We probably would never want to give this laptop back, but they took it back anyway and you want to know why we didn’t want it to go back, right?
The Alienware Area 51m is big on price and bigger on performance in India. In the most non-nerdy way, this is literally a portable gaming desktop and that makes a HUGE (enter Donald Trump's voice) difference to people looking for one. Let me get straight to the point. We had a gaming night at my boss’ and yours truly here had to put together a gaming session for his needy colleagues without having to carry a console. I carried this instead.
Does that mean you should take the nearest cab to an Alienware store? With the Alienware 51m-Mmm… you might want to read ahead first.
Alienware Area 51m: Body and design
In the house of an over-enthusiastic gamer, there’s always a chappal-wielding mother questioning screen time. And trust me, my folks have seen a fair share of gaming laptops. None but this have made my technologically challenged mother turn her head and remark: ‘That’s a very good looking laptop’.
And yes, the Alienware Area 51m is a thing of beauty and that’s not just me saying it. That angled design and forward hinge looks very good. The back exhaust vent demands a dirty look and will make you bite your lip. Maybe because there’s an RGB ring running on the border of it or maybe the overall design is simple yet elegant? We like the design and colour a lot.
It’s built like a tank too. The hard magnesium alloy shell is certainly not cheap and the soft finish atop is just classic Dell. It loves your skin as much as you love gaming.
Alienware Area 51m: Ports and connectivity
The thickness of the Area 51m is not winning any awards but you’ll be spoiled for choice with the selection of ports on offer. Aside from your generic ports, there’s one USB 3.1 type-A with Powershare and an Alienware Graphics Amplifier Port at the back as well. Don’t know why but if you ever need to add an external GPU to this desktop grade laptop, the option is available. Just prepare another house to mortgage as well.
The Alienware Mobile Connect app from the Windows Store is good for connecting your phone and controlling it remotely by screen mirroring but it's not a pleasant or a seamless experience. In our use, we were happy with WhatsApp for Windows and AirDroid for transferring files if need be.
Alienware Area 51m: Audio and Tobii eye tracking
The front firing speakers are loud, like really loud and they get even boomier if you place them on a table. You must have a powerlifter’s thighs to keep this on your lap anyway. Although, with all that headroom and premium pricing, the audio quality is not the best. The mids are congested and the lows are muddy. The bass lacks punch and speakers barely have any detail. If you’re playing without headphones then you can hear things, but that’s because the speakers are simply… loud.Where your ears might miss the action, your eyes certainly won’t. The Tobii eye tracking feature is now becoming a common sight in thick and expensive laptops. We reviewed it on the Acer Predator 21 X and were not entirely floored. The eye tracking is a phenomenal piece of tech but the application in video games is still questionable even after a year. It’s one of those features which takes a backseat and only comes out when you want to impress a friend or explain your wife why you spent ₹3lacs on a laptop.
Alienware Area 51m: Display
If it were up to me, I’d trade the Tobii eye tracking for an HDR screen in a heartbeat or maybe a 2K screen. Sadly, there’s no such elaborate option for your majesty. What you’re stuck with is a FullHD screen with 144Hz of G-Sync smoothness. The windows display setting says the screen has HDR but there’s no noticeable difference and it doesn’t play apps or games on HDR, so Netflix and Assassin’s Creed will show no difference.
But being stuck to a high-refresh rate monitor is just spoiling yourself silly. Games play buttery smooth and the Nvidia RTX 2080 makes sure each race in Forza Horizon 4 touches all those 144 frames.
Colours on the screen are natural without any shift in colour accuracy while adjusting the hinge. It’s not the sharpest around but we don’t have any complain. Even the hinge is sturdy and smooth. It’s as good as a MacBook Pro hinge, and slightly stronger too, which is a Stuff favourite.
Alienware Area 51m: Keyboard and trackpad
Alienware made sure you could change lights on everything your finger lands on. Keyboard? Move on. Alien head on the lid when you lift the hinge? Yes obviously, because how will people know you’re a gamer? On the Touchpad while scrolling endless memes? Make it more colourful than a rainbow. What if you want to plug the charger and suddenly find no RGB lights entering your eyes? Alienware wouldn’t tolerate this blasphemy! Thank god there’s an RGB ring around the back.
It’s got one of the best keyboards around. It takes little to no time to get accustomed to its satisfying key travel. The keys are spaced out very well so your fingers land accurately. It’s not completely flat either so reaching the top keys is easier and quite ergonomic while gaming. When the room lights are out, the backlit RGB will create a very pleasant halo effect around the edges of each key (when pressed). It’s very different and oozing with class. So even when there’s plenty of RGB here, it never feels ‘in your face’. This subtlety adds to the charm of using this machine.
