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Review of the Alienware M16 R1: Too powerful for its own good


Looks hot and runs hotter

An image showing the Alienware m16 display panel.

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VIDEO: It's not that good... Alienware M16 Review
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The Alienware m16 R1 is a powerful gaming laptop that can deliver an enjoyable gaming experience. It's not as sleek as its sibling, the Alienware x16, but that's a good thing. While the x16 was built with portability in mind, the m16 is all about performance, so it runs pretty hot and needs all the cooling possible. My review unit has an Intel Core i9-13900HX and Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 GPU, which isn't the highest-tier variant, and it still runs extremely hot with frustratingly loud fans. That said, it certainly lives up to its performance moniker and leaves very little room to complain about otherwise. There are plenty of other things that make it a great gaming laptop overall, but it's sure to burn a huge hole in your wallet.

About this review: Dell sent us the Alienware m16 R1 for this review, and it did not have any input into its contents.

Front view of the Alienware m16

XDA-Reco-badge-pink

Alienware m16

Powerful gaming laptop

Too hot to handle

$1300 $1800 Save $500

The Alienware m16 is a beastly gaming laptop with 13th-generation Intel Core or AMD Ryzen 7045HX series processors and up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 graphics. It's super bulky and runs extremely hot, but if you're looking for performance over portability, the m16 won't disappoint.

CPU
Up to Intel Core i9-13900HX or AMD Ryzen 9 745HX

GPU
Up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 Laptop GPU

Battery
86Wh

Display (Size, Resolution)
16-inch IPS, up to Quad HD+ 240Hz or Full HD+ 480Hz, up to 100% DCI-P3, 3ms response time

Camera
Full HD 1080p webcam + optional IR

Speakers
2x 2W stereo speakers

Colors
Dark Metallic Moon

Storage
Up to 8.5TB SSD

Memory
Up to 64GB DDR5 4800MHz

Ports
2x USB Type-C (Thunderbolt 4 on Intel models), 2x USB Type-A, HDMI 2.1, mini DisplayPort, RJ45 Ethernet, 3.5mm headphone jack

Network
Intel: Intel Killer Wi-Fi 6E AX1675 = Bluetooth; AMD: Qualcomm WCN6856-DBS Wi-Fi 6E + Bluetooth

Dimensions
14.50x11.41x1 inches (368.9x289.9x25.4mm)

Weight
Up to 7.28 pounds (3.3kg)

Price
Starting at $1,799.99

Power
330W power adapter

Pros

  • Powerful internals
  • Beautiful 240Hz QHD panel
  • Good connectivity

Cons

  • Can get too pricey
  • Runs really hot with extremely loud fans
  • The battery life could be better

Pricing and availability

The Alienware m16 gaming laptop was announced at CES 2023 alongside its 18-inch variant, but it's only been out for a few months at the time of this writing. It's officially available now from Dell and other retailers, and it starts at $1,650 for the base variant with an AMD Ryzen 7 7745HX processor and a GeForce RTX 4060 GPU. The unit I tested costs $2,750 with a 24-core, 32-thread, 5.4GHz Intel Core i9-13900HX, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 with 16GB of VRAM, a 240Hz QHD+ panel, and more. This isn't the most expensive variant you can get; the top-tier model with all the bells and whistles will easily cost you close to $5,000.

I wouldn't say the Alienware m16 is frequently discounted, but you should be able to grab the relatively lower-end variants for a sweet price occasionally.

Design

A classic Alienware design

Alienware computers are instantly recognizable, both in terms of desktops like the Aurora R16 and laptops, and the m16 is no exception. It has a classic Alienware design with sharp edges and plenty of RGB lights, along with the company’s signature Alienware alien logo as its power button. It also has plenty of smooth curves and honeycomb-patterned vents all over for an unapologetically "gamer" aesthetic. I am also a huge fan of the Dark Metallic Moon finish, which I think looks absolutely stunning. This particular finish gives the m16 a very stealthy look, and I've been using it mostly without any RGB lights to add to that effect.

The Alienware m16 has plenty of smooth curves and honeycomb-patterned vents all over for an unapologetically "gamer" aesthetic.

