Sat. May 18th, 2024


Key Takeaways

  • The Alienware m16 R2 gaming laptop balances work and play with its versatile performance options and sleek design.
  • It features a quality keyboard, touchpad, and ports aplenty, with good speakers and a solid display for the price.
  • Excellent gaming performance with efficient networking and connectivity capabilities, but battery life is limited.


Dell’s Alienware gaming laptop line-up comes in two major flavors, the x-series and m-series. In general, the full-metal chassis x-series is focused on powerful performance in as thin of a package as possible. The m-series, on the other hand, while similarly performance-oriented, features a thicker aluminum and plastic body that’s focused on optimal placement of internal components for maximum airflow. The Alienware m16 R2 is a sweet spot of the lineup thanks to a 16-inch display that strikes an intriguing balance between the smaller 14-inch and huge 18-inch screens of other models.


Although the m16 R2 is a powerful gaming laptop, it doesn’t do so at the expense of other use cases. Thanks to a Stealth Mode, which turns off the RGB lighting effects and switches performance to Quiet Mode that lowers fan noise, it’s a laptop that can be taken just about anywhere. Despite some unavoidable clunkiness, the m16 does a fantastic job of straddling the line between work-by-day productivity machine and play-by-night high-performance gaming activities.

Alienware m16 R2 Gaming Laptop

Alienware M16 R2 Gaming Laptop

The Alienware m16 R2 gaming laptop keeps a low profile or kick things up for performance gaming, streaming, and more.

Operating System
Windows 11 Home

CPU
Intel® Core™ Ultra 7 processor 155H (24MB cache, 16 cores, 1.40 to 4.80 GHz P-Core)

GPU
NVIDIA® GeForce RTX™ 4070, 8 GB GDDR6

RAM
16GB, 2x8GB, DDR5, 5600 MT/s

Storage
1 TB, M.2, PCIe NVMe, SSD

Battery
90Wh Battery

Display (Size, Resolution)
16.0″ QHD+ (2560 x 1600) 240Hz, 3ms, 100% sRGB, ComfortView Plus, NVIDIA G-SYNC + Advanced Optimus

Speakers
Stereo speakers, 2 W x 2 = 4 W total

Colors
Dark Metallic Moon

Weight
5.75 lb

Power
240W Small Form Factor Adapter

Keyboard
AlienFX RGB backlit (per-key) Alienware M Series keyboard

Webcam
1080p at 30 fps FHD RGB+IR camera

Size
.93 x 14.33 x 9.81 in

Pros

  • Powerful internals and performance
  • Plenty of high-end ports
  • Excellent keyboard and touchpad
  • Stealth Mode for non-gaming uses
Cons

  • Mediocre battery life
  • Port placement is unbalanced
  • Exterior is prone to fingerprints

Design and Hardware: Sleek, Powerful, and a Bit Heavy

Alienware m16 R2 open from the rear.
Jerome Thomas / How-To Geek

The m16 R2 has an attractive grey-tone exterior with black accents that Dell calls Dark Metallic Moon. It features no sharp edges, just rounded corners. On the rear of the display is a centered LED alien head logo offset by a sunken, stylized I6 in the bottom right corner. Overall, it’s a relatively understated and sleek design that doesn’t necessarily beat you over the head with its gaming-centric prowess. With that said, the exterior is prone to showing fingerprints, which appear as unsightly dark smudges, so that’s a bit of an aesthetic downer.


Underneath the laptop is a slightly raised, rounded rectangular platform that helps the honeycomb pattern air vents, which are mirrored just above the keyboard, achieve better flow. The left and right of the laptop, as well as just under the display, have additional air vents, all but a necessity when running a machine like this at its full potential.

Internally, the m16 R2 sports an Intel Core Ultra 7 processor 155H, a powerful 16-core chip released late 2023. There’s also 16GB of memory from two 8GB DDR5 chips and a 1TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD for storage. While I personally would have preferred a doubling of both RAM and storage, 16GB and 1TB are what you would generally expect for a sub-$1900 price point. For those willing to pay extra, a faster Intel Core Ultra 9 processor, up to 64GB of RAM, and up to 8TB of storage are possible for this model.

Weighing in at a hefty 5.75lbs, a height of nearly an inch, width just over 14 inches, and a depth of nearly 10 inches, the m16 R2 does not qualify as light and thin. With that said, all of its weight is nicely proportioned and reasonably well-balanced in hand.


