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First Impressions: Alienware m18 (2023) Review

First Impressions

The Alienware m18 marks the beginning of a new generation for gaming laptops, featuring an 18-inch screen and cutting-edge components from AMD, Intel and Nvidia. It’s too early to judge performance, but all signs suggest this to be one of the leading desktop replacement options for eSport players in 2023.

Key Features

  • 18-inch screen:The Alienware m18 is one of the very first gaming laptops to feature a massive 18-inch screen.
  • Next generation of processor and GPU options:Powered by 13th Generation Intel Core processors and Nvidia RTX 4000 GPU options.
  • Optional keyboard switches:Optional mechanical keyboard switches, allowing for a desktop-grade performance.

Introduction

Before 2023, the biggest laptop you’d likely be able to find had a 17-inch screen, allowing for plenty of screen space for Netflix binges, massive spreadsheets and – most importantly – immersive gaming. 

But now Dell’s gaming brand Alienware wants to go one step further by re-introducing an even larger 18-inch panel. This seems to be a trend that several laptop manufacturers are embracing during CES 2023, and when viewing the Alienware m18 in person, I can see why.

You may only be adding an extra inch to the screen, but it really makes a difference, resulting in a more absorbing and immersive experience. 

What’s more, Alienware hasn’t needed to make the laptop larger to achieve this, with the Alienware m18 apparently featuring the exact same peak thickness as its 17-inch predecessor, the Alienware m17 laptop. Instead, Alienware has simply slimmed down the screen bezel to improve the screen-to-body ratio. 

I was invited over to New York by Dell in late 2022 to go hands-on with the new Alienware m18 laptop. Here are my first impressions.

Price and availability

The Alienware m18 has a starting price of $2099, although the cheapest model at launch will be $2899, with the additional (and more affordable) configurations following later in the year.

Alienware has confirmed the new laptop will launch with Intel and Nvidia configurations in Q1 2023, with AMD options not arriving until Q2. 

Design

  • Larger 18-inch screen makes a big impression
  • Minor tweaks have improved airflow and comfort
  • Optional mechanical keyboard switches

For the past few years, Alienware has adopted a sci-fi aesthetic for its premium gaming laptops. This includes shiny metal bodies, accompanied by vivid RGB lighting on the rear rim and Alien-shaped logo. Dell has worked hard to ensure the lighting looks stylish rather than tacky or overbearing, although this will come down to personal taste. 

For the new 2023 range, Alienware is continuing the same sci-fi inspired design ethos, but while also making a couple of minor tweaks to ensure the m18 laptop can’t be accused of looking stale. 

Dell told me that it’s made a concerted effort to ensure its laptops are more comfortable to carry in hand. This has been achieved by opting for a flatback design, so there aren’t any pointy parts jutting out of the chassis. A new V-Rail grip has also been added to the laptop’s nose, making it easier to open and close the clamshell. 

The Alienware m18 showen from the rear
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The new ‘bottom foot’ design also sees the laptop slightly raised off the desk via a plastic rim, allowing for improved airflow beneath the laptop. This will hopefully help to boost system performance and prevent the ultra-powered components becoming too toasty. 

Such improvements are very much welcome, although can only be really considered as a minor evolution rather than game-changing alterations. It’s the new 18-inch screen panel that really makes a big difference.

If you want your laptop to replace a desktop PC for gaming, you’re going to want a huge panel to deliver an immersive experience. The Alienware m18 delivers this, with one of the biggest laptop panels I’ve personally ever seen.

The large 18-inch screen on the laptop
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Dell has achieved this, not by increasing the laptop’s overall size significantly, but by reducing the size of the unsightly screen bezel and opting for a taller 16:10 aspect ratio. We’ve seen Dell use this same tactic to great effect with its productivity laptops such as the XPS 13, so it’s great to see the gaming portables treated to the same upgrade. 

Don’t get me wrong, this is still a gargantuan laptop – it’s packing high-powered components after all – and so won’t be an ideal companion for daily office trips. But it’s hardly larger than its preceding 17-inch m17 gaming laptops, and is easy enough to carry around the home. You’re essentially getting a screen upgrade with seemingly no consequences. 

Alienware is offering two different flavours of the 18-inch screen: 165Hz Quad HD and 480Hz Full HD. That means you can’t purchase this laptop with a 4K panel, and OLED is a no go. The Alienware m18 feels like a laptop that champions performance over visuals, with Dell hoping that the absurdly high refresh rate and large screen will impress the eSports crowd. 

A look down at the Alienware m18 keyboard
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

In the same vein, the m18 features a full-sized keyboard with optional Cherry MX mechanical switches. I think they feel great, proving to be a massive upgrade on the more typical membrane laptop switches. Although they may be a little too loud for shared working spaces.

Specs and performance

  • Powered by new 13th Gen Intel Core processors
  • Latest GPU options from AMD and Nvidia

As you’d expect, Dell has fitted the Alienware m18 with the greatest specs possible, with up to an Intel Core 13th Generation Intel Core i9-13980HX processor, as well as Nvidia’s latest RTX 4000 GPU range which tops out at the almighty RTX 4090. There will also be AMD-flavoured GPU options, although we’re getting details on those at a later date.

Of course, it’s never as simple as just slapping the best components when designing a gaming laptop, as Alienware has also made sure to improve the thermal to maximise performance. New Quad fans with ultra-thin fan blades supposedly increase airflow by 25%, while the vapour chamber now covers both the CPU and GPU. 

Rear ports and exhaust of the Alienware m18
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Alienware suggests that advancements to the cooling enables them to raise the total system power to 250W, allowing the new cutting-edge components (such as the 150W RTX 4090) to reach their full potential. 

I haven’t been able to test performance myself since this was just a quick hands-on event, but all signs indicate that it’s going to be faster than any laptop from 2022 or prior. 

There’s no need to be worried about storage either, with Dell offering up to a whopping 9TB configuration. That’s overkill for the vast majority of gamers, no matter how many games you gobbled up in the Steam sale – but it’s still great to have the option. 

First Impressions

The most striking element of the Alienware m18 is undoubtedly the new 18-inch screen, adding extra screen space for a more immersive gaming experience. But it’s the introduction of all-new CPU and GPU options that will make the biggest impact.

It’s too soon to know what kind of performance the Alienware m18 will be capable of, but it’s inevitable that it will be among the most powerful portables in 2023. I can’t wait to get this gaming monster up and running.

A 'hands on review' is our first impression of a product only - it is not a full test and verdict. Our writer must have spent some time with the product to describe an early sense of what it's like to use. We call these 'hands on reviews' to make them visible in search. However these are always unscored and don't give recommendations. Read more about our reviews policy.

Jargon buster

GPU

The graphics processing unit is designed to render graphics, which is particularly important for gaming, creating 3D models and editing video.

SSD

Known as Solid State Drive, this is a faster form of a memory than a standard hard drive. Results in faster loading times and more ambitious games.

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