The Alienware x15 R1 gaming laptop is very fast, very good-looking and very well built – and it features a market-leading screen and great keyboard. It isn’t cheap, though, plus battery life and connectivity could be better.
The Alienware brand is no stranger to gamers who want to combine lightning-fast performance with luxurious design, and the Alienware x15 R1 is the firm’s latest salvo in the gaming laptop market.
The machine certainly looks the part, delivering design improvements over the older Alienware m15 – and, not surprisingly, it comes packed with powerful gaming hardware.
The x15 I’ve reviewed includes an Intel Core i9 processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 graphics, and it’s available for £2199 in the UK from third-party retailers such as NDC. In the US, it’s sold directly by Dell and costs $2249. If you’re buying from Europe, expect to pay around €2499 for a model with a Core i7 processor and RTX 3070 graphics.
Unfortunately, the buying situation is murky right now. Dell produces the Alienware x15 R1 – the model reviewed here – alongside the Alienware x15 R2, which has updated processors and graphics cards. There’s plenty of overlap: the older R1 will remain available on third-party sites and from Dell for some time yet.
I’ve highlighted the key options in this review, so you can make an informed decision about the model that’s best for you. And, happily, the x15 is a great machine no matter which version you buy.
The Alienware x15 R1 presents yet another superb design from Alienware. The laptop is just 16mm thick, which is sensational for a high-end gaming machine, and it means that this rig undercuts its biggest rivals – the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 and Razer Blade 15 are both thicker.
Alienware’s machine weighs 2.34kg, which makes it heavier than rivals; but it’s hardly a heavyweight when you consider the powerful internals. In addition, the build quality of its matte plastic body is impressive. The x15 is easy to sling into a bag, it looks fantastic thanks to its monochrome design and honeycomb vents, and it will happily survive life outside the house.
The overall design impresses, then, but it does come at the expense of connectivity. The x15 has a Thunderbolt 4 port, sole USB Type-A and Type-C connectors, an HDMI 2.1 output, an audio jack and a microSD card slot – and that’s it. Both rivals are more generous. And while the Alienware’s rear-mounted ports are good for cable tidying, the bright ring of RGB LEDs at the back of the laptop are blinding, so you can’t often see the ports when you’re trying to connect.
However, the Alienware’s keyboard delivers. The buttons offer 1.5mm of travel alongside crisp, fast movement – they’re reminiscent of the low-profile mechanical hardware found on larger laptops. The buttons have per-key RGB LED backlighting and n-key rollover – and there’s an extra column of media keys, too. There’s no numberpad, but neither rival has one.
The Alienware’s keyboard is superb for gaming – it’s just as good as the Asus , and better than the cramped, shallow Razer unit.
Alienware’s trackpad features snappy buttons, but the pad is smaller than the units on the Asus and Razer machines. It’s mediocre for gaming, and I’d highly recommend a USB mouse.
The Alienware x15 R1’s 15.6-inch 1080p display has a stunning specification. An Nvidia G-Sync runs with a 360Hz refresh rate alongside a 1ms response time, which means butter-smooth animation in the fastest eSports games. It’s better than the Razer, which paired a 360Hz refresh rate with a 2ms response time, and it’s further beyond the 240Hz Asus.
The x15’s panel pairs high-end design with great quality. The peak brightness level of 376 nits means the display works well indoors and out, and a contrast ratio of 1044:1 ensures vibrant, punchy output without oversaturation. The Delta E of 1.53 delivers accurate colours, and the panel rendered 99.5% of the sRGB gamut – so it can produce every shade that games need.
It does suffer some minor issues, though. In my testing, it only rendered 79% of the DCI-P3 colour space and 76% of the Adobe RGB gamut, so it isn’t good enough for working or gaming in either space. Its black level of 0.36 nits could be better, but it isn’t high enough to cause issues for darker games.
This screen is better for gaming than the panels inside the Razer and Asus notebooks, but both of those have better DCI-P3 and Adobe RGB coverage, making them preferable for creative work.
The x15 is sold with three different displays. If you’d like to save cash and don’t need a high-end eSports display, there’s a 165Hz panel with a 3ms response time. And if you want to prioritise single-player titles, there’s a 2560 x 1440 screen that runs at 240Hz.