As you can expect with a gaming laptop, the Alienware m16 is among the heaviest gaming laptops I've used, weighing a shoulder-straining 7.28 pounds (3.3kg). Don't even think about carrying this laptop with you on your daily commute because the power brick is also an absolute unit that weighs an additional 1.2 pounds (0.54kg). It's better to treat it as a desktop replacement that's meant to stay on a desk.

It's also not as thin as, say, the Legion 9i gaming laptop, and measures 25.4mm at its thickest point. That's not really a surprise, considering the m16 is equipped with a massive cooling system to tame the thermals. This sophisticated cooling system with as many as four fans takes up a lot of space, unlike the water cooling solution you'll find inside the Legion 9i.

The m16 has a good selection of ports, which are mostly located at the back and are flanked by the exhaust vents. You're looking at a power input, an SD card slot, a mini DisplayPort, HDMI 2.1 video outputs, a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A port, and two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports. You also get an additional USB 3.2 Gen 2 USB-A port on the right side, along with a wired 2.5Gbps Ethernet port and an audio jack.

Keyboard and touchpad

Plenty spacious

The Alienware m16 comes with three different keyboard options, one of which has ultra-low-profile Cherry mechanical key switches. My unit was fitted with the regular Alienware M series keyboard with AlienFX RGB lighting, but it was great for the most part, and I thoroughly enjoyed typing on it. The keys on my unit had per-key LED lights that were individually controllable, but you can also buy a variant that comes with a single-zone lighting for slightly less.

The touchpad on the m16 isn't as big as I would've liked, but it's still bigger than the one you get on some Alienware X-series laptops. It's just a basic touchpad, though, with support for Windows Precision drivers and gesture customization in Windows, so don't expect anything fancy, like lights that turn on when you touch it. It's true that most gamers use external mice with these high-performance machines, but that's no excuse to throw in a sub-par touchpad that's barely enough for accurate tracking gestures. I am glad Alienware is doing the right thing by adding a touchpad that's both big and comfortable to use.

Display

Stunning display for both work and play

An image showing the Steam Big Picture Mode on an Alienware gaming laptop.

Alienware lets you configure the m16 gaming laptop with either a 240Hz QHD+ or a 480Hz FHD+ panel, both of which are excellent options for gamers. Our unit has a 16-inch display with 2560x1600 resolution and 240Hz refresh rate. Both options support AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync, so you don't have to worry about screen tearing or other issues. This particular panel has a 3ms response time, and it covers 100% DCI-P3, which is on par with what you'd get on most high-end laptops.

I did most of my Alan Wake 2 playthrough on this particular laptop, and I can't stress how beautiful it looked.

The 16-inch panel on the Alienware m16 has been an absolute joy to use. It's an excellent-looking display with rich and vibrant colors, good contrast ratios, and great viewing angles. The content looks nice and sharp thanks to the QHD+ resolution, and you'll have a great time using it overall, be it for watching videos or playing games. The 16:10 aspect ratio is a nice bonus since it's taller than the 16:9 ratio you get with gaming laptops, so it's great for work and other productivity tasks.

It also supports HDR. Games that support HDR feel like they come to life and look phenomenal on this panel. I did most of my Alan Wake 2 playthrough on this particular laptop, and I can't stress how beautiful it looked. The RTX 4080 and DLSS 3 played a huge role in making the game look great, but more on that in the performance section.

I also spent a lot of time playing FPS titles like Apex Legends, Valorant, and Roboquest to take advantage of that 240Hz display, and it was a great experience overall. The 480Hz panel may sound lucrative for players seeking a competitive advantage, but keep in mind that it's a $50 add-on, and it drops your resolution to FHD+. I don't recommend going with a higher refresh rate panel unless you're serious about competitive shooters because not all games can stretch their wings enough to take advantage of the 480Hz refresh rate, even with the best configuration.

The 1080p webcam on top is nothing to write home about. It supports IR for Windows Hello, but it wasn't particularly good at detecting my face for authentication. It's a decent-quality webcam for basic video calls, but it's best to keep your expectations in check.

