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If you’ve been looking at the field of gaming laptops for the past couple of years, you’ve probably noticed that they are getting thinner, lighter, và less conspicuous. Today’s gaming laptops are not only capable of playing the latest games at high frame rates, but they can also pull double duty for productivity work just as easily.

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 behemoth that calls back to lớn the time when all gaming laptops were thick, heavy computers that never left the comfort of a sturdy desk.

But while the Area-51m is twice as heavy và almost twice as thick as the latest Razer Blade or thin MSI gaming laptops, it does things that those computers just can’t. It’s more powerful, thanks lớn a desktop-class processor and full-power mobile GPU, instead of the lower-power Max Q graphics cards & mobile processors found in those other machines. Unlike most, it has a 17-inch display and a full-size keyboard, with both a number pad và macro keys. But it also has the ability to let you tăng cấp its primary components when better, faster chips become available. That’s just not something you can bởi 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 máy vi tính to offer this kind of upgradability. There have been big clunkers of laptops in the past that let you upgrade the CPU, và there’s still an upgradeable GPU standard called MXM. But there’s not much movement or competition in the MXM market — an RTX 2080 module alone could cost you upwards of $1500, and the laptops that can make use of them are few and far between.

To avoid having khổng lồ use MXM, Alienware’s parent company Dell developed its own system 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 consumer máy tính to make use of this new platform.

Future upgradeability is a nice thing to have, but when you’re spending $2,000 or more on a laptop, you don’t want lớn have to upgrade any of it anytime soon. The Area-51m’s kiến thiết may immediately separate from the rest of the gaming máy tính pack, but if it’s really going lớn justify its cost, it needs khổng lồ be a đứng top performer out of the box.



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The Good

Desktop-class performanceVery effective cooling systemUpgradable CPU and GPU
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The Bad

Requires two large power adaptersPortable in only the most literal senseExtremely high cost relative khổng lồ other gaming systems

It’s perhaps best to lớn think of the Area-51m as a “portable desktop,” as opposed lớn a laptop or truly điện thoại computer. It’s a massive machine, weighing over 8.5 pounds và measuring 1.7 inches at its thickest point. It has two nguồn adapters, which vary in size depending on the internal configuration, but they showroom at least another few pounds khổng lồ the total package. This isn’t the kind of computer you can just unplug and carry away from your desk; moving it from place to lớn place is a production each time.

It’s also not the kind of computer you’ll be able khổng lồ use while traveling. Sure, you can bring it from one place lớn another, but you won’t be gaming along the way because that demands two nguồn outlets, & the giant machine is practically unsafe to lớn use on your lap. Even though the Area-51m is far heavier & larger than most modern laptops (gaming or not), it’s a pound lighter than the Alienware 17 it replaces, thanks lớn its new magnesium alloy chassis.

The Area-51m’s overall thiết kế signals a new direction for Alienware, & it will inform other products the company releases in the future. I lượt thích it: the matte white (“lunar light” in Alienware’s marketing-speak) mã sản phẩm I’ve been using for this reviews is modern, attractive, & smooth to lớn the touch.



But it’s not subtle: there’s no mistaking this for anything but a gaming laptop, with its multiple alien head logos và various lighting effects. The most prominent thiết kế feature is the gigantic rear exhaust, with its hexagonally patterned grates for ventilation, surrounded by a single ring of LED light that makes the whole assembly look a bit lượt thích the engine of a sci-fi spaceship. I don’t mind the look, but if you want a sleeper gaming rig, this isn’t it.

In terms of basic specs and layout, the Area-51m has a full-size, non-chiclet keyboard with a number pad, a traditional trackpad with physical buttons (it lights up when you touch it), and a 17-inch display with slim bezels on the sides & top. I’m not the biggest fan hâm mộ of the keyboard or the trackpad — both feel lượt thích something that would have been appropriate on a computer a decade ago — but if you’re coming 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 instantly plug a gaming mouse into the side of the Area-51m, the trackpad’s small kích thước and so-so tracking performance aren’t that much of an issue. My biggest complaint is the annoyingly squeaky N key on my nhận xét unit, but I have a feeling that is limited to lớn my sample. Still, it’s not something I’d want khổng lồ put up with on a multi-thousand-dollar computer.

Alienware offers four different display options with the Area-51m, but they all cốt truyện the same form size and resolution: 17 inches và 1080p. The display on my higher-end đánh giá unit is a 144Hz panel with Nvidia’s G-Sync tech plus built-in Tobii eye tracking, và it’s great for gaming. It’s fast, there’s little lớn no ghosting, & its anti-glare finish helps cut down reflections. It’s not the brightest screen, especially compared to something like a laptop apple macbook Pro, but it’s about average for gaming laptops, & it’s not lượt thích you’ll be using this thing outside anyway.

I vì chưng wish there were higher-resolution options since the Area-51m’s hardware is definitely capable of pushing more pixels, but Alienware tells me that there just aren’t 17-inch, high-resolution, high-refresh panels with slim bezels available yet. When those components are available, it will make them an option at the time of purchase on the Area-51m, it says. (The display is not something you’ll be able khổng lồ upgrade after the fact.)

The Area-51m has the standard set of ports you’d expect on a gaming máy tính xách tay 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 jack, & Alienware’s proprietary graphics amplifier port for an external GPU. That’s probably enough ports for the average gamer, but I’d have liked lớn have seen even more, including an SD thẻ slot. There’s a lot of empty space on the Area-51m’s chassis that could be used for more I/O, & multiple Thunderbolt 3 ports or an SD card slot would have made the computer much more attractive lớn the nội dung creators that would use its horsepower for video clip editing & other tasks.

