Alienware M15 R6 gaming laptop: Gaming power

Alienware’s M15 R6 gaming laptop is a beast of a machine. 

Clad in a shell made of plastic, aluminum and magnesium alloy, the R6 is finished in the company’s dark side of the moon colour scheme and it looks nice as soon as it comes out of the box.

It also ticks some prerequisites for a gaming laptop:

  • Great build quality: check
  • Powerful GPU: check 
  • RGB bling: check, check, check

Featuring an Intel i7 11800H CPU (running at 2.3Ghz), 16Gb of memory, a 1 Tb nVME SSD and a laptop nVidia RTX3080 GPU, the M15 R6 packs a lot of punch for gamers looking for a powerful machine to play the latest games on – and it won’t disappoint in that regard. 

It also has a fair bit of RGB lighting, if that’s your thing, besides as all seasoned gamers know: The more RGB you have, the more frames you get. Right?

You power the machine on by pressing the alien head shaped button on the right corner, which illuminates orange if you’re on battery power, blue if fully charged and blue/amber if it’s being charged.

Strangely, it took two presses of the power button to actually turn the machine on. There’s a row of cooling vents along the top of the chassis, just under the central hinge, and the build quality is generally excellent (it only has one central hinge so there is a little bit of flex in the screen if you grasp it from both sides and gently twist it).

It also has a huge heating vent – punctuated with LED lighting around its edging – at the back of the machine. The M15 R6 tips the scales at around 2.5kg so it would comfortably fit in your backpack. The 15-inch panel maxes out at a resolution of 1080p, is clear and bright, and offers a maximum refresh rate of 360Hz.

Port wise, it has ethernet, headset jack, two USB 3, a thunderbolt connection and HDMI. It’s running Windows 11. The mechanical keyboard is excellent. As a touch typist, I really love it how satisfying it felt typing with it. The keys offer 1.8mm of travel and the keyboard just feels really nice to type on. 

Alienware M15 R6 laptop

Testing the M15 R6:

This is a gaming machine and the star here is definitely the 8Gb RTX3080, which means you should be able to handle most games with no problem.

I tested the M15 R6 using benchmarks Cinebench R23, 3D Mark and Geekbench and played a variety of games on it: God of War (PC), Forza Horizon 5, Cyberpunk 2077, Halo Infinite and Batman Arkham Knight, a game that was poorly optimised for PC on release, but is much more stable these days. 

In Cinebench R23, the multicore test returned a score of 9880 and the single core test returned achieved 1450points. 3D Mark returned score of 9976 in the Timspy demo (with a graphics score of 10,912 and a CPU score of 6715) and 19,538 in the Fire Strike demo (with a graphics score of 27,906 and a physics score of 14,983). Geekbench 5 returned scores of 1520 (single core) and 8171 (multi core).

Gaming on the M15 R6:

With Forza Horizon 5, Playground Games’ latest motoring game saw the GPU return a FPS maximum of 55.2FPS (average 46.3FPS) with an average latency of 76.6ms (mix of graphics settings, ray tracing on).

I was able to play Cyberpunk 2077 on high graphics settings, while God of War PC used optimised settings from Digital Foundry, reaching mid to high 50s much of the time. Batman Arkham Knight, an older title, averaged 52FPS, maxing out at 66 FPS.

One thing I noticed is that the machine does get warm during intensive gaming sessions. Not hot but warm to the touch.  You can also hear the cooling fans kicking in when you’re doing heavy gaming sessions.

In fact, my wife who was in the same room as I was when I was playing Halo Infinite on it commented on the fans.   Intensive gaming sessions will also drain the battery, too.

My view this is a desktop replacement: It’s not a laptop that you take to the café to do some gaming (unless you’re plugged into mains power, obviously). I’d suggest you keep it plugged into mains power when you’re gaming.

It seems, too, that Alienware for some reason has hobbled the 3080 GPU’s TDP (how much power it draws) to 115 watts.

Look, I can see that Alienware have probably done this so as to keep the heat generation factor to as low as possible (as the more power the laptop draws the more heat it dissipates) but I’d rather have more power going to the 3080, to be honest, so I can get the best gaming experience possible. 

Alienware M15 R6 laptop

Conclusion:

The M15 R6 is a damn fine piece of gaming kit, able to handle any game you throw at it. The build quality is great, it’s good looking and the keyboard is excellent. As a long time Intel CPU user, the i7 11800H CPU performed excellently in everything I threw at it, as well. It’s a winning combination.

