If you've been studying gaming laptops for a few years, you've probably noticed that they're getting thinner, lighter, and less visible. Today's gaming laptops are not only able to play the newest games at high frame rates, but they can also duplicate productivity work just as easily.
Alienware's new Area-51m, which starts at around $ 1,950 and can be configured north of $ 5,000, is not one of those gaming laptops. It's a monster that reminds of the When all gaming laptops were thick and heavy computers that never left the comfort of a solid office.
But if the Area-51m is twice as heavy and almost twice as thick as the latest Razer Blade or MSI laptops, it does things that these computers just can not do. It is more powerful, thanks to a desktop processor and a full-power mobile graphics processor, instead of the less power-hungry Max Q graphics cards and mobile processors found on these other machines. . Unlike most other devices, it has a 17-inch display and a full keyboard, with numeric keypad and macro keys. But it also has the ability to allow you to upgrade its core components as better and faster chips become available. This is just not something you can do with the vast majority of gaming laptops currently on the market, whether they are fine or not.
Technically, the Area-51m is not the first laptop to offer this type of upgrade. There have been large laptop clunkers in the past that have allowed you to upgrade the processor, and there is still a scalable GPU standard called MXM. But there is not much movement or competition on the MXM market – a 2080 RTX module alone could cost you over $ 1500, and laptops that can use them are rare.
To avoid having to use MXM, Alienware's parent company, Dell, has developed its own desktop system, called the Dell Graphics Form Factor (DGFF), which allows it to place the latest GPUs on modular cards that can to be exchanged. The Area-51m is the first consumer notebook to use this new platform.
Future upgrade is a good thing, but when you spend $ 2,000 or more for a laptop, you do not want to upgrade it anytime soon. The Area-51m's design can immediately separate itself from the rest of the gaming laptop pack, but if it really wants to justify the cost, it must be efficient and powerful.
Fortunately for Alienware, that's the case.
It may be best to consider the Area-51m as a "portable office" as opposed to a laptop or a truly mobile computer. It is a gigantic machine, weighing more than 15 kg and measuring 1.7 inches at the thickest point. It has two power adapters of varying size depending on the internal configuration, but they add at least a few extra pounds to the set. This is not the kind of computer that you can simply unplug and take out of your office; moving it from one place to the other is a production every time.
This is also not the type of computer you can use. while traveling. Of course, you can bring it from one place to another, but you will not play en route because it requires two power outlets and the giant machine is almost dangerous to use on your lap. Although the Area-51m is much heavier and bigger than most modern laptops (whether used or not), it weighs less than the Alienware 17 it replaces, thanks to its new magnesium alloy frame.
The overall design of the 51m zone announces a new direction for Alienware, which will inform other products marketed by the company in the future. I love: the matte white model (the "lunar light" in Alienware's marketing language) that I used for this article is modern, attractive and smooth to the touch.
But this is not subtle: it should not be confused with anything other than a gaming laptop, with its multiple logos of extraterrestrial heads and its various effects of light. The most prominent design is the gigantic rear exhaust, with its hexagon patterned ventilation grilles, surrounded by a single ring of light-emitting diodes that gives the whole thing a look much like the engine's light-emitting diodes. a spaceship of science fiction. The look does not bother me, but if you want a sleeper game platform, that's not it.
In terms of basic specifications and layout, the Area-51m features a full-size keyboard, without keypad, with numeric keypad, a traditional trackpad with physical buttons (it lights up when you touch it) and a a 17-inch screen with touch screen. thin bevels on the sides and at the top. I'm not the biggest fan of the keyboard or trackpad – both think it would have been appropriate on a computer ten years ago – but if you come from an old Alienware laptop, you'll feel like at home. the House.
The keyboard has customizable macro keys and full RGB lighting options. Since most people instantly connect a gaming mouse to the Area-51m side, the small size of the trackpad and its tracking performance is not a problem. My biggest complaint is the n annoying touch on my exam unit, but I feel it's limited to my sample. Still, it's not something I would endure with a computer of several thousand dollars.
Alienware offers four different display options with the Area-51m, but they all share the same size and resolution: 17 inches and 1080p. The display of my high-end review unit is a 144Hz display with Nvidia's G-Sync technology and the built-in Tobii eye observer, and is ideal for gaming. It's fast, there are almost no ghosts and its anti-reflective finish helps reduce glare. It's not the brightest screen, especially compared to a MacBook Pro, but it's an average for gaming laptops, and it's not like you'd use that thing outside of a MacBook Pro anyway.
I wish there were higher resolution options because the Area-51m's hardware is definitely capable of transmitting more pixels, but Alienware said it did not exist not yet 17-inch, high-resolution, high-refresh, high-resolution panels available for the moment. . When these components are available, this will make it an option at the time of purchase on the Area-51m, he says. (The display is not something you can upgrade afterwards.)
The Area-51m has the set of standard ports that you expect on a gaming laptop in 2019: three USB-A 3.1 ports, a Thunderbolt 3 Type-C port, HDMI, Mini DisplayPort, 2.5 Ethernet gigabits, a headphone jack, a microphone jack and Alienware's exclusive graphic amplifier port for an external GPU. That's probably enough ports for the average player, but I would have liked to see even more, including an SD card slot. There is a lot of empty space on the Area-51m chassis that could be used for more I / O, and several Thunderbolt 3 ports or an SD card slot would have made the computer much more attractive to content creators who would use its power for video editing and other tasks.
