Notebookcheck

Alienware 15 (R9 M295X) Notebook Review

Florian Glaser, Tanja Hinum (translated by Bernie Pechlaner), 06/20/2015

Comeback. The mobile high-end market is dominated by Intel and Nvidia. Alienware is one of the few manufacturers who offer GPUs from AMD as well. We ordered the 15-inch version of the notebook with the GTX 970M rival Radeon R9 M295X to check out the performance.

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Alienware 15

For the original German review, see here.

While most notebook manufacturers rely on Nvidia for the graphics output, Alienware is more daring and uses a solution from AMD. The top-end version, the Radeon R9 M295X, we've only reviewed once so far - when we checked out Apple's iMac Retina 5K 27-inch. At this point in time, AMD's high-end solution faces rather stiff competition. From its price point and from a technical standpoint, the R9 M295X reminds us of the GeForce GTX 970M, which was able to show its worthiness in several different notebooks already. On Alienware's homepage, the latter is only offered with the dual-core processor Core i5-4210H, which we don't understand at all. Users wanting a quad-core CPU need to choose the GeForce GTX 980M, which costs 255 Euros (~$283) more than the R9 M295X.

Another inexplicable nuisance: users who purchase the review notebook online (A15-4075) won't get an SSD but will have to make do with an HDD. Spending 1600 Euros (~$1777) in 2015 should net the buyer a Solid State Drive - even if it's just a 128 GB model for the OS. For that reason, we recommend buying directly from the manufacturer, since SSDs are an option that way. Additional details about the various configurations can be found in our review of the AW15. Since the chassis is identical, we'll omit the case, input devices and speaker sections.

Update 14.06.15: Those who stumble upon the inconspicuous "continue" button in the configurator can order the GeForce GTX 970M with a quad-core CPU.

AlienFX
AlienFX
AlienFusion
AlienFusion
Alien TactX
Alien TactX
AlienAdrenaline
AlienAdrenaline
AlienRespawn
AlienRespawn
AlienAutopsy
AlienAutopsy
Sound Blaster Pro Studio
Sound Blaster Pro Studio
Killer Network Manager
Killer Network Manager
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X) (15 Series)
Graphics adapter
AMD Radeon R9 M295X - 4096 MB, Core: 723 MHz, Memory: 1250 MHz, GDDR5, 14.501.1002.0, Enduro
Memory
8192 MB 
, 2x 4 GB SO-DIMM DDR3-RAM PC3-12800 (1600 MHz), Dual-Channel, 2 slots (both in use), max. 16 GB
Display
15.6 inch 16:9, 1920 x 1080 pixel, C3MWM_156WF6 (LGD046F), IPS, Full-HD, glossy: no
Mainboard
Intel HM87 (Lynx Point)
Storage
WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-75JC3T0, 1000 GB 
, 5400 rpm, HDD, slots: 1x 2.5-inch & 2x M.2
Soundcard
Creative CA0132 @ Intel Lynx Point PCH - High Definition Audio Controller
Connections
4 USB 3.0 / 3.1 Gen1, 1 HDMI, 1 DisplayPort, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: headphone, microphone, Card Reader: 9-in-1, Graphics amplifier, Noble Lock
Networking
Qualcomm Killer e2200 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet Controller (10/100/1000MBit), Killer Wireless-n/a/ac 1525 Wireless Network Adapter (a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth 4.0
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 34 x 386 x 270 ( = 1.34 x 15.2 x 10.63 in)
Battery
92 Wh Lithium-Ion, 8 cell, not directly accessible
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 8.1 64 Bit
Camera
Webcam: FHD (2 Megapixel)
Additional features
Speakers: 2.0 Klipsch (Sound Blaster Recon3Di), Keyboard Light: yes, Power supply: 180 watts, Quick Start Guide, USB stick with recovery SW, MS Office 365 Trial, Command Center and other tools from the manufacturer, 12-48 Months Warranty
Weight
3.1 kg ( = 109.35 oz / 6.83 pounds), Power Supply: 646 g ( = 22.79 oz / 1.42 pounds)
Price
1600 Euro
Note: The manufacturer may use components from different suppliers including display panels, drives or memory sticks with similar specifications.

 

Display

Surprisingly enough, the version of the notebook with the R9-M295X does not make use of the same FHD panel as the GTX-970M version. Instead of a panel made by Samsung (SDC4C48, FYTXT_156HL), our review model is equipped with a display from LG (LGD046F, C3MWM_156WF6).

292
cd/m²
300
cd/m²
307
cd/m²
289
cd/m²
314
cd/m²
306
cd/m²
272
cd/m²
280
cd/m²
282
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 314 cd/m² Average: 293.6 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 87 %
Center on Battery: 314 cd/m²
Contrast: 952:1 (Black: 0.33 cd/m²)
ΔE Color 4.14 | 0.4-29.43 Ø6.2
ΔE Greyscale 2.8 | 0.64-98 Ø6.5
85% sRGB (Argyll 3D) 56% AdobeRGB 1998 (Argyll 3D)
Gamma: 3.19

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No need to worry though: the display performance is nearly identical. Both versions feature an average brightness of 290 nits, which is more than enough for indoor use. Only in brightly-lit environments would a higher maximum brightness be an advantage. Although the contrast ratio is slightly different, the choice of the panel doesn't really matter for daily use: the model with R9 M295X features a contrast ratio of 950:1, the model with GTX 970M 1100:1. The same is true for the black value; again the previously reviewed model also did slightly better (0.33 vs. 0.28 cd/m²).

Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
C3MWM_156WF6 (LGD046F)
Acer Aspire VN7-591G-727P
Sharp LQ156D1JW04
MSI GE62-2QEUi716H21BW
Samsung SDC4852
Alienware 15
FYTXT_156HL (Samsung SDC4C48)
Gigabyte P35X v3
Panasonic VVX16T028J00 (MEI96A2)
Screen
-10%
-26%
-3%
-11%
Brightness middle
314
322
3%
230
-27%
308
-2%
374
19%
Brightness
294
325
11%
202
-31%
292
-1%
350
19%
Brightness Distribution
87
90
3%
63
-28%
83
-5%
90
3%
Black Level *
0.33
0.37
-12%
0.34
-3%
0.28
15%
0.45
-36%
Contrast
952
870
-9%
676
-29%
1100
16%
831
-13%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 *
4.14
3.77
9%
4.59
-11%
4.28
-3%
4.25
-3%
Greyscale DeltaE2000 *
2.8
5.36
-91%
4.62
-65%
4.54
-62%
4.9
-75%
Gamma
3.19 69%
2.39 92%
2.48 89%
2.81 78%
2.36 93%
CCT
6540 99%
7163 91%
6389 102%
7497 87%
6294 103%
Color Space (Percent of AdobeRGB 1998)
56
61
9%
48
-14%
60
7%
56
0%
Color Space (Percent of sRGB)
85
92.9
9%

* ... smaller is better

According to the professional software CalMAN, neither panel has a significant advantage. The Samsung display has a higher color accuracy, better RGB balance and better saturation; the LG panel scores with better grayscale accuracy and a better Gamma value. Color-space coverage slightly favors the Samsung panel: the last Alienware 15 covered sRGB and AdobeRGB at 93% and 60%, respectively, while the current review notebook "only" managed 85% and 56%.

CalMAN: Grayscale
CalMAN: Grayscale
CalMAN: Grayscale (calibrated)
CalMAN: Grayscale (calibrated)
CalMAN: Saturation Sweeps
CalMAN: Saturation Sweeps
CalMAN: Saturation Sweeps (calibrated)
CalMAN: Saturation Sweeps (calibrated)
CalMAN: ColorChecker
CalMAN: ColorChecker
CalMAN: ColorChecker (calibrated)
CalMAN: ColorChecker (calibrated)
Alienware 15 vs. sRGB
Alienware 15 vs. sRGB
Alienware 15 vs. AdobeRGB
Alienware 15 vs. AdobeRGB

Overall, both panels do their job well. Viewing-angle stability is - typical for IPS displays - quite good. Very positive: we didn't notice any issues with backlight bleeding.

Viewing angles
Viewing angles

Performance

The Alienware 15 generally ranks in the upper gaming-echelon - save for its storage. 8 GB DDR3 RAM is plenty even for demanding games, although many manufacturers slowly but surely move to 16 GB instead. We'll take a look at the CPU and the GPU in the following sections.

Processor

The Core i7-4710HQ is a quad-core Haswell-CPU (22 nm), which can handle up to eight threads in parallel thanks to Hyper-Threading. 6 MB of L3 cache also hints at the fact that this is quite a powerful processor. Intel reports - as for most mobile quad-core products - a TDP of 47 watts. Since the Alienware 15 supports graphics switching, simple tasks will make use of the processor-integrated GPU. For normal workloads like word processing, videos, or Internet, the HD Graphics 4600 is easily sufficient.

Rendering single-core
Rendering single-core
Rendering multi-core
Rendering multi-core
CPU & GPU stressed
CPU & GPU stressed

Let's talk about the Turbo Boost, which can overclock the Core i7-4710HQ from its nominal 2.5 GHz to 3.5 GHz. During the Cinebench R11.5 benchmark, we observed 3.3 - 3.5 GHz for the single-core and 3.3 GHz during the multi-core portion, which means that the Turbo operates near its maximum. Under load, the CPU doesn't behave quite as well: during the stress test with Furmark and Prime, the individual cores drop to 800 MHz at times. We also noticed that behavior when running the Unigine Heaven 4.0 benchmark. 

Cinebench R11.5 CPU Single 64Bit
1.56 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
7.18 Points
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
79.63 fps
Cinebench R15 CPU Single 64Bit
135 Points
Cinebench R15 CPU Multi 64Bit
661 Points
Cinebench R15 OpenGL 64Bit
86.3 fps
Help

The benchmark scores don't indicate the occurrence of throttling during day-to-day (gaming) life, however. With a result of 661 points for the Cinebench R15 multi-core test, the Alienware 15 is about as fast as the gaming competition; the single-core result of 135 points is also no different. This is not really surprising since the notebooks listed in the table below use comparable CPUs.

