Notebookcheck

Alienware 15 R4 (i9-8950HK, GTX 1070, FHD) Laptop Review

Florian Glaser, 👁 Florian Glaser, Felicitas Krohn (translated by Alex Alderson), 07/16/2018

At the cutting edge. The Alienware 15 R4 is a 2.5-cm (~1 in) thick 15.6-inch gaming laptop that can be configured with up to an Intel Core i9-8950HK processor, an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 GPU and a Full HD display. Find out in this review how the 15 R4 fares against other 15-inch gaming laptops and the degree to which the device balances heat and fan noise with its powerful hardware.

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Alienware 15 R4

Alienware is late to the party in upgrading its devices' Intel Coffee Lake processors. All Alienware 15 R4 configurations including the entry-model pack hexa-core processors which support up to twelve simultaneous threads thanks to Hyper-Threading. This is a huge leap from the quad-core Kaby Lake CPUs that Alienware used in the R4’s predecessor.

Alienware offers the 15 R4 in two hexa-core flavors: the hugely popular Intel Core i7-8750H and the much more expensive Intel Core i9-8950HK. The latter has an unlocked multiplier and can be theoretically overclocked up to 5.0 GHz.

Alienware 15 R4 (15 Series)
Graphics adapter
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop) - 8192 MB, Core: 1480 MHz, Memory: 8000 MHz, GDDR5, ForceWare 389.12
Memory
16384 MB 
, Two 8 GB SO-DIMM DDR4-2666, Dual Channel. All SO-DIMM slots occupied. Maximum of 32 GB RAM supported.
Display
15.6 inch 16:9, 1920 x 1080 pixel 141 PPI, LG Philips LP156WF6 (LGD0540), IPS, Full-HD, 60 Hz, G-Sync, glossy: no
Mainboard
Intel CM246
Storage
Toshiba XG5 KXG50ZNV256G, 256 GB 
, NVMe SSD & HGST Travelstar 7K1000 HTS721010A9E630 1 TB 7,200 RPM HDD. Two M.2-2280 slots & one 2.5-inch drive bay.
Soundcard
Realtek ALC298 @ Intel Cannon Lake PCH
Connections
3 USB 3.0 / 3.1 Gen1, 1 USB 3.1 Gen2, 1 Thunderbolt, 1 HDMI, 2 DisplayPort, Audio Connections: One headphone jack, one microphone jack, One Noble Lock, one Graphics amplifier
Networking
Killer E2500 Gigabit Ethernet Controller (10/100/1000MBit), Killer Wireless-AC 1550 Wireless Network Adapter (a/b/g/h/n/ac), Bluetooth 5.0
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 25 x 389 x 305 ( = 0.98 x 15.31 x 12.01 in)
Battery
99 Wh Lithium-Ion
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64 Bit
Camera
Webcam: HD
Additional features
Speakers: 2.0, Keyboard: RGB, Keyboard Light: yes, 240 W power supply, Quick Start Guide, Various manufacturer tools, Killer Performance Suite, McAfee Security Trial, 12 Months Warranty
Weight
3.517 kg ( = 124.06 oz / 7.75 pounds), Power Supply: 802 g ( = 28.29 oz / 1.77 pounds)
Price
2768 EUR
Note: The manufacturer may use components from different suppliers including display panels, drives or memory sticks with similar specifications.

 

A word of warning about the GPU though. To pass a GeForce GTX 1080 Max-Q off as a GeForce GTX 1080 is misleading. There are clear performance differences between the two GPUs.

The 15 R4’s pricing scheme is as confusing as other Dell laptops. Dell charges hefty prices for configuring the 15 R4 with larger hard drives and more RAM, but the price does not change irrespective of color or keyboard layout.

It is worth bearing in mind that the 15 R4 only comes with twelve months manufacturer’s warranty. We would expect to see a longer warranty given the 15 R4’s premium price.

Alienware 15 R4
Alienware 15 R4
Alienware 15 R4
Alienware 15 R4
Alienware 15 R4
Alienware 15 R4
Alienware 15 R4
Alienware 15 R4
Alienware 15 R4
Alienware 15 R4
Alienware 15 R4
Alienware 15 R4
Alienware 15 R4
Alienware 15 R4
Alienware 15 R4

The 15 R4 starts at €1,528 (~$1780) at Dell’s online store. This model is equipped with an Intel Core i5-8300H CPU, an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 GPU, 8 GB RAM and a 256 GB SSD. Our test device currently retails for over €2,700 (~$3145) and is equipped with an Intel Core i9-8950HK CPU, an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 GPU, 16 GB of RAM, a 256 GB SSD and a 1 TB HDD.

We will not be examining the case, the connectivity or the input devices in this review as they are the same as the 15 R4’s predecessor, except for the webcam where there are some differences. Please see our Alienware 15 R3 review for a detailed look at these areas.

We have chosen to compare the 15 R4 against other 15-inch gaming laptops that are also less than 3.0 cm (~1.2 in) thick. We will be comparing the 15 R4 against the AORUS X5 v8, the Razer Blade 15 and the Gigabyte Aero 15X v8.

