Alienware Area-51m review: portable desktop

If you've been looking at the field of laptops for games for the past two years, you've probably noticed that they're becoming thinner, lighter and less flashy. Today's gaming laptops are not only capable of playing the latest games at high frame rates, they can also perform twice as many tasks for productivity work just as easily.

The new Alienware Area-51m, which starts at around $ 1,950 and can be set well to the north of $ 5,000, is not one of those laptops for gaming. It is a giant that dates back to the time when all gaming laptops were thick and heavy computers that never left the comfort of a robust desktop.

But while the Area-51m is twice as heavy and almost twice as thick as the last Razer Blade or laptops for thin MSI games, it does things that those computers simply can not. It's more powerful, thanks to a desktop processor and a full-power mobile GPU, instead of the low-power Max Q graphics cards and the mobile processors found on those other machines. Unlike most, it has a 17-inch screen and a full-size keyboard, with a numeric keypad and macro keys. But it also has the ability to allow you to update your main components when there are better and faster chips available. That's not something I can do with the vast majority of gaming laptops on the market right now, whether they're thin or not.

The Area-51m is technically not the first laptop to offer this kind of upgrade capability. In the past there have been large groups of laptops that allow you to update the CPU, and there is still an upgradeable GPU standard called MXM. But there is not much movement or competition in the MXM market: an RTX 2080 module can only cost you more than $ 1500, and the laptops that can use them are very few.

To avoid having to use MXM, Alienware's parent company, Dell, developed its own workstation system called the DGFF (Graphics Form Factor of Dell) that allows you to place the latest GPUs on modular boards that then they can be exchanged. The Area-51m is the first consumer laptop that makes use of this new platform.

Future upgrade capability is a nice thing, but when you spend $ 2,000 or more on a laptop, you do not want to have to update any of them anytime soon. The design of the Area-51m can be immediately separated from the rest of the portable gaming package, but if it really will justify its cost, it must be one of the best in the box.

Fortunately for Alienware, it is. [19659008] 8

Verge Score

alienware area 51m review portable desktop

Good Stuff

  • Desktop class performance
  • Very effective cooling system
  • Expandable CPU and GPU

Bad Stuff

  • Requires two large adapters power
  • Portable only in the most literal sense
  • Extremely high cost relative to other gaming systems


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It might be better to think of the Area-51m as a "portable desktop", rather than a laptop or a truly mobile computer. It is a massive machine, weighing more than 8.5 pounds and measuring 1.7 inches at its thickest point. It has two power adapters, which vary in size depending on the internal configuration, but add at least a few pounds to the total package. This is not the kind of computer you can unplug and take away from your desk; Moving it from one place to another is a production every time.

Nor is it the type of computer you can use while traveling. Sure, you can bring it from one place to another, but you will not be playing on the road because that requires two power outlets, and the giant machine is practically unsafe to use in your lap. Although the Area-51m is much heavier and larger than most modern laptops (with games or not), it is one kilo lighter than the Alienware 17 it replaces, thanks to its new alloy chassis of magnesium.

The general design signs of the Area-51m a new address for Alienware, and will inform other products that the company launches in the future. I like it: the matte white model ("moonlight" in the Alienware marketing language) that I have been using for this review is modern, attractive and soft to the touch.


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But it's not subtle: there's no doubt about this for anything other than a gaming laptop, with its multiple alien logos and various lighting effects. The most outstanding design feature is the gigantic rear exhaust, with its hexagonal ventilation grilles, surrounded by a single ring of LED light that makes the whole look like the engine of a science fiction spaceship. I do not care what it looks like, but if you want a platform for sleeping games, it's not like that.

In terms of basic specifications and design, Area-51m has a full-size keyboard, which is not chiclet, with a numeric keypad, a traditional trackpad with physical buttons (it lights up when you touch it) and a screen of 17 inches with thin bevels on the sides and top. I'm not the biggest keyboard fan or the trackpad, both feel like something that would have been appropriate on a computer a decade ago, but if it comes from an older Alienware laptop, you'll feel right at home.

The keyboard has customizable macro keys and full RGB lighting options, and since most people will connect a mouse for games next to the Area-51m, the size small trackpad and so tracking performance is not a big problem. My biggest complaint is the annoying N key in my review unit, but I have the feeling that it is limited to my sample. Still, it's not something I'd like to endure on a multi-thousand-dollar computer.