Cinebench R15
CPU Single 64Bit (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Intel Core i7-4710HQ
135 Points ∼62%
Acer Aspire VN7-591G-727P
Intel Core i7-4720HQ
138 Points ∼63% +2%
MSI GE62-2QEUi716H21BW
Intel Core i7-4720HQ
137 Points ∼63% +1%
Alienware 15
Intel Core i7-4710HQ
140 Points ∼64% +4%
Gigabyte P35X v3
Intel Core i7-4710HQ
134 Points ∼61% -1%
CPU Multi 64Bit (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Intel Core i7-4710HQ
661 Points ∼15%
Acer Aspire VN7-591G-727P
Intel Core i7-4720HQ
642 Points ∼15% -3%
MSI GE62-2QEUi716H21BW
Intel Core i7-4720HQ
664 Points ∼15% 0%
Alienware 15
Intel Core i7-4710HQ
647 Points ∼15% -2%
Gigabyte P35X v3
Intel Core i7-4710HQ
629 Points ∼14% -5%
Cinebench R11.5
CPU Single 64Bit (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Intel Core i7-4710HQ
1.56 Points ∼64%
Acer Aspire VN7-591G-727P
Intel Core i7-4720HQ
1.56 Points ∼64% 0%
MSI GE62-2QEUi716H21BW
Intel Core i7-4720HQ
1.57 Points ∼64% +1%
Alienware 15
Intel Core i7-4710HQ
1.56 Points ∼64% 0%
Gigabyte P35X v3
Intel Core i7-4710HQ
1.5 Points ∼61% -4%
CPU Multi 64Bit (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Intel Core i7-4710HQ
7.18 Points ∼27%
Acer Aspire VN7-591G-727P
Intel Core i7-4720HQ
7.07 Points ∼26% -2%
MSI GE62-2QEUi716H21BW
Intel Core i7-4720HQ
7.22 Points ∼27% +1%
Alienware 15
Intel Core i7-4710HQ
7.04 Points ∼26% -2%
Gigabyte P35X v3
Intel Core i7-4710HQ
6.76 Points ∼25% -6%

System Performance

System performance is a mixed bag because the notebook lacks an SSD. Both booting and installations take a bit longer. For gamers, the long load times are especially annoying - a Solid State Drive would allow much faster access to the various levels. Synopsis: the review model suffers from a storage-related bottleneck. High-end notebooks should come with SSDs in our opinion. Of course, it's possible to retrofit the notebook as such (2x M.2 & 1x 2.5-inch).

PCMark 7 Score
3571 points
Help
PCMark 7 - Score (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Radeon R9 M295X, 4710HQ, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-75JC3T0
3571 Points ∼42%
Acer Aspire VN7-591G-727P
GeForce GTX 960M, 4720HQ, Toshiba HG6 THNSNJ256G8NU
5804 Points ∼68% +63%
MSI GE62-2QEUi716H21BW
GeForce GTX 965M, 4720HQ, Kingston RBU-SNS8100S3256GD1
5682 Points ∼66% +59%
Alienware 15
GeForce GTX 970M, 4710HQ, Samsung SSD PM851 M.2 2280 128GB
5627 Points ∼65% +58%
Gigabyte P35X v3
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ, 2x Lite-On LMT-128L9M (RAID 0)
6035 Points ∼70% +69%

Storage Devices

The hard drive is from Western Digital (Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-75JC3T0) and has a capacity of 1000 GB. According to both HDTune and CrystalDiskMark, the drive performance isn't really top-notch. Unlike some other 5400 RPM drives, the Scorpio Blue can't exceed a sequential transfer speed of 100 MB. Part of the reason might be that the drive also has to run the OS in the background.

WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-75JC3T0
Transfer Rate Minimum: 47 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 116.9 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 84.3 MB/s
Access Time: 16.9 ms
Burst Rate: 167.3 MB/s
CPU Usage: 1.2 %

GPU Performance

At least on paper, the Radeon R9 M295X looks very compelling. Equipped with 2048 shader units, the performance should be significantly higher than the performance of the Radeon R9 M290X, which has 1280 shader units and isn't based on GCN 3 (codename Tonga), but GCN (Neptune) architecture. As our benchmark scores show, the advantage isn't that substantial, since the R9 M295X tops out at 723 MHz in the Alienware notebook. According to our information, 850 MHz plus Turbo should be theoretically possible. The graphics memory also only runs at 1250 MHz instead of 1362 MHz as we've seen during our review of the iMac Retina 5K. In some cases, the performance drops to below that of the Radeon R9 M290X, although the drivers can be the culprit as well.

The fact that the Enduro technology (AMD's counterpart to Nvidia's Optimus) doesn't recognize games easily and because of other inconsistencies, we expect that Alienware is using a very outdated driver. Even though we checked "maximum performance" (see screenshot #4) in the global settings of the Catalyst Control Center, 60% of the games started with the Intel GPU at first. The consequence: in order to use the AMD GPU, we had to activate the "high performance" profile individually for each game (screenshot #5).

CCC - Software
CCC - Software
CCC - Hardware
CCC - Hardware
CCC - PowerPlay
CCC - PowerPlay
CCC - Global Settings.
CCC - Global Settings.
CCC - Applications.
CCC - Applications.