Performance

It's hard to tame this beast

Alienware m16 2

The Alienware m16 variant I'm reviewing has higher-tier configuration. It comes with an Intel Core i9-13900HX processor, 16GB of DDR5 memory in dual channel, 1TB M.2 NVMe SSD, and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 laptop GPU with 12GB VRAM and 175W TGP. You can also configure it to be an RTX 4090 laptop instead for an additional performance boost, and Alienware is also selling it in AMD flavors.

I will go into specifics in a bit, but just know this is one of the most powerful gaming laptops out there. I ran some games that are proven to be demanding at their highest graphical settings, and it laughs at most of them. Cyberpunk 2077 in Ray Tracing: Overdrive Mode had absolutely no issues whatsoever, and neither did other titles like Red Dead Redemption 2. I also spent a lot of time playing Alan Wake 2, which is known to be notoriously demanding on PCs with path tracing, and the Alienware m16 made it look easy. Of course, Nvidia's DLSS 3.0 played a big part in making it run as smoothly as it did, but it's still no easy feat. Below are a few benchmark numbers for you to get a better understanding of the kind of performance you can get out of this system.

All games were tested with the laptop set to Performance mode, and the numbers were drawn using Nvidia Frameview.

Games

Resolution

Avg FPS

Apex Legends (Ultra preset)

2560x1600

196

Alan Wake 2 (High preset)

2560x1600 (No DLSS & RT)

132

Alan Wake 2 (High preset)

2560x1600 (Path tracing with FG & Balanced DLSS)

70

Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty (Ray Tracing: Override Mode)

1920x1200 (DLSS Off)

65

Assassin's Creed Mirage (Ultra preset)

2560x1600

109

Starfield (Ultra preset)

2560x1600

58

The Last of Us Part 1 (Ultra preset)

2560x1600

67

The RTX 4080 laptop GPU, rated for 175W total graphics power, does a lot of heavy lifting to run all titles smoothly. Even the most demanding AAA games out now run smoothly with decent frame rates at native resolution. That said, I suggest taking advantage of Nvidia's DLSS and Frame Generation features. Alan Wake 2, for instance, ran well at native resolution without DLSS, but it started to struggle when I enabled path-tracing. I was able to hit the 60FPS mark quite comfortably, even with all path-tracing features enabled, which is excellent for a gaming laptop with limited room to stretch its wings.

I ran some games that are proven to be demanding at their highest graphical settings, and the Alienware m16 laughs at most of them.

Here's a quick look at some more synthetic benchmarks to see how the Alienware m16 stacks up against some other similar laptops.

Alienware m16 R1 (Core i9-13900HX, RTX 4080)

Lenovo Legion 9i (Core i9-13980HX, RTX 4090)

Lenovo Legion Pro 7i (Core i9-13980HX, RTX 4080)

Alienware x16 (Core i9-13900HK, RTX 4080)

PCMark 10 (AC/Battery)

5,019 / 8,102

7,512 / 6,586

7,570 / 5,057

8,064 / 7,570

Geekbench 6 (single/multi)

2,688 / 17,278

2,943 / 17,153

2,760 / 16,745

2,713 / 15,066

Cinebench R23 (single/multi)

1,974 / 28,556

2,118 / 26,940

2,069 / 27,727

1,967 / 12,335

Cinebench 2024 (single/multi/GPU)

116 / 1,584

124 / 1,570 / 23,438

---

---

3DMark Time Spy (Normal/Extreme)

18,396 / 9,333

19,402 / 10,406

17,722 / 8,892

15,661 / 7,422

3DMark Wild Life (Normal/Extreme)

111,675 / 37,682

121,490 / 43,846

78,003 / 36,504

---

While the benchmarks don't reflect real-world usage, you can see that it goes toe-to-toe with the best gaming laptops out right now. Its results are almost on par with devices that have more powerful hardware, which goes to show how it's able to deliver good sustained performance without breaking down or completely dropping on its knees due to throttling.

Unfortunately, this laptop gets hot and extremely loud under load, but that's the price you have to pay in exchange for a smooth gameplay experience on this machine. The speakers on the Alienware m16 are loud enough and deliver good audio with enough bass, but they're not enough to mask the loud fans. In fact, you may hear the fans roaring through your gaming headphones unless you're using a pair of noise-canceling headphones.