The Z390 chipset is located inside the chassis, with a desktop processor, up to 64GB of RAM, two M.2 SSD slots, a 2.5-inch drive bay and a graphics card Dell DGFF Modular. You can get the Area-51m with a Core-i7 8700 processor and a Nvidia RTX 2060 graphics processor to start, but I think most people interested in this machine will opt for high-end (and more expensive) configurations. The model I've tested includes the 9900K Core-i9 processor, the RTX 2080 graphics processor, 32 GB 2400 MHz DD4 RAM, two 512 GB M.2 SSDs (in a RAID 0 configuration for a total of 1 To fast storage), as well as an additional hard drive. Hybrid 1 TB drive for more storage. This configuration costs about $ 4,500, in addition to the Tobii viewing screen and the 144Hz G-Sync display.
It is possible to buy the lowest configurations and upgrade them later – it's a desktop processor and a modular graphics card – but that only makes sense for upgrading to newer ones generations of CPUs and GPUs, and not those of the same generation. Switching from 8700 to 9900K is a $ 450 option when you buy the Area-51m; Doing it after the fact will cost about $ 525 at current processor prices.
The battery inside the Area-51m is a big 90-watt-hour unit, but that does not translate into extended life. In my tests, I was able to use about 90 minutes to two hours of use between productivity loads and almost 30 minutes of play. This means that you will want to take both Area-51m Power Adapters when you you bring the computers because you will need them to play at full speed. It's possible to count on the smallest 180W charger for productive work, but if you're already in the 51m range, you can also fully engage.
All these specifications and power do not mean much if the components can not stay cool enough to function optimally, which is the biggest challenge for gaming laptops. Fortunately, the cooling system developed by Alienware for the 51m zone is excellent and keeps both the processor and graphics processor well below their limits. It is not silent – the fan system is very noisy, especially at full speed – but it is efficient and allows the Area-51m to achieve much better performance than a desktop computer.
Big 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 in the front that can control the sound of the fan, but most people will simply want to use a headset during games so they do not have to hear the fans at all. You may not be able to escape using the Area-51m in a silent office or library without getting dirty.
The Area-51m has been designed to play games and it does it very well. It is able to play virtually all modern AAA games that I run with maximized graphics settings while maintaining high frame rates. Even games like Battlefield V and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, which have a lot of eyelids and ray tracing lighting special effects, can be played with virtually all settings enabled and maximized and the Area-51m still maintains frame rates between 60 and 80 frames per second . It is not quite the 144Hz frequency that this screen can push, but it remains high enough for a great experience in these games.
Competition shooting games, like Apex Legends, Overwatch, CS: GOand the favorite of all, Fortnite, can be played with all its graphic features enabled at 120 to 144 frames per second. Players who prefer high frame rates to Eye Candy can configure these games with lower settings and run them at hundreds of frames per second, which is well above the native refresh rate of the game. # 39; screen. If inventory settings do not provide enough power, Alienware's Command Center offers overclocking options that allow the processor and GPU to perform even better.
All this margin of performance highlights the bottleneck of the Zone 51m: the resolution of the display. I have no doubt that the Area-51m can easily pass a 1440p panel or even a 4K screen in many games, but for the moment, you are limited to 1080p. If you're looking for the fastest frame rates you can get, you'll probably prefer a high refresh rate screen, but if you're more interested in visual presentation and icy eyes, a higher resolution is appreciated, especially for non-gaming applications. At the moment, if you want to play or work at a higher resolution on the Area-51m, you will just need to use an external display.
At present, the Area-51m is the most powerful gaming laptop you can buy. Its scalable features allow it to remain powerful for years to come. When we opened the 51m Zone ourselves, we found that, although it's not really easy, trading the processor and graphics processor is not much different than doing it on an average gaming PC. But there is an asterisk beside all this: we do not know for sure that the next generation of Intel processors, Nvidia or AMD graphics processors will actually fit this computer or how much will cost these modular graphics cards. Dell said that if it were possible to physically and electrically adapt the chips to its swappable graphics cards, it would offer upgrade options, but Dell admits that it does not necessarily know what Nvidia's next plans are.
This uncertainty prevents us from swallowing the price of Area-51m because we really do not know if this experience will last. For the cost of a well-configured 51m Zone, you can purchase a desktop computer and monitor with similar power while retaining enough money to buy a lighter and more classic gaming laptop for Internet gaming. go.
The Area-51m is an unrealistic option for most players. The kind of player who will demand this level of performance on a wearable machine and will bear all the compromises and costs necessary to get it is probably a competitive e-sports player or a virtual reality game developer who needs to An easier way to transport their office to the next show.
That said, what Alienware did with the Area-51m is really impressive. Not only does it reach performance levels unmatched by other laptops, but it does not have any glaring problems or striking operating problems that reduce it, apart from the obvious trade-offs with its size and weight. The simple fact of being able to cool these desktop components efficiently enough that they work equally well on a portable machine is a real feat. If you are the type of player who wants to have the ultimate power on a portable machine and is willing to pay the high price to get it, the Area-51m is for you.
For the rest of us, I hope that Dell's scalability projects will come to fruition, as I am very curious to see where the 51m region's ideas are going on performance and the future. portability.
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