I am using a 4-year old (just checked that, lol) ALIENWARE M17x-R2
MSI-Afterburner is a powerfull tool to override POWERPLAY settings (although it seems, that mv adjustments could be a little more precise), but i learned, that those settings don't kick in for a reason. I think you are right, AMD/ATI should offer 3 "states" in their CCC settings:
High performance (3D gaming/apps)
Medium Performance (2D gaming/apps, videos etc.)
Idle Performance (2D desktop, internet browsers, office apps etc.)
They actually include those in the vga bios of their cards, so i wonder why they don't let us access those in a proper way in the CCC.
How old is your laptop? Have you ever cleaned the fans and renewed cooling pads/paste on the GPU/CPU?
ALIENWARE M17x-R2 | Samsung 16GB Ram | AMD HD8970m 4GB | Panasonic BD UJ265 | Intel SSDs | MS-Windows 8.1