Size Comparison

Networking
iperf3 Client (receive) TCP 1 m 4M x10
Alienware 15 R4
Killer Wireless-AC 1550 Wireless Network Adapter
690 MBit/s ∼100%
Gigabyte Aero 15X v8
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265
682 MBit/s ∼99% -1%
Alienware 15 R3
Killer Wireless-n/a/ac 1435 Wireless Network Adapter
681 MBit/s ∼99% -1%
Razer Blade 15 2018
Intel Wireless-AC 9260
681 MBit/s ∼99% -1%
Aorus X5 v8
Killer Wireless-n/a/ac 1535 Wireless Network Adapter
673 MBit/s ∼98% -2%
Average of class Gaming
  (141 - 702, n=180)
594 MBit/s ∼86% -14%
iperf3 Client (transmit) TCP 1 m 4M x10
Alienware 15 R4
Killer Wireless-AC 1550 Wireless Network Adapter
692 MBit/s ∼100%
Razer Blade 15 2018
Intel Wireless-AC 9260
643 MBit/s ∼93% -7%
Aorus X5 v8
Killer Wireless-n/a/ac 1535 Wireless Network Adapter
587 MBit/s ∼85% -15%
Alienware 15 R3
Killer Wireless-n/a/ac 1435 Wireless Network Adapter
560 MBit/s ∼81% -19%
Average of class Gaming
  (144 - 697, n=180)
534 MBit/s ∼77% -23%
Gigabyte Aero 15X v8
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265
379 MBit/s ∼55% -45%

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Display

The 15 R4 comes in a choice of 15.6-inch displays, of which there are five for the Core i9-8950HK version. Principally, you have the choice between a 60 Hz IPS panel and a 120 Hz TN panel. The former is available in either FHD or UHD, while the latter is only available in FHD. There is a further choice between G-Sync and non-G-Sync models. We have laid out the display options and their price options at the time of writing below for clarity.

  • FHD (1,920x1,080) 60 Hz IPS G-Sync
  • FHD (1,920x1,080) 120 Hz TN (+ 100.00 €/~$116)
  • FHD (1,920x1,080) 120 Hz TN G-Sync (+ 100.00 €/~$116)
  • UHD (3,840x2,160) 60 Hz IPS (+ 350.00 €/~$408)
  • UHD (3,840x2,160) 60 Hz IPS G-Sync (+ 380.00 €/~$443)

It is worth bearing in mind that the Core i7-8750H and Core i5-8300H versions include an additional display option, which is an FHD 60 Hz IPS panel without G-Sync.

282
cd/m²
264
cd/m²
284
cd/m²
295
cd/m²
292
cd/m²
289
cd/m²
267
cd/m²
260
cd/m²
270
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 295 cd/m² Average: 278.1 cd/m² Minimum: 15 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 88 %
Center on Battery: 292 cd/m²
Contrast: 1007:1 (Black: 0.29 cd/m²)
ΔE Color 4.9 | 0.4-29.43 Ø6.2, calibrated: 2.27
ΔE Greyscale 4.89 | 0.64-98 Ø6.5
86% sRGB (Argyll 3D) 56% AdobeRGB 1998 (Argyll 3D)
Gamma: 2.36
Alienware 15 R4
LG Philips LP156WF6 (LGD0540), IPS, 1920x1080
Alienware 15 R3
HPJGK_B156HTN (AUO51ED), TN, 1920x1080
Aorus X5 v8
AU Optronics B156HAN07.0 (AUO70ED), IPS, 1920x1080
Razer Blade 15 2018
LGD05C0, IPS, 1920x1080
Gigabyte Aero 15X v8
LGD05C0, IPS, 1920x1080
Response Times
42%
50%
52%
54%
Response Time Grey 50% / Grey 80% *
37.6 (18.8, 18.8)
25 (12, 13)
34%
18.8 (10, 8.8)
50%
17.2 (8.8, 8.4)
54%
16.8 (8.4, 8.4)
55%
Response Time Black / White *
24 (13.2, 10.8)
12 (4, 8)
50%
12 (7.6, 4.4)
50%
12 (6.8, 5.2)
50%
11.2 (6, 5.2)
53%
PWM Frequency
20830 (99)
Screen
-25%
22%
16%
24%
Brightness middle
292
386
32%
271
-7%
290
-1%
313
7%
Brightness
278
382
37%
259
-7%
281
1%
300
8%
Brightness Distribution
88
93
6%
87
-1%
82
-7%
78
-11%
Black Level *
0.29
0.39
-34%
0.27
7%
0.3
-3%
0.33
-14%
Contrast
1007
990
-2%
1004
0%
967
-4%
948
-6%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 *
4.9
10.2
-108%
1.81
63%
2.85
42%
1.29
74%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 max. *
10.08
15.81
-57%
3.33
67%
6.27
38%
2.04
80%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 calibrated *
2.27
1.39
39%
Greyscale DeltaE2000 *
4.89
11.28
-131%
1.09
78%
2.4
51%
0.69
86%
Gamma
2.36 93%
2.23 99%
2.45 90%
2.34 94%
2.43 91%
CCT
7598 86%
11383 57%
6435 101%
6718 97%
6550 99%
Color Space (Percent of AdobeRGB 1998)
56
59
5%
61
9%
60
7%
60
7%
Color Space (Percent of sRGB)
86
90
5%
93
8%
94
9%
94
9%
Total Average (Program / Settings)
9% / -14%
36% / 26%
34% / 21%
39% / 29%

* ... smaller is better

Our test device is equipped with the default 1,920x1,080 60 Hz IPS display with G-Sync. According to AIDA64, this is an LG Philips LP156WF6 (LGD0540) panel.

Our test device achieved an average maximum brightness of 278.1 cd/m² when measured with X-Rite i1Pro2. This is slightly lower than most our comparison devices, but the 0.29 cd/m² black value is only second best to the AORUS X5 v8. This helps our test device achieve a 1,007:1 contrast ratio, which is higher than all our comparison devices.

