ALIENWARE m17 R4 (2021) Review

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In this article, I give you my Alienware m17 R4 (2021) review with specs included.

This is the alienware m17 r4 so the fourth generation of the 17-inch relatively speaking slim is sort of light gaming laptop from alienware which is really del since they do own alienware this also comes in a 15 inch size as the m15r4 but today we’re going to look at the bigger chassis so what’s new in this generation well the biggest thing is nvidia rtx 3060 3070 and 3080 graphics inside and also the fact that they are we don’t use max p and max q anymore nvidia says but they are basically the max p max system max p versions with our rtx 3070 having 140 watt gpu inside if you go for that rtx 3080 with 16 gigs of vram it’s 165 watts that out does even the msi ge76 raider 17 inch that we reviewed would have which had a 155 watt rtx 3080. the design obviously is the same it’s the same legend design available in your choice of lunar light which this is our dark side of the moon with the so-called endurance clear coat so you can eat your doritos and not destroy your laptop’s finish and that is magnesium alloy for the casing underneath despite the fact it might look to you like plastic so how are the thermals that’s always the thing you want to know with alienwares we’re going to find out now but before we talk about thermals and other goodness there are two other things that are new optional cherry mx switches so for those who like that kind of mechanical keyboard feel this is like an ultra low travel relatively speaking for a mechanical keyboard it’s 1.8 millimeters of travel which is pretty long for a laptop that’s available to you of course it’s going to sound a little more clicky but for those who like that they’ve just introduced that option also new is the full hd 360 hertz refresh 5 millisecond ips display which is the one that we have so that basically replaces the 300 hertz refresh rate that was available before between 15 and 17 inches there are a few display differences i’ll try to cover those as we talk more about the display later also let’s talk about the two elephants in the room number one there is the fact that well i mean there’s always a new cpu generation coming right but intel 11th gen h45 45 watt mobile cpus will be coming probably by june and obviously alienware they always update their laptops and they will have that so while on the desktop intel 11th gen was not really much of an improvement pretty much architecturally very similar still 14 nanometer we do see the drop down to 10 nanometer for intel 11th gen h45 the 45 watt eight core six cores cpus that are going to be available there so it could help certainly with thermals mostly not performance probably so much but a bit with the thermals and perhaps with the battery life but there’s the other other elephant in the room even more power efficient is ryzen of course with a seven nanometer process and dell has just announced only for the 15 inch that there will be an alienware m15 r5 which is the ryzen edition unfortunately that one’s gimped in some ways though it doesn’t have thunderbolt 3 which is understandable because so far amd has not had thunderbolt reasons that could change in the future uh they did get rid of the alienware graphics amplifier which is just as well because well delta discontinued that but also for the gpus on that ryzen model not max p they’re lower wattage and they top out at the 30 30-70 so as alienware laptops typically appeal to hardcore gamers a lot who want the best performance most games today aaa titles really depend more on the gpu than the cpu so you want the max wattage which still makes the alienware attractive all right we got that all out of the way right so let’s get into it for the display options on this one you have the one that we have the new 360 hertz and that has g-sync and by the way this will always get confusing a little bit with alienwares and some display options may be available only with some color chassis why why don’t them the rest of the options are what we saw last year there’s a 144 hertz full hd display all these are 300 nit these full hd displays by the way that one’s seven millisecond response time that one’s the one that’s attractive for those who actually care about battery life probably more for those of you looking at the m15 which is more portable than the m17 my guess anyway because that one has optimus so you can switch you can use fn f7 you can switch between dedicated integrated graphics if you get our 360hz display you’ve got g-sync and you got dedicated graphics only also there is a 4k uhd wide gamut display option and that one is 500 nits and 25 millisecond response time at only 60 hertz so clearly geared towards content creators it’s a nice enough looking display uh the 15-inch will use an oled not the 17 inch though um and i actually prefer the 17 inches a little bit better because i don’t think that the oled display is that attractive on the 15 inch it looks a little old jen a little bit yellow to me too glossy too shiny but anyway um that one’s not so geared towards gamers and it’s a little bit of a disappointment because razer has been offering 4k displays with 120 hertz refresh rate at least for a while so for those who would care about a bit higher frame rates over 60 well that’s not an option but for content creators the 4k is still there for you it’s the same all right those are our display options and one last thing to say ours is pretty good with backlight bleed but the bottom right corner it’s more like ips glow that corner is a little bit lighter than the rest we’ll talk about the display metrics of ours it’s pretty good contrast on this is over a thousand to one it has full srgb coverage in fact it has 83 or so of a p3 so it’s not that far off color gamut wise from asus’s lovely rogue zephyrus g15 display which is a pretty wide gamut display and the response times on it are obviously quite good and the g-sync for those who love g-sync well you’re not going to see any tearing here it’s very nice and as you wonder what you why you need 360 hertz right even if this laptop could maybe drive cs go at exceedingly high frame rates or something like that even apex you can get into mid 100s easily and not for your frame rate it also offers more multipliers for better syncing of the gpu to the display so there are other things to say about it experientially to me it does look a little bit better than last year’s 300 hertz option just a little bit crispier metrics wise