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Alienware Area-51m review: Desktop level performance on laptop
What if I tell you that, there is a laptop which offers an option to upgrade most of the components like CPU, GPU, RAM, and storage. The Alienware Area-51m is one of those laptops (you cannot use it on your lap for sure) with a true desktop-class CPU (Intel K series chipset that supports overclocking) with a full mobile RTX GPU (non-Max-Q variant).
- Desktop-class CPU
- Modular hardware design
- Massive 17-inch high-refresh rate display
- Difficult to carry
The company will sell custom GPU modules, which can be used to upgrade the GPU (you can upgrade from 2070 to 2080). The upgrade modules will be available from the second half of 2019.
It does offer a lot of gaming-centric features like a 144Hz 1080p IPS LCD screen, RGB lighting, and unmatchable computational power. There is no doubt in the fact that the Alienware Area-51m is a monster when it comes to gaming and other computational tasks. However, can the Alienware Area-51m can justify the price tag of Rs 2,50,000 (without taxes)? Let's find out.
The Alienware Area-51m does not hide the fact that it is a gaming laptop. The device comes with customizable RGB lighting across the chassis just like the previous generation Alienware devices. Compared to the competition (Asus Zephyrus and MSI RTX laptops), the Area-51m is on the bulkier side as the machine comes with a desktop CPU (9th Gen Intel i7-9700K) and Mobile RTX 2070 GPU.
The laptop is bulky and heavy, which makes it a bit difficult to travel with the computer under a typical scenario, and one has to have a bigger backpack to carry this gaming behemoth. With respect I/O, the Alienware Area-51m has almost every port that you might use in 2019, except for the SD card slot. As the laptop has power hungry internals, it comes with a dual charging port and a dual charger in the retail box (240W + 240W), offering a total of 480W power, which should be good enough for the overclockable Intel 9th Gen Core i7-9700K CPU and a mobile RTX 2070 GPU.
The Alienware Area-51m comes with a 17.3-inch 1080p IPS LCD screen with the 144Hz refresh rate. The panel used on the Alienware Area-51m is pretty bright at 300nits, which covers 72% color gamut. Using Thunderbolt 3.0 port one can connect a 4K monitor to play games in true high-resolution and can also be used to stream 4K content on various streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Videos.
The screen used on the Area-51m is NVidia G-Sync enabled, which reduces the screen tearing and results in much smoother gameplay. I had no issues with respect to the display; however, I felt that the company could have incorporated a 2K or QHD display as the CPU and GPU on the device are capable of driving a 2K screen, even with the most demanding titles.
The Alienware Area-51m has a 2.0 stereo speaker setup, and the sound output from the device is loud and crisp even at the 100% volume. I did not face any issues with the audio output via the 3.5mm headphone jack. And, the HDMI port on the laptop does support 7.1 surrounds digital audio output.
The laptop gets pretty loud in a closed chamber even at 60% of volume, and at times, I did increase the volume to 90% and did not notice any distortion in the audio. You can definitely game on the Area-51m without connecting an external speaker or a headphone.
Keyboard and trackpad
The full-sized keyboard on the Alienware Area-51m is RGB backlit, where each key (2.2mm key-travel) is programmable using the Alienware command center. Just like the previous generation Alienware 17 R5 review, the Alienware Area-51m has a large RGB trackpad, which is on point with other Windows laptops. Gaming on the Area-51m keyboard is a joy, though it is not a mechanical keyboard, it is one of the best keyboards that I have seen on a gaming laptop, period.
You should never game on a built-in trackpad, and this statement stands true to the Area-51m as well. The trackpad tracks accurately for typical day to day conditions while browsing the web, however, for all other tasks like using Microsoft software, gaming, and, editing a video, the machine can take advantage from an external mouse.
Thanks to the 9th Gen Intel i7-9700K and the mobile RTX 2070 GPU, the Alienware Area-51m is one of the best gaming laptops that you can buy in India. As it comes with a 1080p display, most of the games can offer 80+ FPS even at the high or extreme graphics settings. Let us look at the performance of the Alienware Area-51m on some of the recent games and benchmark tools to understand the device in a detailed manner.
The laptop uses Dual-Intake, Dual-Exhaust Airflow Design. Due to the re-engineered thermal solution, I did not notice any significant heating issues, and these fans were almost silent while doing typical day to day tasks. Alienware also uses the Cryo-Tech v2.0, which makes sure that there is no thermal throttling issue while gaming continuously.
In simpler words, the Alienware Area-51m comes with a patented cooling system, which makes sure that the laptop will not thermal throttle even while playing games continuously, and you will experience no frame-rate drops as well.
