Unleashing Alienware’s m17 R5, the world’s fastest 17” AMD Advantage gaming laptop
Sponsored by Alienware
This right here is history in the making. Alienware’s m17 R5 is an immensely configurable gaming laptop, including the fastest graphics processors from AMD and NVIDIA, up to 64GB of ultra-fast DDR5-4800 memory, options for up to 4TB of solid-state storage, and a 120Hz 4K display.
But the model I have in the lab is extra special. It’s the first all-AMD Alienware laptop, featuring a Ryzen 9 6900HX APU and a Radeon RX 6850M XT GPU. Their combined 30+ billion transistors are elegantly orchestrated by hardware links and software algorithms, shifting power back and forth with SmartShift Max technology for optimized performance in your most demanding applications. The result is amazing frame rates in the latest games. And I have a full assortment of benchmarks at 1920x1080 and 3840x2160 to prove it.
The m17 R5 also serves up marathon-like battery life. AMD’s SmartAccess Graphics technology uses a hardware multiplexer to pass control of the display between the integrated and discrete GPUs. In other words, when this laptop is gaming, the Radeon RX 6850M XT takes the reins. When it’s not, the go-fast hardware spins down for more run time away from a charger.
Alienware adds its own engineering prowess to AMD’s gaming platform, complementing the m17 R5 with aggressive power modes, pleasant acoustics, and comfy thermals enabled by the latest improvements to its Cryo-tech suite of cooling technologies.
Meet the most powerful 17” AMD Advantage laptop available
Configuring an m17 R5 kind of feels like customizing a sports car. You can choose from a couple of powerful processors, six different GPUs from AMD and NVIDIA, memory capacities from 16GB to 64GB, a trio of panel options, anywhere from 512GB to 4TB of solid-state storage, and three keyboards (trust me—you’re really going to want the Cherry MX low-profile mechanical upgrade).
There’s no wrong way to build the m17 R5. Both Ryzen 9 processor models include eight full-sized cores able to work on 16 software threads at a time. The baseline GeForce RTX 3050 Ti serves up smooth frame rates at 1920x1080. And 16GB of DDR5-4800 memory is hardly what I’d call entry-level. Performance only goes up from there.
If you really want to experience the m17 R5 at its most decadent, check out the AMD Advantage version with a Ryzen 9 6900HX APU, Radeon RX 6850M XT graphics, a gorgeous 17.3” 120Hz 4K panel, and AMD’s newest smart technologies.
AMD SmartShift Max, SmartAccess Graphics, and SmartAccess Memory elevate the m17 R5
What are smart technologies, exactly? Think of them as bonus features made possible by pairing AMD processors and GPUs. Alienware’s m17 R5 just so happens to include the most advanced set of smart technologies AMD has to offer.
Case in point, this is the first Advantage laptop equipped with SmartAccess Graphics, AMD’s technology for dynamically switching between integrated and discrete GPUs. On the Windows desktop, it maximizes battery life by driving that beautiful 4K panel with the Ryzen processor’s built-in Radeon 680M engine. Then, when you launch your favorite game, a hardware multiplexer switch hands control of the display to AMD’s Radeon RX 6850M XT for peak performance and smooth, variable refresh rates.
The benefits of SmartAccess Graphics are amplified by SmartShift Max technology, which dynamically shifts power between the Ryzen CPU and Radeon GPU to boost performance, whether you’re gaming, editing video, streaming, or multi-tasking in Windows. Sounds magical, right? Every app gets the most power possible from the processor best able to accelerate it. But there’s a lot of complexity under the hood choreographing quick responses to those performance demands.
Every laptop—the m17 R5 included—is engineered with power targets that maximize CPU and GPU performance without exceeding certain temperature limits. Now, imagine you’re playing a first-person shooter that uses every bit of muscle the graphics processor can muster, but doesn’t need much input from the CPU. In that scenario, the GPU hits its power ceiling while the host processor coasts along at, say, 40% of its budget.