The outdated driver might also explain our other issues. In addition to GRID Autosport and Dirt Rally, Dragon Age Inquisition refused to run in full-screen mode. Both Thief and BioShock: Infinite showed an entirely black screen when in full-screen mode (although the benchmarks still ran anyways). Call of Duty Advanced Warfare (DirectX error messages and crashes when loading) and F1 2014 (graphics bugs when using the medium preset) also had their share of problems. At this point, we can't wholeheartedly recommend the Radeon R9 M295X. Even with the newest drivers installed, Nvidia's CPUs are generally superior - at least as far as their reliability is concerned.

3DMark 11 Performance
7943 points
3DMark Ice Storm Standard Score
72832 points
3DMark Cloud Gate Standard Score
17182 points
3DMark Fire Strike Score
5727 points
Help

Another potential point of criticism could be the amount of RAM. Although 4 GB of GDDR5 VRAM is sufficient for most games, the current trend is for 6 to 8 GB. 5000 million transistors and a 256-bit interface are pretty impressive though: the R9 M290X only has 2800 million transistors.

Although the iMac Retina 5k outperforms the Alienware 15 when running synthetic graphics benchmarks, the performance is still surprisingly good. With 5727 points, the Radeon R9 M295X surpassed the result of the GeForce GTX 960M (3914 points @Acer V 15 Nitro) by 45% during the Fire Strike portion of the current 3DMark benchmark test and the GTX 965M (4806 points @MSI GE62) by 20%. The GeForce GTX 970M, which is about as expensive, scores about 14% better (6508 points @AW15). The Radeon trails the GTX 980M (8230 points @Gigabyte P35X v3) by up to 30%.

3DMark
3840x2160 Fire Strike Ultra Score (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
AMD Radeon R9 M295X
1523 Points ∼16%
1920x1080 Fire Strike Score (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
AMD Radeon R9 M295X
5727 Points ∼21%
Acer Aspire VN7-591G-727P
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M
3914 Points ∼15% -32%
MSI GE62-2QEUi716H21BW
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M
4806 Points ∼18% -16%
Alienware 15
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M
6508 Points ∼24% +14%
Gigabyte P35X v3
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M
8230 Points ∼31% +44%
3DMark 11 - 1280x720 Performance (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
AMD Radeon R9 M295X
7943 Points ∼25%
Acer Aspire VN7-591G-727P
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M
5398 Points ∼17% -32%
MSI GE62-2QEUi716H21BW
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M
7101 Points ∼23% -11%
Alienware 15
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M
8636 Points ∼28% +9%
Gigabyte P35X v3
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M
10789 Points ∼35% +36%

Gaming Performance

Of course, what really matters is the actual performance when running "real" 3D applications - in other words, games. The results are mixed: in some areas, the Radeon is awfully close to the performance of the GeForce GTX 970M, but in some games, the frame rate is very disappointing. Especially at medium settings, the R9 M295X doesn't look great compared to Nvidia's offerings. Not least because of the driver problems mentioned earlier and the fairly low core speed, during worst-case scenarios the Radeon actually lags behind the GTX 965M and GTX 960M, which technically should be much slower.

