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Alienware m16 R1 AMD review: A fantastic tale of dragons and aliens

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £2119
inc VAT

AMD’s new Dragon Range CPUs take flight in Alienware’s new 2023 M Series 16in gaming laptop


  • Huge choice of specs
  • Impressive performance
  • Colourful 16in 240Hz IPS display


  • Fairly weighty
  • Poor battery life
  • Odd arrangement of I/O ports

Alienware is the latest gaming laptop maker to ditch the 16:9 format, 15.6in screens in favour of 16:10 and 16 inches, which is exactly what we’re seeing here with the new Alienware m16. The M Series laptops sit below the X Series in Alienware’s hierarchy and, while generally bigger and heavier, they are cheaper. Not a lot cheaper, as that would risk stealing sales from parent-company Dell’s G Series gaming laptops, but not witheringly expensive unless you spec them up to the hilt.

Alienware has always been one of the most silicon-agnostic mass-market PC makers – equally happy to sell you something running on an Intel or AMD CPU and an AMD or Nvidia GPU – and the new 2023 M Series continues that trend, so you can mix and match components from all three vendors to your heart’s desire.

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Alienware m16 R1 AMD review: What you need to know

The Alienware m16 is one of the launch models for AMD’s new Dragon Range CPUs. In the eternal struggle between Intel and AMD, the Dragon Range is AMD’s effort to wrest the initiative back from Intel after they launched their Raptor Lake 13th-generation processors late last year.
The Ryzen 7 and Ryzen 9 Dragon Range chips offer similar levels of performance to their Intel counterparts – the Core i7 and Core i9 – but they generate less heat, which has a knock-on effect on how hard the cooling system needs to run to stop anything melting.

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Alienware m16 R1 AMD review: Price and competition

Configuration tested: CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 7845HX; GPU: Nvidia RTX 4070; RAM: 32GB; Storage: 1TB SSD; Display: 2,560 x 1,600 IPS non-touch 240Hz; Price: £2,119

This being an Alienware machine, there are many options to choose from and an equally wide range of prices.

The cheapest model in the m16 range costs £1,599. For that, you get a Ryzen 7 7745HX CPU, RTX 4060 GPU, a 1TB SSD, 16GB of RAM, and a 165Hz display. At the other end of the scale, £4,619 gets you a Core i9 13900HX chip, RTX 4090 GPU, 8TB of storage, and 64GB of RAM.

In between those extremes, you can choose from four CPUs (two from Intel and two from AMD), five GPUs (four Nvidia, one AMD), and three IPS displays (refreshing at 165Hz, 240Hz, or 480Hz), not to mention different types of keyboards and more storage and memory options than you can shake a stick at.Alienware M16 AMD R1 reviewThe best-value RTX 40 laptop we’ve tested yet is the Asus TUF A15. Like the m16, it’s an AMD/Nvidia machine, but it features the less potent combination of a Ryzen 7 7735HS CPU with the Nvidia RTX 4060 GPU. For the price (under £1,000), you get a tidy performer that can take some of the most demanding games in its stride, with good battery life and an excellent keyboard.

Asus’ searing ROG Strix Scar 16 is a beast of a gaming laptop with a price to match, but if you are prepared to forgo the RTX 4080 GPU and Mini LED IPS display, and settle for an RTX 4070 GPU and 165Hz IPS panel, then you can pick one up for just £1,800, which is great value.Alienware M16 AMD R1 reviewThe Acer Nitro 17 has much to recommend if you fancy a larger screen. The 17.3in 165Hz FullHD display is bright and colourful, the battery life is good, and the keyboard has plenty of gaming optimisations. If the RTX 4050 model isn’t powerful enough, there’s an RTX 4060 option, with a 2,560 x 1,440 display, for £1,600.