What if you could give the GPU 110% of its power limit, consuming the CPU’s unused headroom? SmartShift Max employs a hardware boosting interface between the Ryzen and Radeon processors, controlled by machine learning algorithms, to do just that. Its response is both dynamic and immediate. You can even watch the technology allocate power in real-time through AMD Software Adrenalin Edition’s Performance pane.
SmartAccess Memory improves the m17 R5’s gaming performance by allowing its Ryzen processor to access all the Radeon GPU’s GDDR6 memory at once. Without this technology, game assets would have to be fetched in smaller chunks, requiring more trips back and forth to memory. Larger transfers improve efficiency, resulting in higher frame rates.
The boost you’ll see from SmartAccess Memory varies by game, quality settings, and resolution. But even at 1920x1080, I measured increases as large as 13% in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, 12% in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and 5% in Red Dead Redemption 2.
AMD Advantage prioritizes premium display options
Alienware’s m17 R5 includes three 17.3” wide viewing angle (WVA) panel options. Two of them offer a 1920x1080 native resolution, 300 cd/m² typical luminance, and 100% coverage of the sRGB color gamut. They also support NVIDIA’s G-SYNC and Advanced Optimus technologies, plus FreeSync for variable refresh rates with AMD GPUs. One has a 165Hz refresh rate, while the other refreshes at up to 360Hz for ultra-fast response times in esports games.
The third option takes all those specs to the next level with a 4K resolution, 500 nits of brightness, 99% coverage of the wider DCI-P3 gamut, and a smooth 120Hz refresh. Since AMD Advantage makes premium display technology one of its program pillars, that’s the panel you’ll find on Alienware’s all-AMD m17 R5.
Putting it all together: gaming performance at 1080p and 4K
I’m a big proponent of enjoying PC games with quality settings cranked up for lush visuals. In some games, it’s absolutely possible to max out the detail slider and still get smooth frame rates at 4K. In others, you may want to dial back a preset or two. But with FreeSync Premium certification delivering refresh rates synchronized to the Radeon RX 6850M XT and low framerate compensation, the m17 R5’s graphics quality at 4K is stunning.
Of course, you can also keep those maxed-out sliders and game at a lower resolution instead. At 1920x1080, most of the games in my suite average 100 FPS or more. The only reason Metro Exodus PC Enhanced Edition takes a performance hit is because I test with real-time ray tracing set to Normal. That’s right—the m17 R5 does better than 60 FPS at 1080p with Ultra shading quality and ray tracing enabled in one of the most demanding games out there.
FidelityFX Super Resolution is AMD’s secret weapon for smooth performance at 4K
The m17 R5 also benefits from an AMD technology called FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) that boosts gaming performance by rendering at a lower resolution, upscaling the anti-aliased output, and applying a sharpening pass to achieve what the company calls “near-native resolution quality gaming experiences with super high-quality edges and detail.”
Although FSR does require developer support, more than 70 games already integrate the feature. In fact, three of the six games in my typical test suite have options for enabling first-gen FSR at multiple quality/performance levels.
Enabling FSR at its Balanced level has a stunning impact on performance. If you were on the fence about playing Assassin’s Creed Valhalla at ~40 FPS, then the 80+ FPS you get from FSR should be evidence enough that smooth performance and ultra-high resolutions go together on the m17 R5.
AMD recently announced FSR 2.0, which uses temporal upscaling (rather than spatial upscaling) for higher quality and faster performance. According to a recent blog post, 19 current and upcoming games are already slated to fold in FSR 2.0 optimizations. It’ll be interesting to watch how the technology evolves to make the m17 R5 an even more potent performer at 4K.
Alienware engineering maximizes the benefits of AMD Advantage
The m17 R5 builds upon AMD’s platform with Alienware Cryo-tech technology, giving those smart technologies the headroom they need to optimize performance.