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Alienware offers four different screen options with the Area-51m, but all share the same size and resolution: 17 inches and 1080p. The screen of my high-end review unit is a 144Hz panel with Nvidia's G-Sync technology plus the built-in Tobii eye tracking system, and it's great for games. It's fast, there's little or no ghosting, and its anti-reflective finish helps reduce glare. It's not the brightest screen, especially compared to something like a MacBook Pro, but it's about average for laptops for games, and it's not like you're using this thing out anyway.

I wish there were higher resolution options, since the Area-51m hardware is definitely capable of pushing more pixels, but Alienware tells me that there are simply no 17-inch panels, high resolution and high refresh with slim bevels available still. When those components are available, it will make them an option at the time of purchase in Area-51m, he says. (The screen is not something that can be updated after the fact).

Area-51m has the standard set of ports you would expect in a gaming laptop in 2019: three USB-A ports 3.1, a Thunderbolt 3 Type C port, HDMI, Mini DisplayPort, 2.5 gigabit Ethernet, a headphone jack, a microphone jack and the exclusive Alienware Graphics Amplifier port for an external GPU. Probably enough ports for the average player, but I would have liked to have seen even more, including an SD card slot. There is a lot of empty space in the Area-51m chassis that could be used for more I / O, and multiple Thunderbolt 3 ports or an SD card slot would have made the computer much more attractive to content creators who would use their power to Video editing and other tasks.


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Inside the chassis is a Z390 chipset, with a desktop processor, up to 64GB (four sticks) of RAM, two M.2 SSD slots, a 2.5-inch drive bay and Dell DGFF. Modular graphic card. You can start with the Area-51m with a Core-i7 8700 processor and the Nvidia RTX 2060 GPU, but I think that most people interested in this machine will opt for the more advanced (and more expensive) configurations. The model I've been testing has the Core-i9 9900K processor, the RTX 2080 GPU, 32 GB of DD4 2400MHz RAM, two 512GB M.2 SSDs (in a RAID 0 configuration for a total of 1TB of fast storage) and an additional 1TB hybrid unit for more storage. Together with the Tobii eye tracking screen and the 144Hz G-Sync display, this setting costs approximately $ 4,500.

It is possible to buy low-end configurations and then update them in the future. After all, it is a desktop processor and modular graphics. Card, but that only makes sense to update to new generations of CPU and GPU, not of the same generation. Moving from the 8700 processor to the 9900K is a $ 450 option when you purchase Area-51m; Doing so after the fact will cost around $ 525 at today's processor prices.

The battery within the Area-51m is a large 90 watt-hour unit, but that does not translate into a long battery life. In my tests, I was able to get between 90 minutes and two hours of use between charges for productivity work and about 30 minutes while playing. That means you'll want to take the two Area-51m power adapters with you when you bring the places on the computer, since you'll need them for maximum power games. It is possible to rely only on the smaller 180-watt charger for productivity work, but if you are already loading the Area-51m, you can also commit completely.


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All these specifications and power mean little if the components can not be kept cool enough to function optimally, which is the biggest challenge with gaming laptops. Fortunately, the cooling system developed by Alienware for the Area-51m is excellent and is capable of maintaining both the CPU and the GPU at temperatures well below their choke points. It's not silent: the fan system is very noisy, especially when it's at full speed, but it's effective, and it allows Area-51m to reach performance numbers that are much closer to what a desktop computer offers than a computer laptop.

is not really unusual for a gaming laptop, and if it's in the market for the Area-51m, I'll probably wait for it. There are powerful speakers in the front that can overcome the fan noise, but most people will only want to use a headset while playing so they do not have to listen to the fans at all. You may not be able to get away with using Area-51m in a quiet office or library without looking dirty.


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Playing games is what Area-51m was designed for, and does that job excellently. It is capable of playing virtually any modern AAA game that throws you with the graphical configuration to the maximum and still maintain high frame rates. Even games like Battlefield V and Shadow of the Tomb Raider that have a lot of visual effects and special light effects of ray tracing, can be played with almost all the settings activated and to the maximum and the Area-51m still maintains frame rates between 60 and 80 frames per second. That's not the full 144Hz that this screen can push, but it's still high enough for a great experience in those games.

Competitive shooting games, such as Apex Legends Overwatch CS: GO and everyone's favorite, Fortnite can be played with all its graphic functions activated at 120 to 144 frames per second. Players who prefer high frame rates instead of Eye Candy can set these games with lower settings and run them at hundreds of frames per second, which is much more than the native screen refresh rate. If the stock configuration does not provide enough power, the Alienware Command Center offers overclocking options for both the CPU and the GPU to further squeeze performance.

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