New Alienware Area-51M R2 gaming laptop review – is it upgradeable?

New Alienware Area-51M R2 gaming laptop review
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With the Alienware TactX keyboard, N-key rollover technology enables over 108-key commands for maximum actions per minute and 1.7mm of key travel allows for rapid response for any keystroke. The Area-51m R2 features a 2.5Gbps bandwidth Ethernet connection, giving gamers 2.5x the amount of common wired Ethernet connections for blazing-fast file transfers. Find details in New Alienware Area-51M R2 gaming laptop review. Does New Alienware Area-51M R2 gaming laptop upgradeable?

Pros & Cons – New Alienware Area-51M R2 gaming laptop

PROS

  • Astounding graphics and general computing performance.
  • Desktop-class processor.
  • Nvidia RTX 2080 GPU.
  • Built-in eye tracking.
  • Comfortable keyboard.
  • 144Hz display.
  • Excellent component access for upgrades.

CONS

  • Heavy, bulky.
  • Requires two power bricks.
  • Expensive.
  • No 4K display option.
  • Very short battery life.

Specs – New Alienware Area-51M R2 gaming laptop

  • Laptop Class Gaming, Desktop Replacement
  • Processor Intel Core i9-9900K
  • Processor Speed 3.6 GHz
  • RAM (as Tested) 32 GB
  • Boot Drive Type SSD
  • Boot Drive Capacity (as Tested) 1 TB
  • Secondary Drive Type Hard Drive
  • Secondary Drive Capacity (as Tested) 1 TB
  • Screen Size 17.3 inches
  • Native Display Resolution 1920 by 1080
  • Touch Screen No
  • Panel Technology IPS
  • Variable Refresh Support G-Sync
  • Screen Refresh Rate 144 Hz
  • Graphics Processor Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080
  • Graphics Memory 8 GB
  • Wireless Networking 802.11ac, Bluetooth
  • Dimensions (HWD) 1.7 by 16.1 by 15.9 inches
  • Weight 9 lbs
  • Operating System Windows 10 Pro
  • Tested Battery Life (Hours:Minutes) 2:06

Price

The entry-level model in the US is relatively affordable by comparison. The Alienware Area-51m starts off with an Intel Core i7-8700, 8GB of RAM, an RTX 2060 and a 1TB SSHD, and is available for $1,949 (about £1,480, AU$2,770).

In the UK, the starting configuration has all the hardware above, but with a 256GB SSD and a Core i9 processor for £2,199 (about $2,900, AU$4,121). Australians will have to pay at least AU$3,999 (about $2,800, £2,133) and will get a Core i7, 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.   

New Alienware Area-51M R2 gaming laptop review

Build

We got the Lunar Light model, and the laptop has a white chassis with black accents in the front, and where the vents are around back. It looks better, too: the Alienware Area-51m comes in two color options, Lunar Light (white) and Dark Side of the Moon (black), and both options are jaw-dropping.

Instead of anodized aluminum, the majority of the Area-51m’s chassis is constructed from magnesium alloy in a color dubbed Dark Side of the Moon. The soft touch finish invites you to touch while rebuffing even the oiliest of fingerprints. It’s all very V, but without the subversive alien occupation by lizard people disguised as humans.

Design

The Alienware Area-51m weighs a whopping 8.54 pounds, and is 1.7 inches thick at its deepest point. This means you probably won’t be carrying it around anywhere, but it’s actually thinner and lighter than the MSI GT75 Titan. 

The 17-inch version of the Lenovo Legion Y740, for instance, is 1 by 16.2 by 12 inches (HWD) and just over 6 pounds. You can even find a Core i9 and an RTX 2080 in 15-inch models like the Gigabyte Aero 15, which measures 0.74 by 14 by 9.8 inches and tips the scales at 4.4 pounds. 

