Alienware ’ s new Area-51m, which starts at around $ 1,950 and can be configured well north of $ 5,000, is not one of those gaming laptops. It is a giant that calls back to the meter when all gaming laptops were chummy, heavy computers that never left the comfort of a hardy desk .
But while the Area-51m is doubly as heavy and about twice american samoa thick as the latest Razer Blade or flimsy MSI bet on laptops, it does things that those computers just can ’ t. It ’ s more brawny, thanks to a desktop-class processor and full-power mobile GPU, rather of the lower-power Max Q graphics cards and mobile processors found in those other machines. Unlike most, it has a 17-inch display and a life-size keyboard, with both a count pad and macro keys. But it besides has the ability to let you upgrade its primary components when better, faster chips become available. That ’ south merely not something you can do with the huge majority of gaming laptops on the market right now — whether they ’ re thin or not .
The Area-51m is technically not the first gear laptop to offer this kind of upgradability. There have been big clunkers of laptops in the past that lashkar-e-taiba you upgrade the CPU, and there ’ south hush an upgradeable GPU standard called MXM. But there ’ s not much motion or competition in the MXM grocery store — an RTX 2080 faculty alone could cost you upwards of $ 1500, and the laptops that can make use of them are few and army for the liberation of rwanda between.
To avoid having to use MXM, Alienware ’ s rear ship’s company Dell developed its own arrangement for workstations called DGFF ( Dell Graphics Form Factor ) that allows it to put the latest GPUs on modular boards that can then be swapped out. The Area-51m is the first gear consumer laptop to make function of this modern platform .
future upgradeability is a courteous thing to have, but when you ’ re spend $ 2,000 or more on a laptop, you don ’ metric ton want to have to upgrade any of it anytime soon. The Area-51m ’ randomness design may immediately separate from the rest of the gaming laptop pack, but if it ’ second actually going to justify its cost, it needs to be a top performer out of the box .
fortunately for Alienware, it is .
Our review of
out of 10
- Desktop-class performance
- Very effective cooling system
- Upgradable CPU and GPU
- Requires two large power adapters
- Portable in only the most literal sense
- Extremely high cost relative to other gaming systems
Buy for $1,949.99 from Dell
It ’ s possibly best to think of the Area-51m as a “ portable desktop, ” as opposed to a laptop or truly mobile computer. It ’ s a massive machine, weighing over 8.5 pounds and measuring 1.7 inches at its thickest point. It has two might adapters, which vary in size depending on the inner configuration, but they add at least another few pounds to the total package. This international relations and security network ’ t the kind of computer you can just unplug and carry off from your desk ; moving it from identify to plaza is a production each clock time .
This international relations and security network ’ t the kind of laptop you ’ ll consumption while traveling
It ’ s besides not the kind of computer you ’ ll be able to use while traveling. certain, you can bring it from one target to another, but you won ’ triiodothyronine be gaming along the way because that demands two might outlets, and the elephantine machine is practically insecure to use on your lick. even though the Area-51m is far heavier and larger than most modern laptops ( gaming or not ), it ’ s a pound lighter than the Alienware 17 it replaces, thanks to its new magnesium alloy human body .
The Area-51m ’ s overall design signals a new steering for Alienware, and it will inform other products the company releases in the future. I like it : the flat blank ( “ lunar light ” in Alienware ’ s marketing-speak ) model I ’ ve been using for this revue is modern, attractive, and smooth to the touch .
But it ’ s not elusive : there ’ randomness no err this for anything but a gambling laptop, with its multiple estrange pass son and assorted lighting effects. The most outstanding blueprint have is the gigantic buttocks exhaust, with its hexagonally patterned grates for public discussion, surrounded by a single ring of LED light that makes the whole fabrication look a morsel like the locomotive of a sci-fi starship. I don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate mind the spirit, but if you want a sleeper bet on rig, this international relations and security network ’ t it .
In terms of basic specification and layout, the Area-51m has a life-size, non-chiclet keyboard with a count pad, a traditional trackpad with physical buttons ( it lights up when you touch it ), and a 17-inch display with slender bezels on the sides and top. I ’ megabyte not the biggest winnow of the keyboard or the trackpad — both feel like something that would have been allow on a computer a decade ago — but if you ’ re coming from an older Alienware laptop, you ’ ll feel right at home .
