not it because of these compromises. There are other laptops with similar specifications, and a better design that you may want to check before locking down your purchase. Some of the examples include the Acer Predator Helios 16 which comes at a much more affordable price of INR 2,49,999. You also have the Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 which comes with RTX 4080 and AMD Ryzen 9 7945HX CPU, and a price tag of INR 2,69,990.

The laptop can deliver exceptional performance, as evident from our gaming benchmarks and productivity testing. But as I have already mentioned, it is the idea of compromise that hurts the Dell Alienware m18 R1. As much as I loved the gaming experience it offers and the display, the laptop simply does not justify the price tag for similar performance to other laptops that are more cost-effective with equally good elements like the display and design. I think the story of Dell Alienware m18 R1 can be summed up around the importance of weight and comparative value. Does the size and display of the screen merit enough consideration to ignore other options, or does the laptop’s bulky nature hurt its chances even more despite the performance? Sadly, it is the latter for me as Dell Alienware m18 R1 could have done a better job with this balance.



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