A screenshot showing the GPU power draw during a benchmark performed on an Alienware m16 laptop.

While we're discussing thermals, it's worth highlighting that the Intel Core i9-13900HX CPU was drawing around 150W under sustained load, while the RTX 4080 laptop GPU was also at its best behavior, operating at over 170W under heavy GPU load. They're tuned to chug less power if you set the power profile to Silent via the Alienware Command Center, but I don't recommend that unless you're really looking to conserve power.

Everything from moving large files to loading game files feels extremely snappy and smooth, which is what we've come to expect from high-performance notebooks.

I found myself sticking with the High-Performance mode because it kept laptop temperatures under acceptable limits when under load. The fans tend to get extremely loud at 100%, and there's no way to avoid it if you want the best performance. The CPU temperatures stayed at a high 90 degrees Celsius for the most part, even with the fans spinning at maximum speed, so you constantly have to put up with 70+ dBA noise, which is almost twice as loud as my main gaming desktop rig. The fans push out hot air mostly from the right-side exhaust, so you may be uncomfortable using the mouse too close to the machine.

A screenshot showing the CrystalDiskMark benchmark performed on the Alienware m16.

Lastly, this particular notebook also comes with two 1TB SSDs that work as a single unit in RAID 0 configuration. This paves the way for incredibly fast drives, and you won't feel compelled to turn to a PCIe 5.0 drive anytime soon. You can easily open the laptop and change these drives if you want, but I doubt you'll feel the need to swap them out any time soon, as they're plenty capable in their current shape. Everything from moving large files to loading game files feels extremely snappy and smooth, which is what we've come to expect from high-performance notebooks.

Battery life

Don't expect much

The Alienware m16 gaming laptop packs an 86Whr battery, which is about what you'd expect to see in a laptop this size. Battery life is not necessarily a strong suit for gaming laptops, and the Alienware m16 is no exception. The 86Whr unit could only keep the lights on for around three hours on a single charge, even with the brightness set to 50%. You can get a few more minutes worth of usage by lowering the display resolution, but that's not something I recommend as the battery life gains are often negligible.

The battery life is not necessarily a strong suit of gaming laptops, and the Alienware m16 is no exception in this regard.

The m16 ships with a 330w proprietary charger with a barrel connector, which is massive. You'll have a hard time carrying it around with the laptop, so I suggest planning your daily commute with the Alienware m16 in advance. The Alienware m16 is best used as a desktop replacement, so you might want to consider buying another gaming laptop if you're planning on using it on the move.

Should you buy the Alienware m16 R1?

You should buy the Alienware m16 R1 if:

  • You want a powerful gaming laptop with the absolute best hardware
  • You want to game on a bright and beautiful display
  • You don't mind spending a good amount of money

You shouldn't buy the Alienware m16 R1 if:

  • You're on a tight budget
  • You want a thin and lightweight gaming laptop that's portable
  • You want a simple-looking laptop with no flashy design or RGB
  • You want a laptop with good battery life

The Alienware m16 R1 is undoubtedly one of the best gaming laptops you can buy today. It's an excellent machine that's armed to the teeth and can handle pretty much every modern title you throw at it. I just wish it had a better cooling system, as the existing solution is simply too loud. It sounds like it's about to take off the moment you launch a game. The vapor chamber cooling system isn't nearly as effective as the water cooling solution found in the Legion 9i, often struggling to keep the operating temperatures under acceptable limits. It's almost too powerful for its own good.

But if you can pony up close to $3,000 on a powerful configuration like this and don't mind shrugging off loud fans and occasional throttling, then I can't recommend the Alienware m16 enough. It represents the best of what Alienware has to offer in the 16-inch laptop space, and it'll turn a lot of heads with its striking design, beautiful display, relentless performance, and extremely loud fans.

Front view of the Alienware m16

XDA-Reco-badge-pink

Alienware m16

High-performance gaming laptop

$1300 $1800 Save $500

The Alienware m16 is a beastly gaming laptop with 13th-generation Intel Core or AMD Ryzen 7045HX series processors and up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 graphics. It's super bulky and runs extremely hot, but if you're looking for performance over portability, the m16 won't disappoint.

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