The Alienware x15 R I’ve reviewed includes an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 with a mid-range peak power level of 110W – which isn’t a surprise, given the slim design. It’s paired with an Intel Core i9-11900H processor with eight Hyper-Threaded cores and a Turbo speed of 4.9GHz.
This machine has 32GB of memory and a 1TB SSD with solid read and write speeds of 3383MB/s and 3096MB/s. Connectivity comes from Killer-branded dual-band Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2, and there’s a 2.5Gbps Ethernet dongle in the box. The x15’s 720p webcam supports Windows Hello, and its speakers are loud and punchy but devoid of bass.
The GPU may have a mid-range power limit, but it remains potent. It played Horizon Zero Dawn at 1080p with a smooth average of 96fps, and handled Borderlands 3 at 85fps. It will run any high-end game without complaint, even with ray tracing and DLSS. It has ample power for eSports, too: it zipped through Rainbow Six Siege at 206fps, which bodes well for competitive games – most popular titles will easily run beyond 300fps even with minor graphical adjustments.
Those results are slightly faster than the Razer, which ran its RTX 3070 at 105W. Impressively, the Alienware also outpaced the Asus’ RTX 3080, which had a tiny 80W power limit. The x15 scored 9751 in 3DMark Time Spy, while the Asus only managed 9081.
The Core i9 processor is no slouch, either. Its Geekbench single- and multi-core results of 1610 and 9369 outpace the Asus’ AMD chip and the Razer’s older Intel Core i7 CPU. Not surprisingly, the x15 can handle multi-tasking, mainstream content creation, and streaming.
Impressively, the slim x15 is a decent thermal performer. The fan noise is noticeable but modest in the machine’s standard performance mode; it’s no louder than its rivals. The exterior becomes warm but never dangerously hot, and the speakers or a headset will easily obscure the noise. As usual, though, don’t use the overclocked modes: they increase fan noise dramatically, delivering only a minor performance boost.
You’ll get even more pace if you buy the updated x15. The R2 uses RTX 3070 Ti graphics – expect a 10% speed gain when compared to the RTX 3070. The R2 is also available with the i7-12700H and i9-12900H Alder Lake processors. Both deliver modest single-threaded gains but huge improvements to multi-core performance. The i7-12700H is approximately 13% faster than the i9-11900H in multi-core tests, while the i9-12900H is about 25% quicker.
You’ll have to pay extra for those performance boosts, though. The x15 R1 I’ve reviewed costs £2199 / $2249 / €2499. To get the x15 R2 with the RTX 3070 Ti, the 360Hz display and equivalent memory and storage specifications, you’ll have to pay £2849 / $2849 / €3099, and those machines come with the Core i7-12700H processor.
If you do want the R2 with the Core i9-12900H, you’ll have to part with at least £3349 / £3399 / €3749, because that CPU is only available with the RTX 3080 Ti.
The overlap of R1 and R2 machines mean the x15 is confusing, but there are ground rules to follow. The R1 models may have older processors and graphics cores, but they’re still great components that will run anything you throw at them – and R1 machines cheaper.
The x15 R2 represents peak performance, but the difference between the RTX 3070 and RTX 3070 Ti isn’t huge. And while the i7-12700H is faster than the i9-11900H, you won’t get a significant CPU boost until you pay for the expensive R2 model with the i9-12900H and RTX 3080 Ti.
The Alienware x15 R1 lasted for just over an hour during gameplay, which is no surprise for a high-end gaming laptop. That’s on a par with the Asus and about 30 minutes behind the Razer.
In an everyday work test with the screen at 150 nits, the Alienware lasted for 3hrs 40mins. That mediocre result lagged behind the Asus and Razer laptops. The x15 managed 5hrs 38mins when playing video, which is better, but you’ll never get through a day without plugging it in.
You want a slim, good-looking gaming laptop
The Alienware x15 looks fantastic, it’s super-fast, and includes an impressive display. It also has a good keyboard and it’s a solid thermal performer. It’s one of the best gaming laptops you can buy right now.
You’d prefer a laptop with good connectivity and battery life
The x15 doesn’t last too long away from the mains, and it could do with more ports.
The Alienware x15 R1 impresses with its design, performance and screen – it’s one of the best gaming laptops around right now. It also includes a great keyboard and it’s a solid thermal performer. That said, it’s worth looking elsewhere if you want more ports or better battery life, and you’ll have to be careful about which version you buy.Trusted ScoreTerms and conditions
Every gaming laptop we review goes through a series of uniform checks designed to gauge key things including build quality, performance, screen quality and battery life.
