17 Jan Alienware Area-51m: A Return To PC Gaming Roots At CES 2019
Alienware is without a doubt one of the most easily recognizable gaming computer brands in the world. It has been a household name in PC gaming for as long as I’ve been a PC gamer (over 20 years), and in fact, the first PC I built with my own money utilized a knock-off of one of Alienware’s cases. Though Alienware was acquired by Dell in 2006, it has retained its iconic design and Alienware brand throughout the years. Many PC vendors over time have lost sight of what makes the PC such a great platform. In the pursuit of performance, efficiency, and thinness, sometimes these PCs start to look and feel more like consoles. The new Alienware Area-51m, announced last week at CES 2019, is different in many ways—let’s take a closer look.
The Alienware Area-51m features the new Legend design language, which essentially redefines what it means to be an Alienware computer. It looks and performs differently than every other laptop on the market. It is a desktop replacement laptop, but not just figuratively. It features a full desktop processor inside of it, up to an Intel Core-i9 9900K.
On top of having a desktop processor, the Alienware Area-51m features upgradeable RAM, storage, and GPU. Currently, it features up to 64GB of DDR4 2400 MHz—not quite the performance of some of the higher-end kits of RAM out for desktops today, but pretty good for a laptop. This could be a potential upgrade path for Alienware in the future when it looks for ways to improve the specs. The Alienware Area-51m features an NVIDIA GTX 1080 GPU. While this might seem a little outdated considering that NVIDIA just announced the RTX 2000 series, I have a feeling that upgraded GPUs will be available from Alienware in the not-so-distant future. Plus, the company is offering an “automatic upgrade to latest-gen graphics technology when shipped,” which should quell any unease about ‘outdated’ graphics.
What else makes the Alienware Area-51m the most true-to-form gaming laptop? In addition to being a powerful gaming laptop and desktop replacement, it is also overclockable. This means that it can outperform systems that have higher specs on paper but can’t be overclocked. Alienware understands that gamers will want to treat this laptop like an ultra-portable desktop, and will want to modify virtually everything inside to their desired settings. Alienware offers a suite to make overclocking easier, but it would be interesting to see what features it has enabled in the BIOS as well. Hopefully, I’ll get enough time with one to probe around further.
All models of the Alienware Area-51m come with a 17.3” display, which is to be expected for a desktop replacement. The display comes in many different versions, including 60 Hz, 60 Hz with G-Sync, and 144 Hz with Tobii eye-tracking, with or without G-Sync. Built into the display portion of the Alienware Area-51m is the optional Tobii eye-tracking technology, which can be used for a multitude of games (read more here, if interested). This does end up resulting in a relatively large laptop, but even with all these upgradable components and performance, it is still lighter than the previous generation Alienware 17.
The Alienware Area-51m also has some of the best connectivity you could ever ask for in a laptop. It has a 2.5 Gbps Ethernet port and three USB 3.0 Type-A ports (one of which features PowerShare capability). It also has a Thunderbolt 3.0 port with support for 40 Gbps Thunderbolt speeds and DisplayPort Alt mode. There is a plethora of display connectors in addition to the Type-C connector, including a full-size HDMI 2.0 port and a Mini-DP 1.4 connector. If the onboard GPU isn’t enough horsepower, you can also use the Alienware graphics amplifier port to connect an external GPU to accelerate performance even further.
This laptop really is a powerhouse. It comes with a standard configuration of dual 180W power adapters, but for the maximum performance and overclockability, there are 240W and 330W adapters also available. That means we can expect this system to draw up to 510W at peak power. For a desktop replacement with this kind of performance, that’s not actually too outrageous–many high-performance desktops consume considerably more power than 500W. The Alienware Area-51m is available now starting at $2,549.99 and will ship in mid-February according to current delivery dates.
With all these desktop-like capabilities and upgradability, it’s hard not to think of the Alienware Area-51m as a desktop in a laptop’s body. With the Area-51m, I believe that Alienware has brought back some of the do-it-yourself attitude that was at the heart of PC gaming at its inception. Obviously, Alienware is still building these laptops for gamers, but now they’re upgradable. This is something that has really faded from the laptop market recently in the pursuit of thinness. I think that Alienware has successfully brought some of that pure PC spirit back into the gaming laptop market and I hope to see this trend continue to grow.