Alienware m15 R4 Review: “Ampere” Is Here

The Alienware m15 R4 shares a design with its predecessor but crucially adds Nvidia GeForce RTX 30 Series GPU power, bringing improved gaming performance and 60fps ray tracing to this standout gaming laptop. PCMag analyst Matt Buzzi gives it the once-over.

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– Hi, I’m Matthew Buzzi from PCMag And this is the Alienware m15 R4. It’s the latest rev of
the flagship m15 laptop, And it looks a lot like the m15 R3. They share an exterior. That’s not what this update is about. It’s the same sci-fi sort
of style that I really like. I think it stands out without… I mean, it lets you know
it’s a gaming laptop. It doesn’t use the traditional
red and black color scheme. It has a unified, at least
well-considered style to me. I think that’s worthy of praise. I think it’s kind of cool And I think it’s
different, if nothing else. Everyone may not like it but I
do kind of find it appealing. I like the white, I like
the RGB ring on the back. So, all in all, I approve of the design. That’s not what this update is focused on, So. more of the same. If it’s
not broken, don’t fix it. And maybe on the R5, we’ll
see a major redesign. But here, we’re focused on the internals And that is the RTX 3070
in this particular unit. NVIDIA just announced its 30 series GPUs, The Ampere-based GPUs, at CES 2021. That’s what’s in these new units And that’s what the main
update is all about. There are a lot of promises and Draws about the 30 series that
would force you to upgrade. If you have a 2080 it’s a
little murkier, you know? That’s a new GPU, do you need to run out And get it on desktop? We saw a pretty huge leap.
The performance and the value Of those new graphics cards,
compared to the 20 series, Was pretty big. On laptop,
it’s not quite so big.

Now that we’ve tested one ourselves, We don’t have to be as theoretical About what it’ll offer, and it is better, But it’s just not as
much of this leap that For me tells you to run
out and buy it right away. If you have anything
older than that, though, If you are on a 10 series
graphics card, especially if You have a lower RTX card,
then maybe it’s worth the jump. Especially if your laptop is
in other ways showing its age Or you want some other features. We are still talking about
10 to 15 frames per second Across the board game
compared to the RTX 2080. So this isn’t even at
the top of the hierarchy. The 3080 is above this
and it’s still beating out The top card from the previous generation, By a good amount of frames. It’s also not all about
the raw frame rates. The RTX cards, obviously, their
calling card, if you will, Is this ray tracing technology,
advanced lighting technique Real-time lighting effects,
reflection, shadows And they’re very demanding to run. They look great, but it’s very
straining on the hardware. And for the 20 series, the top
GPUs could get away with it A little better on desktop but
hitting 60 frames per second, Not always the easiest thing to do, Even with powerful hardware. These make that a lot more plausible. The 10 to 15 frames without
ray tracing gain is good, But this is getting almost
double what those old GPUs Were able to get with ray tracing enabled. And I think that’s
really part of the draw. We tested this with ”Metro Exodus,” Which is a straining game in general. I don’t think it’s…not
the most well-optimized game

But it has ray tracing. And that makes it one of
the good games to test With because there’s a built-in benchmark. This got 68 frames per
second on that test, at Nearly maximum settings with
ray tracing enabled at 1080p. That’s good, that’s
just, that’s very good. There’s really no beating
around the bush there. 60 frames per second with ray tracing on Is kind of the dream for a AAA game. If you’re a gamer who does More competitive multiplayer
titles, and you’re looking, You maybe want a higher refresh
screen, you can push those. But for games that make use of ray tracing It’s like single player story
games that look high fidelity. They really push the visuals
more than anything else. And that’s kind of one
where the 30 series GPUs Can help it excel. This is a 4k display on this
unit, which I would maybe Not recommend over a high refresh option. It’s an OLED screen, it
does look really good, But that’s sort of, To me not as appealing as
a high refresh display. You can push those frame
rates in multiplayer games. The 4K resolution is mostly too
strenuous to play at anyway. The 30 series is also
much more capable at 4k But not with 4K and ray tracing. So if you’re going to have
to pick one or the other I would probably just go high
refresh, turn your ray tracing On, the lower resolution will
give you higher frame rates Because the 4K is still a
bit of a bridge too far, Unless you turn off
ray tracing altogether. Some people love 4K,
they don’t care as much About the ray tracing, or
they don’t care as much About the frames per second.

So I guess there’s an option
for everybody out there. There are other configuration options, Of course. Alienware is a Dell company. There’s always ways to
customize your order. That includes the 3080,
you can pack a 3080 Into this laptop even
though our configuration Is rocking a 3070. We also have a terabyte
of SSD storage in here. This does use a Core i7
10th generation processor. It is not the 11th generation
Tiger Lake-H series GPUs That were announced at CES. So that part didn’t get an
upgrade. This is GPU focused. Otherwise the same laptop, as I said. The battery life on our
unit? Almost seven hours, Which has improved. You
can thank OLED for that ’cause it does actually
improve battery life, We’ve seen in our tests. I’m a little surprised
it’s quite that good Given the 4K display but I’ll take it. Gaming laptop’s not usually
the category where you look for A ton of hours. You expect
those out of these laptops But they’re getting better. In this one, Even with its 4K screen,
almost seven hours makes it Actually usable to take with you. And at almost four and a half pounds It’s a little on the heavier side But for how much power is in
this, that’s pretty acceptable. And if you need to take it
on the go at least sometimes, You have that option without
really not looking forward To dragging around a
seven, eight pound laptop. It gets another positive
mark in that regard. So given that this
laptop is the same design As the previous edition, And the RTX 3070 is the
real star of the show here,

That’s about all I have to
talk about for this system. I like the performance a lot. It’s maybe not as big of a
leap as you would have hoped Based on the desktop
performance of the 30 series, But raw frame rate’s up. Eventually these GPUs will make their way Into pretty much all
high end gaming laptops. So that’s going to end
up sort of as a passive, Built-in upgrade in performance
for anybody who’s buying A new laptop going forward. I would say maybe if you
have a newer RTX 20 series, Like a 2080, you don’t
have to run out and get it. But if you’re someone who
really likes ray tracing And wants to be running that
more smoothly, go for it. If there’s other things
wrong with your laptop, Or you have an even older one,
definitely an appealing draw. I think the frame rates
might not always hit 60 FPS Depending on what game you’re playing. You might have to lower some
settings at 4K and ray tracing. That’s a bit too strenuous,
even for the new GPUs. Perhaps the 3080 will be even better. But I really have no complaints
otherwise about this laptop. It’s a little on the expensive side But for everything that you’re
getting, the 4K OLED screen, The terabyte of SSD, the nice
design, the 3070 of course, And some extra features that, you know? Like the perky RGB lighting
that adds to the cost. It’s pretty reasonable. There are some less expensive options, There are some more expensive options. This is obviously in the
high end to begin with. You kind of know that coming in When you’re shopping for a high end GPU. So, we liked the previous
version of this laptop

And I like this one,
pretty much about as much. Check out our full review for benchmarks And see how this GPU did
on a variety of games And scenarios and resolutions. Thank you so much for watching.

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