The keyboard and trackpad feel dated
The keyboard has customizable macro keys and full RGB unhorse options, and since most people will instantaneously plug a gambling mouse into the side of the Area-51m, the trackpad ’ s minor size and indifferent traverse performance aren ’ t that much of an issue. My biggest complaint is the annoyingly screaky N keystone on my review unit, but I have a feel that is limited to my sample distribution. still, it ’ s not something I ’ five hundred want to put up with on a multi-thousand-dollar calculator .
Alienware offers four unlike display options with the Area-51m, but they all share the lapp size and resolution : 17 inches and 1080p. The display on my higher-end recapitulation unit is a 144Hz gore with Nvidia ’ s G-Sync technical school plus built-in Tobii eye track, and it ’ s bang-up for gaming. It ’ second debauched, there ’ s short to no haunt, and its anti-glare coating helps cut down reflections. It ’ s not the brightest screen, specially compared to something like a MacBook Pro, but it ’ s about average for gaming laptops, and it ’ s not like you ’ ll be using this thing outside anyhow.
Read more: MagellanTV Review
I do wish there were higher-resolution options since the Area-51m ’ s hardware is decidedly able of pushing more pixels, but Alienware tells me that there barely aren ’ thyroxine 17-inch, high-resolution, high-refresh panels with slender bezels available yet. When those components are available, it will make them an option at the time of leverage on the Area-51m, it says. ( The display is not something you ’ ll be able to upgrade after the fact. )
The Area-51m has a commodity total of ports, but it has board for even more
The Area-51m has the standard set of ports you ’ vitamin d expect on a gaming laptop in 2019 : three USB-A 3.1 ports, a Thunderbolt 3 Type-C port, HDMI, Mini DisplayPort, 2.5-gigabit Ethernet, a headset jack, a microphone jacklight, and Alienware ’ s proprietorship graphics amplifier port for an external GPU. That ’ south probably adequate ports for the average crippled, but I ’ d have liked to have seen evening more, including an SD calling card slot. There ’ south a set of empty space on the Area-51m ’ s 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 the capacity creators that would use its horsepower for video edit and other tasks .
Inside the hulking human body is a Z390 chipset, with a background processor, up to 64GB ( four sticks ) of RAM, two M.2 SSD slots, a 2.5-inch drive bay, and Dell ’ s DGFF modular graphics poster. You can get the Area-51m with a Core-i7 8700 central processing unit and Nvidia RTX 2060 GPU to start, but I think most people concern in this machine will opt for the higher-end ( and more expensive ) configurations. The model I ’ ve been testing has the Core i9-9900K processor, RTX 2080 GPU, 32GB of DD4 2400MHz RAM, two 512GB M.2 SSDs ( in a RAID 0 apparatus for a total of 1TB of fast repositing ), and an extra 1TB hybrid drive for more storage. Alongside the Tobii eye-tracking and 144Hz G-Sync display, this shape costs about $ 4,500 .
It is possible to buy the lower-end configurations and then upgrade down the road — after all, this is a desktop processor and modular graphics card — but that very only makes sense for upgrading to new generations of CPUs and GPUs, not ones from the same genesis. Stepping up from the 8700 processor to the 9900K is a $ 450 choice when you buy the Area-51m ; doing it after the fact will cost about $ 525 at today ’ randomness processor prices .
The battery inside the Area-51m is a bombastic, 90 watt-hour unit, but that doesn ’ thymine translate into great battery life. In my tests, I was able to get about 90 minutes to two hours of manipulation between charges for productiveness work and closer to 30 minutes while gaming. That means you ’ ll want to carry around both of the Area-51m ’ s exponent adapters when you bring the calculator places, as you ’ ll need both of them for full-power gambling. It is possible to rely on just the smaller, 180W charger for productiveness knead, but if you ’ re already lugging the Area-51m around, you might angstrom well amply commit .