doesn’t look that different so i don’t know why it is but each generation hopefully does get better all right enough of the display keyboard other than the new cherry mx mechanical option is the same as last generation and i still find it a very nice tactile and comfortable keyboard with very bright rgb backlighting you have your option of getting zoned backlit or perky ours is perky in fact ours is a best buy model with the eight core i7 cpu the rtx 3070 and the per key rgb lighting and the 360 hertz display so this one is a retail model usually dell sends us review units that loans us those units so we can review them so this one has not been cherry picked for thermals which will be important we do get the thermals track pad on this is glass and it is quite good it’s a microsoft precision track pad the speakers on it same as last generation it does have four two watt speakers but lacking in base definitely and compared to msi ge76 raider that we reviewed which has two those being subwoofers oh or woofers that sounds better folks so thank goodness for headphones and this does have a single headphone jack not separate mic and headphone jacks like the area 51m has it’s a 17-inch laptop even if it is thin and fairly light at six and a half pounds you know anyway you’ve got your ethernet onboard three usb a ports thunderbolt three the alienware graphics amplifier that’s of no use to anybody anymore this mini displayport 1.4 and yay hdmi 2.2 so for those who have those fancy 4k oled 120hz displays you can actually connect that up again the negatives with this design to keep it so thin and light ram is soldered on here still 16 or 32 gigs of ddr4 293 megahertz ram that’s your two options dual channel and you’ve got at least several m.2 ssd slots you’ve got two full-size ones and in fact you can order with raid 0 if you want and then there’s a half height slot in there so storage expandability is good the wi-fi card is a killer wi-fi 6 card and it’s actually an intel card and that is soldered down too so boo on that because we like to see upgradeable laptops but then this is how they’re making it so thin and light you know the story with this until they change the design if they ever do like they do with the ryzen edition we’ll see we still have vapor chamber and cooling for the cpu inside and we still have the inverted motherboard so if you wish to replace it you’re going to take the motherboard completely out even msi got a got rid of that with their stealth series so i really would like to see alienware find a way around that we’ll see we’ll see maybe with intel’s more power efficient cpus they won’t need as much space for cooling they might be able to do that yeah all right let’s talk about cooling and performance because that is probably why you are here it’s better than i expected okay for generations now i have moaned about anywhere laptops the thin ones not the area 51m particularly the r2 which is a 10 pounder with a thick chassis and lots of room for cooling but the 15 and the 17 have just run hot and loud and each generation it gets a little bit better and finally with the fourth generation ranch this will probably be the last with this design and they’ll change it over and who knows will happen next but this thing actually runs decently in terms of thermals and fan noise so this one i found that even playing triple a demanding titles like cyberpunk 2077 i could leave the fans on balance mode without seeing the cpu temperatures get astronomical which is nice instead of putting it on high performance for cooling which guarantees that it’s going to go and roar on balance mode it ramps up nicely if you put in high performance mode basically the fans are just pegged at a fairly high level which is stupid because you don’t want to do that when you’re web browsing right anyway balance mode does the trick here again this is just a retail sample from a best buy store so not cherry picked by dell or something like that and i was actually shocked at how good the thermals were on this playing a game like cyberpunk which gets the gpu pretty darn hot and creates heat pollution because you have shared heatsinks here cpu temperatures in the 70s to mid 80s sometimes gpu temperature is around 77 celsius so that’s that’s that’s quite good and that’s without under vaulting or anything our sample did undervolt pretty well i use throttle stop on this and by the way alienware does not block you from under volting yay that so i went to a 100 millivolt undervolt on this or 0.1 really on the core and cache and it dropped temperatures down some but i didn’t feel an urge to run an undervolt it’s so delightful now if you go at the 15 inch one smaller chassis hotter noisier so don’t generalize too much but i expect to see somewhat better cooling for the fourth generation in the 15 inch the ones that we have visually to show you is the r3 so that’s the last gen fan noise is pretty similar to last year and the fans have the same sonic quality shall we say a bit high pitch it’s a thin chassis so some might find that annoying i know sometimes i do it’s not speechy and horrible but you know what i mean it’s not the low wish of air for a big old desktop replacement kind of thing the improvement is is that you don’t hear them cranked up as high as often and you don’t have to run it on max fans all the time and we tested a variety of games you see the footage that’s running across here all sorts of different games but all of them pretty demanding so good stuff in terms of performance we have the eight core i7 that’s the 108 70h and you can also get it with the core i9 hk processor also eight cores i advise against that just because thermally speaking you’re already somewhat constrained here why mess with a good thing that the i7 performs pretty well and doesn’t thermal throttle at least ours hasn’t so with the i9 you might be looking at throttling and then your squares won’t be that much better will they or your frame rates and games when it comes to the gpu the 3080 with 16 gigs of vram and 165 max watts must be a delight but the 3070 is considerably cheaper and is pretty darn good as you can see from the frame rates that we got in games i mean i’m not feeling like i’m wanting something in terms of performance of this laptop compared to the alienware area 51mr2 and this one actually gets 5 to 10 frames better in gpu intensive games like cyberpunk 2077. if you’re playing something like far cry 5 it’s not going to matter as much because that one really hits the cpu more than the gpu the alienware area 51m has a