The Alienware Area-51 offers unrivaled power in a sleek, redesigned chassis with the option to upgrade both the CPU and the GPU.
- Stunning design
- Excellent graphics
- Great performance
- Lightning fast SSDs
- All major components upgradable
Alienware came to kick the donkey and chew bubble gum. You know the rest. With a new look and the very first design that makes upgradeable graphics possible, Alienware is ready to take its place as the king of semi-mobile gaming. The Area-51m does not look like anything we’ve ever seen of the brand. It is less Independence Day and more Flight of the Navigator. But there is more to this baby than just a fairly new face. And in this article, we have thoroughly tested this laptop in our Alienware Area-51m Review.
Armed with a desktop Intel Core i9 processor and one of the super powerful RTX GPUs from Nvidia, it has absolutely scrapped every test we have done with graceful multiplication. It will also make a big dent in your wallet. But you believe this is the first future-proof gaming laptop, it seems to be a small price for a truly upgradable system and what Alienware calls its first real desktop replacement.
Alienware Area-51m Review – Design
This is something that has been in the making for two years. Finally, we say goodbye to the familiar epic design language of Alienware and welcome Legend. It is a bittersweet end of what has become a trusted friend, but when you take stock of what Alienware thought up, I think you will find this beginning much nicer. To begin with, all pointed edges and sharp half corners have disappeared in favor of rounded corners and silky smooth finishes. And instead of anodized aluminum, the majority of the Area-51m chassis is made of magnesium alloy in a color called Dark Side of the Moon.
The soft finish invites you to touch while removing even the oiliest fingerprints. It is all very V but without the subversive extraterrestrial occupation of lizards who have disguised people as humans. And although this presentation is mild according to Alienware standards, this is still Alienware, as indicated by the glowing turquoise alien head at the top of the lid. In the bottom left corner, you will find a rather large font with embossed lettering A51. There is more customizable LED lighting that paints the ventilation openings at the back and shows a nice little honeycomb pattern.
If you’ve ever seen an Alienware laptop, the interior will be familiar to you. The palm rest and keyboard deck are covered with more of that smoky black soft touch. The touchpad and keyboard, complete with macro keys and a num pad, glow expectantly. Another alien head sits at the top of the deck and pulls double work as the power button. The 17-inch screen is surrounded by glossy edges – all the better to show off the silver Alienware lettering at the bottom and the Tobii Eye Tracker module just below. And talking about bezels, these are by far the thinnest I have seen on an Alienware. It really emphasizes the beautiful display.
Apply the mice, external displays and hard drives! The Area-51m can handle all the peripherals that you have and then process them. There are a few USB 3.1 ports to the right of the system. Another is on the left with a Thunderbolt 3 port and connections for the headphones and microphone. The two DC sockets are located between the rear vents with an HDMI 2.0 port, a mini DisplayPort and a Gigabit Ethernet connection. And in case the Area-51m is not powerful enough for you, you can connect the company’s graphics amplifier.
Despite its rather solid components, the Area-51m is on the lighter side of the desktop replacement spectrum at 8.5 pounds, 16.1 x 15.9 x 1.2 ~ 1.7 inches. That is lighter than Origin PC Eon 17-X (8.6 pounds, 16.4 x 11.6 x 1.6 inches) and the gigantic MSI GT75 Titan (10-pound, 16.9 x 12.4 x 1, 2 ~ 2.3 inches). Yet the Aorus X9 is the thinnest and lightest of the 8.1 pounds set, 16.9 x 12.4 x 1.2 inches.
Alienware Area-51m Review – Keyboard and TouchPad
Good news, Alienware saved his traditional keyboard. In the field of gaming laptops, Alienware is constantly at the top of our list of keyboards, thanks to their solid feedback and pure comfort via the TactX keyboard. The company even managed to fit both a full numeric keypad and the macro key column without reducing important keys. The Area-51m satisfies that pedigree with key travel of 2.2 millimeters, which is well above our minimum of 1.5 mm. Actuation force required was also above average at 71 grams (60 grams is our minimum). The touchpad of 3.9 x 2.2 inches reacted almost as quickly to my gesture input as I performed and the browsing through documents and web pages went smoothly.
