Alienware m17 R3 Review – Dell Finally Gets Cooling Right

by birtanpublished on November 2, 2020

This is lisa from mobile tech review and this is the alienware m17 r3 so this is the 2020 release and now for something different not that this looks much different from the previous generation but a lot has changed in the side and this is the first time it seems like years that i won't have to bash alienware for the cooling we're going to look at it now so the r3 looks pretty much like the r2 at first blush which makes sense it's the second iteration of what they call their legend design so even though they stuck with the same

M17 nomenclature they switched designs between gen 1 and gen 2 got that anyway there are improvements here over the r2 which was one hot customer and had some drawbacks so the keyboard travel is now increased and it really feels good it's back to those alienware keyboards that actually are really pleasant if you like to type on not just game though they're great for gaming too 1.7 millimeters of key travel of course you have your option of getting either zone or rgb per key backlit keyboards probably most people

Are going to offer that perky and you get the lighting effects the tron lights as they call it on the back and the alien logo you can do and the keyboard itself but not the track pad anymore a little bit less no more side heat led pipes and stuff like that because they have thinned it down so much to 122 millimeters at this point so i think it's worth the trade off for a lot of people we have a micro sd card slot this time so yay content creators will be happy to see that cooling is significantly

Improved we have a vapor chamber cooler over the cpu and not the gpu but the cpu is the one that really needed it it's a very big heat sink on here they say they're using like 35 percent more copper which is what the heatsinks are made of and the fan tubes and all that you know and also about 40 percent more diameter or pipe size good things the the drawback is still the motherboard is inverted on this just like the previous generation and just like the msi gs stealth series of laptops what

Does that mean so when you open it up and you take off the bottom cover which is easy peasy to do you can't actually remove the fans and the heat sink if you want to re-paste it so you're going to have to take out the motherboard which involves on disconnecting a bunch of connectors and removing some screws and it's an annoyance that's for sure you have to be more of an enthusiast to do that but i think alienware customers tend to be enthusiasts if you want to re-paste it i'm not sure that it's totally necessary to do such a

Thing in the case of the alienware at least ours was cool thermally speaking for an alienware we'll get into that even more later also they have fancier pants fans now with more fan blades than ever you get the idea that's what all the manufacturers are doing and some kevlar-like material for the fans and a fire resistant cpu fan which only makes me nervous why would you make a fire resistant fan but hey pricing for this starts around 1600 list price and that gets you a core i7 this

Is the intel 10th gen refresh for cpus and it gets you an amd radeon 5500 m so kind of a low end gpu there but for about 50 more you can you move up to a gtx 1660 ti the real meat of the line gets to be probably for a lot of you looking at something like the new rtx 2070 super and you can get that for around 2000 if you offer the base full hd 144 hertz display 16 gigs of ram and the 256 gig ssd you can upgrade the ssd yourself that's pretty easy anyway that's something to talk about also with the gpus here unlike most

Relatively speaking thin and light gaming laptops where they're using max q graphics the lower powered version we're using max p or the full mobile versions of graphics in here you don't see that a lot the msi ge raider series does that for example except for their rtx 2080 that gets max cued so with the 17 inch line all of your options right up to the rtx 2080 super are full of max p models on our 2070 super that we're using it's using 120 watts of power when gaming so that's

Full power good times now for the r15 m3 the 15 inch version of this the same is true max p all the way up until you get to the 20 80 supra and that one they use max cube but that's for the 15 inch not the 17-inch speaking of things that are still not so great ram is still soldered on board and i will keep moaning and complaining about this until they change that because gaming laptop purchasers are enthusiasts and also they're folks who buy this because they're probably trying to do

Some high-end professional work like video editors for example or renderers and you know you might think well i can get by with 16. or now 32 at least the last gen was limited at 16 gigs at launch now you go up to 32. but anyway 16 is fine for me now but will it be two years from now well you better get more ram now because you can't change it later the wi-fi card is a killer six card and that's actually an intel card it's the killer 1650 card and that is soldered on board too i'm less bothered by that because that's a pretty

Good card and i doubt that wi-fi 7 is going to be coming out anytime soon we're barely even using wi-fi 6 routers so that's fine for the displays it gets almost confusing and some of this is tied into the chassis color that you pick so we have the lunar light model which by the way now has a clear coat on it so it feels a little bit less soft touch but also that means your pizza greasy hands won't be a lasting memory that you'll still see six months later so you got the lunar light and you have

