Alienware Area-51 M5500 Notebook
Field Testing Features Continued
One of the toughest tests for any notebook is surviving a trip to a convention. Here, the notebook becomes a vital weapon in an Editor's arsenal as they make their way from the plane to the hotel, throughout a day packed with meetings, and back to the hotel to typically complete an article. Shortly after the Alienware notebook arrived, it was on a plane to the Game Developer's Conference in San Jose.
With a flight plan leaving New Hampshire involving a layover in Chicago before ultimately arriving in San Jose, the notebook was tortured through two grueling flights of constant use and a few hours of wireless use in between. Unlike most 17" or 19" desktop replacement notebooks, the Alienware system was relatively easy to take in and out of a carry-on bag and never failed to elicit a comment from a fellow passenger when it was revealed. Whether you love Alienware or not, everyone agrees these systems have a unique aesthetic that captures attention wherever they're taken.
In flight, the ability to use the Intel IGP to maximize battery life was a very welcomed feature. When the system wasn't being used to work on articles or play a mean game of solitaire or pinball, it was playing one of a handful of DVD's to keep minds off the long journey westward. On each flight, the system was able to last long enough to meet our needs and was always put back into the carry-on before battery life ever became an issue.
Thanks to the integrated Intel 2915 802.11 a/b/g wireless card, accessing wireless networks at both airports and at the convention proved painfully simple. Plugging the system in to recharge the batteries while surfing the web proved to be a regularly scheduled event during any downtime as it kept the notebook primed and ready for any unexpected use during the trip.
Nestled in a backpack along with a handful of marketing materials and product information, the ~7lb weight of the Alienware notebook was noticeable but not too uncomfortable. Although a 12" ultraportable notebook would be much easier to carry throughout the day, the additional real estate of the 15.4" LCD is well worth the extra weight when work needs to be done. Here, the system bounced from vendor to vendor throughout the day without issue with the constant on-off use failing to drain the battery to critical levels.