Alienware Area-51m Review – Display
As usual, Alienware sparkled for gamers with a nice 1920 x 1080 panel that offers great colors and sharp details. The trailer for Little on the 17.3-inch panel was a font of color. My favorite piece of eye candy (outside of Luke James’ chocolatey himself tried his hand at exotic dances) was the painting by Regina Hall. The emeralds, magenta, and gold were beautiful, but the electric blue was the true star of the image. The details were so clear that I could see the folds and most of the pattern in Issa Rae’s shorts.
War has never looked so good. From the bronze, sun-blasted deserts to pristine white snow dunes lit by the ethereal emerald-green glow of the aurora borealis, Battlefield V was devastatingly beautiful. I got an idea of the level of detail through the range of my sniper rifle. I saw an enemy soldier push forward when his head exploded in a bright red ray of death, the result of an accurate headshot.
The Area-51m panel also has Nvidia’s G-Sync technology with a 144 Hertz refresh rate that produced smudge-like images during gaming. During our tests, we learned that the Area-51m panel can reproduce 117.5 percent of the sRGB range. It is better than our threshold of 100 percent but is below the average of 138 percent. The X9 and Titan were much more colorful at 122 and 178 percent. The Eon 17-X had the worst result with 104 percent.
While measuring the brightness, the Area-51m averaged 284 nits, which is brighter than the 278-nit average. It was also better than the Titan (271 nits), Eon 17-X (252 nits) and X9 (243 nits).
Alienware Area-51m Review – Audio
All speakers with a fierce front! Hidden behind a pair of black glossy vents, the Area-51m conceals a powerful pair of speakers. Kevin Ross’ almost acapella rendition of ‘prototype’ streamed through my speakers with clear highs and dynamic midtones. The tenor of the singer was opulent with plenty of room for the harmonies and the bows to shine through. When I switched to J. Cole’s ‘Middle Child’, the trumpets sounded somewhat distorted at maximum volume. The sing-songy delivery of the rapper was clean while the top hats and snares attacked the track. The lows were a bit growling, but I appreciated that I could hear them all.
A few people tried to talk to me while I was playing Battlefield V. It did not end well. Our lab decorated with the sound of cannon fire, with the fixed staccato of gunshots. When I did not fight and ran to the nearest cover, the voice of a roughly narrated narrator cut through the chaos carried away by abandoned chains that slowly translated into a group of hopeful-sounding flutes.
Alienware has bundled its audio software into its Command Center software app, making it a one-stop shop for all your gaming and (now) audio needs. The app comes with eight presets (Com, Movie, Music, Strategy, Racing, Shooter, Role Play, and Alienware). Although you should definitely try every preset, I noticed that I used Music and Alienware the most. Music produced the best all-around audio performance.
But if you want an immersive audio experience, use the Alienware setting. The preset created a surround sound effect that adds depth to what I was listening to. However, some of the more delicate track elements can be lost in the shuffle. The company also added a feature called Sound Recall, which adds an overlay that gives you a visual cue when enemies crawl into the game. It is especially useful for first-person shooters such as Battlefield V and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.
Alienware Area-51m Review – Graphics and Gaming
The numbers are in for the RTX 2080 graphics of the Area-51m and this rig is the head of the class. I crept to a hostile base in Battlefield V (1920 x 1080, Ultra settings). But it did not take long before my sleeve was blown up and I threw a grenade into a group of explosive barrels, which merged into a cloud of red, yellow and orange flames at 122 frames per second.
The laptop continued its impressive performance on our synthetic benchmarks and achieved 92 fps on the Rise of the Tomb Raider, topping the 63-fps premium gaming laptop average. Even the MSI Titan with its own RTX 2080 was no match at 76 fps. Equipped with GTX 1080 GPUs, the Aorus X9 and Origin PCEon 17-X recorded 73 and 69 respectively.
When we performed the Hitman test, the Area-51m retained its lead by 143 fps. He moved the Titan (140 fps) as he flipped past the Eon 17-X and X9, which tied the average of 96 fps. The Area-51m achieved 105 fps on the Grand Theft Auto V benchmark, surpassing the average of the 75-fps category. The Titan remained in second place with 91 fps, while the X9 (86 fps) and Eon 17-X (55 fps) settled in the third and fourth position.
On the Middle-Earth: Shadow of War test, the Area-51m produced 132 fps, the Titan (112 fps), X9 (99 fps) and the category average (86 fps).
