Alienware Area-51m Review With Benchmarks And Teardown

Alienware Area-51m - Desktop-Class Components In A Revolutionary Gaming Laptop Design

As far as gaming laptops go, Dell's Alienware brand has historically been synonymous with some of the most powerful configurations on the market. And where the trend lately has been toward ever thinner and lighter versions of these otherwise traditional desktop replacement machines, even Dell's recently released Alienware m15 eschews trimming every bit of mass from its design in order to keep from cutting too deeply into its performance-optimized, muscular build.

Alienware Area 51m Desktop

And then there's Alienware's all-new Area-51m that we're looking at here. Although you wouldn't know it at first glance, the Area-51m is nearly a complete departure from traditional gaming laptop platforms, and one that's strapped with desktop-class processing engines under the hood of its 8.5 pound, 17-inch frame.

Like many of you, when the Alienware team invaded our CES 2019 press schedules with news of this desktop CPU and GPU-infused beast, we expected to see a gargantuan, franken-kludge of a system, though that couldn't have been further from reality. In fact, Dell-Alienware's new Legend industrial design signature for the Area-51m, coupled with some slick engineering in its magnesium alloy and aluminum frame, resulted in a refined, polished device that's clearly targeting gamers, but with a futuristic look that is like no other product in its category on the market currently.

Alienware Area 51m rear view closer

How Dell's Alienware crew managed to pull this feat of thermal and power design engineering off while still maintaining a relatively svelte, sleek mobile exterior is impressive on the surface. You'd have to admit, the machine looks pretty swank, with its RGB trimmed, oblong-shaped rear exhaust vents. In fact, Dell showed us their design concept illustrations for the Area-51m and the Legend design signature, and indeed they were decidedly space craft-inspired. The fact that it looks like something out of an episode of Star Trek or The Orville is more than intentional -- and it all works quite well in our Lunar Light color selection, though you could opt for Dark Side of the Moon, if you so choose to "make it so."

Alas, we digress. We'll start off this detailed look at the Alienware Area-51m by taking you deep into the belly of the beast, with our guided tear-down tour. Then we'll cover the entire experience and performance of this new PC Gaming vessel in intricate detail... 

Dell Alienware Area-51m
Specifications & Features
Processor Options 9th Gen Intel Core i9-9900K 8-Core (16MB Cache, 5GHz Turbo Boost) - Socketed Desktop CPU
17.3-inch FHD (1920x1080) IPS (Non-Touch) 144Hz, NVIDIA G-Sync+Tobii Eye Tracking
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 (8GB GDDR6)
32GB (2x16GB) DDR4-2400MHz - Max 64GB
Dual Storage Option
2 x 512GB PCIe NVMe Solid State Drive (Toshiba and Samsung)
1TB (+8GB SSHD) Hybrid Drive
Audio 2 x Stereo Speakers - Alienware Sound Center via Alienware Command Center
Ethernet 2.5Gbps Realtek Ethernet LAN (RJ-45)
Wireless Connectivity
Killer Wireless 1550 (802.11ac 2x2 Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0)
Interface (Left)
Thunderbolt 3 Port, SS USB 3.1 Type-A w PowerShare, Headset Jack, Headset/Mic Retaskable
Interface (Right)
2 x SuperSpeed USB 3.1 Type-A
Interface (Back) HDMI 2.0, Mini-DisplayPort 1.4, 2.5Gbps RJ45 Ethernet, Alienware Graphics Amp Port, Dual DC-Input
Alienware FHD Camera, Dual Array Mics, Tobii Infrared Eye Tracking Camera
Operating System
Windows 10 Home 64-Bit
Battery And Power 90WHr Lithium Ion Battery, 180W + 330W Dual AC Adapters
Dimensions 16.1" W x 15.85" L x 1.09 - 1.7" H
8.54 lbs Plus AC Adapters
Manufacturer Warranty
1 Years Parts And Labor With On-Site Service
Pricing $4,499.99 Current MSRP At

Specs alone tell you the Alienware Area-51m is cut from a completely different cloth versus other gaming laptops. The first clue is the Core i9-9900K processor on board -- a full-fledged desktop CPU that sits in an LGA1151 socket, not soldered to its motherboard. This is arguably one of the best gaming CPUs on the desktop right now, with a 5GHz Turbo Boost clock speed and an octal-core architecture with a fat 16MB of cache. Frankly, it's a faster gaming CPU in a lot of cases versus our own desktop graphics test bed CPU of choice, Intel's 18-core Core i9-9980XE, but more on that later.

Alienware Area 51m rear view with power bricks
Yes, it takes two power adapters, though you can get away with one on the road.

From there, other specs in our configuration portend the same level of desktop platform bandwidth and graphics power. Pixels are pushed courtesy of a full-fat NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 driving a 17.3-inch, 144Hz, 1080p IPS display that is NVIDIA G-Sync equipped. Bits and bytes are served by a dual 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD setup in RAID 0, for a total of 1TB of snappy solid state media, backed up by another 1TB spinning SSHD hybrid hard drive with 8GB of Flash memory cache.

We also have 32GB of DDR4-2400 RAM on board, that is expandable to 64GB via four SODIMM slots. So yeah, room for growth here in a number of areas, beyond just memory, is a strong suit for this machine and that's another aspect of the design that's unique; all of these components including the CPU and GPU, are accessible and user serviceable/upgradable.

More on this on the pages ahead, but as you might expect, for a system like this to run at full performance, you'll need serious power delivery. In this case, though Dell-Alienware offers multiple AC adapter bundles at various power ratings, our machine came equipped with the beefiest 300 Watt brick combined with a 180 Watt brick. The machine will actually get by with just the 180 Watt adapter plugged in for general use, but for full performance you're going to want both slabs of power delivery plugged in and at your disposal.

Let's get a closer look at the skins and what makes this machine tick, next...

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