These include formal synthetic benchmarks and scripted tests, plus a series of real world checks, such as how well it runs when running a AAA game.
We used as our main laptop for at least a week.
Tested the performance via both benchmark tests and real-world use.
We tested the screen with a colorimeter and real-world use.
We tested the battery with a benchmark test and real-world use.
The Alienware x15 includes a one-year warranty and can be upgraded with a variety of longer deals.Is there a cheaper version?
Yes. It’s possible to buy the Alienware x15 R2 with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060, with prices starting at £2049 / $2199 / €2349.
We run laptops through a number of tests, and here is how the Alienware x15 R1 scored.‹Dirt Rally (Full HD)Dirt Rally (Quad HD)Horizon Zero Dawn frame rate (Full HD)Horizon Zero Dawn frame rate (Quad HD)Borderlands 3 frame rate (Full HD)Borderlands 3 frame rate (Quad HD)Geekbench 5 multi coreGeekbench 5 single core3DMark Time SpyBattery recharge timeBattery LifePCMark Battery (gaming)PCMark Battery (office)DCI-P3Adobe RGBsRGBWhite Visual Colour TemperatureContrastBlack levelBrightnessCrystalMarkDisk Write SpeedCrystalDiskMark Read speedPCMark 10Alienware x15 (2021)138 fps–96 fps–85 –9369 1610 9751 -1 mins 1 hrs1 hrs3 hrs79 %76 %99.5 %6323 K1044:1 0.36 nits376 nits3096 MB/s3382 MB/s6780 Razer Blade 15 base edition (2021)125 fps117 fps90 fps64 fps72 54 5232 1147 7687 –2 hrs–2 hrs96.7 %81.3 %99.7 %6432 K1011.1 0.3 nits315 nits664.6 MB/s3101 MB/s5405 Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 (2021)100 fps95 fps78 fps65 fps72 54 7282 1485 9081 –5 hrs–5 hrs95.4 %83.2 %99.7 %6486 K1063:1 0.3323 nits353.23 nits2204.55 MB/s3577.13 MB/s6344 ›
Here are all the important specs for the Alienware x15 R1, and how they compare to rival laptops.‹UK RRPUSA RRPEU RRPCPUManufacturerScreen SizeStorage CapacityFront CameraBatteryBattery HoursSize (Dimensions)WeightASINOperating SystemRelease DateFirst Reviewed DateModel NumberModel VariantsResolutionRefresh RatePortsAudio (Power output)GPURAMConnectivityColoursDisplay TechnologyScreen TechnologyTouch ScreenConvertible?Bin capacityAlienware x15 (2021)£2199$2249€2498Intel Core i9-11900HAlienware15.6 inches1TBYes87 Whr5 0360 x 277 x 16 MM2.35 KG–Windows 11 Home 64-bit202107/03/2022x15x14, x171920 x 1080360 Hz1 x Thunderbolt 4, 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, 1 x audio, 1 x HDMI 2.1, 1 x microSD4 WNvidia GeForce RTX 307032GBDual-band 802.11ax Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.2, 2.5Gbps EthernetWhite, blackLEDIPSNoNo–Razer Blade 15 base edition (2021)£1599.99$1699.00€1799.99Intel Core i7-10759HRazer15.6 Inches512GB1MP/720P65 Whr–235 x 19.9 x 355 MM2.09 KGRZ09-0369BWA2-R3W1Windows 10Jan-2118/03/2021RZ09-0369BWA2-R3W1–2560 x 1440165 Hz1 x Thunderbolt™ 3 (USB-C), 3 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 (USB-A), 1 x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet, 1 x HDMI 2.1 output (Up to 4K 120Hz)–Up to Nvidia RTX 307016GBWi-Fi, BluetoothBlackLEDIPSNoNolitresAsus ROG Zephyrus G15 (2021)£2599.99––AMD Ryzen 9 5900HSAsus15.6 inches16GBN/A90 Whr–355 x 243 x 19.9 MM1.9 KG–Windows 10202118/02/2022––2560 x 1440–1x headphone jack, 1x HDMI, 2x USB-A 3.2 Gen 2, 2x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2, 1x RJ45 LAN port and 1x card reader (microSD)–Nvidia RTX 308016GBWi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1White and blackLCDIPSNoNo–›