In the review configuration, the M15 R6 will set you back close to $4000 ($3998.99) so it’s not cheap but you if you’re more budget conscious you can configure the hard drive capacity and CPU via the Dell website, meaning the laptop can be obtained for as low as $2804.

I loved the M15 R6. I’d just like to see better battery life when not on mains power (of course, adjusting the screen refresh rate and setting the laptop up to only use the 3080 when required will preserve battery power) and a cooling system that isn’t so loud when it’s working hard.   

A big thanks to Intel ANZ for providing the review unit.

Intel i5-10600K CPU review: The heart of a new PC build

While it’s true that much of my video gaming these days is on on either my Xbox Series X or my PlayStation 5, I’m still a proud card carrying member of the PC Master Race and I started my gaming on the venerable ZX81 way back in the dark ages of personal computing.

So when PR for Intel Australia/New Zealand got in touch and offered me the chance to test out its 10th Generation i5-10600K CPU, I jumped at the chance. I was keen to re-build my PC with a newer generation CPU & see how Intel’s 10th Gen chip compares to the i5 8400 that I had been using for the last four years or so.

The Origin Story

For this new build, I was going to need to purchase a new motherboard for the i5-10600K as the Asus B365M-K motherboard that houses the 8400 doesn’t support Intel’s new LGA1200 socket form factor (the 8400 is the LGA1151 form factor).

I spent days investigating the cons and pros of a variety of motherboard chipsets that would work with the i5-10600K and eventually settled on an Asus TUF Gaming Z490-plus wi-fi motherboard from New Zealand retailer Computer Lounge.

The Asus board seemed to rank favourably with the review sites I follow and I’ve long been a fan of Asus’ motherboards as I’ve found they’re generally constructed well and offer great features for the price.

The board even came with a certificate of reliability from Asus, ver. Verifying that it had passed a variety of reliability tests that included vibration, mechanical shock, thermal shock and solderability tests on the motherboard’s capacitors and chokes.

The TUF Gaming Z490 looked just the thing that I needed but I’d be lying if it said it was easy finding a Z4890 mother board: Most retailers were either sold out, didn’t stock Z490 boards any more or were leaning towards the newer chipset for Intel’s 11th Generation CPUs.

The Set-Up

OK, let’s talk about the heart of the build: The CPU for a moment. Intel’s i5-10600K is part of the company’s Comet Lake CPU line up which was released around a year ago and is a 6-core, 12-thread CPU running at 4.1Ghz. It has a maximum clock speed of 4.5Ghz but apparently can be overclocked quite easily to 5.0Ghz. I don’t plan to overclock – at least not at this stage anyway.

So, with the i5-10600K kindly provided by Intel and the Asus Z490 motherboard having arrived safely, It was time to re-build my PC.

Apart for the new CPU and motherboard, all the other components were straight transplants from my old PC; The  SSD (which had the Windows 10 Pro OS install), the HDD (I haven’t got around to getting an M.2 drive yet), two sticks of PNY’s 8Gb RGB RAM and my dependable but ageing Sapphire RX580 GPU.

I was ready to begin, optimistic that I’d be done and dusted before I knew it. Oh, how wrong I was.

Remember earlier in this piece I mentioned how I was no stranger to building PCs? Well, I have to say that this was probably the most problematic build I’ve ever done. Installing the i5-10600K onto the motherboard was the easy part as was installing Cooler Master H410R air cooler (it too came from my old PC and luckily for me, supported the newer LGA1200 socket mounting holes).

I hit a few hiccups during the build, all a result of my fumbling fingers, but soon enough it was up and running. I could see that the i5-10600K was proving significantly better performer than the 8400 it replaced. It’s touted as a great CPU choice for gamers which works for me.

The Payoff

I tested the CPU using Geekbench, CPU-Z, Realbench and Maxon’s Cinebench R23 benchmarking tools.

Using Cinebench, I tested both the 10600K and 8400 on core performance. The 8400 returned a single core reading of 4802 (I forgot to do a multi-core test before swapping out CPUs) and the 10600K returned scores of1253 (single-core) and 8918 (multi-core).

Geekbench returned a score of 1256 (single-core) and 6483 (multi-core). CPU-Z returned scores of 513.7 (single thread) and 3813 (multi-thread) for the 10600K.

Realbench tests image editing, H.264 video encoding speeds, OpenCL and heavy multitasking and delivered a score of 145,369.