Color space coverage is good too at 86% sRGB and 56% AdobeRGB. The 15 R4 with the default display falls between 5-9% short of our comparison devices in this regard though.

CalMAN: Grayscale
CalMAN: Grayscale
CalMAN: Saturation
CalMAN: Saturation
CalMAN: ColorChecker
CalMAN: ColorChecker
CalMAN: Grayscale (calibrated)
CalMAN: Grayscale (calibrated)
CalMAN: Saturation (calibrated)
CalMAN: Saturation (calibrated)
CalMAN: ColorChecker (calibrated)
CalMAN: ColorChecker (calibrated)

Our test device has 24 ms black-to-white and 37.6 ms gray-to-gray reaction times. These are adequate for most uses, but some gamers may find these somewhat too slow.

Color accuracy is passable, but our test device’s display has a blue tint out of the box. We fixed this with further calibration and have included our ICC file should you wish to try our calibration on your machine.

The 15 R4 does use pulse-width modulation (PWM) to regulate brightness. Fortunately, this is at 20,830 Hz, which is such a high frequency that it should not even affect those who are PWM sensitive.

sRGB: 86%
sRGB: 86%
Sub-pixel array
Sub-pixel array
AdobeRGB: 56%
AdobeRGB: 56%

Our test device has strong viewing angles thanks to its IPS panel. There are no brightness or color distortions even at acute angles.

The 15 R4 is difficult to use outdoors on sunny days because of its relatively low maximum brightness. Content on the screen is hardly visible in direct sunlight, which makes the 15 R4 most suited to being used indoors.

Display Response Times

Display response times show how fast the screen is able to change from one color to the next. Slow response times can lead to afterimages and can cause moving objects to appear blurry (ghosting). Gamers of fast-paced 3D titles should pay special attention to fast response times.
       Response Time Black to White
24 ms ... rise ↗ and fall ↘ combined↗ 13.2 ms rise
↘ 10.8 ms fall
The screen shows good response rates in our tests, but may be too slow for competitive gamers.
In comparison, all tested devices range from 0.8 (minimum) to 240 (maximum) ms. » 32 % of all devices are better.
This means that the measured response time is similar to the average of all tested devices (25.6 ms).
       Response Time 50% Grey to 80% Grey
37.6 ms ... rise ↗ and fall ↘ combined↗ 18.8 ms rise
↘ 18.8 ms fall
The screen shows slow response rates in our tests and will be unsatisfactory for gamers.
In comparison, all tested devices range from 0.9 (minimum) to 636 (maximum) ms. » 34 % of all devices are better.
This means that the measured response time is similar to the average of all tested devices (41 ms).

Screen Flickering / PWM (Pulse-Width Modulation)

To dim the screen, some notebooks will simply cycle the backlight on and off in rapid succession - a method called Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) . This cycling frequency should ideally be undetectable to the human eye. If said frequency is too low, users with sensitive eyes may experience strain or headaches or even notice the flickering altogether.
Screen flickering / PWM detected 20830 Hz ≤ 99 % brightness setting

The display backlight flickers at 20830 Hz (Likely utilizing PWM) Flickering detected at a brightness setting of 99 % and below. There should be no flickering or PWM above this brightness setting.

The frequency of 20830 Hz is quite high, so most users sensitive to PWM should not notice any flickering.

In comparison: 53 % of all tested devices do not use PWM to dim the display. If PWM was detected, an average of 8933 (minimum: 43 - maximum: 142900) Hz was measured.

Performance

Alienware has significantly redesigned its Command Center utility as part of updating its devices to Coffee Lake CPUs. Command Center is arranged in tabs from left-to-right by Start Page, Library, FX and Fusion. All tabs have their distinct uses, with the start page summarizing all main features and the Library listing all installed games. Likewise, the FX tab handles system lighting, while the Fusion tab contains power, thermal, energy management and sound settings.

All settings shown in the screenshots are the default ones.

Command Center
Command Center
Command Center
Command Center
Command Center
Command Center
Command Center
Command Center

Unfortunately, the Command Center seems unfinished as the utility was missing some menus after multiple restarts.

CPU-Z
CPU-Z
CPU-Z
CPU-Z
CPU-Z
HWiNFO
GPU-Z
LatencyMon

Processor

Our test is equipped with an Intel Core i9-8950HK processor. This is currently Intel’s top-end mobile CPU. The main advantages between the Core i9-8950HK and the Core i7-8750H are in terms of L3 cache and clock speed. The Core i9-8950HK has 12 MB L3 cache and a 4.8 GHz clock speed, which is 3 MB and 0.7 GHz more than the Core i7-8750H.

Single-core rendering
Single-core rendering
Multi-core rendering
Multi-core rendering
GPU load
GPU load

While the Core i9-8950HK has a theoretically high clock speed, our test device fails to deliver in CPU benchmarks. In Cinebench R15 multi-threaded benchmarks, our test device operated at between 2.9-4.2 GHz, averaging 3.3 GHz. Overall, the 15 R4 uses Turbo Boost ineffectively.