desktop cpu and the one that we have for comparison and tests is the 10 700 8k overclockable processor there so in most cases actually this one is going to win because of the better gpu the 3000 series maybe when the area 51m hard 3 comes out well that’ll be interesting then in terms of heat that you feel from the chassis yes it does get hot now when i test laptops i either have them on a stoneware counter or i have them on this passive laptop cooler there’s no fans on this thing but just to give it a little elevation and to raise it up so not helping it out too much but the the bottom will get hot the area above the keyboard that strip where you’re not going to touch when you’re gaming will get quite hot to the touch even if the core temperatures are perfectly acceptable like 75 centigrade or something like that so a thin laptop toasty to the touch yes it is now because of the shortage of gpus and for some of the laptops ryzen cpus there’s not a lot to compare this to that’s readily available on the market the msi g76 raider is somewhat available and is another fairly large 17-inch laptop but it is thicker the thicker does help with thermals though to be honest in my tests and in playing games i didn’t i was really shocked about this i didn’t see the cpu running that much cooler however i did replace the msi and that did bring temps down whereas repasting this alien where it would be more of a pain in the neck obviously the msi has two ram slots and a socketed wi-fi card so that’s a plus there msi does not have g-sync for the display for those of you who are a fan of it however i like the keyboard better on the alienware and the backlighting is a little bit brighter and i like the touchpad a bit better too there’s going to be some give and take for each they’re both very high performance laptops it’s going to depend somewhat on your preferred aesthetic and brand between those two more than anything else to be honest those are two of the most high performing laptops on the market when it comes to ryzen based laptops like the asus rogue strix 17 the problem is you just can’t get one right i mean now if you order one they say maybe you’ll get it in june obviously ryzen has great advantages in terms of better battery life and better thermals it doesn’t run as hot especially if the cooling solution is pretty decent on it we did review the asus rogue zephyrus g15 which is a surprisingly thin and light inch version and that one can get toasty because you don’t have much room for cooling there but still that one was a delight but we haven’t gotten a strix 17 in for review districts however does not have a mux switch so you’re going to be running on switchable graphics at all times it does have ram slots which is nice though choices again the alienware at least you can buy on dell’s website you might have to wait a couple of weeks for it to get to you and best buy is actually stocking them now in the united states so availability-wise i think dell may have a little bit of an advantage there versus the ryzen ones until their own rise in laptop ships okay how about battery life this is totally going to vary depending on which display you get if you get the one that has switchable graphics obviously your battery life is going to be best if you get our 360 hertz display that’s running the d gpu all the time good luck battery life is like two hours that’s what it is this is for somebody who doesn’t need long battery life but wants the ultimate in performance for the display if you get the 4k display 4k display is just to use more power so that will again become an issue even though it’s not a high refresh display same as last generation 86 watt hour battery you’re going to get either a 240 watt or a 330 watt charger depending on which cpu and gpu you pick our i7 with the 3070 comes with the 240 watt power adapter which is pretty weighty the 330 watt is something you do not want to drop on your foot something to count when you’re carrying this thing around opening this up is just like the last generation unscrew the visible phillips head screws this one’s a captive screw so i’ll help raise that corner a bit and then you just lift it up and pull it a little bit forward because there’s little tabs that go underneath well the fan butt the fan cover whatever you want to call it which you do not have to remove unless you wish to do further disassembly and as you can hear that is a metal cover i know some people think they’re plastic given the finish but metal it is and here are our internals two large fans right here so they are accessible at least if you wish to clean them out our boot m.2 nvme ssd under a copper heatsink supplied at the factory here’s our second full-sized slot so again you can get this in a raid 0 configuration if you want and here’s the little 2230 half-height slot typically you can find drives up to about 512 gig capacity if you really want to go there the speaker drivers are visible right over here the bottom firing ones again has four total heat radiators out the rear and out the side air intake from the bottom 86 watt hour battery right here by the way if you do take off this cover for any reason be mindful that this little cable here there’s a tron lighting cable for the rear lighting that you do not want to rip off disconnect it from the motherboard if you need to do that so no ram slots because ram is soldered on board boo that and the wi-fi card is soldered on board there too so don’t expect to see anything exciting here other than the cute little alienware head logo so that’s the alienware m17 r4 obviously a distinctive style with this machine and you know it feels like a quality piece i got to say generally speaking the build quality on this is pretty good i know some people have problems with quality control with different brands of laptops including this but this is one solid machine the performance and the cooling on this really impressed me well not the performance i mean because i expect it a lot that’s something alienware delivers but usually at the price of letting the cpu run unchecked to thermal maximum stuff and the thermals on this were actually pretty darn good i like the new 360hz display it might be overkill for most people but it sure is nice looking and again it gives you more multipliers for syncing the display to the gpu more smoothly and for you content creators there is that 4k display option which is very pretty even if it’s not high refresh for gaming too. is an affiliate. 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Alienware m17 R4 (2021)