A custom vapor chamber built especially for the Radeon RX 6850M XT graphics module incorporates four load-balancing heat pipes to quickly dissipate thermal energy. Their shared thermal capacity is fundamental for SmartShift Max to allocate power between the Ryzen and Radeon processors.
Cooling fans flanking AMD’s host and graphics processors pull cool air in from the m17 R5’s top and bottom, then exhaust it from four vents on the sides and rear. Using data from sensors within the system, patent-pending Smart Fan technology independently controls each fan’s speed.
Those algorithms are influenced by five uniquely tailored power states, configured through Alienware Command Center software. Anticipating questions about the power levels, temperatures, and performance associated with each thermal profile, I like to take each one for a test drive and chart their results.
Let’s start with a look at the Ryzen 9 6900HX’s behavior.
Using Prime95 as an extreme workload, the Ryzen 9 6900HX uses between 76 and 84 watts, depending on the thermal profile you choose. To put those numbers into context, look back to my results from the m15 R7 AMD with the same processor. That smaller system approached 80 watts for a few seconds, then dropped to its 60-watt long-duration limit. The m17 R5’s beefier cooler gives it room to stretch and hold power levels normally reserved for shorter bursts of acceleration. And here’s the best part: because Alienware’s Cryo-tech cooling solution is so effective, even the Quiet thermal profile confers massive computing performance.
Translating those power figures to clock rates, the m17 R5 maintains ~4GHz with all eight of its performance-oriented cores fully utilized. And remember, this is a worst-case scenario for the gaming laptop’s Ryzen 9 6900HX processor.
Don your Alienware AW920H tri-mode headset and get ready for maximum performance with the Full Speed thermal profile, which moves enough air through the m17 R5’s Cryo-tech cooler to dissipate 175 watts.
The Performance and Balanced profiles dial back fan noise, but still give the Radeon RX 6850M XT around 160 watts of power for blisteringly fast frame rates.
Running FurMark on the m17 R5 with its Quiet or Battery Saver profiles active isn’t practical by any stretch. After all, both settings are optimized for near-silent running and longer battery life. But they still average 140 and 102 watts of graphics power, respectively.
Feeding the Radeon RX 6850M XT more power pays dividends in the form of amplified performance. Using the Full Speed profile, AMD’s flagship GPU averages more than 2.3GHz.
It behaves similarly in a real-world workload like Metro Exodus’ built-in benchmark, which I looped 10 times to test for a consistent experience during gaming marathons. By the end of my 10th loop, the graphics processor was holding steady at 2.3GHz. AMD’s Ryzen 9 6900HX averaged more than 3.6GHz through the same task.
Alienware’s m17 R5 offers plenty of choice, plus a special AMD Advantage version for peak performance
It’s an exciting time in the world of mobile computing. Enthusiasts can choose between AMD and Intel processors, along with AMD and NVIDIA GPUs, and enjoy a fantastic experience. This generation’s m17 R5 is based on one of two potent AMD Ryzen 9 models, providing a nice contrast to the x17 R2 with Intel 12th Gen Core CPUs. From there, the sky’s the limit. Pick your favorite graphics processor, memory configuration, storage setup, keyboard, and display. Or just go all-in with the tricked-out AMD Advantage version.
Armed with a Ryzen 9 6900HX processor, Radeon RX 6850M XT GPU, plenty of DDR5 memory, and a 4K, 120Hz FreeSync display, the flagship m17 R5’s hardware specs are beyond reproach. Alienware and AMD worked in lockstep to enable a full battery of smart technologies, including SmartShift Max, SmartAccess Memory, and the world’s first implementation of SmartAccess Graphics. To that tightly integrated platform, Alienware layered on its own innovations: Cryo-tech cooling with a bespoke vapor chamber for the Radeon GPU, Smart Fan technology to control each fan based on sensor data, that popular mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX switches, and more.
If it’s performance you’re looking for, whether you’re gaming at 4K, streaming to a throng of adoring fans, or rendering your latest masterpiece, the m17 R5 has what it takes to elevate your experience.