Cinebench R15
CPU Single 64Bit
Alienware 15 R4
Intel Core i9-8950HK
197 Points ∼100%
Aorus X5 v8
Intel Core i7-8850H
182 Points ∼92% -8%
Gigabyte Aero 15X v8
Intel Core i7-8750H
175 Points ∼89% -11%
Razer Blade 15 2018
Intel Core i7-8750H
172 Points ∼87% -13%
Alienware 15 R3
Intel Core i7-7700HQ
160 Points ∼81% -19%
Average of class Gaming
  (79 - 209, n=419)
152 Points ∼77% -23%
CPU Multi 64Bit
Aorus X5 v8
Intel Core i7-8850H
1265 Points ∼100% +17%
Gigabyte Aero 15X v8
Intel Core i7-8750H
1133 Points ∼90% +5%
Alienware 15 R4
Intel Core i9-8950HK
1083 Points ∼86%
Razer Blade 15 2018
Intel Core i7-8750H
983 Points ∼78% -9%
Average of class Gaming
  (196 - 1865, n=420)
748 Points ∼59% -31%
Alienware 15 R3
Intel Core i7-7700HQ
737 Points ∼58% -32%
Cinebench R11.5
CPU Single 64Bit
Alienware 15 R4
Intel Core i9-8950HK
2.28 Points ∼100%
Aorus X5 v8
Intel Core i7-8850H
2.08 Points ∼91% -9%
Gigabyte Aero 15X v8
Intel Core i7-8750H
1.98 Points ∼87% -13%
Razer Blade 15 2018
Intel Core i7-8750H
1.95 Points ∼86% -14%
Alienware 15 R3
Intel Core i7-7700HQ
1.82 Points ∼80% -20%
Average of class Gaming
  (0.71 - 2.38, n=408)
1.68 Points ∼74% -26%
CPU Multi 64Bit
Aorus X5 v8
Intel Core i7-8850H
13.85 Points ∼100% +12%
Gigabyte Aero 15X v8
Intel Core i7-8750H
12.93 Points ∼93% +4%
Alienware 15 R4
Intel Core i9-8950HK
12.39 Points ∼89%
Razer Blade 15 2018
Intel Core i7-8750H
10.51 Points ∼76% -15%
Alienware 15 R3
Intel Core i7-7700HQ
8.16 Points ∼59% -34%
Average of class Gaming
  (1.13 - 21.2, n=509)
7.28 Points ∼53% -41%

The relatively poor Turbo Boost performance means that our test device scores lower than the AORUS X5 v8 and the Gigabyte Aero 15X v8, which are powered by Intel Core i7-8850H and Intel Core i7-8750H processors respectively.

In short, it makes little sense for Alienware to have included the Core i9-8950HK as an option when the 15 R4 cannot make full use of it. Alienware has made the same mistake of equipping its predecessor with an Intel Core i7-7820HK too.

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Cinebench R15 CPU Multi 64 Bit
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Single 64Bit
2.28 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
12.39 Points
Cinebench R15 CPU Single 64Bit
197 Points
Cinebench R15 CPU Multi 64Bit
1083 Points
Help

System Performance

Our test device scores comparatively well in system benchmarks despite poor Turbo Boost performance though. The 15 R4 takes second place in PCMark 10 in which our test device scored 6,008 points. This is only 2% slower than the AORUS X5 v8 and is 19% faster than both the Aero 15x v8 and the Razer Blade 15. The 15 R4 device performed comparatively worse in PCMark 8 though, with our test device finishing fourth, behind both the Aero 15x v8 and the Blade 15 .

We would recommend running Windows 10 from the SSD rather than the HDD. System performance is much snappier when running the OS from the former rather than the latter.

PCMark 10 - Score
Aorus X5 v8
GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 8850H, Toshiba NVMe THNSN5512GPU7
6154 Points ∼100% +2%
Alienware 15 R4
GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 8950HK, Toshiba XG5 KXG50ZNV256G
6008 Points ∼98%
Gigabyte Aero 15X v8
GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q, 8750H, Toshiba NVMe THNSN5512GPU7
5059 Points ∼82% -16%
Razer Blade 15 2018
GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q, 8750H, Samsung PM961 NVMe MZVLW512HMJP
5046 Points ∼82% -16%
Average of class Gaming
  (2603 - 6959, n=119)
4945 Points ∼80% -18%
PCMark 8
Work Score Accelerated v2
Aorus X5 v8
GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 8850H, Toshiba NVMe THNSN5512GPU7
5953 Points ∼100% +6%
Gigabyte Aero 15X v8
GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q, 8750H, Toshiba NVMe THNSN5512GPU7
5676 Points ∼95% +1%
Razer Blade 15 2018
GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q, 8750H, Samsung PM961 NVMe MZVLW512HMJP
5637 Points ∼95% 0%
Alienware 15 R4
GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 8950HK, Toshiba XG5 KXG50ZNV256G
5632 Points ∼95%
Alienware 15 R3
GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 7700HQ
5299 Points ∼89% -6%
Average of class Gaming
  (2484 - 6515, n=314)
4926 Points ∼83% -13%
Home Score Accelerated v2
Aorus X5 v8
GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 8850H, Toshiba NVMe THNSN5512GPU7
5773 Points ∼100% +4%
Alienware 15 R4
GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 8950HK, Toshiba XG5 KXG50ZNV256G
5541 Points ∼96%
Alienware 15 R3
GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 7700HQ
4966 Points ∼86% -10%
Razer Blade 15 2018
GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q, 8750H, Samsung PM961 NVMe MZVLW512HMJP
4658 Points ∼81% -16%
Gigabyte Aero 15X v8
GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q, 8750H, Toshiba NVMe THNSN5512GPU7
4504 Points ∼78% -19%
Average of class Gaming
  (2554 - 6093, n=332)
4222 Points ∼73% -24%
PCMark 8 Home Score Accelerated v2
5541 points
PCMark 8 Work Score Accelerated v2
5632 points
Help

Storage Devices

The 15 R4 has two drives, a 256 GB Toshiba XG5 KXG50ZNV256G M.2-2280 NVMe SSD and a 1 TB HGST Travelstar 7K1000 7,200 RPM HDD.

