The trend in gaming laptops has been to go thinner and lighter, turning a powerful gaming machine into something that you can carry around all day and even consider using for productivity work. Alienware area-51 is not that.
The area-51m is the polar opposite of a thin and light laptop. It feels like a throwback to when gaming laptops were thick, heavy machines that never left the comfort of a sturdy desk. It is a laptop in name only.
You probably shouldn’t even think of this as a laptop because, inside, it’s got desktop components that will run laps around any other laptop you can buy and even give true desktop computers a run for their money.
In terms of basic specs and layout, it has a 17-inch 1080p display, has a 144hz refresh rate, Nvidia’s g sync technology. A full-sized keyboard with a number pad and programmable macro buttons. A traditional trackpad with physical buttons that lights up when you touch it.
3 USB-a ports, a thunderbolt 3 type-c port, 2.5gb ethernet, a mini display port, HDMI. Alienware’s proprietary graphics amplifier for an external GPU.
The keyboard is pretty standard for Alienware machines. So if you’re coming from an older one, it’ll be familiar. The trackpad isn’t that much of a problem.
In terms of size and bulk, the area-51m weighs 8.5 pounds, and it’s about 1.7 inches thick.
The area-51m has a new design for the company, but it’s still unmistakably an Alienware computer.
It does look modern and fresh, but you’ll never really confuse it for anything but a gaming laptop.
It’s got lots of different lighting effects, a giant fan exhaust, of course, Alienware heads all over the place.
The area-51m can play virtually any modern aaa game I throw at it, with the settings maxed out and not have any problems maintaining high frame rates.
Even games like battlefield 5 and shadow of the tomb raider with all of their eye candy and ray-tracing lighting effects can be played with virtually every setting turned on and maxed out and still maintain frame rates between 60 and 80 fps.
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 like apex legends, overwatch, csco, and yeah, even fortnite, can run at hundreds of frames per second, well more than the native refresh rate of the display.
There isn’t a game that can bring the area-51m to its knees. And if you want to, you can either overclock the CPU or the GPU to get even more performance out of it.
The 330-watt power adapter weighs just over three pounds, while the smaller 180-watt brick weighs another pound and a half. That means to bring the area-51m from one place to another, you need to lug around almost 13 pounds, or six kilograms, worth of stuff. Plus your headphones, and mouse, and whatever else you want to carry.
The new magnesium alloy chassis design makes this about a pound lighter than the old Alienware 17 that it replaces.
Start at just under $2,000 for the Core i7-8700 processor and an RTX 2060 GPU. And they go all the way up to a core i9-9900k and an RTX 2080 GPU.
There’s also a large 90 watt-hour battery in this, but that doesn’t mean that the area-51m has a great battery life.
For productivity work, you can expect 90 minutes, maybe two hours max, between charges.
And if you’re gaming, you can expect well less than an hour of battery life, probably closer to 30 minutes.
Alienware has done a really good job with the cooling design so that the CPU and GPU can perform nearly as well as when they’re on a desktop computer. That’s why the area-51 has these giant grates on the back and the sides. When the fans start ramping up, they get loud, like, this kind of loud.
There are some powerful speakers upfront that can overpower the fan noise, but most people will just want to use a headset while gaming so you don’t have to hear the fans at all.
I do not doubt that the area-51m could easily push a 1440 panel or maybe even a 4k Display in lots of games, but the only resolution available is 1080p.
If you’re after the fastest frame rates you can get the high refresh rate screen is definitely what you want. But if you’re more into the visual presentation and eye candy, you might be interested in more resolution.
Higher-res 17-inch display options with the narrow bezels and high refresh rates available yet, and when they are, it will make them an option on the area-51.
If you want a game at a higher resolution, you’ll just have to use an external display.
The real conflict with Area-51m: It’s just expensive.
You could go out and buy a desktop computer and monitor with this kind of power and still have enough money left over to buy a more mainstream thin and light gaming laptop for when you want to game on the go, and you’ll probably still have some money left over in your pocket compared to the area-51.
That makes this machine, unrealistic for most people. The kind of gamer that’s going to demand this level of performance and a portable machine and put up with all the compromises and cost necessary to get it is probably going to be a competitive esports player or maybe even a hardcore VR fan.