Input and Output: Ports Aplenty with Great Keyboard and Touchpad

Left side of the Alienware m16 R2.
Jerome Thomas / How-To Geek

On the left of the m16 R2 is a 2.5GB RJ45 ethernet port and a 3.5mm headset jack. On the right is a microSD card slot and two USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports, one with PowerShare, which can power external devices when the laptop is off.

Right side of the Alienware m16 R2.
Jerome Thomas / How-To Geek


On the rear of the laptop is a power/DC-in barrel connector for the included 240W small form factor AC adapter, an HDMI 2.1 dGPU output port capable of driving 4K 120 FPS or 8K 60 FPS displays with wide refresh rate ranges. There’s also one USB-C port with Thunderbolt 4.0, USB 3.2 Gen 2, DisplayPort 1.4 iGPU, and 15W power delivery capabilities, as well as one USB-C port with USB 3.2 Gen 2 and DisplayPort 1.4 dGPU capabilities. The connectivity options are nothing if not potent on this machine, although having the paired USB-C and USB-A ports exclusively grouped and limited to the rear and right of the laptop, respectively, may be limiting for some users.

Rear ports of the Alienware m16 R2.
Jerome Thomas / How-To Geek

Opening the laptop reveals a per key RGB backlit keyboard with no number pad and well-spaced keys. I found the keyboard to be a pleasure to type on, with minimal learning curve, consistent action, and a generous wrist rest area flanking the touchpad. Overall, it’s among the best standard laptop keyboards I’ve tried, adept at both heavy typing and fast-response gaming.


Pressing the FN key provides access to any secondary key functions on the top row of the keyboard, such as high performance mode on or off, keyboard lighting, and screen brightness. There’s even an option to disable the touchpad with FN + F12, which is convenient when using an external mouse to avoid stray movements during intense gaming sessions. On the far right of the keyboard are convenient dedicated microphone mute, volume mute, volume up, and volume down buttons.

Top view of the Alienware m16 R2 keyboard and touchpad.
Jerome Thomas / How-To Geek

The roughly 5.2-inch diagonal multitouch gesture touchpad with integrated scrolling is a similar top performer. I’m no fan of touchpads, but the smooth, precise action of the one on the M16 R2 is about as good as I’ve ever used.


Sights and Sounds: Quality for the Price

My Alienware on the Alienware m16 R2 display.
Jerome Thomas / How-To Geek

Despite the generous 16-inch QHD+ display, the m16 R2 maintains a relatively compact profile. With a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600, blazing fast 240Hz refresh rate, 300 nits of brightness, and a 100% sRGB color gamut, it’s a nice display for the size, despite some dimming when looking at the screen from the side. Since it’s not a 4K display and paired with a powerful NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4070 laptop GPU with 8GB of GDDR6 RAM, most games can be run at the full resolution of the display at medium to high settings with solid frame rates.

Windows 11 Home is set to 150% scaling by default, which is considered the default for the display’s resolution. However, if you’d like a little more space to work, I found I was able to go down to 125% scaling with little issue.


Thanks in part to the default Dolby Atmos Spatial Sound, the built-in 4W peak speakers perform well. Even at 50% volume, they have impressive loudness, and can maintain 100% volume without distortion. Even more impressively, there’s great stereo separation, with sounds distinctly coming from their correct spatial location, creating a wonderful surround effect. On the downside, audio clarity errs on the slightly muddy side and the bass lacks punch, but, if you forget or don’t want to use your gaming headphones, these speakers are a viable alternative, even for long Spotify music sessions.

The full HD webcam doesn’t have the best quality, but works well enough in most lighting conditions for the usual video calls and conferences. Since the camera features infrared tracking, it supports Windows Hello facial recognition, making securely logging into the m16 R2 a breeze.


To the left and right of the webcam are microphones, which do a good job of minimizing background noise and clearly capture voice. Again, the webcam doesn’t blow away discrete options, but it’s certainly a viable option when paired with the excellent microphone.

The included “Alien Command Center” software lets you manage system performance, your game library, and AlienFX lighting effects. Using AlienFX, you can configure color for all keys at once or just for individual keys. Lighting effects, like pulses or waves, affect all keys at once. You can also separately change the color of the alien head power button, alien head logo on the rear of the display, and the rectangular ring around the touchpad.