Our test device had a few SSD related driver issues, which meant that AS SSD benchmark occasionally recorded incorrect speeds. As a result, benchmark performance is a mixed bag. On the one hand, the Toshiba XG5 has excellent 4K Write and Sequential Read speeds, but its 300 MB Sequential Write speed is evocative of SATA III SSDs and not NVMe drives. Overall, the SSD in our test device is considerably slower than those in our comparison devices.

SSD
SSD
SSD
SSD
HDD
HDD
HDD
HDD

The 1 TB HDD is reasonably fast for an HDD, but it is still considerably slower than the 256 GB SSD. Hence, we would only recommend storing personal data and media as opposed to installing programs or the OS.

Alienware 15 R4
Toshiba XG5 KXG50ZNV256G
Alienware 15 R3
 
Aorus X5 v8
Toshiba NVMe THNSN5512GPU7
Razer Blade 15 2018
Samsung PM961 NVMe MZVLW512HMJP
Gigabyte Aero 15X v8
Toshiba NVMe THNSN5512GPU7
AS SSD
57%
138%
69%
Score Total
1416
2515
78%
3806
169%
2536
79%
Score Write
435
954
119%
1450
233%
939
116%
Score Read
714
1061
49%
1584
122%
1092
53%
4K Write
94.84
84.51
-11%
93.55
-1%
80.44
-15%
4K Read
32.87
23.21
-29%
46.45
41%
23.36
-29%
Seq Write
300.41
965.76
221%
1520.94
406%
1163.11
287%
Seq Read
2441.12
1813.23
-26%
2375.98
-3%
2212.97
-9%
Toshiba XG5 KXG50ZNV256G
CDM 5/6 Read Seq Q32T1: 2813 MB/s
CDM 5/6 Write Seq Q32T1: 351 MB/s
CDM 5/6 Read 4K Q32T1: 366.7 MB/s
CDM 5/6 Write 4K Q32T1: 318.6 MB/s
CDM 5 Read Seq: 2110 MB/s
CDM 5 Write Seq: 362.3 MB/s
CDM 5/6 Read 4K: 35.73 MB/s
CDM 5/6 Write 4K: 96.85 MB/s

Graphics Card

Dell offers the choice between three GPUs, an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060, a GeForce GTX 1070 or a GeForce GTX 1080 Max-Q. The GeForce GTX 1060 should be powerful enough to run games in high to maximum details on the Full HD panel. If you choose the 120 Hz TN panel, we would recommend pairing it with the GeForce GTX 1070 to take advantage of higher framerates. The GeForce GTX 1080 Max-Q is on par with the GeForce GTX 1070, which makes it unsuitable for 4K gaming. Hence, it would have been better had Dell offered the standard GeForce GTX 1080 as an option.

3DMark - 1920x1080 Fire Strike Graphics
Alienware 15 R3
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop)
17675 Points ∼100% 0%
Alienware 15 R4
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop)
17675 Points ∼100%
Aorus X5 v8
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop)
17257 Points ∼98% -2%
Razer Blade 15 2018
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q
15748 Points ∼89% -11%
Gigabyte Aero 15X v8
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q
15156 Points ∼86% -14%
Average of class Gaming
  (385 - 40636, n=447)
10260 Points ∼58% -42%
3DMark 11 - 1280x720 Performance GPU
Alienware 15 R4
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop)
23308 Points ∼100%
Alienware 15 R3
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop)
22810 Points ∼98% -2%
Aorus X5 v8
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop)
21823 Points ∼94% -6%
Razer Blade 15 2018
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q
19969 Points ∼86% -14%
Gigabyte Aero 15X v8
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q
19162 Points ∼82% -18%
Average of class Gaming
  (513 - 50983, n=520)
11894 Points ∼51% -49%

Our test device is equipped with a GeForce GTX 1070. GPU performance is comparable to other GeForce GTX 1070 notebooks such as the 15 R3 or the AORUS X5 v8. By contrast, the 15 R4 is between 12-22% faster than our comparison devices with GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q GPUs.

3DMark 11 Performance
18159 points
3DMark Ice Storm Standard Score
174480 points
3DMark Cloud Gate Standard Score
32574 points
3DMark Fire Strike Score
14903 points
Help

The GPU has much better turbo performance than the CPU. The GeForce GTX 1070 has a 1,443 MHz base clock speed, which can boost up to 1,645 MHz when required. Our test device maintained its full turbo speed after playing “The Witcher 3” for an hour at Ultra detail in 1,920x1,080. 

012345678910111213141516171819202122232425262728293031323334353637383940414243444546474849505152535455565758596061626364Tooltip
The Witcher 3 ultra

Gaming Performance

Playing games in 1,920x1,080 rarely makes the GeForce GTX 1070 sweat. Our test device ran six of the nine games that we tested in over 100 FPS at maximum details, which makes the 120 Hz a good optional purchase. In short, the 15 R4 will be able to handle any game that you throw at it with ease.

