Dell’s Alienware Area-51m brings incredible power to a (relatively) mobile package

In the extreme mobile PC market, it was to be expected that Alienware, a company known for almost garish excesses, would have something to demonstrate at CES. It did not disappoint, showing the Area-51m, which could be the most powerful mobile PC under 10lbs on earth. This workstation isn't exactly thin, at 1.23" (31.2mm) thick, and it isn't light, at 9.7lbs (4.4kg). It's actually relatively fat and heavy and looks like the giant gaming laptops of a few years back, but boy, is it packing some powerful stuff under the hood.

Despite its internal excesses, the Area-51m has a typical clamshell design, with no fancy screen gymnastics or popoff keyboards. Instead, it's a large 17.3" (44 cm) display that you can configure to support 144Hz, G-Sync, and Tobii eye-tracking. But there are no touch options. 

However, support for processors up to an Intel Core i9-9900K, a first for a mobile PC, and a full RTX 2080, both upgradable, are available. However, the GPU is using Dell's in-house "Dell Graphics Form Factor," so a replacement graphics card can't be a simple off-the-shelf replacement. Because it's using a custom form factor, your ability to upgrade will be dependent upon the whims of Nvidia, AMD, and Dell to produce replacement parts. Alienware was clear that it can't promise whether future GPUs will be compatible. Dell says that it would like to make future models work, but it depends on the way Nvidia and AMD manufacture and design future GPUs. We do know that the custom motherboard, based on Intel's Z390 desktop chipset, will support any Z390-compatible CPU and can support up to 64GB of memory.

The Area-51m's standard networking package includes a Realtek 2.5-Gbps Ethernet NIC, Killer Wireless 1550 2x2 AC, and Bluetooth 5.0. Oddly enough, the three USB Type-A ports onboard are USB 3.0, not 3.1. As you might hope for a premium system post-2017, there's Thunderbolt 3 support included on a single USB Type-C port (hear that, Microsoft?). HDMI and Mini-DisplayPort will handle your external screens. As is sadly typical for the majority of PCs, the webcam is only 720p. Although the webcam might be underwhelming, the laptop does include a far field integrated microphone array, letting you talk to Cortana from across the room. The Alienware Graphics Amplifier will allow the use of external GPUs.

Alienware is pushing power above all else with this machine, and that comes with battery life consequences. In a standard battery test, Dell suggests that the system will last up to 3.5 hours max, and even less under typical usage. It also requires two, count 'em two, power inputs, with dual-barrel connector slots on the back of the machine. Available in "Lunar Light" (white) or "Dark Side of the Moon" (black), both of the Alienware Area-51m laptops are adorned with Alien heads and RGB LEDs, including under the trackpad. Be aware it's an extra $50 bucks should you want the white model.

Pricing starts at $2549.99, although once you start configuring a system with the highest-end components and features, that quickly ascends to over $5000. You can finance your purchase of an Alienware Area 51m on Dell's website; it's only $77 per month for literally 17 years to cover the $2549 configuration, so it will be yours outright by 2036.

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