Hands on: Alienware m16 R2: a powerful gaming laptop in a smaller package

The Alienware m16 R2 may have lost weight but it's just as powerful

What is a hands on review?
black gaming laptop
(Image: © Future)

Early Verdict

This Alienware m16 R2 refresh has reduced the frankly massive and unwieldy size of the previous model by 15%, an incredible achievement. Meanwhile, the display size is still fully 16-inch and features a 240Hz refresh rate that's perfect for hardcore and professional gamers. Port selection is solid and thankfully it includes an ethernet port, which oddly can be missing from other desktop replacements.


  • +

    Streamlined design

  • +

    Great key switches

  • +

    Excellent display

  • +

    CPU has been upgraded

  • +

    Updated webcam


  • -

    Ventilation may have suffered

Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.

Dell continues to overhaul its products' designs, and the Alienware m16 R2 refresh is no exception. The new design has a noticeably smaller chassis, making it more portable, and the gaming laptop has been upgraded with new specs and a reworked ventilation system. 

When I first saw the new Alienware m16 R2 against last year's model, I was shocked at how drastic the difference in size was. And beyond that, there were several other design points added to the latest version, as well as the spec upgrades.

From what I saw, this gaming laptop looks quite impressive and will definitely be a more managable beast that will still deliver on power and performance. It could even be one of the best gaming laptops around.

Alienware m16 R2: price and availability

Revealed at CES 2024, the Alienware m16 R2 is set to launch January 11 in the US and in Canada, with an entry-level model starting at $1,499, though more powerful models will be around the $1,649 mark, with more options to come in the first quarter of 2024. 

At the time of writing, we don't have any UK or Australian pricing, but going by the US numbers we expect the new m16 R2 to have similar pricing to its predecessor. 

Overall, such prices seem rational for the specs (see below) the m16 R2 offers. And, as I was told by a Dell rep, the decision to only go up to a GeForce RTX 4070 was made to keep the pricing a bit more reasonable for potential buyers, with other laptops like the Alienware x16 R2 having the GeForce RTX 4080 and GeForce RTX 4090 options instead. But Alienware will likely face strong competition from other big gaming laptop makers like Asus, MSI and Acer, when it comes to making powerful yet compact machines. 

Alienware m16 R2: specs

Here are the specs for the Alienware m16 R2 at a glance. 

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Alienware m16 R2 specs
DisplayUp to 16-inch QHD+ (2560 x 1600), 240Hz
CPUUp to Intel Core Ultra 9 185H
GraphicsUp to Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070
StorageUp to 8TB PCIe 4 SSD
Port selection2x USB Type-C ports, 1x RJ-45, 1x power port, 1x HDMI 2.1 port, 1x 3.5mm headphone/microphone combo jack, 2x USB Type-A, 1x micro SD reader, ethernet port
Weight2.61kg (5.75 lbs)
Dimensions14.33 x 9.82 x 0.93 inches; 363.9 x 249.4 x 23.5 mm (WxDxH)

Alienware m16 R2: design

The first and most obvious change to the Alienware m16 R2 is its size, which has been reduced by 15%, mainly due to the removal of an overly large and bulky ventilation system that stuck out of the back of its predecessor. As a result, the ventilation system had be completely overhauled with a new Alienware Cryo-tech thermal system being implemented in its place. While it's not as effective as the larger older system, Dell says it still works well in keeping the machine cool.

There's also an interesting feature that the screen can flatten down to 180 degrees. It can't rotate the full 360 degrees like a 2-in-1 laptop to become a tablet, but this feature could help to prevent hinge strain by allowing you to push back the screen that bit further. 

The keyboard is broadly the same as before, but by removing the chunky rear cooling, Alienware was able to push the display further back and thus serve up more room on the keyboard desk, resulting in a larger trackpad flanked by Alienware FX lighting. 

There's also has a new 'Stealth Mode' that can quickly switch from loud RGB colors to a subtle white; this'll likely be handy for people who want to use the M16 R2 for work as well as play. However, instead of using the Cherry MX switches that previous models like the Alienware m18 featured, it instead uses Alienware's own switches, similar to the Alienware Pro Wireless keyboard.

The display has a 16-inch QHD+ panel, so keeps the screen space of its predecessor despite the slimmer size. It also boasts a 240Hz refresh rate, which guarantees smooth and stutter-free gameplay for the more hardcore gamers; just bear in mind you'll need to tweak the settings of very demanding games to get the frame rates needed to take advantage of the highest refresh rates.

The Alienware m16 R2's port selection is quite generous, as despite the slimmer overall footprint, the laptop still has room for an Ethernet port that's handy for people aiming to use it as potentially a desktop replacement machine, where being able to plug in a Ethernet cable is vital for ensuring a stronger internet connection.

Alienware m16 R2: performance

Once the benchmarks come out, and we put the laptop to the test ourselves, we'll have a complete understanding of the kind of performance that the Alienware m16 R2 is capable of. But judging by the use of the Intel Core Ultra CPUs and the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4000-series GPUs in general, this laptop is going to be an absolute beast. Powering all of this is a 240W GaN charger.

The move to the latest RTX graphics cards also mean the m16 R2 can tap into Nvidia's newest DLSS 3.5 upscaling tech, which can cleverly render games at lower resolutions and then use upmixing to deliver visuals that look very close to the native high resolution of the laptop's display without taking the performance hit. 

With up to 64GB of RAM and 4TB of SSD storage, the m16 R2 could be a great machine for so-called content creators, with the specs and performance window likely to easily power through video rendering. For pure gaming, such a high amount of RAM might be overkill. As an aside, the RAM and SSD are user upgradable, should you get a lesser-specced model and then want to upgrade at a later date. 

The aforementioned Stealth Mode, which is activated by the 'Fn' + 'F2' combo, also sets the performance mode to Quiet. It's a very handy shortcut that allows you to use your gaming laptop outside without the fans ramping up to do a passable impression of a jet engine.

Dell has also beefed up its webcam, with FHD resolution. It's nice to see a gaming laptop take its built in webcam serious, as its usually a weakness of most gaming machines. Hopefully it works well even in poor or normal lighting.

Alienware m16 R2: early verdict

black gaming laptop

(Image credit: Future)

The Alienware m16 R2 is a promising refresh of last year's model, with a major decrease in its chassis size that still preserves its 16-inch display. The display is excellent with a very high refresh rate, there's a solid port selection, the keyboard has great feedback on its switches, and Alienware has added other quality of life features. 

For those looking for a great desktop replacement or just a powerful yet reasonably compact gaming laptop, the Alienware m16 R2 is shaping up to be a top choice, especially as it manages to shave off unnecessary mass and weight to make it easier to transport without the need to compromise on high-end specs. 

In short, the Alienware m16 R2 is an example of a well done refresh meets redesign that enhances without detracting from what makes the product well liked in the first place. We'll need to fully test the m16 R2 to see if these tweaks have proved to be effective, so stay tuned for our review. 

Allisa James
Computing Staff Writer

Named by the CTA as a CES 2023 Media Trailblazer, Allisa is a Computing Staff Writer who covers breaking news and rumors in the computing industry, as well as reviews, hands-on previews, featured articles, and the latest deals and trends. In her spare time you can find her chatting it up on her two podcasts, Megaten Marathon and Combo Chain, as well as playing any JRPGs she can get her hands on.

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.