Finally, thanks to a Stealth Mode, which turns off the RGB lighting effects entirely and switches performance to Quiet Mode, you can eliminate distractions from either the lighting or fans. This setting further highlights the ease with which the m16 R2 switches between being a high-performance gaming laptop and a productivity powerhouse.


Games, Benchmarks, and General Performance

The Alienware m16 R2 open.
Jerome Thomas / How-To Geek

Performance across some of my favorite games in the display’s native 2,560 x 1,600 resolution proved excellent, with smooth frame rates and beautiful visuals using default settings with no additional tweaks. In “Dave the Diver,” gameplay stayed locked at 60 frames per second (FPS). In “Diablo IV,” with the High quality preset, the frame rate consistently exceeded 115 FPS. In “Baldur’s Gate 3,” with the ultra and high presets, the frame rate remained consistently over 77 FPS. In “Forza Motorsport,” with Medium Dynamic render quality and everything else set to auto, the frame rate stayed at 60 FPS. And finally, in “Fortnite” Battle Royale, with auto-set quality and most settings at high or epic, I was able to maintain a fairly consistent 60 FPS, with only occasional dips in transitional areas. As a regular “Fortnite” player, I was definitely impressed by the increased visual fidelity versus my usual gaming desktop, making the rare crowned Victory Royale in Solo I achieved all the sweeter.


Using more objective benchmarks showed similarly excellent performance.

PCMark 10, which measures complete system performance for office needs, gave the M16 R2 a score of 7,633, which is better than 91% of all results, and above the 7,066 average score of 2023 gaming laptops.

3DMark‘s Time Spy, which is a DirectX 12 benchmark for gaming PCs, produced a score of 12,205, which is better than 65% of all results, and above the 11,619 average score of 2023 gaming laptops.

VRMark, which measures a PC’s virtual reality readiness, had a score of 13,137, which is better than 90% of all results, and well above the 8,507 average score of 2023 gaming laptops.

With the built-in Intel BE202 Wi-Fi 7 2×2, as well as the Intel Killer E3100G 2.5 gigabit ethernet controller, whether wireless or wired, network performance was excellent. My Eero Pro 6E network maxes out at 1.49Gbps, so getting an average of 23 ms ping wireless or wired to one of the satellite routers, an average of 500Mbps download wireless, and 600Mbps download wired, matches the top performance of any other device on my network.


Of course, with Wi-Fi 7 and 2.5 Gigabit ethernet support, even if there are few environments that can take advantage of these latest standards, it’s nice to know that there’s some future proofing here as well, further adding to the m16 R2’s value. Similarly, the BT 5.4 Wireless Card ensures optimal performance from connected Bluetooth devices.

In terms of battery life, you can hope for a maximum of six hours with a dimmed screen and Quiet Mode on. More realistically, you can expect between 90 minutes to just under three hours for typical gaming and productivity uses. Using UL Procyon’s Battery Life Benchmark, which provides a broad view of battery life across different productivity-based use cases, confirmed this, producing an “Office Productivity” battery life of 3 hours and 18 minutes using the balanced power plan, 100% screen brightness for 80% of the run-time, 70% screen brightness for 20% of the run-time, and RGB lighting effects on.


Naturally, the longer the laptop is performing high-stress activities, the more heat is generated. The fans are definitely noticeable under load, but stay within reason noise-wise, with good heat distribution, although the keyboard area did get a bit warmer at times than I’d like. Similarly, the included AC adapter did get slightly warm, but never uncomfortably so. Overall, thermal management is well-done on this machine.

Should You Buy The Alienware m16 R2 Gaming Laptop?

For a high-performance, big-screen gaming laptop that can also be used for productivity, the Alienware m16 R2 represents a compelling value thanks to its sub-$1900 price point. However, if you’re expecting a compact laptop or stellar battery life, you’ll need to look elsewhere. For everyone else, it has the right mix of components to offer top gaming performance, along with a great keyboard and touchpad that also make it ideal for everyday use.

Alienware m16 R2 Gaming Laptop

Alienware M16 R2 Gaming Laptop

The Alienware m16 R2 gaming laptop keeps a low profile or kick things up for performance gaming, streaming, and more.



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By John P.

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