All of those specs and power mean little if the components can ’ triiodothyronine stay aplomb enough to run optimally, which is the biggest challenge with gaming laptops. fortunately, the cool organization Alienware developed for the Area-51m is excellent, and it ’ s able to keep both the CPU and GPU at temp well below their strangle points. It ’ s not mum — the fan organization is very forte, specially when at full speed — but it ’ randomness effective, and it lets the Area-51m hit performance numbers that are much closer to what a desktop provides than a laptop .
loud fans are not truly unusual for a gambling laptop, and if you ’ re in the market for the Area-51m, you probably expect it. There are brawny speakers up front that can overpower the fan noise, but most people will just want to use a headset while gaming then they don ’ t have to hear the fans at all. You just might not be able to get away with using the Area-51m in a tranquillity office or library without getting some cheating looks .
Playing games is what the Area-51m was designed to do, and it does that problem excellently. It is able to play about any modern AAA plot I throw at it with the graphic settings maxed out and still maintain eminent frame of reference rates. even games like Battlefield V and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, which have a lot of eye candy and special ray-tracing ignite effects, could be played with virtually every context turned on and maxed out and the Area-51m still maintains frame rates between 60 and 80 frames per second. That ’ s not quite the fully 144Hz that this screen door can push, but it ’ s hush high gear enough for a great feel in those games .
competitive shoot games, like Apex Legends, Overwatch, CS : GO, and everyone ’ s front-runner, Fortnite, can be played with all of their graphic features enabled at 120 to 144 frames per irregular. Players that prefer high frame rates over eye candy can configure these games with lower settings and run them at hundreds of frames per second, which is well more than the native refresh rate of the display. If standard settings aren ’ thymine providing enough power, Alienware ’ south Command Center offers overclocking options for both the CPU and GPU to squeeze evening more performance out of them .
The high-end Area-51m configurations have batch of headroom for competitive gambling
All of that performance headroom highlights the Area-51m ’ s constriction : the display ’ s resolving power. I have no doubt that the Area-51m could well push a 1440p panel or possibly even a 4K display in lots of games, but for the meter being, you ’ rhenium limited to 1080p. If you ’ re after the fastest frame rates you can get, you credibly prefer a high-refresh rate screen, but if you are more into ocular presentation and eye-candy, more resolving power is appreciated, specially for non-gaming applications. For now, if you want to game or shape at a higher resoluteness on the Area-51m, you ’ ll precisely have to use an external display .
As it stands, the Area-51m is the most mighty gambling laptop you can buy, and its upgradeable features mean it could remain mighty for years to come. When we opened up the Area-51m ourselves, we found that — while it isn ’ t precisely easy — swapping out the CPU and GPU isn ’ thymine much different than doing so on an average background gaming personal computer. But there ’ s an star next to all of this : we don ’ thyroxine know for sure that the following generation of Intel processors or Nvidia or AMD GPUs will actually fit in this calculator or how much those modular graphics cards will cost. Dell has said that if it ’ s possible to physically and electrically fit the chips onto its swappable graphics boards, it will offer upgrade options, but Dell admits it doesn ’ metric ton inevitably know what Nvidia ’ s future plans are .
That doubt makes it baffling to swallow the Area-51m ’ second price because we truly don ’ triiodothyronine know if this experiment will last. For the cost of a well-configured Area-51m, you could buy a background computer and monitor with exchangeable power and still have enough money left over to buy a more mainstream thin-and-light bet on laptop for when you want to game on the sound .
The world of Alienware ’ s upgradability plans remains to be seen
The Area-51m is an unrealistic option for most gamers. The kind of crippled who is going to demand this charge of performance in a portable machine and put up with all of the compromises and costs necessary to get it is likely a competitive e-sports player or a virtual world game developer who needs an easier manner to transport their background to the next trade show.
Read more: Dialpad Review
That said, what Alienware has done with the Area-51m is very impressive. not entirely does it hit operation marks unmatched by other portable machines, but it doesn ’ t have any glare issues or show-stopping serviceability problems that bring it down, other than the obvious compromises with its size and system of weights. even just being able to cool these background components efficiently adequate for them to perform this well in a portable machine is a genuine feat. If you are the type of game who wants the ultimate might in a portable car and are willing to pay any cost to get it, the Area-51m is for you .
For the rest of us, I ’ meter bright that Dell ’ second plans for upgradability pan out because I ’ m very curious to see where the Area-51m ’ s ideas on performance and portability go in the future .
Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial capacity, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy .