Alienware m18 review: king of laptop gaming performance

The Alienware m18 just might be the best performing gaming laptop yet

black gaming laptop with rgb lit keyboard
(Image: © Future)

TechRadar Verdict

The Alienware m18, in terms of pure gaming performance, is above its competition while maintaining a decent price point for the desktop replacement market. It also has an excellent mechanical keyboard and great sound, though CPU performance suffers a little.


  • +

    Fantastic gaming performance

  • +

    Excellent display

  • +

    Great sound system

  • +

    Improved software UI


  • -

    Overheats sometimes

  • -

    Mediocre battery

  • -

    Occasional slowdown outside gaming

  • -

    Extremely heavy

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Alienware m18: Two-minute review

Alienware m18, Dell’s refresh of its largest Alienware laptop line and some of the best Dell laptops, has gone in a different direction from the previous Alienware X14 (2022) and Alienware x15 R2. This latest model is unabashedly a desktop replacement in every sense of the word, from the thick and bulky chassis to its heavy weight to the same black color. However, it separates itself from the pack with its incredible performance and, if you select the upgrade, its fully mechanical CherryMX RGB keyboard.

The keyboard is, by far, the best I have ever tested, rivaling some of the best gaming keyboards I’ve used. It strikes the perfect balance between the switches being thin enough to allow the laptop to close (it does cheat a little by using some of the thickness to create a slight divet for the keyboard to rest in). The keys themselves have 1.8mm of key travel as well as that perfect satisfying feedback despite the thinner size. Nothing is sacrificed in its quality; I could and have typed for hours without it ever losing its luster. The touchpad is large and responsive, everything you could ask for if you’re a fan of them.

Its 18-inch display is absolutely phenomenal, with either a QHD+ 165Hz panel like my own review model or a beyond incredible FHD+ 480Hz panel for the truly passionate professional gamer. The webcam is a standard one, not particularly amazing but works well enough if you need to jump in a conference call or livestream. The audio quality is quite good as well, as the speakers are able to handle music and general sound design with ease. When gaming or streaming movies on this, you should only really need headsets for privacy reasons.

One major improvement from the previous Alienware x15 R2 laptop is the ventilation, which is by and far much better. That’s thanks to the quad-fan design that circulates and expels from several vents across seven heat pipes, along with improved thermal paste quality for both the CPU and GPU. As a drawback, it almost sounds like a jet engine whenever the fans even slightly rev up, but most video streaming services and software have noise reduction properties so that’s not an issue there.

Performance is where the Alienware m18 shines, as it makes its mark as one of the best gaming laptops by completely beating out every other desktop replacement gaming PC we’ve tested in terms of GPU benchmark testing, including the much more expensive MSI GT77 Titan. However, CPU testing is a little less consistent, with some laptops like the Lenovo Legion 7i Pro or the Titan beating out the m18 in certain scores while falling behind in others.

Of course, if you want the full gaming experience and aren't in need of portability, then you might want to invest in the best gaming PC instead since the performance can't be matched due to superior specs. And if a cheaper price is more your game, then the best budget gaming laptops will definitely be more of your speed.

Alienware m18: Price & availability

closeup of keys

(Image credit: Future)
  • Starting at $1,999.99 / £2,068.99 / around AU$2,999
  • Available now 
  • Available in the US and UK, and Australia

For a desktop replacement, the Alienware m18 pricing starts at a rather affordable rate of $1,999.99 / £2,068.99 / around AU$2,999 – still expensive but definitely leagues cheaper than the current competition. But if you’re getting a hardcore gaming machine 512GB of storage isn’t what you’re looking for. Even my own review unit, priced at $3,549 / £3,299.99 / around AU$5,316, is far cheaper than the Lenovo Legion 7i Pro and around the same price as the Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 (2023) and has similar specs to both.

As with most other Dell products, this laptop is available in a wide variety of regions, including the US, UK, and Australia. The UK is mostly the same as the US in terms of specs and pricing, with the exception of the 480Hz display panel that’s only available for lower specs, which is an odd choice to say the least. Meanwhile, Australia has only one high-spec model equipped with the RTX 4080 and packing 64GB of RAM, but there’s no 480Hz option either.

  • Price score: 4.5 / 5

Alienware m18: Specs

black gaming laptop

(Image credit: Future)

The specs for the Alienware m18 review unit sent to me are as follows: an Intel Core i9-13980HX CPU, Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 GPU, 32GB DDR5 RAM, 1TB SSD of storage, and 18-inch (2560 x 1600), 16:10 QHD+, 165Hz display.