The Witcher 3 - 1920x1080 Ultra Graphics & Postprocessing (HBAO+) (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Radeon R9 M295X, 4710HQ
17.1 fps ∼15%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 870M, 4700MQ
15.4 (min: 12) fps ∼13% -10%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ
18.7 (min: 14) fps ∼16% +9%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 970M, 4700MQ
25.8 (min: 19) fps ∼22% +51%
Dirt Rally - 1920x1080 Ultra Preset AA:4x MS (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Radeon R9 M295X, 4710HQ
43 fps ∼26%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 870M, 4700MQ
40.4 (min: 33) fps ∼24% -6%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ
51.6 (min: 43) fps ∼31% +20%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 970M, 4700MQ
56.5 (min: 38) fps ∼34% +31%
Battlefield Hardline - 1920x1080 Ultra Graphics Quality (DX11) AA:4x MS (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Radeon R9 M295X, 4710HQ
38.9 fps ∼22%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 870M, 4700MQ
36.4 (min: 33) fps ∼21% -6%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ
45.9 (min: 41) fps ∼26% +18%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 970M, 4700MQ
51.4 (min: 45) fps ∼29% +32%
Evolve - 1920x1080 Very High Graphics Quality AA:1TX SM (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Radeon R9 M295X, 4710HQ
53.3 fps ∼30%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 870M, 4700MQ
40 (min: 35) fps ∼22% -25%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ
48.6 (min: 42) fps ∼27% -9%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 970M, 4700MQ
51.4 (min: 41) fps ∼29% -4%
Dragon Age: Inquisition - 1920x1080 Ultra Graphics Quality AA:2x MS (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Radeon R9 M295X, 4710HQ
30.7 fps ∼18%
Schenker W504
Radeon R9 M290X, 4700MQ
27.6 (min: 23) fps ∼16% -10%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 870M, 4700MQ
25.3 (min: 20) fps ∼15% -18%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ
31 (min: 24) fps ∼18% +1%
Alienware 15
GeForce GTX 970M, 4710HQ
35.9 fps ∼21% +17%
Far Cry 4 - 1920x1080 Ultra Graphics Quality AA:SM (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Radeon R9 M295X, 4710HQ
38.9 fps ∼34%
Schenker W504
Radeon R9 M290X, 4700MQ
41.4 (min: 29) fps ∼36% +6%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 870M, 4700MQ
32.9 (min: 28) fps ∼29% -15%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ
40.3 (min: 34) fps ∼35% +4%
Alienware 15
GeForce GTX 970M, 4710HQ
48.1 fps ∼42% +24%
Assassin's Creed Unity - 1920x1080 Ultra High Graphics Quality AA:4x MS (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Radeon R9 M295X, 4710HQ
15.6 fps ∼28%
Schenker W504
Radeon R9 M290X, 4700MQ
18.1 (min: 15) fps ∼33% +16%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 870M, 4700MQ
18.8 (min: 16) fps ∼34% +21%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ
23.9 (min: 21) fps ∼43% +53%
Alienware 15
GeForce GTX 970M, 4710HQ
22.9 fps ∼41% +47%
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare - 1920x1080 Extra / On (Cache Shadow Maps Off), 2x Supersampling AA:2x SM (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Radeon R9 M295X, 4710HQ
31.9 fps ∼41%
Schenker W504
Radeon R9 M290X, 4700MQ
33.8 (min: 26) fps ∼44% +6%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 870M, 4700MQ
33.8 (min: 29) fps ∼44% +6%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ
39.8 (min: 32) fps ∼52% +25%
Alienware 15
GeForce GTX 970M, 4710HQ
46.4 fps ∼60% +45%
F1 2014 - 1920x1080 Ultra Preset AA:4x MS (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Radeon R9 M295X, 4710HQ
70 fps ∼58%
Schenker W504
Radeon R9 M290X, 4700MQ
0 fps ∼0% -100%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 870M, 4700MQ
98 (min: 75) fps ∼82% +40%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ
102 (min: 74) fps ∼85% +46%
Ryse: Son of Rome - 1920x1080 Very High Texture Res. + High Graphics Quality (Motion Blur & Temporal AA On, Rest Off/Disabled) AF:8x (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Radeon R9 M295X, 4710HQ
37.8 fps ∼37%
Schenker W504
Radeon R9 M290X, 4700MQ
39.2 (min: 29) fps ∼38% +4%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 870M, 4700MQ
30.1 (min: 23) fps ∼29% -20%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ
37.4 (min: 29) fps ∼36% -1%
Alienware 15
GeForce GTX 970M, 4710HQ
45.1 fps ∼44% +19%
Schenker XMG P505
GeForce GTX 970M, 4870HQ
41.3 (min: 33) fps ∼40% +9%
Alien: Isolation - 1920x1080 Ultra, On, Shadow Map 2048, HDAO AA:2x SM AF:16x (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Radeon R9 M295X, 4710HQ
50.4 fps ∼22%
Schenker W504
Radeon R9 M290X, 4700MQ
57.1 fps ∼24% +13%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 870M, 4700MQ
55.9 fps ∼24% +11%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ
68.9 fps ∼29% +37%
Schenker XMG P505
GeForce GTX 970M, 4870HQ
75.7 fps ∼32% +50%
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor - 1920x1080 Ultra Preset (HD Package) (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Radeon R9 M295X, 4710HQ
44.6 fps ∼28%
Schenker W504
Radeon R9 M290X, 4700MQ
37.1 (min: 10) fps ∼23% -17%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 870M, 4700MQ
38.9 (min: 26) fps ∼24% -13%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ
48.3 (min: 30) fps ∼30% +8%
Schenker XMG P505
GeForce GTX 970M, 4870HQ
51.2 fps ∼32% +15%
Fifa 15 - 1920x1080 High Preset AA:4x MS (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Radeon R9 M295X, 4710HQ
104.2 fps ∼35%
Schenker W504
Radeon R9 M290X, 4700MQ
111.3 (min: 63) fps ∼37% +7%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 870M, 4700MQ
157.4 (min: 68) fps ∼53% +51%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ
189.3 (min: 163) fps ∼64% +82%
Schenker XMG P505
GeForce GTX 970M, 4870HQ
217.8 fps ∼73% +109%
Sims 4 - 1920x1080 Ultra Preset (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Radeon R9 M295X, 4710HQ
60.4 fps ∼38%
Schenker W504
Radeon R9 M290X, 4700MQ
57 (min: 41) fps ∼36% -6%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 870M, 4700MQ
65.8 (min: 43) fps ∼41% +9%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ
73.5 (min: 55) fps ∼46% +22%
Alienware 15
GeForce GTX 970M, 4710HQ
77.2 fps ∼48% +28%
Schenker XMG P505
GeForce GTX 970M, 4870HQ
93.8 fps ∼59% +55%
GRID: Autosport - 1920x1080 Ultra Preset AA:4x MS (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Radeon R9 M295X, 4710HQ
52.7 fps ∼35%
Schenker W504
Radeon R9 M290X, 4700MQ
62 (min: 51) fps ∼41% +18%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 870M, 4700MQ
62.3 (min: 53) fps ∼42% +18%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ
76.8 (min: 64) fps ∼51% +46%
Alienware 15
GeForce GTX 970M, 4710HQ
69 fps ∼46% +31%
Schenker XMG P505
GeForce GTX 970M, 4870HQ
82.3 fps ∼55% +56%
Watch Dogs - 1920x1080 Ultra Overall Quality, Ultra Textures AA:4x MS (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Radeon R9 M295X, 4710HQ
25.1 fps ∼34%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 870M, 4700MQ
26.8 (min: 22) fps ∼36% +7%
Schenker W504
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ
32.9 (min: 28) fps ∼44% +31%
Alienware 15
GeForce GTX 970M, 4710HQ
33.4 fps ∼45% +33%
Schenker XMG P505
GeForce GTX 970M, 4870HQ
34.4 fps ∼46% +37%
Thief - 1920x1080 Very High Preset AA:FXAA & High SS AF:8x (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Radeon R9 M295X, 4710HQ
32.2 fps ∼23%
One K56-4N
Radeon R9 M290X, 4700MQ
34 fps ∼24% +6%
One K73-4N
GeForce GTX 870M, 4800MQ
31.9 fps ∼22% -1%
Schenker XMG P704
GeForce GTX 880M, 4910MQ
40 fps ∼28% +24%
Schenker XMG P505
GeForce GTX 970M, 4870HQ
47.9 fps ∼34% +49%
Battlefield 4 - 1920x1080 Ultra Preset AA:4x MS (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Radeon R9 M295X, 4710HQ
39.9 fps ∼20%
One K56-4N
Radeon R9 M290X, 4700MQ
38.7 fps ∼19% -3%
One K73-4N
GeForce GTX 870M, 4800MQ
36.2 fps ∼18% -9%
Schenker XMG P704
GeForce GTX 880M, 4910MQ
45.4 fps ∼23% +14%
Schenker XMG P505
GeForce GTX 970M, 4870HQ
54.8 fps ∼27% +37%
Metro: Last Light - 1920x1080 Very High (DX11) AF:16x (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Radeon R9 M295X, 4710HQ
42.6 fps ∼25%
One K56-4N
Radeon R9 M290X, 4700MQ
33.1 fps ∼19% -22%
One K73-4N
GeForce GTX 870M, 4800MQ
34.4 fps ∼20% -19%
Schenker XMG P704
GeForce GTX 880M, 4910MQ
42.6 fps ∼25% 0%
Schenker XMG P505
GeForce GTX 970M, 4870HQ
53.3 fps ∼31% +25%
BioShock Infinite - 1920x1080 Ultra Preset, DX11 (DDOF) (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Radeon R9 M295X, 4710HQ
65.4 fps ∼25%
One K56-4N
Radeon R9 M290X, 4700MQ
46.8 fps ∼18% -28%
One K73-4N
GeForce GTX 870M, 4800MQ
52.2 fps ∼20% -20%
Schenker XMG P704
GeForce GTX 880M, 4910MQ
65.6 fps ∼25% 0%
Schenker XMG P505
GeForce GTX 970M, 4870HQ
72.5 fps ∼27% +11%
Tomb Raider - 1920x1080 Ultra Preset AA:FX AF:16x (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Radeon R9 M295X, 4710HQ
61.1 fps ∼22%
One K56-4N
Radeon R9 M290X, 4700MQ
62.7 fps ∼23% +3%
One K73-4N
GeForce GTX 870M, 4800MQ
59.8 fps ∼22% -2%
Schenker XMG P704
GeForce GTX 880M, 4910MQ
74.2 fps ∼27% +21%
Schenker XMG P505
GeForce GTX 970M, 4870HQ
80.3 fps ∼29% +31%
Crysis 3 - 1920x1080 Very High Preset AA:2xSM AF:16x (sort by value)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Radeon R9 M295X, 4710HQ
27.9 fps ∼23%
One K56-4N
Radeon R9 M290X, 4700MQ
22.8 fps ∼19% -18%
One K73-4N
GeForce GTX 870M, 4800MQ
26.7 fps ∼22% -4%
Schenker XMG P704
GeForce GTX 880M, 4910MQ
33.2 fps ∼27% +19%
Schenker XMG P505
GeForce GTX 970M, 4870HQ
33.4 fps ∼27% +20%