Connectors

The Area-51m has the standard set of ports you’d expect on a gaming laptop in 2019: three USB-A 3.1 ports, a Thunderbolt 3 Type-C port, HDMI, Mini DisplayPort, 2.5-gigabit Ethernet, a headset jack, a microphone jack, and Alienware’s proprietary graphics amplifier port for an external GPU. That’s probably enough ports for the average gamer, but I’d have liked to have seen even more, including an SD card slot. There’s a lot of empty space on the Area-51m’s chassis that could be used for more I/O, and multiple Thunderbolt 3 ports or an SD card slot would have made the computer much more attractive to the content creators that would use its horsepower for video editing and other tasks.

Display

The display itself is a Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) IPS display, running at 144Hz with G-Sync. And, with this GPU, hitting 144 frames per second (fps) in most games is an absolute breeze, so we are regularly able to capitalize on the high refresh rate. Trust us, once you play some Battlefield V on a high refresh rate display, there’s no going back. 

Brightness

Measuring for brightness, the Area-51m averaged 284 nits, which is brighter than the 278-nit average. It was also better than the Titan (271 nits), Eon 17-X (252 nits) and X9 (243 nits).

We learned the Area-51m’s panel can reproduce 117.5 percent of the sRGB gamut. It’s better than our 100-percent threshold but is short of the 138-percent average. The X9 and Titan were much more colorful at 122 and 178 percent. The Eon 17-X had the worst result at 104 percent.

Audio

The preset created a surround sound effect that added depth to whatever I was listening to. However, some of the more delicate track elements could get lost in the shuffle. The company has also added a feature called Sound Recall, which adds an overlay that will give you a visual cue when enemies try to creep up on you in game. It really comes in handy for first-person shooters like Battlefield V and Call of Duty: Black OPS 4.

Alienware has bundled its audio software into its Command Center software hub, making it a one-stop shop for all your gaming and (now) audio needs. The app comes with eight presets (Com, Movie, Music, Strategy, Racing, Shooter, Role Play and Alienware). While you should definitely try out every preset, I found myself using Music and Alienware the most. Music produced the best all-around audio performance.

Keyboard

The keyboard has customizable macro keys and full RGB lighting options, and since most people will instantly plug a gaming mouse into the side of the Area-51m, the trackpad’s small size and so-so tracking performance aren’t that much of an issue. My biggest complaint is the annoyingly squeaky N key on my review unit, but I have a feeling that is limited to my sample. Still, it’s not something I’d want to put up with on a multi-thousand-dollar computer.

Touchpad

The pleasingly accurate touchpad, which also includes adjustable backlighting, is on the small side. It’s not clickable, which means you’ll need to use the physical buttons below it for left- and right-clicking. That’s probably not much of a drawback for most prospective owners, who will likely use the Area-51m on their desk plugged into an external gaming mouse much of the time. In that case, the touchpad is merely ornamental.

Eye tracking

Our Area-51m also comes with built-in eye-tracking, backed by the familiar Tobii technology. Eye tracking is not new (nor even new to high-end Alienware machines), but it’s been slow to catch on. It’s available as a supplementary means of control for some games, and Microsoft recently added an experimental feature that lets you control basic Windows functions with your eyes, such as opening the Start menu and even typing on an onscreen keyboard with glances.

Webcam

The Area-51m’s integrated webcam takes decent shots and I’d use it for streaming if I couldn’t find my external shooter. The 720p cam accurately captured the color of my light blue shirt and purple hair.

Storage and processor

Inside the hulking chassis is a Z390 chipset, with a desktop processor, up to 64GB (four sticks) of RAM, two M.2 SSD slots, a 2.5-inch drive bay, and Dell’s DGFF modular graphics card. You can get the Area-51m with a Core-i7 8700 processor and Nvidia RTX 2060 GPU to start, but I think most people interested in this machine will opt for the higher-end (and more expensive) configurations. The model I’ve been testing has the Core i9-9900K processor, RTX 2080 GPU, 32GB of DD4 2400MHz RAM, two 512GB M.2 SSDs (in a RAID 0 setup for a total of 1TB of fast storage), and an additional 1TB hybrid drive for more storage.

