ALIENWARE m18 R1 Review

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Introducing the Alienware M18 R1, a colossal gaming laptop that stands as a testament to the ever-evolving landscape of portable gaming machines. This mammoth of a device, also known as the M18 new for 2023, boldly steps into the limelight with its 18-inch display, signaling a shift where 18-inch laptops become the new norm, surpassing the conventional 17-inch counterparts. While the mention of R1 denotes its first-generation status, this powerhouse of technology invites us to explore its features, performance capabilities, and the intriguing world of desktop replacement gaming laptops.

Weighing in at 8.9 lbs (approximately 4 kg), the Alienware M18 R1 presents itself as a robust yet surprisingly slim gaming beast. This BM (big momma) laptop, as some might affectionately call it, transcends the realm of easily portable devices, making it clear that this is not a laptop intended for daily backpack commuting.


Instead, its design caters to those seeking a desktop replacement, allowing for fluid mobility within a living space or prolonged stays in a specific location—perfect for extended travels or dedicated gaming spaces. Addressing the perennial question surrounding desktop replacement laptops, the Alienware M18 R1 finds its purpose in delivering unrivaled performance and functionality, leveraging a spacious chassis to accommodate high-end GPUs, efficient cooling systems, and other advanced features.

Alienware, a brand synonymous with cutting-edge gaming technology, has left no stone unturned in optimizing the cooling prowess of the M18 R1. A comprehensive cooling solution includes four fans—two large and two smaller ones—ensuring efficient heat dissipation.


The inclusion of a large Vapor chamber, boasting 35% more capacity than its predecessor, underscores Alienware’s commitment to temperature management. Seven heat pipes further enhance the cooling architecture, while the introduction of Element 31, a liquid metal SLC conventional thermal interface material paste hybrid, adds a touch of innovation to the thermal management system.

Underneath the hood, the Alienware M18 R1 offers an impressive array of processor options, catering to diverse user preferences. Users can opt for an Intel 13th gen Core i7 or Core i9, with the additional choice of a standard or overclockable Core i9 variant. For those favoring AMD, the laptop is available with Ryzen R7 and R9 CPUs, adding to the high-end spectrum of choices.


The GPU lineup is equally robust, featuring Nvidia options ranging from RTX 460 to 490, each with its corresponding high-wattage capabilities. Notably, Alienware expands its GPU offerings by introducing the AMD Radeon RX 7900m 16GB GPU, providing users with an alternative for an all-AMD configuration.

Performance expectations for the Alienware M18 R1 are undoubtedly high, and the laptop lives up to the hype, securing its position among the top gaming laptops in 2023. While comparisons to the MSI Titan and the Rogue Strix Scar place it within an elite group, the laptop excels in graphics tests and real-world gaming scenarios, showcasing its prowess in delivering an immersive gaming experience.


However, an interesting observation emerges in CPU-dependent benchmarks, where the CPU tends to run hot, nearing the thermal limit of 100°C. This contrasts with the trend in modern gaming laptops, where AI-managed thermals are becoming more prevalent. The choice to run at peak performance temperatures aligns with Alienware’s tradition, yet it does raise questions about evolving thermal management strategies in the gaming laptop landscape.

The display options for the Alienware M18 R1 cater to varied preferences, presenting users with two choices. The base model features a full HD plus (1920 x 1200) display with a remarkable 480 Hz refresh rate, appealing to competitive gamers with a 3-millisecond response time.


Alternatively, users can opt for the QHD plus resolution (2560 x 1660) display, striking a balance with a 165 Hz refresh rate, offering a more versatile option for non-competitive gamers. Both displays, utilizing IPS technology, support G-Sync, Advanced Optimus, and AMD FreeSync, promising fluid and tear-free visuals. The absence of a third display option might be a minor drawback, but the inclusion of a full P3 color gamut and factory calibration elevates the quality of these IPS displays.