The Witcher 3 - 1920x1080 Ultra Graphics & Postprocessing (HBAO+)
Aorus X5 v8
GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 8850H
60 fps ∼100% +1%
Alienware 15 R4
GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 8950HK
59.5 fps ∼99%
Razer Blade 15 2018
GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q, 8750H
53.5 fps ∼89% -10%
Gigabyte Aero 15X v8
GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q, 8750H
52.4 fps ∼87% -12%
Average of class Gaming
  (12.6 - 115, n=223)
44.5 fps ∼74% -25%

Our test device has G-Sync support too, which is designed to improve the overall gaming experience by eliminating screen tearing. It is worth bearing in mind that not every user notices this at first glance though.

low med. high ultra
The Witcher 3 (2015) 10859.5fps
Rainbow Six Siege (2015) 209178fps
Farming Simulator 17 (2016) 278250fps
FIFA 18 (2017) 357341fps
Destiny 2 (2017) 135121fps
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (2017) 110103fps
Need for Speed Payback (2017) 116110fps
Far Cry 5 (2018) 9388fps
The Crew 2 (2018) 6060fps

Emissions

Fan Noise

The 15 R4 is a loud device, regardless of what it is doing. Our test device averages 33 dB(A) at idle, but this can increase up to 50 dB(A). Likewise, the fans can reach up to 51 dB(A) under load, which is so loud that we would recommend using headphones if you are gaming.

The competition has similarly loud fans too, which is an unfortunate consequence of housing powerful components in a slim case.

Noise level: At idle
Noise level: At idle
Noise level: Under load
Noise level: Under load
Noise level: Speakers
Noise level: Speakers

Dell needs to fine-tune the 15 R4’s fan behavior at idle as the fans can suddenly kick in at full throttle without any reason. Ideally, the fans should run so quiet that we can only hear the subtle noise of the HDD, but the apparently random loud fan noise at idle quickly becomes annoying.

Noise Level

Idle
32 / 33 / 50 dB(A)
HDD
32 dB(A)
Load
50 / 51 dB(A)
  red to green bar
 
 
30 dB
silent
40 dB(A)
audible
50 dB(A)
loud
 
min: dark, med: mid, max: light   Audix TM1, Arta (15 cm distance)   environment noise: 29 dB(A)
Alienware 15 R4
8950HK, GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop)
Alienware 15 R3
7700HQ, GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop)
Aorus X5 v8
8850H, GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop)
Razer Blade 15 2018
8750H, GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q
Gigabyte Aero 15X v8
8750H, GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q
Average of class Gaming
 
Noise
4%
2%
9%
5%
10%
off / environment *
29
30
-3%
30
-3%
29
-0%
29
-0%
29.4 (27.7 - 32, n=227)
-1%
Idle Minimum *
32
31
3%
33
-3%
29
9%
30
6%
31.5 (28 - 41.7, n=650)
2%
Idle Average *
33
32
3%
35
-6%
30
9%
31
6%
32.8 (28 - 46.6, n=650)
1%
Idle Maximum *
50
42
16%
40
20%
38
24%
35
30%
34.7 (28 - 50.4, n=650)
31%
Load Average *
50
49
2%
45
10%
46
8%
49
2%
40.4 (30.3 - 58, n=651)
19%
Witcher 3 ultra *
51
50
2%
49
4%
51
-0%
Load Maximum *
51
50
2%
55
-8%
46
10%
54
-6%
47.6 (38.9 - 64, n=651)
7%

* ... smaller is better

Temperature

The 15 R4 struggles to manage its surface temperatures despite its loud fan. The palm rest averages 30 °C (~86 °F) under maximum load, which is passable. 

Likewise, the corresponding underside averages just over 36 °C (~97 °F), which is relatively cool. However, the rest of the device is exceedingly hot. The top case averaged 43.2 °C (~110 °F) under maximum load, while the bottom case averaged 54.6 °C (~130 °F). Most of the top case exceeds 50 °C (~122 °F) though, with much of the bottom case nearing 70 °C (~158). Surface temperatures dropped by a few degrees when playing “The Witcher 3”, but these are still too hot to have the 15 R4 on your lap while gaming.

The 15 R4 is relatively hot at idle too, because the fans cycle between being off and running loudly. Our test device averages 35.2 °C (~95 °F) at idle and reaches a maximum of 39 °C (~102 °F) .

Our test device has higher surface temperatures than all our comparison devices and is 21% hotter than the average surface temperatures of the gaming notebooks that we have tested. In short, the 15 R4 is a hot device.

The Witcher 3
The Witcher 3
FurMark & Prime95 stress test
FurMark & Prime95 stress test
Heatmap of the top case under load (Optris PI 640)
Heatmap of the top case under load (Optris PI 640)
Heatmap of the bottom case under load (Optris PI 640)
Heatmap of the bottom case under load (Optris PI 640)

The 15 R4 has high internal temperatures too. The GPU core temperature reached 90 °C (~194 °F) during our sixty-minute stress test, which resulted in some slight thermal throttling. Likewise, the GPU reached 87 °C (~189 °F) in our hour-long “The Witcher 3” benchmark.

The CPU hit 100 °C (~212 °F) in our combined FurMark and Prime95 stress test, which causes the CPU to thermal throttle heavily. This degree of throttling under load is disappointing given that the 15 R4 is designed to play games that will stress the system.