The RGB touchpad is just an RGB lover’s dream, but is very tiny. Alienware is banking on you carrying a mouse to the LAN party.
Alienware Area 51m: Performance
Alienware have put on the hard hat and steam rolled a desktop PC into a laptop chassis. This behemoth has an Intel Core i9-9900K. Yup, that’s a proper desktop CPU with desktop socket and everything. Coupled with 32GB of RAM with no room for slouching. If you’re editing TikTok videos at 4K, then the Area 51m has your covered there too.
The GPU is meaty as well. The RTX 2080 (8GB VRAM) is an absolute performer we’ve tested almost every latest game on it and it has delivered in spades.
Note: We’ve tested every game with the highest possible setting the game has to offer.
Here’s the number crunch - Devil May Cry 5 plays at 100 to 120 frames. While PUBG was somewhere between 130 and 144 frames. Forza Horizon 4 maxed out and maintained a consistent 144 frames and our favourite Resident Evil 2 maintained a good 144 frames but would occasionally drop to 120 when the zombies showed up in numbers. Shadow of the Tomb Raider was lingering around 120+ frames on the high preset and between 95 to 120 on the highest preset. Metro Exodus takes a backseat due to Ray Tracing and it manages around 45 to 55 frames. We turned off Ray Tracing and got around 80 to 90 frames immediately. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was running at an average of 68 frames on Ultra setting but we’d roll down the graphics setting a bit to maintain a 60+ frame rate.
If you set aside the sorcery of opening this baby up and swapping the innards. This is without a doubt one of the best gaming laptops and that’s partly because of how uncompromised the Area 51m feels and more so because this thing barely heats up. While gaming, if you pump up the fan speed, the hair dryer noise is hard to avoid without headphones but the whole laptop just stays really cool. Even the keyboard area doesn’t get warm enough to realise there’s a rumbling beast inside.
Alienware Area 51m: Battery and software
The Indian variant gets two massive 330W power bricks and you need to plug in both to supply sufficient power for gaming. You can stick to one power brick during regular use and battery life is just about an hour and a half. You didn’t think this would last you an entire Champions League final match, right? No? Good.
The Alienware Command Center is probably setting examples of how exclusive gaming softwares should be. It’s neat, clean and very easy to navigate. We had the most easy going overclocking experience here and that’s saying something. Even Asus and MSI have taken notes and dialled down their flashy softwares to look simple and easy to navigate.
Alienware Area 51m: Upgradability
The Area 51m is made without compromises and akin to a desktop version which makes this laptop, very special in 2019. Alienware wants you to open this laptop up and probably do what you can do with a desktop, replace parts in the future.
The CPU, although upgradeable, is very high specced so there’s very minimum chance of you replacing this i9 for a good few years. What really moves faster with time is GPU upgrades and although Alienware has promised that the RTX GPUs can be swapped for other RTX series GPUs, it’s not much of an upgrade if you can already buy those variants the first time.
The real question is when the next batch of Nvidia or AMD GPUs arrive, will Alienware be able to put together a mobile variant of said GPUs? So far no one knows, not even Alienware, but if it's technically possible then they’ll try. And like desktop, opening up the laptop yourself isn’t rocket science and Alienware has marked which parts are where and which screws go where too. There’s even a proper step by step video by Alienware to pull this baby apart.
Alienware Area 51m: Verdict
There’s a certain excitement when you game on the Alienware Area 51m. The model we tested is priced at ₹3,58,236 in India and personally, I would stick to a desktop. Although, if you pick me up from the comfortable confines of Mumbai and put me in Bangalore or any other city, carrying my gaming desktop will be a huge task. I might even have to sell it off before I go live in another city because my watercooled-caged-in-tempered-glass baby won’t last a minute under the sun. Long story short, it’s a foldable high-end gaming desktop and that’s the biggest differentiator among all the fat gaming laptops that have come to Stuff HQ.
The performance is top notch and it absolutely crushes all gaming laptops so far we’ve tested. Maybe not the Acer Predator 21 X but that thing is as exclusive as Kohli’s wedding with Ambani’s budget.
Should you buy the Alienware Area 51m? If you’ve got deep pockets, surely but make sure you understand that this laptop cannot be used as a laptop but as a take-it-anywhere desktop (spoiler alert: you’ll need a car).