In terms of pricing, the Alienware M18 R1 positions itself as a premium gaming laptop, with starting prices around $1700 for configurations with a Core i7 and RTX 4060. The price can escalate to approximately $4,000 for the highest configuration, encompassing a top-tier GPU, ample RAM, and expansive storage. Alienware’s pre-order specials, a tradition for the brand, provide enticing discounts, further enhancing the value proposition for potential buyers. The dynamic pricing range reflects the flexibility of the M18 R1, catering to users with varying budget considerations.


The Alienware M18 R1 for 2023 emerges as a force to be reckoned with in the gaming laptop arena. Its colossal form factor, top-tier hardware components, and innovative cooling solutions position it as a desktop replacement that caters to the needs of gamers seeking uncompromising performance. The inclusion of AMD GPU options and the robust display choices further enhance its appeal, ensuring that it stands tall among the elite gaming laptops available.

While considerations about thermal management and CPU temperatures may arise, the Alienware M18 R1 remains a stellar choice for those who prioritize raw power and gaming prowess in a portable package. As the gaming landscape evolves, the M18 R1 stands as a testament to Alienware’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of gaming laptop technology.


The standard configuration of this gaming laptop features a full HD webcam with Windows Hello capabilities, ensuring a convenient and secure login experience. The keyboard options continue to uphold Alienware’s commitment to providing users with a personalized gaming experience. Users can opt for the Cherry MX ultra-low-profile mechanical keyboard, a noteworthy choice for enthusiasts due to its tactile feel and minimal noise.

The alternative is the standard AlienFX keyboard, which also boasts per-key RGB lighting and a 1.8 mm key travel. While both keyboards offer similar specifications, the mechanical option stands out for its superior tactile feedback, making it a compelling choice for users who appreciate the benefits of a mechanical keyboard.


The trackpad on this gaming laptop is both sizable and responsive, offering a seamless navigation experience. The RGB lighting extends beyond the keyboard to what Alienware terms the “Stadium loop” on the back, encircling the laptop’s rear, and illuminating the Alien head logo. Users have the freedom to customize the lighting effects and color schemes according to their preferences, adding a touch of personalization to their gaming setup.

Examining the connectivity options, this gaming laptop features a robust array of ports, ensuring versatility for various users. Two Thunderbolt 4 ports, HDMI 2.1, an SD card slot, RJ45 Ethernet, and a headphone jack cater to a diverse range of connectivity needs. The inclusion of Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3, facilitated by the Killer Intel card, meets modern standards for wireless connectivity. The option to replace the Wi-Fi card further enhances the laptop’s upgradeability, though the existing card stands as one of the market’s finest.


Ventilation is a crucial aspect of gaming laptops, and the Alienware M18 R1 employs a honeycomb-patterned design for efficient heat dissipation. The cooling system incorporates four fans, with two prominent ones visible. The speakers, configured as side SL down-firing, maintain the gaming laptop tradition of delivering acceptable audio quality.

However, it’s worth noting that gaming laptop speakers, including these, may not rival dedicated external solutions. A simple disassembly process, facilitated by visible Philips head screws, provides access to the laptop’s internals. The cooling system comprises four fans, with the vapor chamber concealed beneath the CPU and GPU. Access to RAM slots and SSDs is straightforward, enabling users to upgrade or replace components with ease.


The laptop accommodates two RAM slots, supporting DDR5 4800 MHz RAM or faster options. The Wi-Fi card is socketed for potential replacement, though the existing card is highly capable. Regarding storage, the laptop features two SSD slots, one for the boot SSD and another labeled for either 2230 or full-size 2280 SSDs. While the inclusion of two shorter 2230 slots may limit variety, it still offers additional storage possibilities.

The laptop boasts a substantial 97-watt-hour battery, strategically positioned between the speaker drivers. Given the laptop’s powerful specifications and large display, users should temper expectations regarding battery life. Dell claims approximately 5.5 hours of streaming video time, a figure that may lean towards the optimistic side.