To be honest, I have no idea what any of these numbers mean in terms of whether a CPU is good or not but in general world PC usage, the Intel i5-10600K performed remarkably well and faster than my previous 8th Generation i5 8400 did so I’m extremely happy.

So, that’s it for this build post. In a future post, I’ll test the 10600K’s gaming performance.

A huge thanks to Intel Australia/New Zealand for the test i5-10600K CPU.

Red Dead Redemption 2: In pictures

Red Dead Redemption 2 (PC) A story in pictures

 

It might have arrived on PC a year after the console release, but Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC is a beautiful thing. It really is.

Sure, you have to tweak a multitude of settings to get things just right (I’m currently averaging around 55 frames per second with a mix of ultra/high/medium settings) but boy, oh boy, it just looks gorgeous.

RDR2 on PC wasn’t without its problems, though: Rockstar screwed the launch royally with launcher issues, frequent crashes, and new patches that reset all the graphical settings to the default, meaning painless tweaks of each graphics preset had to be done all over again to find the optimal frame rate settings – but things seemed to have settled down now and RDR2 it’s still one of my most favourite games of recent times.

Actually, RDR2 seems to be comparable to Hideo Kojima’s recently released Death Stranding: Both are quite polarising among gamers, both criticised by some for its slow pace while adored by others. I haven’t played Death Stranding so I can’t comment on its game play but I have played RDR2 on both PS4 Pro and PC and I love it. It’s one of my favourite games of recent times.

It’s also got an amazing photo mode and there are so many great moments that I find myself pausing the game, framing a nice shot (especially if it’s night or the sun is just right) then clicking! It’s one of those games that you can document your life thanks to the photo mode.

So, enough words: Here’s is my journey so far through Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC through the lens of the game’s photo mode.

Enjoy.

 

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The GamejunkieNZ PC build project: Ah, yeah, I built it this weekend!

Last week, I posted about my plans to build a new PC so that I can rejoin the PC Master Race.

To recap: The week earlier, I’d bought an Asus B365 mATX motherboard, an Intel i5 CPU and 8Gb of RAM but I still needed to pick up an SSD for the operation system and a traditional HDD to install everything. I was planning to buy those in a month or so.

Well, on a whim, I bought a 240Gb Western Digital SSD and a 2Tb Western Digital HDD on Friday last week and, home alone over the weekend, I cracked into building the PC. I recycled the Enermax 500W power supply from my last PC’s case (although, taking apart another PC that’s stored in the garage I noted it had a 700W PSU: I might dropped that into my new PC at some point) and got started …

Surprisingly, it went hassle-free and I encountered no problems, apart from stupidly thinking that the 3-pin connector on the case’s 140mm rear case fan wouldn’t fit the four-pin connector on the Asus mATX motherboard (which only has on chassis fan connector). I tried and tried and it didn’t seem to fit.

So, I made a panicked dash to my local computer store (Dragon PC in Christchurch) and was told, reassuringly, by the nice gentleman behind the counter that a 3-pin connector would, indeed, fit on a 4-pin connection (he’s right: it does). While I was there, I also bought  a $10 adapter which let me connect front case fan via a molex connection.

OK, so the cable management might frustrate the PC purists out there but it’s a mATX board in a full-tower case: There’s plenty of room for air to circulate!

As I said, the installation was easier than I expected. I even managed to connect the power and reset connectors right first time. I always seem to have problems with I’m doing things like this but this build was actually easier than the first PC I built.

Sure, this was the second PC I’d built myself so I wasn’t a complete newb but that was using an ATX motherboard, which is bigger (the mATX case looks tiny in the roomy tower case it is installed in). While it proved difficult at times to read what was stamped on the board, I had plenty of light (and my glasses on) and had no trouble connecting everything to where it was supposed to go.

I had no issues booting it up first time, either: it POSTed perfectly (although I initially wondered why it hadn’t recognised the 2Tb drive then realised I needed to format it). Much of that afternoon was spent installing new drivers for the motherboard and GPU.

Talking of GPU, I know I’ve talked about going with something like a nVidia GTX1060 but I think I need to give the credit card a rest for a few weeks so I’ve installed the GTX950 that I’ve had sitting in my games cupboard since early last year (that I won in a competition held by an Australian YouTuber). It’ll do the job until I can afford a new generation graphics card.

So far I’ve installed Astroneer, Dishonoured, Batman Arkham City, Wolfenstein: The New Colossus and The Sexy Brutale – and the GTXC950 is giving me better frame rates already.

