Alienware Area-51m Review: Desktop-Class, Upgradeable Elegance

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Alienware Area-51m - Command Center Software, Tobii Eye Tracking And User Experience

Alienware loads-up a fair bit of software on the Area-51m. And while we'd often err on the side of reducing extraneous software footprint, the new Alienware Command Center delivers many very useful tools and configuration utilities.

alienware command center overclock preset light mode
Alienware FX Lighting
alienware command center thermal profile

The Home screen is where you can quickly configure many of the features and functionality of the machine for things like overlocking, thermal and fan profiles, and general system performance. Here you can also configure themes to launch automatically, when you fire up a game in your library that's installed on the machine. The first time you fire up the software, it scans your machine to detect game titles already installed. You can then configure an overclocking, thermals and performance profile, along with keyboard lighting and other effects, to activate when you launch a game. We've seen some of this functionality in previous versions of the Alienware Command Center, but this latest version has come a long way and offers a lot more one-click personalization over the previous generation Alienware tool suite. You can also switch between dark and light themes for the Command Center itself.

Alienware Fusion CPU OC
Alienware Fusion GPU OC
Alienware Fusion
Overclocking and thermal monitoring is handled via a streamlined control panel that offer a fair amount of tweakability. Core CPU voltages and the offset can be adjusted via a simple slider, while GPU memory and core clocks and be manipulated similarly. And though the adjustment slider for power limit seems to be there for the GPU, it was grayed out and we were unable to make modifications. This is because Alienware wanted to prevent users from cranking the GPU to high in this case. There's only so much thermal headroom available in a laptop cooling solution. However, as you'll see on the pages ahead, we were able to overclock the GPU regardless. Beyond this, thermal and clock speed monitoring of CPU, GPU and RAM are all detailed as well. All told, Alienware's Command Center Fusion tab does a good job of letting you control and monitor performance, power, and thermal status of the major subsystems in this machine.

This Alien Sees You. It's Watching...

Tobii Eye Tracking Area 51m

Finally, as an optional upgrade, users can add Tobii Eye Tracking technology to the Area-51m. If you look just under the Alienware logo on the display, you can see the infrared cameras that are firing in our system - and yes, that's my noggin rendered in a rough point cloud with my eyeballs registered in a super glowy Cylon-esque band just under my expansive forehead area. To be honest, we've previously under-estimated Tobii technology and the simplicity of its user interface is getting better every day. Once trained, the Alienware Area-51m will literally know when you're looking at it, dimming the display when you look away, or brightening back up to full power when you look back. It's more than just a novelty now and does a nice job of conserving power of the display and system when not in use.

The real hook here though is gaze control of the myriad of game titles that currently support Tobii Eye Tracking. You can see a list here on Tobii's site. Some of the latest triple-A titles are supported, like The Division 2 and Assassin's Creed Odyssey. We did get a chance to try it out in Shadow Of The Tomb Raider and even simple controls like reticle targeting by gaze (or "aim at gaze" as Tobii refers to it) can really help with reaction times and ease of gameplay. This is the kind of technology you'll want to try out yourself first before committing to the feature upgrade, but it's a strong, unique option among gaming laptops these days and it's something worth checking out for sure. 

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