Alienware 15 R2 Review: A Formidable Gaming Machine
The Alienware 15 introduced at CES 2015 was a shocker is several aspects, offering all the lovable qualities of Alienware in a new style.
The Alienware 15 R2 has been released in a quick succession to keep the gaming laptop in line with the latest technology and graphical power. Housing the latest Skylake processor from Intel, the Alienware 15 R2 comes in an identical chassis, which barely leaves out any room for complaining. Read our full review below.
Design and Build
Maintaining a certain amount of uniformity in its design, the Alienware 15 R2 inhibits the identical design properties of its 13, 15 and 17 inch siblings. The silver-grey lid casing of the laptop gives off a metallic look, but is actually a compound created by carbon-fiber and polymer, which gives it a good amount of rigidity, while keeping it fairly lightweight as well.
From the lid to the base, each aspect of the Alienware 15 R2 offers stability, while the thin rubberised coating on the keyboard deck makes it comfortable for long gaming sessions. The weight of the laptop is 3.2kg, which is reasonable considering its 15-inch form factor.
What does put the Alienware 15 R2 above the rest of the gaming laptops is the ample amount of illumination on the lid, as well as the keyboard deck. Two illuminated lines are drawn towards the glowing Alienware logo, while the keyboard and the touchpad come with multiple colors, owing to the AlienFX tool that comes with the machine.
The 15.6-inch Alienware 15 R2 comes equipped with a Full-HD IPS display panel. The brightness of the display has been advertised as 220 nits, but the real-time score suggests as the average score of no more than 200 nits. The low brightness, despite the anti-glare coating on the screen, does not enable the users to view the laptop screen comfortably outdoors.
While the brightness is fairly low, the color contrast ratio of 950:1 and black value of 0.19 cd/m2 are decent enough for rich color reproduction. The screen is able to cover only 60% of the sRGB color gamut, which makes it less favorable for professional video editing and graphic designing. The viewing angles are excellent, with barely any distortion when the screen is viewed from different sides, owing to its IPS display.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Alienware is known for their attention to detail, and the keyboard used in the Alienware 15 R2 is an example for the competition to follow. The keyboard sacrifices the numpad to provide the users with a dedicated macro field, which can be easily configured, while the four-zone illumination enables you to add a splash of colors to the keyboard. The keys are decently sized, offering crisp strokes while being relatively soft and quiet.
The touchpad of the Alienware 15 R2 measures 10.5cm x 10.5cm, and provides high precision and a smooth surface to help you navigate effortlessly. The fairly large surface of the touchpad comes with backlight illumination, whose colour can be easily customised along with the other illuminating aspects of the laptop. The left and right click buttons below the touchpad, and offer a sturdy, yet soft click mechanism.
Under the Hood
There are several different configurations offered by Dell, but all of the Alienware 15 R2 models come equipped with the latest 6th generation Intel processor. The reviewed version (Y5185A2AU) of the Alienware 15 R2 comes fitted with an Intel Core i7-6700HQ quad-core processor, based on the latest Skylake micro-architecture. With a base clock speed of 2.6 GHz, the Turbo Boost technology from Intel enables overclocking to 3.5 GHz.
The system comes with 8GB DDR4 RAM, which can be upgraded to 16GB. While the CPU and ample of RAM are enough to push the machine forward with sheer power, the system remains less snappy than others. Available in multiple storage configurations, the base version of the Alienware 15 R2 comes with no SSD storage, which puts all the weight on the 1TB HDD that it comes fitted with.
The Alienware 15 R2 is available with different GPU options as well, while the reviewed version comes with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M GPU, with 2GB DDR5 dedicated graphical memory. Although the processor is an upgrade over the previous model, the slow HDD storage does affect the gaming performance a bit, while the GTX 965M is not the fastest contender either.
The gaming machine is capable of taking almost all of the titles of the previous year, and is able to withstand the high requirements of many upcoming games as well. For instance, the Alienware 15 R2 runs smoothly at 60 – 70 frames per second when playing games such as GRID: Autosport, Civlization: Beyond Earth, and Sims 4. However, the frame rate drops to half when games such as GTA V, Assassin’s Creed Unity, and Far Cry 4 are played on high to ultra-settings.
• Sophisticated design and robust chassis for durability.
• Attractive illuminations all around the gaming laptop.
• Powerful performance with extended overclocking capability.
• Fairly quiet and cool, even under pressure.
• The IPS display comes with low brightness.
• No SSD storage by default is available with the laptop.
The Final Verdict
The Alienware 15 was introduced as a new-age gaming laptop that comes with the performance of a beastly machine, with extraordinary design elements. The Alienware 15 R2 continues to build on that legacy, with minor improvements along the way, and significant hardware upgrade to keep it prepared for competition.
The reviewed version of the Alienware 15 R2 (y5185a2au) has every bit of quality to justify the price, but the hardware does fall short. For instance, the powerful processor is not paired with a zippy SSD storage by default, which is a bare necessity for any modern laptop these days. The GTX 965M might be powerful enough to take on the latest games at high settings, but there are successors (GTX 980M) ready and available at a similar price.
The Alienware 15 R2 is unbeaten in terms of quality and is well supported by the powerful performance of its hardware, but does miss out o a couple of features that restrict it from being the absolute best.
Review date: January 25th, 2016
Price at the time of review: $2299
Buying advice: Dell is offering a free hard drive upgrade to 128gb SSD directly from their Australian website, but the offer ends on Thursday 28th of January. The free hard drive upgrade basically makes this laptop the same model as JB HiFi is currently selling, but for $200 less (JBHiFi is selling Y5185A3AU for $2248)