All things considered, the R9 M295X sits squarely between the GTX 870M and the GTX 880M - good, but far from great. With a higher clock speed and a better driver, the performance could be somewhere between a GTX 880M and a GTX 970M. As of right now, the R9 M295X is too expensive for what it offers. The R9 M290X has a better price-to-value ratio and favors AMD. True gaming aficionados have to consider the main competitor: Nvidia's GPUs are not error-prone and offer a more constant performance.

low med. high ultra4K
Crysis 3 (2013) 116.88559.927.9fps
Tomb Raider (2013) 277.1172.6110.961.1fps
BioShock Infinite (2013) 175.6148.414265.4fps
Metro: Last Light (2013) 95.986.871.242.6fps
Battlefield 4 (2013) 105.293.489.239.921.7fps
Thief (2014) 51.252.751.332.2fps
Watch Dogs (2014) 55.34633.925.1fps
GRID: Autosport (2014) 164.888.36352.7fps
Sims 4 (2014) 173.193.86660.4fps
Fifa 15 (2014) 199188.3104.257.9fps
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (2014) 131.994.85844.6fps
Alien: Isolation (2014) 102.389.35950.4fps
Ryse: Son of Rome (2014) 100.769.241.737.8fps
F1 2014 (2014) 1191008670fps
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (2014) 105.972.648.931.9fps
Assassin's Creed Unity (2014) 35.132.726.615.6fps
Far Cry 4 (2014) 67.770.445.938.9fps
Dragon Age: Inquisition (2014) 53.548.337.330.7fps
Evolve (2015) 132.789.46153.3fps
Battlefield Hardline (2015) 110.394.358.438.9fps
Dirt Rally (2015) 226.5103.368.443fps
The Witcher 3 (2015) 94.362.536.717.114fps