As far as virtual reality is concerned, feel free to beat Oculus Rifts and HTC Vives. The Area-51m drove through the SteamVR performance test and maximized 11. I was surprised to hear that the Area-51m comes with an integrated Intel UHD Graphics 630 GPU. When you are not gaming or performing another GPU-intensive task, Nvidia’s Optimus technology is enabled and switches to this lesser graphics chip.
Alienware Area-51m Review – Performance
Damn, Alienware did not joke when they said they were going to make a real desktop replacement. With a 3.6GHz Intel Core i9-9900K desktop chip with 64GB of RAM, the Area-51m is ready to do everything. Crunch numbers, encoding video and steaming some games – you name it, it’s possible. Thanks to the integration of the Intel Z390 chipset, this is the first Alienware to support 8 cores. This is perhaps the most powerful laptop I have ever discussed.
To test the system, I opened 40 tabs in Google Chrome – a number of Twitch streams running, YouTube videos, Tweetdeck while watching Fyre: The Greatest Festival that Never Was on Netflix. There was no hint of latency until I launched Battlefield V and even then it was reasonably minimal. And if you need more power (but I can not imagine why), the CPU is indeed overclockable.
The processor continued to chew through our synthetic benchmarks and reached 29,989 on Geekbench 4, which measures the overall performance. The X9 with its i9-8950HK CPU achieved 25,915. But the Area-51m left the Titan (i9-8950HK, 22.765) Eon 17-X (i7-8700K, 21.273) and the average of the premium laptop category (21.118) in the dust.
In our test of the file copy, the pair of 1TB PCIe M.2 SSDs of the Area-51m in RAID 0 configuration only took 4 seconds to duplicate 4.97GB of multimedia files. That translates into an overwhelming transfer rate of 1,272.3 megabytes per second. It is more than double the category average of 590.6. The 512 GB NVMe PCIe SSD of the Titan was a distant second at 848.2 MBps. The Eon 17-X (512GB NVMe PCIe SSD) and X9 (1TB m.2 PCIe SSD) reached 566 and 424 MBps, respectively.
Alienware Area-51m Review – Heat
For such a large laptop, the Area-51m remained pretty cool. That’s because the company’s Alienware Cryo-Tech v2.0 system uses a mix of fans, smart design, and components to prevent the laptop from overheating. At the bottom of the laptop is a large cluster of honeycombs concealed various fire-resistant, liquid-crystal polymer high-voltage fans. The fans bring air through the soil and dissipate the resulting warm air along the sides and back of the notebook, away from where your hands usually stay. In addition to the fans, the Area-51m has no less than 8 heatpipes and several copper fin-stacks to help with heat dissipation.
So I was not too surprised about the relatively cool temps after 15 minutes by having sucked the enemy line in Battlefield V. The touchpad measured 84 degrees Fahrenheit while the middle and chassis went up to 102 and 106 degrees respectively. It is a few degrees above our comfort threshold of 95 degrees, but compared to other laptops in this weight class it is absolutely cold. And despite playing a pretty taxing game, I could barely hear the fans.
After a short cool down period, we carry out our heat test again, only this time with a 15-minute HD video. This time we measured the touchpad, middle and bottom hit temperatures of 84, 86 and 84 degrees.
Alienware Area-51m Review – Battery Life
Even with an integrated graphics chip to fall back on, the Area-51m still has a powerful CPU processor to contend with. Disconnect this baby at your own risk. The system has only been running for 2 hours and 36 minutes on our battery test, which consists of continuous web surfing via Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. It is shorter than the 3:15 premium gaming laptop average, but longer than the Eon 17-X (1:59) and the X9 and Titan, which both ended after 2:20. So we recommend you to carry your charger if you are for a long outing.
Alienware Area-51m Review – Conclusion
With its high entry costs, the Alienware Area-51m is definitely in the realm of enthusiasts. It is the company’s first laptop to use an eight-core processor and one of the first to be equipped with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 GPU – its power is undeniable. It is Alienware’s first real desktop replacement and the most powerful and expandable laptop I’ve discussed so far.
But $5099 is a lot to ask. Hell, even the $ 2,549 basic model is a bit pricey. If you can live without the latest and best specifications, I recommend you to have a look at the Aorus X9. For $3899 you get a streamlined, lightweight system with good graphics and overall performance. But if you have withdrawn the money, consider the Alienware Area-51 as the ultimate game-rig that will charm you for years to come.
That’s all for our Alienware Area-51m Review. Let us know what you think about this gaming laptop in the comments box below.