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These are the specs for the Alienware m18
ComponentBase modelReview unitTop configuration
Price$1,999.99 / £2,068.99 / around AU$2,999$3,549 / £3,299.99 / around AU$5,316$5,094.99 / £5,355.80 / AU$5,298.70
CPUIntel Core i7-13650HXIntel Core i9-13980HXIntel Core i9-13900HX
GPUNvidia GeForce RTX 4050Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090
Ports4x USB 3.2 Type-A ports, 2x Thunderbolt 4 Gen 2 Type-C ports with DisplayPort Alt Mode/USB4, 1x Ethernet port,1x audio port, 1x HDMI 2.1 port, 1x power-adapter port, 1x mini-Display port, 1x SD card slot4x USB 3.2 Type-A ports, 2x Thunderbolt 4 Gen 2 Type-C ports with DisplayPort Alt Mode/USB4, 1x Ethernet port,1x audio port, 1x HDMI 2.1 port, 1x power-adapter port, 1x mini-Display port, 1x SD card slot4x USB 3.2 Type-A ports, 2x Thunderbolt 4 Gen 2 Type-C ports with DisplayPort Alt Mode/USB4, 1x Ethernet port,1x audio port, 1x HDMI 2.1 port, 1x power-adapter port, 1x mini-Display port, 1x SD card slot
Screen18-inch (2560 x 1600), 16:10 QHD+, 165Hz18-inch (2560 x 1600), 16:10 QHD+, 165Hz18-inch (2560 x 1600), 16:10 QHD+, 480Hz
WirelessWi-Fi 6E AX1675, 2x2, 802.11axWi-Fi 6E AX1675, 2x2, 802.11axWi-Fi 6E AX1675, 2x2, 802.11ax
Camera1080p FHD IR1080p FHD IR1080p FHD IR
Weight8.90 pounds (4.04kg)8.90 pounds (4.04kg)8.90 pounds (4.04kg)
Dimensions16.15 x 12.59 x 1.05 inches / 410.3 x 319.9 x 26.7 mm (W x H x D)16.15 x 12.59 x 1.05 inches / 410.3 x 319.9 x 26.7 mm (W x H x D)16.15 x 12.59 x 1.05 inches / 410.3 x 319.9 x 26.7 mm (W x H x D)

The Alienware m18 comes in several customizable configurations, depending on which options you choose. These specs include the choice of display, CPU, GPU, memory, storage space, and even the choice of membrane or mechanical keys.

  • Specs score: 5 / 5

black gaming laptop facing back

(Image credit: Future)

Alienware m18: Design

  • Extremely heavy and bulky
  • Excellent keyboard
  • Port selection is fantastic

Like older models, the Alienware m18 uses the same distinctive chassis design that accommodates mostly rear-situated ports and  includes customizable RGB lighting on both that and the Alienware logo on the top cover. Despite this, the extremely heavy and bulky form factor, combined with the rather boring all-black color palette, almost completely cancels out the effect, making it look noticeably less visually appealing. Considering that this laptop is built more for performance and ventilation, the decision to cut back on aesthetics is understandable.

But it cannot be understated how heavy and big this laptop is. It weighs nearly nine pounds, and you can feel every single pound of it. It couldn’t even fully fit in my Lo & Sons O.G. 2 overnight bag, which has fit both 17 and 18-inch laptops just fine. With this big boy, I had to leave my bag open as I traveled home. If you purchase it, make sure to keep it home or only pack it in your travel luggage.

The 18-inch display is phenomenal, and in the US and UK, you can choose between either a QHD+ 165Hz panel like my own review model or a ridiculous FHD+ 480Hz panel for the truly serious. I wish the webcam was just as amazing, but it’s a pretty standard 1080p HD camera found in most gaming laptops, that works fine in good lighting but suffers if you have a dimmer setup. If you livestream seriously, you’ll want to upgrade; otherwise, it’s fine for a conference call.

What I enjoy the most about its design is the keyboard, which can be updated to Alienware CherryMX ultra-low profile mechanical keys with N-key rollover tech. This is by and far the best keyboard I’ve ever used, combining that satisfying click and feedback of mechanical switches with the slimmer keys expected of any laptop. Its touchpad is quite nice; smooth, large, and responsive, perfect for those like me who use them frequently. The speakers are quite excellent as well, delivering a nice robust sound with solid bass that conveys both music and sound effects in your games well.