The dark side of the moon which is a deep charcoal gray which i like but it seems to have fewer configurations available so there's three display options here there's a full hd base model ips 144 hertz display with a nine millisecond response time that's not bad at all for a base display full hd resolution matt non-touch yeah you get the idea supports both g-sync and optimus you hit the fn and f7 keys to switch between those so for those who are looking for some battery life though

I still think that the 17-inch alienware anyway is getting big enough and heavy enough that i don't look at this as your everyday carry it everywhere kind of laptop we have the next step up which is a 300 hertz display this is the year of crazy high refresh rates which makes sense actually even if you're never going to reach those frame rates in the game because if you're using g-sync okay about that it offers you more sync points where you can actually get nice smooth frame rates anyway more

Multipliers um however with dell's image from the factory g-sync is not enabled now people say that if they remove the nvidia drivers completely and then reinstall them fresh or reinstall windows then they can enable g-sync i have not done that but i can tell you that games look really smooth at a variety of multipliers and frame rates on this without enabling g-sync or the dreaded v-sync on it looks good so this one is a three millisecond response time display

A little bit faster for you esports people and first-person shooter types and has a little bit better color gamut subjectively speaking this is a very nice looking display it may not be your super wide gamut kind of display for creative types but it looks good and they claim for both of the full hd models that is 300 nits ours actually measured 341 nits you can see the metrics on screen right now so i like it quite well but there is a 4k display option again this is more for creative types i think because there's a

20 25 millisecond response time 60 hertz display so you're not going to get those high frame rates of your first person shooter type and all that but that one's full adobe rgb that's not oled that is an ips class display but it should be very nice to look at and they claim 500 nits nice i'd like to see like they used to do a 2k display option something like that because we have so much horsepower in this laptop it can really easily drive games above

1080p resolution so instead of being overkill for your 1080p gaming unless you are playing like overwatch and you want as many frames as possible it would be cool ports on this other than the addition of the micro sd card slot are about the same as last generation you have three usb a ports you have one thunderbolt 3 out the rear and you have a anywhere graphics amplifier port as well and it's still a nice affordable alternative for an external graphics solution if you plan on sticking with alienware since

It's proprietary to them you also have hdmi 2.0 b you have mini displayport 1.4 and of course you got a headphone jack and gigabit killer ethernet as well so that thunderbolt 3 port in this way it behaves like a dell because that's their parent company so it worked fine with external like samsung ssds with docs and all that sort of thing but for those who are graphics arts kind of people i know they're we have a following uh the wacom city pro line that uses the

Usbc single connector solution this laptop like the dell xps 13 and thinks it's a dock instead of a display so i had to go back to the multi-cable solution for connecting that so if you're hoping for single cable with wacom here no no so how about sound quality through the built-in speakers well the r2 is nothing special a lot of gaming laptops these days surprisingly are not anything special since you can actually hear these

Speakers over the fan noise let's pay attention to them they've improved them some i the biggest thing is the spatial separation and the sense of volume and a little bit more bass coming through simply because they added front base ports it still has the down firing ports on this which are your main ones but you've got the two little slits on the front now so it makes it sound pretty good the volume is good there's some bass not a super lop and it's not tinny and irritating or anything like that so

As gaming laptop speakers go they're decent so back to performance and gaming i mean the benchmarks are all good one thing about alienware and it takes a while to repeat when reviewing these and using these and learning that you know some laptop manufacturers like razer big probably because they caught so much flack for the original 14 inch blade that ran like a toaster oven razer limits the the power level to the cpu and other things to keep things from getting too

Too hot anymore alienware kind of says the world's your oyster we are going to let this thing run all the way up to thermal max and it's up to you to choose your fan profiles to do whatever it is that you want to tame it or not tame it so that said it runs a lot cooler than the last generation a lot cooler means by about five degrees centigrade which is a pretty significant drop thanks to that redesign of redesign of all the cooling and

Internals in some games this is a bit more than that in some games not as much it really depends a lot on how cpu dependent some games are so as an example for something like the witcher 3 which looks like it's kind of cpu dependent there i it gets toasty but not unbearable now everything we ran we did a 1080p ultra testing vsync is turned off no frame rate limiting on these laptops and directx 11 because directx 12 is still a little bit of a mixed bag in a lot of games anyway

Frame rates in the games were excellent on this yes you're getting performance in spades on this temperatures are lower yes you can undervault this too i know some people are wondering because there have been some bios mitigations and some laptops for the plunder plunder volt say that three times fast vulnerability but anyway this one lets you i use intellects to you under vaulted now tension cpus can't take as much under vaulting without crashing versus previous gens but