Good for gaming

Even games like Battlefield V and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, which have a lot of eye candy and special ray-tracing lighting effects, could be played with virtually every setting turned on and maxed out and the Area-51m still maintains frame rates between 60 and 80 frames per second. That’s not quite the full 144Hz that this screen can push, but it’s still high enough for a great experience in those games.

Competitive shooting games, like Apex LegendsOverwatchCS:GO, and everyone’s favorite, Fortnite, can be played with all of their graphical features enabled at 120 to 144 frames per second.

Battery Life

The battery inside the Area-51m is a large, 90 watt-hour unit, but that doesn’t translate into great battery life. In my tests, I was able to get about 90 minutes to two hours of use between charges for productivity work and closer to 30 minutes while gaming. That means you’ll want to carry around both of the Area-51m’s power adapters when you bring the computer places, as you’ll need both of them for full-power gaming

New Alienware Area-51M R2 gaming laptop performance review

Here is how the Alienware Area-51m fared in our suite of benchmark tests:

3DMark Sky Diver: 55,248; Fire Strike: 22,741; Time Spy: 10,502
Cinebench CPU: 1,920 cb; Graphics: 157 fps
Geekbench 4 Single-Core: 5,918; Multi-Core: 32,939
PCMark 8 Home: 5,637
PCMark 8 Battery Life: 2 hours 3 minutes
Battery Life (TechRadar movie test): 2 hours 26 minutes
Total War: Warhammer 2: 170 fps (1080p, Low) 87 fps (1080p Ultra)
Shadow of the Tomb Raider: 156 fps (1080p, Low), 123 fps (1080p, Ultra)

The benchmarks really back this up. In Cinebench, the Area-51m scores a whopping 1,929 points. Not only is this almost double the 1,020 points scored by the 8th-generation Core i9 in the MSI GT75, it actually beats the numbers we were getting when we tested the 9900K by itself. 

Graphics benchmarks are similarly insane – the Area-51m achieved 10,502 points in Time Spy, thanks to its out-of-the-box overclock. Gaming benchmarks just blow us away, too. With all the settings maxed out, this laptop was able to get an average of 123 fps in Shadow of the Tomb Raider and 87 fps in Total War: Warhammer 2.

Does new Alienware Area-51M R2 gaming laptop upgradeable?

Future upgradeability is a nice thing to have, but when you’re spending $2,000 or more on a laptop, you don’t want to have to upgrade any of it anytime soon. The Area-51m’s design may immediately separate from the rest of the gaming laptop pack, but if it’s really going to justify its cost, it needs to be a top performer out of the box.

You can upgrade the memory and storage yourself easily enough by removing the laptop’s back cover, which matches the Lunar Light—i.e. white—color of the rest of our review unit. (You can also order an Area-51m in Dark Side of the Moon—a.k.a. black.) The bottom removal is an easy process, with just six screws to loosen, and once the cover’s off you have access to the memory SO-DIMM slots, the M.2 connectors and a 2.5-inch drive bay, and the battery. This is a throwback to the user-serviceable laptops of old that I definitely appreciate in an era when most new laptops aren’t intended to be easily upgraded after purchase. Indeed, many are tricky to crack open at all.

New Alienware Area-51M R2 gaming laptop customer review

Alienware Area 51M R2 Laptop

I purchased the Alienware Area 51M R2 laptop (1 TB SSD) for research (not gaming) and have found that it can process data with lightning speed compared to my other Intel core I7 processor laptop. I appreciate the larger 17″ screen since looking at data can be tough on the eyes over a long period. All the software and my programs I had used migrated successfully and easily to the Alienware (thankfully). This is an amazing machine and well worth the cost and (heavier) weight for my needs – though the (two) chargers weigh almost as much as the laptop.

By Alienware51MR2 at Best Buy

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