So, Saturday was a successful day all up, and I think, all up, the new PC cost me around $650, which is much, much cheaper than if I had gone with a pre-built system, plus I got the satisfaction of building it myself, too.

The reason for building a new PC was simple enough. I wan’t to get back to playing more games how I started playing them: On PC.

My very first computer was a Sinclair ZX Spectrum and, man, those games blew me away: Knight Lore, Robocop, Maniac Mansion, Ant Attack, Sabre Wulf. I loved them.

My next PC (actually if was my dad’s) was a biege-coloured desktop that was powered by a 486 CPU that had, if my memory serves me correctly, a graphics card that had a whopping 2Mb of video memory. It didn’t stop me from playing shareware Doom or some flight sim that I had to install via about 6000 3.5-inch floppy disks.

So, now that I’ve got a new PC (a better graphics card is still to come), I want to review more games and PC hardware. I’ll still play on console for console exclusives but I want to game on PC for the most part now.

Now, I just need to re-acquaint myself with WASD …

Styx: Shards of Darkness review: A little goblin goes stealthy, stealthy

Styx, the goblin and star of Styx: Shards of Darkness, is proof that not all heroes video game lead characters need to be overpowered space marines or covert operatives with high-tech gadgets up the wazoo.

He’s no oil painting but Styx is a likeable enough character, despite the rough edges.

 

 

Some heroes, in fact, can be green, pointy eared, foul-mouthed goblins who work for whoever is offering the most gold, like to vomit poison into someone’s food and that can conjure up a clone of themselves pretty smartly.

In some weird, twisted way, I enjoyed being a goblin for a change, rather than the usual character we get to play in stealth games, like Sam Fisher or, I guess, Ezio from the Assassin’s Creed series. Styx is a goblin with attitude and the game isn’t afraid to take a jab at other stealth games or have a bit of fun.

A sequel to Cyanide Studio’s 2014 game featuring the same character, which I didn’t play, Styx is a master thief: Able to get anything, from anywhere, but this time, he must infiltrate a dark elven city to find out why dark elves have formed an alliance with dwarves.

At one point, when Styx is on a roof top, he quips where is the bale of straw for him to jump into, which is clearly a dig at the Assassin’s Creed series. One post-death animation shows Styx’s arm descending into water, a la Terminator, but instead of giving a thumbs up flips the bird as it disappears. That made me smile a little.

At its heart, Shards of Darkness is a stealth game with RPG elements (there’s a skill tree that lets you use skill points to ramp up Styx’s skills) and that’s where it shines: Skulking through the shadows while observing the patrol patterns of guards, finding alternative routes to objectives, silently taking out guards then hiding their bodies in wardrobes and chests.

To be honest, Styx isn’t much when it comes to open combat and will die fairly quickly so stealth is always the best option here. If you are spotted and have to do a little melee hand-to-hand, the game has a rudimentary parry QTE which, if successful, which knock a guard off guard, allowing Styx to stab him but most of the time, hand-to-hand combat is a death sentence so this is not a game to go all out Rambo and go in through the front gate.

Thankfully, locations have plenty of places that you can use to stealth your way through to objectives, with torches that can be extinguished, barrels to hide in and ropes to climb. Enemy AI is pretty good, most of time, with guards patrolling set patterns and some re-lighting torches once they’ve noticed they were out. It made things a little more tense and I had to think about the best route to reach the end goal.

Styx: Shards of Darkness isn’t the perfect game, (but no game is) but I think it’s frustrations can be overlooked, given its price and that it’s a lot of fun.

The biggest niggle for me was the controls, which frustrated me a little, especially when I tried to escape from guards and had to take evasive manoeuvres. Sometimes what should have been a leap onto a railing then hang off that railing often turned into a leap and accidentally stand up, enabling the guards to see me, or a straight fail and Styx plummeted to his death.

I played Styx on PC and while it’s not going to win any prizes for Best Looking PC game of the Year  neither will it melt your PC with its recommended specs. Minimum recommended hardware is 8Gb of RAM, and a Radeon R7 260X or nVidia GTX560, so hardly cutting-edge hardware. I ran everything on Epic settings and my PC’s packing an nVidia Geforce GTX660Ti, a 3Gb card that some (including me) would say is past its use by date.

Look, if you’re a fan of stealth games and want something that has a good sense of humour and doesn’t take itself too seriously and brings the stealth back to stealth games, Styx: Shards of Darkness is well worth a look.

 

Thanks to Five Eight Distribution in Auckland for the review copy of Styx: Shards of Darkness