I was running at a negative 90 for the undervolt and the cpu core cache underbolt at about negative 50 and it dropped temperatures again about depending on the game like the witcher 3 it dropped about 8 to 9 degrees centigrade and some other games like borderlands 3 didn't make as much of a difference maybe two degrees so yes you can underbolt this too to mitigate those temperatures but where before alienware sounded like a dyson vacuum cleaner on high and the

Core temps were hitting 99 and throttling like crazy playing most games at those settings in the cpu core is generally the worst i saw was like 95 92 to 95 wow really good and with under vaulting again you're going to drop that so for alienware that's an improvement and that puts it in line with pretty much every other thin and like gaming laptop not a problem the fans the change of the fans is probably my favorite thing i actually

Couldn't use our alienware 15 m15 r2 that we had in house for review for games because i couldn't take the noise that it made this is a different story the fans sound like jet engines in a good way like a turbine like a little bit but not that huge blast of air everywhere so they're pretty much tame now now you can set your pan profiles you're using alienware command center and there's a variety of them and in terms of performance none of those

Profiles for our not overclocked core i7 it's not overclockable cpu would really make that much of a difference but you can change the fan profiles you can set it to cool for example if you want to be a little bit quieter so enjoyable now a different experience for alienware speaking of overclocking if you want you can get the core i9 which is the overclockable core i9 so you've got the six core i7 that we have and you have that core i9 8 core option for you now if you put the core i9 with an

Rtx 2080 super gpu in here you're probably looking at more heat so lastly there's battery life and this won't be a good part of the story at least not for ours with the 300 hertz display because this doesn't have optimus there's no switchable graphics there's no hardware key there's no fn plus f7 to switch your gpus it's running on dedicated graphics all the time and you have a high refresh display so on average about three hours the good news is they have actually

Increased battery capacity with the r2 they dropped it and everybody complained so now it's back up to 86 watt hour battery which is a pretty good capacity ours comes with a 240 watt charger and when gaming with aaa titles it will use right up to almost 240 watts so appropriate size charger for it now if you get the full hd 144hz display that does support optimus your battery life will be better if you get the 4k model you're you're certainly not going to see great battery life there but again

This is not the most portable thing you're probably not dragging this from class to class i don't think all right here's the bottom and this is where the air intake happens along this area so don't strangle it and put it on your bedspread it also has air intake above the keyboard area where the honeycomb grilles are there exhausts there out the rear and out the sides and these are the bottom speaker grilles and of course there are ones on the side front edges

In addition so to take this off phillips head screws pretty simple work your way around the front with a guitar pick to loosen it up and lift it up from the front and this is magnesium alloy you can hear it sounds like metal it looks like metal you see that that's the underside and here are our internals so we've got our ssds right here this is the boot ssd it came with that copper heatsink we have a one terabyte drive and a reasonably good performance as you saw from the benchmarks not the very fastest

But cool temperatures here's the second one you can actually order it with raid 0 if you want with those two but wait there's more there's actually a little shorty slot here for a shorty ssd if you want to add in a third drive so that part's good no upgradeable ram like i said wi-fi is soldered on board this is the 86 watt hour battery it's all of its glory and these two speaker drivers that flank it like most every laptop designed the same way the fan cages these

Are big fans again you can see how they exhaust what directions they're going that's very good to see also they've increased the number of vrms using six vrms on the core i7 now and they've done fancy nancy 12 phase voltage regulation for the gpu so vrm issues not a problem anymore and they're all heatsinked down now that i can show you because it's on the other side of the motherboard which is right here that teeny little part of it right there so you can see this is the underside of the

The die for the cpu and the gpu there so that's the alienware m17 r3 and they have finally gotten it right after several generations of i won't say thermal atrocities but you know i'm thinking it i am so finally fans that are really tolerable they're just fine core temperatures that i can live with if you want to take it apart and re-paste it or liquid metal or whatever else rolls your oyster you can do that as long as you're okay with that inverted motherboard which is annoying the things that i don't like about this

Are obviously the soldered ram the soldered wi-fi i care less about the soldered ram hurts you do have expansion for your ssds that's nice with several slots inside the display options visually i like them a lot and now we have 4k to choose from which is something that the r2 dragged its feet on i'm lisa from mobile tech review be sure to subscribe to our youtube channel for more cool tech videos and hit that notification bell so you know about

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