Alienware m16 R1 AMD review: Design and build quality

Alienware makes some of the most visually distinctive laptops on the market, and this 2023 m16 has all the familiar Alienware design motifs, from the large LED alien-head logos on the lid and the keyboard deck (the latter is also the power button), to the honeycomb-pattern grille above the keyboard and the LED strip light around the rear ports.

The new m16 feels more solid and premium than the old m15, thanks to the new aluminium case that looks smart and keeps greasy fingerprints at bay, but the gunmetal-grey “Dark Metallic Moon” of our review model is the only colour option available, which is a shame as I’m a big fan of Alienware’s striking “Lunar Light” white colour scheme.

The m16 is also not a light laptop. At 3.25kg, it’s quite a bit heavier than the 2.5kg Asus ROG Strix Scar 16, and the external dimensions (368.9 x 289.9 x 25.4mm) make it wider and deeper, if slightly thinner, too.

The m16 boasts a good selection of ports, with two USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 (both support DP Alt Mode video output) and two USB-A 3.2 Gen 1, a 2.5GbE Ethernet LAN port, a mini DisplayPort and an HDMI 2.1 video output, a 3.5mm audio jack, and an SD card reader. If you opt for an Intel CPU, the Type-C ports will be Thunderbolt 4 spec.Alienware M16 AMD R1 reviewI wouldn’t describe the placement of the ports as ideal though. One of the USB-A ports, the LAN connector, and the audio jack are all squeezed together on the left, while everything else is on the back. Spacing out the ports on the left and moving the Type-Cs and the card reader to the right would have made life much easier.

Getting the base panel off the m16 is simple and inside you will find room for a second SSD and easy access to the RAM mounts and the Qualcomm Wi-Fi 6E wireless card.

If you choose an m16 with an RTX 4080 or 4090, or AMD GPU, you also get a second pair of 30mm SSD slots, each of which can support cards up to 512GB capacity. These machines can support RAID 0/1/5 configuration, while the twin-SSD machines can only operate in RAID 0/1.

The Sandisk 1TB PCIe 4 SSD in my review machine was a strong performer, with sequential read and write speeds of 5,840MB/s and 5,287MB/s, respectively.

Alienware m16 R1 AMD review: Keyboard, touchpad and webcam

The m16 can be ordered with either CherryMX ultra-low-profile mechanical keys or a standard chiclet keyboard. For gamers, the extra £35 for a mechanical keyboard is a no-brainer, but it’s good to have a choice should you need to type in a quiet environment – mechanical keyboards and libraries do not pair well together. It’s worth noting that the mechanical keyboard is only available in the US layout, not the UK, but, whichever keyboard you choose, you get per-key sRGB lighting and the option to create your own macros.The keyboard on my test machine was a solid, but feature-free, chiclet affair with no design nods to the gaming community other than the Fn 1 key, which toggles the system into high-performance mode. At the very least, Alienware could have fitted highlighted WASD and arrow keys. The m16 also lacks a numeric keypad, though you get dedicated volume keys on the keyboard’s right edge.Alienware M16 AMD R1 reviewBecause of the deep grille above the keyboard, there’s precious little space below and that results in a small touchpad, just 112mm wide by 65mm deep. It performs perfectly well, and the click-action is ideally weighted and precise, but it’s really too small for creative work.Alienware M16 AMD R1 reviewAbove the display sits an excellent 1080p webcam, one of the best I’ve come across on a gaming laptop, regardless of price. The camera also supports Windows Hello facial recognition. Biometric security is never a given on gaming laptops, no matter how expensive, so kudos to Alienware for fitting it.

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Alienware m16 R1 AMD review: Display and audio

Alienware has replaced the 15.6-inch 16:9 display of the m15 R7 with a 16-inch, 2,560 x 1,600, 16:10 IPS screen to keep up with the times. The maximum refresh rate is 240Hz, but you can set it fixed to 60Hz, 120Hz, or 240Hz, or use one of the two Dynamic settings: 120-240Hz or 60-120Hz.Alienware M16 AMD R1 reviewColour gamut volumes are good, with 150.3% sRGB, 103.6% Adobe RGB, and 106.5% DCI-P3. Delta E colour accuracy came in at 3.14 versus the sRGB profile, which is fine for general use but a little on the high side for colour-critical work.