Its port selection is absolutely fantastic, featuring every type of port you could possibly want including four USB 3.2 Type-A ports, two Thunderbolt 4 Gen 2 Type-C ports with DisplayPort Alt Mode/USB4, one Ethernet port, one audio port, one HDMI 2.1 port, one power-adapter port, one mini-Display port, and one SD card slot.

  • Design score: 4 / 5

black gaming laptop

(Image credit: Future)

Alienware m18: Performance

  •  Gaming performance is top-notch
  •  Clears benchmarks
  •  CPU struggles a bit
Alienware m18: Benchmarks

Here's how the Alienware m18 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

3DMark: Night Raid: 71,818; Fire Strike: 35,465; Time Spy: 21,040; Port Royal: 14,171
Cinebench R23 Multi-core: 28,341 points
GeekBench 5: 2,027 (single-core); 21,488 (multi-core)
PCMark 10 (Home Test): 7,681 points
25GB File Copy: 17.5
Handbrake 1.6: 2:35
CrossMark: Overall: 2179; Productivity: 2007; Creativity: 2508; Responsiveness: 1831
Battery Life (TechRadar movie test): 3 hours, 25 minutes
Total War: Warhammer III (1080p, Ultra): 155 fps; (1080p, Low): 372 fps
Cyberpunk 2077 (1080p, Ultra): 102 fps; (1080p, Low): 139 fps
Dirt 5 (1080p, Ultra): 157 fps; (1080p, Low): 200 fps

Ventilation has improved by leaps and bounds with the Alienware m18, fixing every issue from the previous Alienware x15 R2 and making the much thicker design completely understandable. It features a quad-fan design that circulates and expels from several vents across seven heat pipes, along with improved thermal paste quality for both the CPU and GPU. The trade-off is a laptop that sounds almost like a jet engine, but if you’re passionate about performance and especially overclocking, then it’s more than worth it.

Speaking of performance, the Alienware m18 is currently king on the GPU front. It beats out the other desktop replacements that we’ve tested so far, including the MSI GT77 Titan, which is way more expensive for similar specs. And it’s not only benchmarking that it reigns over, as those scores translate to higher frame rates as well. There’s not a single game, whether Cyberpunk 2077 or Dirt 5, in which this laptop scored under 100fps on average, even on maxed-out settings. And yes, even when ray tracing is enabled.

Keep in mind that these are results taken straight from a setup right out of the box, with the only change being that I set it to the generic Performance mode in Windows 11. The updated and redesigned Alienware Command Center software is even easier to use now thanks to a complete UI overhaul, making overclocking a breeze and performance results skyrocket. Since I had the old version equipped before I updated, I could see the difference, and it's leagues better than below.

When it comes to CPU results, it’s not as consistent with some scores being higher than the competition and others much lower, the latter of which happened most often against the Lenovo Legion Pro 7i. In general, it follows the same current-gen trend of the CPU performance potential being throttled by the GPU, as well as occasionally slowdown and webpage or video loading issues. Despite that, I was able to use it as a productivity machine for a full day of work without much issue.

  • Performance score: 5 / 5

Alienware m18: Battery

closeup of battery information

(Image credit: Future)
  •  Awful battery
  •  Charges fast

Unsurprisingly, the battery life on the Alienware m18 is pretty atrocious. Our HD movie battery test found that it barely lasts three and a half hours, and when used for productivity work, it reaches about four hours before dying. 

As with any other desktop replacement, this is not meant to be taken off the charger unless you need to carry it somewhere. That said, it does at least charge quickly, so you won’t be stuck at an AC adaptor for very long. 

  • Battery score: 2 / 5

Should you buy the Alienware m18?

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Alienware m18
PriceWhile still pricey, it’s cheaper than many of its competitors with comparable specs.4.5 / 5
SpecsIt has top notch specs, which translates into excellent gaming performance.5 / 5
DesignBulkier and heavy than ever before, but equipped with an excellent keyboard and a great sound system.4 / 5
PerformanceCompletely demolishes its competition in terms of GPU performance but struggles a bit on CPU performance.5 / 5
BatteryTerrible battery but charges fast at least, and lasts long enough to transport it around2 / 5
Average totalOverall an excellent desktop replacement that delivers on gaming performance, along with an amazing keyboard and sound system, and an improved software application.4.5 / 5

Buy it if...

You want a gaming performance monster
It chews up and spits out any PC game on the highest possible settings, even with both ray-tracing and DLSS 3 enabled.

You want even better gaming software
The Alienware Command Center, which was already the standard for gaming laptop software, received a complete UI overhaul and is now even easier to use.