Inside the hulking chassis is a Z390 chipset, with a desktop processor, up khổng lồ 64GB (four sticks) of RAM, two M.2 SSD slots, a 2.5-inch drive bay, và Dell’s DGFF modular graphics card. You can get the Area-51m with a Core-i7 8700 processor and Nvidia RTX 2060 GPU to start, but I think most people interested in this machine will opt for the higher-end (and more expensive) configurations. The mã sản phẩm 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 setup for a total of 1TB of fast storage), and an additional 1TB hybrid drive for more storage. Alongside the Tobii eye-tracking and 144Hz G-Sync display, this configuration costs about $4,500.

It is possible to lớn buy the lower-end configurations và then nâng cấp down the road — after all, this is a desktop processor và modular graphics card — but that really only makes sense for upgrading to new generations of CPUs & GPUs, not ones from the same generation. Stepping up from the 8700 processor to the 9900K is a $450 option when you buy the Area-51m; doing it after the fact will cost about $525 at today’s processor prices.

The battery inside the Area-51m is a large, 90 watt-hour unit, but that doesn’t translate into great battery life. In my tests, I was able to lớn get about 90 minutes khổng lồ two hours of use between charges for productivity work và closer to 30 minutes while gaming. That means you’ll want lớn carry around both of the Area-51m’s power adapters when you bring the computer places, as you’ll need both of them for full-power gaming. It is possible to lớn rely on just the smaller, 180W charger for productivity work, but if you’re already lugging the Area-51m around, you might as well fully commit.

All of those specs và power mean little if the components can’t stay cool enough to lớn run optimally, which is the biggest challenge with gaming laptops. Fortunately, the cooling system Alienware developed for the Area-51m is excellent, and it’s able khổng lồ keep both the CPU & GPU at temps well below their throttling points. It’s not silent — the fan hâm mộ system is very loud, especially when at full speed — but it’s effective, và it lets the Area-51m hit performance numbers that are much closer khổng lồ what a desktop provides than a laptop.

Loud fans are not really unusual for a gaming laptop, and if you’re in the market for the Area-51m, you probably expect it. There are powerful speakers up front that can overpower the fan noise, but most people will just want to use a headset while gaming so they don’t have khổng lồ hear the fans at all. You just might not be able to lớn get away with using the Area-51m in a quiet office or library without getting some dirty looks.

Playing games is what the Area-51m was designed to lớn do, and it does that job excellently. It is able lớn play virtually any modern AAA game I throw at it with the graphical settings maxed out and still maintain high frame rates. Even games lượt thích Battlefield VShadow of the Tomb Raider, which have a lot of eye candy và special ray-tracing lighting effects, could be played with virtually every setting turned on and maxed out & the Area-51m still maintains frame rates between 60 và 80 frames per second. That’s not quite the full 144Hz that this screen can push, but it’s still high enough for a great experience in those games.

Competitive shooting games, lượt thích Apex Legends, Overwatch, CS:GO, và everyone’s favorite, Fortnite, can be played with all of their graphical features enabled at 120 lớn 144 frames per second. 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 stock settings aren’t providing enough power, Alienware’s Command Center offers overclocking options for both the CPU and GPU lớn squeeze even more performance out of them.

All of that performance headroom highlights the Area-51m’s bottleneck: the display’s resolution. I have no doubt that the Area-51m could easily push a 1440p panel or maybe even a 4K display in lots of games, but for the time being, you’re limited to 1080p. If you’re after the fastest frame rates you can get, you probably prefer a high-refresh rate screen, but if you are more into visual presentation and eye-candy, more resolution is appreciated, especially for non-gaming applications. For now, if you want to game or work at a higher resolution on the Area-51m, you’ll just have to lớn use an external display.

As it stands, the Area-51m is the most powerful gaming máy tính you can buy, & its upgradeable features mean it could remain powerful for years lớn come. When we opened up the Area-51m ourselves, we found that — while it isn’t exactly easy — swapping out the CPU & GPU isn’t much different than doing so on an average desktop gaming PC. But there’s an asterisk next lớn all of this: we don’t know for sure that the next generation of intel processors or Nvidia or AMD GPUs will actually fit in this computer or how much those modular graphics cards will cost. Dell has said that if it’s possible khổng lồ physically và electrically fit the chips onto its swappable graphics boards, it will offer upgrade options, but Dell admits it doesn’t necessarily know what Nvidia’s next plans are.

That uncertainty makes it tough khổng lồ swallow the Area-51m’s price because we really don’t know if this experiment will last. For the cost of a well-configured Area-51m, you could buy a desktop computer & monitor with similar power and still have enough money left over to lớn buy a more mainstream thin-and-light gaming laptop for when you want to game on the go.

The Area-51m is an unrealistic option for most gamers. The kind of người chơi who is going khổng lồ demand this cấp độ of performance in a portable machine & put up with all of the compromises & costs necessary lớn get it is likely a competitive e-sports player or a virtual reality game developer who needs an easier way khổng lồ transport their desktop lớn the next trade show.

That said, what Alienware has done with the Area-51m is really impressive. Not only does it hit performance marks unmatched by other portable machines, but it doesn’t have any glaring issues or show-stopping usability problems that bring it down, other than the obvious compromises with its kích thước and weight. Even just being able lớn cool these desktop components efficiently enough for them to perform this well in a portable machine is a genuine feat. If you are the type of người chơi who wants the ultimate power in a portable machine và are willing to lớn pay any cost to lớn get it, the Area-51m is for you.

For the rest of us, I’m hopeful that Dell’s plans for upgradability pan out because I’m very curious to lớn see where the Area-51m’s ideas on performance and portability go in the future.

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