Max. Load
 52 °C
126 F
53 °C
127 F
51 °C
124 F
 
 44 °C
111 F
49 °C
120 F
50 °C
122 F
 
 30 °C
86 F
30 °C
86 F
30 °C
86 F
 
Maximum: 53 °C = 127 F
Average: 43.2 °C = 110 F
68 °C
154 F
67 °C
153 F
59 °C
138 F
68 °C
154 F
67 °C
153 F
53 °C
127 F
37 °C
99 F
36 °C
97 F
36 °C
97 F
Maximum: 68 °C = 154 F
Average: 54.6 °C = 130 F
Power Supply (max.)  50 °C = 122 F | Room Temperature 24 °C = 75 F | Voltcraft IR-900
(-) The average temperature for the upper side under maximal load is 43.2 °C / 110 F, compared to the average of 32.9 °C / 91 F for the devices in the class Gaming.
(-) The maximum temperature on the upper side is 53 °C / 127 F, compared to the average of 39.3 °C / 103 F, ranging from 21.6 to 68.8 °C for the class Gaming.
(-) The bottom heats up to a maximum of 68 °C / 154 F, compared to the average of 41.7 °C / 107 F
(±) In idle usage, the average temperature for the upper side is 34.6 °C / 94 F, compared to the device average of 32.9 °C / 91 F.
(-) Playing The Witcher 3, the average temperature for the upper side is 42.6 °C / 109 F, compared to the device average of 32.9 °C / 91 F.
(+) The palmrests and touchpad are reaching skin temperature as a maximum (33 °C / 91.4 F) and are therefore not hot.
(-) The average temperature of the palmrest area of similar devices was 28.7 °C / 83.7 F (-4.3 °C / -7.7 F).
Alienware 15 R4
8950HK, GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop)
Alienware 15 R3
7700HQ, GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop)
Aorus X5 v8
8850H, GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop)
Razer Blade 15 2018
8750H, GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q
Gigabyte Aero 15X v8
8750H, GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q
Average of class Gaming
 
Heat
11%
18%
9%
15%
21%
Maximum Upper Side *
53
46
13%
50
6%
56
-6%
53
-0%
45.6 (28 - 68.8, n=615)
14%
Maximum Bottom *
68
51.8
24%
62
9%
59
13%
65
4%
49.1 (25.9 - 78, n=613)
28%
Idle Upper Side *
39
36.5
6%
27
31%
33
15%
26
33%
30.8 (21.6 - 46.8, n=566)
21%
Idle Bottom *
39
38.2
2%
29
26%
34
13%
30
23%
31.6 (21.1 - 50.3, n=564)
19%

* ... smaller is better

Speakers

dB(A) 0102030405060708090Deep BassMiddle BassHigh BassLower RangeMidsHigher MidsLower HighsMid HighsUpper HighsSuper Highs2041.544.42534.337.53129.231.34033.933.2502831.76324.7358028.131.210027.337.612524.939.216022.745.520023.550.325024.357.3315216240019.265.150018.568.563018.472.280017.778.5100017.880.4125017.279.716001775200017.175.5250017.172.2315017.370.7400017.173.7500017.274.4630017.271.4800017.168.41000017.269.5125001768.31600016.961.7SPL29.887.1N1.369.7median 17.3median 69.5Delta1.97.739.245.133.94029.330.235.737.429.528.12827.926.134.928.835.227.636.825.346.724.255.922.660.120.562.919.765.618.764.818.264.11960.219.857.219.261.617.562.117.761.817.663.317.66317.660.917.565.117.462.717.46417.463.317.364.617.152.530.574.81.437.5median 18.2median 62.12.54.3hearing rangehide median Pink NoiseAlienware 15 R4Aorus X5 v8
Frequency diagram (checkboxes can be checked and unchecked to compare devices)
Alienware 15 R4 audio analysis

(+) | speakers can play relatively loud (87 dB)
Bass 100 - 315 Hz
(-) | nearly no bass - on average 20.8% lower than median
(±) | linearity of bass is average (9.8% delta to prev. frequency)
Mids 400 - 2000 Hz
(±) | higher mids - on average 6.2% higher than median
(+) | mids are linear (5.8% delta to prev. frequency)
Highs 2 - 16 kHz
(+) | balanced highs - only 2.3% away from median
(+) | highs are linear (4.3% delta to prev. frequency)
Overall 100 - 16.000 Hz
(±) | linearity of overall sound is average (16.6% difference to median)
Compared to same class
» 45% of all tested devices in this class were better, 11% similar, 44% worse
» The best had a delta of 6%, average was 17%, worst was 37%
Compared to all devices tested
» 23% of all tested devices were better, 5% similar, 72% worse
» The best had a delta of 3%, average was 21%, worst was 53%

Aorus X5 v8 audio analysis

(±) | speaker loudness is average but good (75 dB)
Bass 100 - 315 Hz
(±) | reduced bass - on average 12.8% lower than median
(±) | linearity of bass is average (10.6% delta to prev. frequency)
Mids 400 - 2000 Hz
(+) | balanced mids - only 2% away from median
(+) | mids are linear (4.7% delta to prev. frequency)
Highs 2 - 16 kHz
(+) | balanced highs - only 1.4% away from median
(+) | highs are linear (4.1% delta to prev. frequency)
Overall 100 - 16.000 Hz
(+) | overall sound is linear (11.4% difference to median)
Compared to same class
» 13% of all tested devices in this class were better, 4% similar, 82% worse
» The best had a delta of 6%, average was 17%, worst was 37%
Compared to all devices tested
» 5% of all tested devices were better, 2% similar, 93% worse
» The best had a delta of 3%, average was 21%, worst was 53%

Power Management

Power Consumption

The 15 R4 consumes slightly more power than most of our comparison devices. Our test device consumes between 23-30 W at idle and between 111-222 W under load, which is typical of other GeForce GTX 1070 equipped laptops.

We would recommend considering the Blade 15 or the Aero 15X v8 if you would prefer a more economical device as these devices consume 27% less than the 15 R4.

