Sunday, 28 June 2020

The AlienWare Area-51m is a killer gaming machine

The Alienware Area-51m is undoubtedly one of the high-end gaming notebooks. The price of almost 4,000 euros leaves no doubt about it. But there is also a lot of technology in the machine for this. In addition to the current RTX graphics card, an eight-core Intel processor also works in the desktop version in the case. And the planer can also be upgraded.

One thing quickly becomes clear: the Alienware Area-51m is not necessarily a notebook for on the go, but rather intended as a desktop replacement. With a weight of just under four kilograms plus another two kilos for the two (!) Power supplies, the intervertebral discs are rather less delighted when the bolide goes into the travel backpack, especially since with 42 x 402.6 x 410 mm it is not exactly economical in terms of dimensions is.

In terms of appearance, the notebook does a lot. The dark gray-black housing with soft-touch surface and stylish logo exudes high quality from all pores. The hearty ventilation grilles on the back indicate a lot of power of the interior. Alienware has, however, afforded a lapsus: While the matte display does not have any reflections, the same is always annoying in the display frame, which we would also like to have matte.

Almost everything the heart desires is available for the connections, only the manufacturer has dispensed with a card reader. The side connections (left: audio, USB 3.1, Type-C - right: 2x USB 3.1) are arranged fairly centrally to create more space for air outlets in the rear area. Not quite as nice for mouse users, but still acceptable. The connections of the two power supply blocks are on the back, as are LAN, Mini DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.0 and a proprietary port for the Alienware graphics amplifier, with which an external graphics card can be connected if required.

We immediately like the Alienware keyboard TactX. The keys with their 2.2 mm stroke have pleasant pressure points, the slight arching of the key caps ensures good grip when typing. Both gaming and work are wonderfully easy. Also nice are the down arrow keys. Incidentally, it is a full keyboard with a number field, and six configurable additional keys are installed on the left. The illuminated trackpad also has no weaknesses during operation, is easy to grip and the buttons also work perfectly.

The display lid is slightly moved forward. This not only ensures stability, but also prevents excessive heat in the key area, as there are temperature-critical areas behind the display. A 17-inch IPS panel from AU Optronics with Full HD resolution and a refresh rate of 144 Hz is used. This fits perfectly with the interior, as we will see shortly. The same is available with or without Nvidia G-Sync. The only pity is that there are currently no options for 4K displays.

The nimble screen can also convince in operation, especially due to its strong color display and clean contrasts. There is nothing to complain about, it is also great for gaming. A 720p webcam is integrated above the display. Below we discover the bar for Tobii Eye Tracking, which can be controlled using pre-installed software. However, this twitched a bit with us when it came to the default settings, but Alienware can't help it.

The inner life promises brute game power. The beating heart of the notebook is the Intel Core i9-9900K @ 3.6 GHz in the desktop version on a Z390 mainboard. The eight core delivers a lot of computing power not only for games, but also for demanding applications. When you see it, you finally know why the bolide needs two power supplies for its energy hunger. He has 32 GB of DDR4-2666 as RAM.

An Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 is responsible for the graphics. This means that you can play everything, really everything with juicy frame rates and a 144 Hz display is not an exaggeration. In one configuration, the notebook only has a 500 GB NVMe SSD from Hynix, but the Brummer is also optional with 512 GB RAID0 (2x 256 GB PCIe M.2 SSD) + 1 TB (+ 8 GB) -SSHD) to get hybrid hard drive. Connectivity is also plentiful thanks to the Killer E3000 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth 5.0 and Killer Wireless-AC 5500.

Practical: The Alienware Area-51m is designed to be upgraded. CPU, memory and GPU are interchangeable. However, a special module is required for the graphics card and it is not yet clear whether upcoming Nvidia models will support the same. Basically, however, it is commendable that you could give the bulky bolide some legs if the hardware gets old.

With the interior and two juicy power supplies, the question of cooling naturally arises. Alienware makes a fairly useful compromise between cooling performance and volume. Under full load, the temperatures climb a bit higher than usual from other notebooks (CPU max. 100 degrees, GPU max. 85 degrees), but the volume remains within a reasonable range with about 50 db on the front and 54 db behind the display. In particular, because there is no excruciatingly high whistle, but rather a more saturated noise than background noise. A headset when gaming is recommended.

However, the Area-51m scores with a mercilessly good gaming performance that leaves nothing to be desired. Thanks to the powerful CPU, the RTX 2080 can also fully flex its muscles, since the processor does not turn out to be a throttling bottleneck in the Full HD resolution. Frame rates above 60 fps are no problem at all for configuration, with not a few titles even the 100 fps limit is broken, mind you with maximum graphics settings of the gaming benchmarks used. Even a Metro Exodus with activated ray tracing easily passed the 60 fps hurdle.

The Alienware Area-51m is completely convincing in almost all respects, but especially in the brute game and work performance. The strong eight-core also handles complex applications, but also ensures that the RTX 2080 does not have to fight with a bottleneck, but can fully exploit its power. The high-quality 144 Hz display, which can actually be used, also fits. There is also little to nothing to complain about in terms of quality and equipment.

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