Alienware Area-51m Review With Benchmarks And Teardown

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Alienware Area-51m - Battery Life, Acoustics, Thermals, Overclocking

Battery Life - How We Test:

Our custom HotHardware video loop test takes a 1080p HD video with a 16Kbps bit rate and loops it repeatedly, with 1 minute break intervals in between. A timer log file increments minutes of up-time, every minute -- along with the grand total -- before system shutdown is stored and logged. This is a lighter-duty test that is still a bit more strenuous than many office productivity tasks. During the test, we keep Windows 10 Quiet Hours enabled and the display has been calibrated with a meter on pure white screens to as close to 115 lux as possible. For the average laptop this is somewhere between a 40 - 60% brightness setting. Because laptop displays significantly affect power consumption and battery life, it's important to ensure a level playing field with respect to brightness of the display for battery testing. And, since many laptop displays vary in brightness at each respective setting in Windows, this calibration with a meter is critical to ensure all displays are set to as near identical brightness output as possible, before running battery tests.

Regardless, as you might have guessed, battery life is not a strong suit for a machine as powerful as the Alienware Area-51m, but we'll let the numbers speak for themselves...

Area 51m Battery Life Test

Though the Alienware Area-51m lasted just long enough for an average full-length feature movie to play out, it still found itself at the very bottom of the pack, even with its modest number of pixels to light up on its 1080p display. Of course, this machine relies solely on its discrete GPU for video playback as well, since its desktop CPU doesn't come equipped with integrated graphics. Regardless, a couple of hours is all you're going to get binging some Friday night Netflix, so keep one of those power bricks handy.

Alienware Area-51m - Of Acoustics & Thermals

Alienware Area 51m Noise Outpu
area 51m thermals

With all this desktop-class horsepower on board the Alienware Area-51m, you might expect the system to be hot and loud, but that assumption would be off the mark. Under load, the Area-51m can get loud, but not more so than most gaming notebooks we've heard recently, especially higher-powered machines or the new crop of GeForce RTX-powered models out there. During extending game play and on the system's "Balanced" performance mode in Alienware Command Center, we recorded about 50db for acoustics, which is just shy of very annoying and only moderately annoying. To be sure, if you're going to game for an extended period of time, you might want a set of headphones, but it all depends on your threshold of tolerance. Again, versus what we typically hear for acoustics from this class of gaming laptop, the Area-51m's acoustic profile is probably somewhere in the "about average" neighborhood.

That said, if you're just browsing the web, watching movies or performing some other lower-end workload tasks, you'll barely hear the machine above ambient room noise levels. Conversely, if you decide to overclock or set the machine's thermal profile to "Performance," be prepared to have your eardrums lovingly assaulted.

Thermally, you'll be pleasantly surprised that the Area-51m isn't a complete nuclear reactor, despite our system's 5GHz Intel octal-core CPU and desktop class GeForce RTX 2080 GPU. On the top area of the machine, the highest thermal readings we pulled were only around 85 - 90ºF, while bottom areas only peaked around 95ºF during continuous loops of the 3DMark Port Royale ray tracing benchmark. The warmest areas of the machine is the extended rear cowling area where the primary exhaust vents reside. Here we saw temps approaching 115ºF or so, which is starting to get toasty. However, you're likely not going to be in significant contact for any length of time with this area of the machine and it's certainly not that warm to the touch regardless.
 
To bottom line it: you're going to want to keep the Area-51m's bottom, side and rear ventilation areas open and free from obstruction but other than that, thermally and acoustically, it's relatively well-behaved for such a beast of a machine.

Alienware Area-51m Overclocking

Overclocking the Alienware Area-51m is sort of a mixed bag, and frankly in our configuration there's probably not nearly as much to gain as with lower-end configs of the machine. After all, our top-end 8-core Core i9-9900K already Turbo Boosts to 5GHz and there just isn't a lot of headroom available here. Furthermore, we were a little surprised to learn that Alienware lets the CPU itself run up to its full 100ºC max junction temp already, for brief bursts. And so unsurprisingly, we didn't find any notable, sustained gains with overclocking our CPU. Again, lower-end CPU options for the machine could definitely have more upside potential, but we couldn't prove that out here. 

On the GPU side of the equation, however, there was more to work both thermally and with respect to clock speed...

Alienware Fusion GPU OC Custom

Though altering the GPU power target limit is specifically not enabled in our config (note the grayed-out slider), a modest bump in GPU and Memory clocks yielded some measurable gains with no artifacting or instability that we could detect. 
Gaming Overlock Area 51m

We'll take a free 5% gain any day of the week, while realizing full desktop GeForce RTX 2080 performance here in Middle Earth: Shadow Of War. Easy money.

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