Emissions

System Noise

Is the Radeon R9 M295X at least able to distinguish itself positively from the GeForce GTX 970M as far as noise and temperature are concerned? The short answer is yes and no, since the fan management is handled differently. During the 3DMark06 benchmark test, the review notebook was quite audible at 45-49 dB, whereas the M295X-version only reached 38-40 dB. The maximum noise level of 52 instead of 53 dB is very similar, however. The Alienware 15 does really well during idle, regardless of the GPU (GeForce GTX 970M or Radeon R9 M295X): in both cases the fan turns off and only the slight whooshing sound of the hard drive (~31 dB) remains.

Noise Level

Idle
30.6 / 31 / 33.4 dB(A)
HDD
32.4 dB(A)
Load
39.6 / 52 dB(A)
  red to green bar
 
 
30 dB
silent
40 dB(A)
audible
50 dB(A)
loud
 
min: dark, med: mid, max: light   Voltcraft sl-320 (15 cm distance)
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Radeon R9 M295X, 4710HQ
Acer Aspire VN7-591G-727P
GeForce GTX 960M, 4720HQ
MSI GE62-2QEUi716H21BW
GeForce GTX 965M, 4720HQ
Alienware 15
GeForce GTX 970M, 4710HQ
Gigabyte P35X v3
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ
Noise
1%
-3%
-3%
-9%
off / environment *
Idle Minimum *
30.6
30
2%
29.2
5%
29.4
4%
29.4
4%
Idle Average *
31
32.2
-4%
32.6
-5%
30.7
1%
30.9
-0%
Idle Maximum *
33.4
35
-5%
35
-5%
34
-2%
36
-8%
Load Average *
39.6
41.7
-5%
42.6
-8%
46.2
-17%
54.3
-37%
Load Maximum *
52
42.6
18%
52.4
-1%
53
-2%
54.6
-5%

* ... smaller is better

Temperature

Stress test
Stress test

The lower fan speed of the AMD version has an impact on the temperatures: for the Radeon R9 M295X, we measured a peak temperature of 78 °C instead of 67 °C - still within acceptable parameters, however. The processor Core i7-4710HQ once again stabilized between 80 and 90 °C, which is also acceptable. The chassis got a little warmer as well: we measured an average of 41 °C after subjecting the notebook to our stress test for one hour; 31 °C after two hours of idling is typical for a gaming notebook. The version of the notebook equipped with the GTX 970M ran a few degrees cooler.

Max. Load
 47.1 °C
117 F
47.4 °C
117 F
46.7 °C
116 F
 
 44.4 °C
112 F
46.8 °C
116 F
44.5 °C
112 F
 
 31.2 °C
88 F
29.2 °C
85 F
29.4 °C
85 F
 
Maximum: 47.4 °C = 117 F
Average: 40.7 °C = 105 F
48.8 °C
120 F
52.6 °C
127 F
42.9 °C
109 F
45.2 °C
113 F
48.9 °C
120 F
42.7 °C
109 F
28.7 °C
84 F
35.2 °C
95 F
35.7 °C
96 F
Maximum: 52.6 °C = 127 F
Average: 42.3 °C = 108 F
Power Supply (max.)  53.4 °C = 128 F | Room Temperature 24 °C = 75 F | Voltcraft IR-900
(-) The average temperature for the upper side under maximal load is 40.7 °C / 105 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 47.4 °C / 117 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 52.6 °C / 127 F, compared to the average of 41.7 °C / 107 F
(+) In idle usage, the average temperature for the upper side is 29.8 °C / 86 F, compared to the device average of 32.9 °C / 91 F.
(+) The palmrests and touchpad are cooler than skin temperature with a maximum of 31.2 °C / 88.2 F and are therefore cool to the touch.
(-) The average temperature of the palmrest area of similar devices was 28.7 °C / 83.7 F (-2.5 °C / -4.5 F).
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Radeon R9 M295X, 4710HQ
Acer Aspire VN7-591G-727P
GeForce GTX 960M, 4720HQ
MSI GE62-2QEUi716H21BW
GeForce GTX 965M, 4720HQ
Alienware 15
GeForce GTX 970M, 4710HQ
Gigabyte P35X v3
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ
Heat
-17%
-7%
8%
-22%
Maximum Upper Side *
47.4
53
-12%
49.9
-5%
43.2
9%
51
-8%
Maximum Bottom *
52.6
53.2
-1%
43.7
17%
53.3
-1%
60.3
-15%
Idle Upper Side *
31.2
38.6
-24%
37.1
-19%
28
10%
41.4
-33%
Idle Bottom *
34.9
45.9
-32%
41.5
-19%
30.1
14%
45.3
-30%

* ... smaller is better

Energy Management

Power Consumption

Not taking the maximum power consumption into consideration, the Radeon R9 M295X is a lot more power-hungry than Nvidia's equivalent. 110-130 watts instead of 84-99 watts during the first scene of 3Mark06 indicates that the Maxwell architecture is more efficient than AMD's GCN 3 - while offering more performance as well. The power draw during idle with the HD Graphics 4600 active is very similar (10.0-28.2 vs. 10.1-26.2 watts). Not that great is the rated power output of the power adapter: 180 watts is definitely borderline - especially considering that the battery is draining when the notebook is running at maximum load levels.