The Alienware Command Center, now in version 6.0 and available on the Windows app store, plays a crucial role in managing various settings. The improved user interface enhances usability, addressing previous concerns of lag and complexity. The software includes a game launcher for specific settings tailored to individual games. An optional onscreen overlay displays performance metrics, providing users with real-time information during gameplay. While Alienware Command Center is a capable tool, users seeking more extensive customization may opt for third-party solutions like MSI Afterburner for enhanced control and flexibility.

In short, the Alienware M18 R1 for 2023 maintains Alienware’s tradition of delivering high-performance gaming laptops with a focus on user customization. From keyboard options to RGB lighting and connectivity features, the laptop caters to the diverse preferences of the gaming community. The robust internal architecture, with its advanced cooling system, accessible internals, and upgradeable components, positions the Alienware M18 R1 as a contender among gaming laptops. As the gaming landscape continues to evolve, this gaming powerhouse stands ready to meet the demands of enthusiasts seeking uncompromising performance and a personalized gaming experience.

The Alienware M18 marks Dell Alienware’s initial foray into the realm of 18-inch laptops, and by and large, it demonstrates a commendable effort. Aesthetically, the laptop’s design might be subjective, but the Alienware signature look is generally well-received, exuding a visually appealing and futuristic vibe. The build quality stands out as a positive attribute, contributing to the laptop’s overall appeal. However, individual preferences play a pivotal role in determining whether the design aligns with one’s taste.

One standout feature that deserves accolades is the keyboard, which is nothing short of exceptional. The inclusion of the Cherry MX ultra-low-profile mechanical keyboard is a noteworthy decision, offering users a tactile and satisfying typing experience. The mechanical keyboard, known for its responsive feedback, adds a premium touch to the overall user interface. The availability of an alternative, the standard AlienFX keyboard, maintains the per-key RGB lighting and a 1.8 mm key travel, ensuring users have a choice based on their preference. Nevertheless, the mechanical option stands out as a recommendation for those who prioritize an enhanced typing experience.

While the display options present reasonable choices, there is room for improvement and diversification, especially for creative professionals. The absence of a 4K display option might be a drawback for users who engage in creative work that demands high resolution. A 4K display option, particularly for those opting for the RTX 4090, could unlock the potential for superior visuals, making the 18-inch screen more versatile. Although the existing displays deliver decent performance, considerations for future iterations could involve incorporating technologies like mini LED to enhance contrast and vibrancy, especially for users exploring the upper-tier offerings from Dell.

One notable concern that emerges pertains to the elevated CPU temperatures, given the substantial chassis size and the sophisticated cooling mechanisms in place. The laptop boasts an impressive array of cooling features, including four fans, Element 31, and Vapor Chambers, all designed to mitigate thermal issues. Despite the thin profile, measuring at an inch, the laptop maintains a balance between portability and performance. However, the noteworthy observation is the CPU temperatures reaching high levels, a factor that might impact long-term performance and user experience. This aspect warrants attention, considering the investment users make in a high-performance gaming laptop.

From a performance standpoint, the Alienware M18 proves itself as a robust contender, delivering notable speeds and responsiveness. For enthusiasts who prioritize the Alienware brand and seek a larger-than-life gaming experience, the M18 stands as a fitting choice. It represents the pinnacle of size within the Alienware lineup, making it an appealing option for users who prioritize an expansive display and top-tier performance. The inclusion of high-end components, such as the RTX 4090, positions the laptop as a powerhouse capable of handling demanding gaming scenarios.

In conclusion, the Alienware M18 serves as a commendable entry into the 18-inch laptop category for Dell Alienware. While design preferences may vary, the overall build quality, exceptional keyboard offerings, and commendable performance contribute to the laptop’s appeal. Potential areas for refinement include introducing a 4K display option and addressing the CPU temperature concerns. As the gaming laptop market continues to evolve, the Alienware M18 sets a foundation for larger form factors, offering a glimpse into the possibilities of expansive displays and powerful performance within the gaming ecosystem.

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Alienware m18 R1
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