For as long as I can remember, I’ve been disappointed by gaming laptops—I avoided them myself and advised friends to do the same, given the lower performance levels they offered versus desktop PCs. However, things changed considerably in the last 5 years, in large part thanks to NVIDIA and its MAX-Q designs. In general, gaming laptops have gotten considerably better, though many of them still compromise on performance for a thinner form factor.
Last year, Alienware introduced its new Area-51 laptop (read my initial write-up here). On paper the laptop ticked off all of the right boxes, and while that’s great, the real measure is evaluating the actual experience that it delivers. The Alienware Area-51m isn’t really a laptop, but more of a desktop replacement. It’s the kind of laptop that gives you the ability to replace a desktop when you are on the move or don’t want or need to have a desktop anymore. I’ve been using the Alienware Area-51m as a portable desktop for travel and other scenarios where an actual desktop is not available. Because the Alienware Area-51m is a gaming laptop, I’ve mostly been using it for gaming. Today I wanted to offer my full review of the device.
What really makes the Alienware Area-51m a great desktop replacement is the way it’s configured and the fact that it’s upgradeable. The original release of the Area-51m came with a 1080 Ti, which has since been upgraded to the 2080 series. This upgradability and the no-holds-barred performance really makes this laptop feel like a return to form for Alienware as a brand. Alienware’s roots in gaming were in building the sickest, fastest boutique custom PCs that money could buy. The Area-51m really delivers on this promise, with a 17” 144 Hz G-Sync 1080P display and Tobii eye-tracking—exactly what you would expect from a desktop in terms of features. Obviously, since it is a laptop, it’s limited to a 17” monitor. Still, you could always plug it into a better monitor if you want to.
The center and core of this system’s performance comes from its Intel Core i9-9900K desktop CPU. This makes the Alienware Area-51m faster than pretty much every other laptop on the market, with a few exceptions that sport the same processor. Most laptop CPUs have fewer or slower cores in them and compromise on absolute performance to meet a certain power or weight restriction. Having a Core i9-9900K as the starting base for this laptop establishes that this laptop is all about performance and no compromises. The system that Dell sent me was configured with the 32GB of RAM option and offered up to 64GB, which is what I would expect from an ultimate gaming rig. Most of my systems have been 32GB and 64GB in the last few years, and I expect nothing less of such a powerhouse system. The 32GB was perfect for me because I like to multitask—I run a lot of apps and Chrome at the same time as I am gaming. The system also came with 1TB hybrid HDD, and 512GB (2x256GB) of NVMe storage, in order to make the most of its support for dual PCIe M2 SSDs and maximize performance. The configuration for the system that Dell gave me includes an NVIDIA RTX 2080 with 8GB of VRAM. This is one of the best GPUs money can buy and puts it in league with desktops.