Alienware 15 R5 (2018)
Can Dell deliver on the promise of an uncompromising 15-inch powerhouse gaming laptop?
“Wielding one of Intel’s first overclockable Core i9-8950HK CPUs, the top of the line Alienware 15 is packing an absurd amount of compute power.”
Dell’s matt- black Alienware 15 flagship gaming laptop is actually pretty unimposing to look at in person. It isn’t quite as sleek as the 1.8cm thick ASUS ROG Zephyrus (see APC 445, page 24), but the extra 0.7cm thickness in the Alienware’s chassis gives it space for bigger fans and larger heat sinks. This means it can technically be fitted with Intel’s overclockable i9 CPU, but after getting our hands on a machine with that chip, we’re not quite sure this laptop is cool enough to handle such a powerful CPU.
The Alienware 15 also only comes with a 60Hz display (a 15.6-inch IPS number at 1080p), which is a step down from some of the bigger, faster G-Sync panels that are at the forefront, such as on MSI’s GT75 Titan (see APC 456, page 25) and the Aorus X9 DT (see APC 456, page 26). As with most of the Alienware 15’s components, however, you can optionally upgrade the screen resolution to 4K, or swap to a 120Hz G-Sync panel — provided you’re happy to add $200-300 to the final price tag.
Wielding one of Intel’s first overclockable Core i9-8950HK CPUs, the top-of-the line Alienware 15 packs an absurd amount of compute power. This hexa-core CPU is complimented by a sufficiently beefy 16GB of RAM by default — add $390 if you want the 32GB model we tested. There’s the same kind of pricing for storage; a 512GB PCIe M.2 SSD is included, but it’s $120 or $1,475 extra for a 1TB HDD, or a 1TB HDD and double the PCIe SSD capacity, respectively. The included Class 40 SSD is fast, with read and write speeds of 2,786 and 1,355MB/s, but it’s hard to imagine a primary gaming rig without additional storage.
The Alienware 15 gets expected PCMark 10 scores of 6,085 compared to 4,754 and 6,356 from the MSI GT75 Titan and Aorus X9 units, respectively. In Cinebench R15’s multithreaded CPU benchmark however, the Alienware 15 scores around 22% less than both these devices. While this didn’t seem to affect general usem, we saw a similar performance dip in media encoding benchmarks, which we suspect is due to thermal throttling from the CPU’s regular 100ºC spikes.
3DMark Fire Strike Ultra scores sat at 4,266, which is about 7% better than the ASUS ROG Zephyrus and between 16% and 20% lower than the GT75 Titan and X9. This makes sense, given the Zephyrus also has a Max-Q GPU while the other two use regular mobile GTX 1080s. In real-world games like Ghost Recon: Wildlands and Middle Earth: Shadow of War you’re looking at average frame rates of 52.7 fps and 89fps using Ultra 1080p settings.
The Alienware 15’s customisability will be great for anyone who wants total control over their build, but if you add in the optional extras of 32GB of RAM, a fast screen and adequate storage space then the Alienware 15 ends up only $200 or so less than the $5,599 Aorus X9 DT. Considering the X9 DT has a faster screen, mechanical keyboard and double the PCIe SSD storage (a privilege that Dell charge $1,475 for) it’s pretty clear which is the better value.