SSD speed test
The Alienware Area-51m comes with a 512 GB M.2 SSD with 1 TB HDD. The 512 GB SSD will be more than enough to install the OS and a few games and software. On CrystalDiskMark 6.0.2, the laptop scores 3158.9 MB/s or 3.1 GB/s read and 1395.1 MB/s or 1.3 GB/s write speed. These scores or on par with some of the latest M.2 SSDs that we have reviewed recently.
Having high-speed SSD enables faster boot time and faster app and games opening time compared to a slower SSD or a speedier HDD with 7200 RPM.
On Geekbench 4, the Alienware Area-51m scores 5584 points on single core and 27324 points on multi-core performance. Do note that, the laptop comes with 16 GB DDR4 RAM, 9th Gen Intel Core i7-9700K CPU. If we compared these scores to the Alienware Aurora R8 (which has 9th Gen Intel i9-9900K), the Aurora R8 scores slightly better single and multi-core scores at 5969 points on single core and 32441 points on multi-core performance.
So, going with a device powered by the Core i7-9700K is not a wrong choice, as the performance difference between the Core-i9 and Core-i7 is very marginal, and the Core-i9-9900K definitely costs more than the Core-i7 variant.
On Cinebench 20, the Alienware Area-51m scores 3326 points, again, Cinebench 20 is a CPU performance benchmark app, which calculates the performance of a CPU by the time taken by a CPU to render an image. In this context, the Intel Core i9-9900K, which offers slightly better rendering speed (multi-core) compared to the Core i7-9700K, that powers the Area-51m.
Unigine Heaven Benchmark
Unigine Heaven Benchmark is a DX11 based GPU benchmark tool, on the Unigine Heaven Benchmark, the laptop scores an average FPS of 156.8 with an overall score of 3949. If we compared these numbers to a full-sized RTX 2070 (Area-51m has the mobile RTX 2070), the Alienware Aurora R8 scores an average FPS of 170 with an overall score of 4283.
As one can see, there is a bit of a performance difference in the Mobile RTX 2070 and the full-sized desktop class RTX 2070. The mobile RTX 2070 that powers the Alienware Area-51m is at least 20% slower than the full sized RTX 2070 graphics card.
On PCMark 10, the Alienware Area-51m scores 6112 points, whereas the Alienware Aurora R8 scores 6650 points, which is slightly ahead of the Area-51m, as it comes with double the RAM and a faster CPU and GPU.
A 6112-point score on the PCMark 10 is not bad at all, and, any computer, which can score 5000 points or above on PCMark 10 can handle almost any task, related to CPU and GPU.
The benchmark mentioned above tools can tell a part of the story, and a real performance test of a gaming PC or laptop has to be done by running high-demanding games. I tried to play a lot of modern AAA titles on the Area-51m, including GTA V, The Division 2, and, the Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Let us look at the gaming performance of the Alienware Area-51m.
The Shadow of the Tomb Rider (DXR)
The Shadow of the Tomb Rider is one of the best games to measure the ray-tracing ability of a GPU (RTX 2070 is one of the few GPUs which comes with tensor cores, which helps with ray-tracing). With ray-tracing turned off, the Shadow of the Tomb Rider offered an average FPS of 107, and with medium ray-tracing, the machine offered an average FPS of 98. If we tune the ray-tracing settings to maximum or extreme, the FPS dropped down to 55 FPS.
The Division 2 (DX12)
On The Division 2, the Alienware Area-51m scores an average FPS of 74 with extreme graphics settings. We did notice a bit of a disturbance in the built-in benchmark tool on the Division 2, as the results varied almost 15% to 20% each time we ran the benchmark.
GTA V (DX11)
On GTA V, we noticed a steady FPS of 110 at all the time, and the game ran smoothly at all the time. The GTA V ran like a breeze on the Alienware Area-51m, and we didn't face any issues with respect to the overall gaming performance, especially on the GTA V.
The benchmarks mentioned above are the real testament to the performance of the Alienware Area-51m. I think, going with the RTX 2070 and a 1080p display is a brilliant idea, as the GPU can handle ray-traced games like the Shadow of the Tomb Rider with higher FPS. Do note that, there is a high-end Alienware Area-51m with RTX 2080 and Intel Core i9-9900K, which can offer slightly better performance.
Though the Alienware Area-51m is being categorized as a laptop, one cannot use it by keeping it on top of the lap, as it weighs at 3.87 KG, making it one of the massive gaming laptops of 2019. Though it looks like a laptop, it is designed to offer a desktop-class performance.
It does offer a great set of features, including Tobii eye tracking, user upgradable GPU, CPU, RAM, and storage. The Alienware Area-51m is for those, who need absolute performance and are ready to spend a little extra.
The Alienware Area-51m is also for those, who need a proper desktop level performance in a laptop form factor, so that, they can carry the machine to the gaming conventions and exhibitions.