Power Consumption
Off / Standbydarklight 0.1 / 0.4 Watt
Idledarkmidlight 10 / 15 / 28.2 Watt
Load midlight 117.2 / 165.1 Watt
 color bar
Key: min: dark, med: mid, max: light        Voltcraft VC 940
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Radeon R9 M295X, 4710HQ
Acer Aspire VN7-591G-727P
GeForce GTX 960M, 4720HQ
MSI GE62-2QEUi716H21BW
GeForce GTX 965M, 4720HQ
Alienware 15
GeForce GTX 970M, 4710HQ
Gigabyte P35X v3
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ
Power Consumption
-7%
-8%
6%
-20%
Idle Minimum *
10
16.2
-62%
15
-50%
10.1
-1%
16.4
-64%
Idle Average *
15
20.2
-35%
20.8
-39%
14.9
1%
21.4
-43%
Idle Maximum *
28.2
22.8
19%
25.4
10%
26.2
7%
25.9
8%
Load Average *
117.2
96.4
18%
91.8
22%
90.5
23%
107.8
8%
Load Maximum *
165.1
126.9
23%
136
18%
165.9
-0%
181
-10%

* ... smaller is better

Battery Life

Speaking of the battery: depending on the load and the chosen power profile, our review notebook lasted between one and eleven hours. The version with GTX 970M lasted up to 11.5 hours. A rarity is the 8-cell battery with a capacity of 92 Wh - most manufacturers offer batteries ranging from 40-90 Wh.

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
10h 47min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 04min
Alienware 15 (R9 M295X)
Radeon R9 M295X, 4710HQ
Acer Aspire VN7-591G-727P
GeForce GTX 960M, 4720HQ
MSI GE62-2QEUi716H21BW
GeForce GTX 965M, 4720HQ
Alienware 15
GeForce GTX 970M, 4710HQ
Gigabyte P35X v3
GeForce GTX 980M, 4710HQ
Battery Runtime
-38%
-34%
25%
2%
Reader / Idle
647
216
-67%
267
-59%
696
8%
364
-44%
Load
64
58
-9%
59
-8%
91
42%
94
47%

Pros

+ Optional graphics amplifier
+ Extensively illuminated
+ Up to three mass storage devices
+ IPS panel with lots of contrast
+ USB stick with Recovery SW
+ High-end chassis
+ Good input devices
+ Good sound
+ Useful tools
+ Powerful battery

Cons

- Position of the keyboard takes getting used to
- Not easy to maintain
- Battery runs on empty quickly under load
- CPU throttling during the stress test
- Many issues with drivers (AMD)
- Processor and GPU are soldered on
- Moderate emissions
- No SSD

Verdict

In review: Alienware 15. Test model courtesy of notebooksbilliger.de.
In review: Alienware 15. Test model courtesy of notebooksbilliger.de.

Although the Alienware 15 was able to reach 80% in most categories, the review notebook didn't completely satisfy. As is often the case, the drivers are to blame. Graphics errors and crashes on one side, sometimes just average performance on the other: the Radeon R9 M295X doesn't offer a satisfying gaming performance - at least not yet. Because of all our problems and issues, we subtracted 2% from the final score. A GeForce GPU makes more sense at this time, since Nvidia's notebook drivers are considerably more mature. In other areas, the AMD version inherits both the strengths and weaknesses of the previously reviewed model. The notable exception: the hard drive. Without an SSD, Windows isn't that much fun - we definitely recommend upgrading.

Alienware 15 (R9 M295X) - 06/13/2015 v4(old)
Florian Glaser

Chassis
86 / 98 → 88%
Keyboard
85%
Pointing Device
89%
Connectivity
74 / 81 → 91%
Weight
56 / 10-66 → 82%
Battery
82%
Display
89%
Games Performance
94%
Application Performance
82%
Temperature
79 / 95 → 83%
Noise
74 / 90 → 82%
Audio
85%
Add Points
-2%
Average
75%
85%
Gaming - Weighted Average

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Alienware 15 (R9 M295X) Notebook Review
Florian Glaser, 2015-06-20 (Update: 2018-05-15)
Bernhard Pechlaner
Bernhard Pechlaner - Review Editor
Ended up in the IT sector in the 90s more or less accidentally and have remained in the industry (as a sysadmin) ever since. Always been interested in laptops - first purchase was - if memory serves correctly - a Toshiba Satellite T2115CS with DX4-75 processor, 4 MB of RAM and 350 MB hard disk drive (and Windows 3.1). To this day, laptops appeal to me - much to the chagrin of my wife, who doesn’t seem understand why we need 5-10 of them at any given time ;-).