Power Consumption
Off / Standbydarklight 0.3 / 0.9 Watt
Idledarkmidlight 23 / 26 / 30 Watt
Load midlight 111 / 222 Watt
 color bar
Key: min: dark, med: mid, max: light        Metrahit Energy
Alienware 15 R4
8950HK, GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop)
Alienware 15 R3
7700HQ, GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop)
Aorus X5 v8
8850H, GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop)
Razer Blade 15 2018
8750H, GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q
Gigabyte Aero 15X v8
8750H, GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q
Average of class Gaming
 
Power Consumption
14%
-8%
27%
27%
9%
Idle Minimum *
23
19
17%
25
-9%
14
39%
14
39%
20.1 (3.9 - 113, n=610)
13%
Idle Average *
26
23
12%
31
-19%
17
35%
18
31%
25.7 (6.8 - 119, n=610)
1%
Idle Maximum *
30
29
3%
33
-10%
21
30%
22
27%
30.7 (8.3 - 122, n=610)
-2%
Load Average *
111
85
23%
102
8%
95
14%
91
18%
104 (14.1 - 319, n=601)
6%
Load Maximum *
222
192
14%
239
-8%
179
19%
173
22%
166 (21.9 - 590, n=600)
25%
Witcher 3 ultra *
182
194
-7%
141
23%
142
22%

* ... smaller is better

Battery Life

The 15 R4 lacks support for NVIDIA Optimus, which allows devices to switch between integrated graphics and a dedicated GPU. This saves on power and in turn, improves battery life. Dell counteracts this by equipping the 15 R4 with a 99 Wh battery; 99.9 Wh is the battery capacity limit for most manufacturers.

We subjected our test device to three battery runtime tests. Our test device lasted six hours and ten minutes when running at idle with the Wi-Fi off and brightness set to a minimum. We see a similar runtime in our Wi-Fi battery life test, in which our test device lasted five hours and four minutes. During this test, we set the 15 R4 to medium energy savings and the brightness to 150 cd/m². We then run a script that simulates the load required to render websites.

Finally, our test device lasted fifty-eight minutes under full load with the brightness set to maximum. This is the only scenario where the 15 R4 falls well short of the competition.

Overall, the 15 R4 has a respectable battery life that is slightly lower than most of our comparison devices. The Aero 15x v8 is the only device that lasts significantly longer than the 15 R4, but this has a weaker CPU, GPU and supports NVIDIA Optimus.

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
6h 10min
NBC WiFi Websurfing Battery Test 1.3
5h 04min
Load (maximum brightness)
0h 58min
Alienware 15 R4
8950HK, GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 99 Wh
Alienware 15 R3
7700HQ, GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 99 Wh
Aorus X5 v8
8850H, GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 92.24 Wh
Razer Blade 15 2018
8750H, GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q, 80 Wh
Gigabyte Aero 15X v8
8750H, GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q, 94.24 Wh
Average of class Gaming
 
Battery Runtime
22%
15%
11%
115%
3%
Reader / Idle
370
382
3%
294
-21%
382
3%
762
106%
332 (39 - 1174, n=598)
-10%
WiFi v1.3
304
264
-13%
322
6%
513
69%
251 (78 - 622, n=272)
-17%
Load
58
102
76%
87
50%
72
24%
156
169%
78.7 (18 - 202, n=564)
36%
H.264
266
216
324
504
244 (88 - 506, n=124)

Verdict

Pros

+ premium and stable case
+ numerous lighting options
+ powerful Command Center utility
+ good input devices
+ Thunderbolt 3
+ large battery
+ NVMe SSD
+ G-Sync

Cons

- cooling system is undersized for a Core i9-8950HK processor
- case is very heavy and thick for a 15-inch device
- incorrect GPU names in GPU configurator
- high temperatures and fan noise
- fan behaviour could be better
- no card reader
The Alienware 15 R4 in review. Test device courtesy of Dell Germany.
The Alienware 15 R4 in review. Test device courtesy of Dell Germany.

In short, the Alienware 15 R4 is a good device, but it misses out on our gaming laptop top 10 because of some serious shortcomings.

The main issues with the 15 R4 are its CPU performance, fan noise and surface temperatures. The cooling system is inadequate to appropriately cool the Core i9-8950HK. Core temperatures reach up to 100 °C (~212 °F), which means that the CPU thermal throttles heavily and it also cannot reach its full Turbo Boost potential. The inadequate cooling has the compounding effect of causing extremely high surface temperatures and intrusively loud fans.

The system would benefit from a slightly deeper case. This would give the 15 R4 improved airflow and allow the device to run cooler.

On the other hand, the case is stylish, stable and has full RGB lighting, albeit it is comparatively thick. Likewise, the input devices are impressive, as is the selection of ports, particularly the inclusion of Thunderbolt 3. The 15 R4 has good battery life too, while the default display and speakers are passable.

Alienware 15 R4 - 07/14/2018 v6
Florian Glaser

Chassis
88 / 98 → 90%
Keyboard
85%
Pointing Device
83%
Connectivity
71 / 81 → 88%
Weight
53 / 10-66 → 77%
Battery
82%
Display
85%
Games Performance
97%
Application Performance
100%
Temperature
73 / 95 → 77%
Noise
54 / 90 → 60%
Audio
74%
Average
79%
86%
Gaming - Weighted Average

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Alienware 15 R4 (i9-8950HK, GTX 1070, FHD) Laptop Review
Florian Glaser, 2018-07-16 (Update: 2018-07-19)