One of the more enjoyable aspects of buying an Alienware system is the "OOBE" or out of box experience. Here, customers do not receive their systems in a plain cardboard box with a logo on it with nothing more than the case inside. Having one of the best presentations in the business, the Alienware Area-51 m5500 comes in a flat black main package which houses a wealth of extras and documentation for the customer.
Looking at the image above, one can clearly see that Alienware has done an admirable job of stuffing the package with as much "schwag" as possible. Beyond the simple quick start instructions and personalized documentation outlining every aspect of the particular system, there are detailed manuals which cover every facet of the notebook. In addition, we find the Alienware Respawn recovery DVD which can reset the system to brad new condition should the user encounter any issues. The package is rounded out by an Alienware T-shirt, Alienware mousepad made by Func, and an assortment of driver and utility discs for the bundled software. Althought the box is chock full, the system and power supply are still very well protected with custom foam inserts.
The back of any Alienware notebook is perhaps one of the most distinct and recognizable aesthetics of any PC in existence. Here, the familiar corporate alien head is augmented by a set of rubberized grips which are raised and textured with a unique rubber feel to provide better grip when carrying the system. In the past, many have been impressed by the glowing eyes of this alien head badge whenever the system was powered on. With the Area-51 m5550, Alienware has taken things up a notch slightly by having the alien head and the Alienware logo bathed in a blue backlight in addition to the eyes. In practice, this consumed negligible power and certainly went far in capturing passer-by attention.
With the system open, we get the opportunity to examine the 15.4" WSXGA+ LCD. Although it lacks a contrast-enhancing finish found on most notebooks these days, the Area-51 m5500's screen proved to have solid color reproduction and brightness. As we scoured the panel in search of dead pixels, we come across the microphone inlet at the top left of the bezel. Brining our attention towards the bottom of the panel, we find the integrated stereo speakers and glossy Alienware badging.
On the keyboard, we find the Alienware system to have a somewhat translucent keypad area which is large enough to be comfortable without being overbearing. The notebook features a rather large two-button touchpad with a side-scroll to navigate up and down throughout a page. Rounding out the front of the system, we have several indicator LED's to track everything from charging status to hard drive activity.
Turning the system sideways and glimpsing the left portion of the chassis, we find the 8x dual-layer DVD+/-RW as well as the modem and Gigabit Ethernet ports. In the image to the far right, we can also see the height of the tall rubber feet on the system. This height keeps the bottom of the chassis off the table's surface and facilitates proper airflow of cool air into the inlet fan to cool the core components.
Taking a look at the opposite side of the system, we come across a wide variety of connectivity ports. Here, no less than three USB ports, a Firewire port, and S-Video port reside. Below the USB ports, we can also clearly see the copper fins of the system's main heatsink assembly through the exhaust port. Directly to the right of these exhaust ports, we find the power connector for the PSU. The only complaint we have with this orientation is that the system can be damaged should someone trip or pull on the cord, the power connector will not easily dislodge from the system in such a scenario.