You want an excellent display and audio system
The display is top-notch, with some incredible specs that will ensure you have a super smooth and clear picture quality. Audio is also crystal clear and doesn't degrade at higher volumes.

Don't buy it if...

You’re on a budget
Though this is a premium-quality gaming laptop, that level of performance comes at a steep price. This is definitely above the budget of the average gamer.

You need a better battery
This battery is really bad, especially if you're gaming or streaming movies. It charges fast but you're better off keeping it on AC power.

Alienware m18: Also consider

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Alienware m18Lenovo Legion Pro 7iAsus ROG Zephyrus M16 (2023)
Price:$3,549 / £3,299.99 / around AU$5,316$4,499.99 / £4,799 including VAT / around AU$6,700$3,499.99 / £3,299.99 / around AU$5,218
CPUIntel Core i9-13980HXIntel Core i9-13900KF Intel Core i9-13900H
GPUNvidia GeForce RTX 4090Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090
Display18-inch (2560 x 1600), 16:10 QHD+, 165Hz16-inch WQXGA (2560x1600) IPS 500nits, 100% sRGB, 240Hz16-inch QHD+ 16:10 (2560 x 1600, WQXGA) Mini-LED, 1,100 nits brightness, HDR, DCI-P3: 100%, Refresh Rate 240Hz
Ports4x USB 3.2 Type-A ports, 2x Thunderbolt 4 Gen 2 Type-C ports with DisplayPort Alt Mode/USB4, 1x Ethernet port,1x audio port, 1x HDMI 2.1 port, 1x power-adapter port, 1x mini-Display port, 1x SD card slot4 x USB-A 3.2 ports, 1 x USB-C port, 1 x Thunderbolt 4 port, 1 x HDMI 2.1, 1 x RJ45 ethernet, 1 x power input, 1 x electronic e-shutter switch, 1 x 3.5mm audio jack1x 3.5mm combo audio jack, 1x HDMI 2.1 FRL, 2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, 1x Thunderbolt 4, microSD reader, Kensington Lock
WirelessWi-Fi 6E AX1675, 2x2, 802.11axWi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.1Wi-Fi 6E(802.11ax) (Triple band) 2 x 2 + Bluetooth 5.2
Camera1080p FHD IR1080p1080p FHD IR
Weight8.90 pounds (4.04kg)6.17 pounds (2.8 kg)5.07 pounds (2.30kg)
Dimensions16.15 x 12.59 x 1.05 inches / 410.3 x 319.9 x 26.7 mm (W x H x D)14.3 x 10.32 x 0.86-1.01 inches (363.4 x 262.15 x 21.95-25.9 mm; W x D x H)13.98 x 9.69 x 0.83 ~ 0.90 inches / 35.5 x 24.6 x 2.11 ~ 2.29 cm (W x H x D)

If the Alienware m18 has you considering other options, here are two more laptops to consider...


Lenovo Legion Pro 7i
The Lenovo Legion Pro 7i doesn't have as powerful a GPU as the MSI GT77 Titan, and its 1600p 16:10 display isn't nearly as gorgeous as the 4K mini-LED panel on the Titan, but this laptop is significantly cheaper and can often be at least competitive with the GT77 Titan in terms of gaming performance.

Read the full Lenovo Legion Pro 7i review


Asus ROG Zephyrus M16
Comparable in both specs and price, this laptop is a lot sleeker and lighter. Its gaming performance is excellent but suffers from a stuttering issue when doing any non-gaming tasks. It also comes with a fun AniMe Matrix mode gimmick.

Read the full Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 review

How I tested the Alienware m18

  • I tested the Alienware m18 for several weeks
  • I tested it using both benchmark tests and video game benchmarks
  • I stress-tested the battery using the TechRadar movie test

First, I tested the general weight and portability of the Alienware m18 by carrying it around in a laptop bag for a day. After I set it up, I ran several CPU and GPU benchmarks to thoroughly test out the graphics card's performance and how much it affected processing performance. Finally, I used a variety of programs and applications to test out both battery life and general performance during work-like conditions, as well as gaming benchmarks to test the RTX 4090 GPU.

The Alienware m18 is a desktop replacement for gaming, meaning it's meant to be used for hardcore gaming sessions. I made sure to thoroughly test out this laptop in that regard, to make sure it reached certain levels of performance.

I've tested plenty of gaming PCs and laptops, making me more than qualified to understand benchmark test results and how to properly stress test machines to see how well they perform as a work machine.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed April 2023

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.