The maximum brightness of 346cd/m2 is quite middle-of-the-road, and the same applies to the 1,174:1 contrast ratio. However, motion handling is very impressive – with no ghosting or smearing – and supports Nvidia’s G-Sync adaptive sync technology.Alienware M16 AMD R1 reviewThe sound system pumps out an impressive amount of volume – 79.2dB(A) measured from a pink noise source at a 1m distance – and there’s plenty of bass to underpin things. The soundscape can get quite raucous at maximum volume, but dialling it down a bit soon fixes that.

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Alienware m16 R1 AMD review: Performance and battery life

This m16 is the first laptop we’ve tested with one of AMD’s new Dragon Range CPUs. These are designed to match Intel’s latest Raptor Lake chips by offering similar performance but with greater efficiency.

The 12-core 5.2GHz Ryzen 9 7845HX chip in this review model m16 isn’t the most powerful Dragon Range CPU – that accolade goes to the 16-core 7945HX – but it’s still quite a performer. Hooked up to the 7845HX is a 140W TGP Nvidia RTX 4070 GPU and 32GB of dual-channel DDR5 RAM.Alienware M16 AMD R1 reviewIn our 4K multimedia benchmark, the m16 scored 561 points, which isn’t so far away from the blistering 632 scored by the Intel Core i9-13980HX-powered Asus ROG Scar Strix 16, a laptop costing almost twice as much.

bar chart showing 4k media benchmark test results

However, more importantly than the outright performance, the new Alienware m16 runs cooler than the Asus machine: the highest external temperature I recorded was 40°C, localised to the exhaust grille above the keyboard, while the keyboard deck itself seldom got above 30°C.

Even the latest Triple-A games, like Cyberpunk 2077 and Returnal, run smoothly on the m16 at 2,560 x 1,600 resolution, hitting 55.9fps and 60fps, respectively, at the highest detail settings, but without ray tracing or DLSS. Hitman 2, still a demanding title, ran at 38.5fps at QHD+ but jumped to 66.6fps at FullHD. And our core test title, Wolfenstein: Youngblood, ran at 91fps at QHD+ with ray tracing engaged, but DLSS off.

bar chart showing hitman 2 1080p mumbai benchmark test results

The Cinebench R23 scores of 26,132 multi-core and 1,872 single-core, again, can’t match those of the Intel Core i9 13980HX-powered Strix Scar 16 – which scored 30,309 and 2,126, respectively, from 24 cores – but that they come as close as they do is impressive.

Sadly, the efficiency of the Dragon Range CPU is not reflected in the m16’s battery life. Our usual video rundown test, using VLC with the display set to 170cd/m2 and flight mode engaged, drained the 86Wh battery in 3 hours and 25 minutes. And that was with the display locked to 60Hz.

bar chart showing battery life test results

Alienware m16 R1 AMD review: Verdict

The m16 is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s a stylish, well-made laptop and, as reviewed, you can’t argue with the value for money. It also has excellent performance characteristics and you get a fantastic range of options at the point of purchase. The display is good, as is the speaker system, and there’s a great selection of I/O ports – I especially like to see a dedicated DisplayPort video-out on my gaming laptops.Alienware M16 AMD R1 reviewHowever, in the negative column, the chiclet keyboard is pretty basic for a gaming laptop, with none of the stylistic refinements you see on cheaper Asus TUF or Acer Predator laptops, and the arrangement of the ports seems almost perverse. It’s also heavy and the battery life is poor.

If your gaming laptop will spend most of its time sitting on your desk, plugged in and hooked up to a separate keyboard and mouse, then the Alienware m16’s drawbacks become much less of an issue. But if you want something for use out and about, there are better options.

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