I had an Alienware Area 51m laptop back in 2008 up until about 2014. I wish it was as nice as the modern iteration which has been in my hands recently. I also wish mine was as sleek, powerful, and pleasant to use as the latest model. Yes, the latest Alienware Area 51m R2 laptop retains the famously premium price tag, but it's a hell of a beast and is seriously undeniable in its power, performance, and brutal beauty - it really is one of the best gaming laptops.
Design & Features
Here are the specs for the laptop sent to GamesRadar+ for review:
Processor: Intel i9-10900U
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super 8GB GDDR6
Memory: 32GB DDR4 2933MHz RAM
Display: 17.3-inch 144Hz
Storage: 512GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Ports: 1 x Media Card Reader; 3 x Type-A USB 3.2 Gen 1; 1 x HDMI 2.0 Output with HDCP 2.2 Output Port (Supports direct drive VR interfaces); 1 x Mini DisplayPort 1.4 Output Port (supports NVIDIA® G-Sync®; 1 x RJ-45 Killer Ethernet E3000 10/100/1000Mbps/2.5Gbps Port; 1 x Alienware Graphics Amplifier Port; 2 x DC Power Inputs; 1 x Thunderbolt 3 Port (supports USB 3.2 Gen 2 and DisplayPort 1.2); 1 x Audio Out 1/8" Port (Compatible with inline mic headset); 1 x Global Headset Port
Connectivity: Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650 (2x2) 802.11ax Wireless; Bluetooth 5.1
OS: Windows 10 Home 64-bit
Weight: c. 9.9 pounds (c. 4.5kg)
The Area 51m laptop is genuinely nice to look at, having an architectural feel to its aesthetic and a stylish design to boot; it really is one of the nicest laptops going, striking the balance between being a gaming laptop and a cool, well-designed bit of tech overall. Yeah, it's a bit further from the thinnest and lightest gaming laptops going, but it's got its own character in design and form that matches the PC-replicating power that it offers. The fat back end and the exhaust shape on the rear is a good case in point of that.
It's a chonk, then, but it all feels in proportion. It's also weighty as you'd expect, but within the aesthetic, the laptop works. In fact, it feels premium and solid. The screen is a great example. A simple test that I often perform is to see if there's any noticeable wobble or slipping from the screen position. In this case, no wobble could be found - it's really rather sturdy.
This extends to the whole build: everything genuinely feels premium and like you've got the best design and build in your hands.
Other nice touches are present across the behemoth, too: the RGB alien head and rim to the oval 'exhaust' on the rear are cool; the keyboard's RGB lighting is soft and pleasant; and the whole touchpad illuminating when in use is really lovely. The screen recognising when you're looking at it is another fun feature and oozes a bit of (largely unnecessary) cool factor.
When it comes to more practical matters, there's a whole range of ports available. The fact that the laptop is slightly fatter at the back means that you've got three sides of the machine to plug things into - actually a welcome bonus given many thin and light machines are so slight that there's no room for ports at the back. Given the premium nature of the machine and the vast array of other ports, I'd perhaps have liked to have seen one more USB port, but the USB-C port is welcome, and the dual power ports and Alienware Graphics Amplifier Port do take up a bit of room.
How does the Alienware Area 51m R2 fare against some industry benchmarks? Here's how it got on with some rigorous gaming tests.
Cinebench CPU: 5,806 cb
3DMark Fire Strike: 20,147 points
3DMark Time Spy: 9,286 points
PC Mark: 6759 points
Port Royal: 5335 points
CrystalDiskMark: SSD: 3,460 MB/s read; 2,647 MB/s write; HDD: 181 MB/s read; 171 MB/s write
Metro Exodus: RTX (ray-tracing on Ultra): 68 fps; High: 87 fps
Tom Clancy's The Division 2: Ultra: 89 fps; High: 122 fps
Red Dead Redemption 2: Highest: 68 fps; Default: 96 fps
Shadow of the Tomb Raider: Highest: 110 fps; High: 126 fps
Total War: Three Kingdoms: Ultra: 72 fps; High: 99 fps
Rather predictably, the Area 51m R2 absolutely dominates everything that is thrown at it. We've all come to know the premium performance offered by all Alienware laptops, and in particular the Area 51 machines, and it is absolutely no surprise that the one we tested continues that trend. As you can see from the benchmarks we took, it offers world-beating numbers and performance.
The good news is that these numbers translate into genuinely excellent experience in games. Anything that can run Metro Exodus in full ray tracing mode and settings, or Red Dead Redemption 2 on its highest settings at more than 60 frames per second, sounds too good to be true. But playing them at that smoothness, in reality, is a genuine joy. Yeah, the fans kick in after a while and get loud but, hey, this is a gaming laptop goliath and, like poor battery life, fans doing their job feels a bit like a statement of fact rather than a criticism. One day we might get to silent gaming laptop fans, but that's not yet.
The nuance with the performance and the power that comes with the Area 51m R2 however is in the power supplies. Generally, I do find having to have two power ports and units a massive drag and annoyance. Especially when some of the other top gaming laptops, like Razer laptops or any that have comparable specs, do not require such a setup. However, this does give you flexibility with what you can experience. Having both attached means you'll get the full unadulterated experience, meaning you can customise and modify the machine's power output and performance in the hardware to the fullest option range available. Have the one power supply in and you'll get a lesser performance level, but still one that's solid, and very enjoyable, and of a great standard. That extra power supply really does, then, become the lynchpin in the Area 51m R2's oscillation between a great gaming laptop and a PC-equalling (or even beating) portable machine. For reference, all of the benchmarks we took were done with both power supplies powering the laptop.
I also genuinely enjoyed using the laptop as a work machine too, with that illuminating touchpad and satisfying keyboard proving great companions for day to day activities and productivity.
Meanwhile, the 17.3-inch screen provides that lovely larger laptop screen size and helps with giving a roomy desktop and amount of screen real-estate while offering that superior gaming screen experience. It took a bit of getting used to the screen turning off and then coming back on because it could recognise my face instantly, though!
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Overall - should you buy it?
The Area 51m series of laptops is as good as it ever was. It's got literally everything you need for a premium gaming laptop - arguably more if you count the two power cables. While we've come to know what to expect from Alienware's beastly machines, having one, using one day-to-day, and actually enjoying it as a gaming machine is a delight - if, indeed, you can afford it.
It certainly does represent the most powerful of gaming laptops that you can go for right now without waiting for the inevitable 30-series machines coming next year. The price tag - the one we had in easily cruises past the $3,000 / £3,000 mark - will just be too much for many, putting it firmly out of reach for a lot of (nay, most) gamers. You can't deny everything it does well though. It's a beast of a machine, and the latest aesthetic that Alienware is draping over their machines makes it a beautiful beast too. It's supreme in all it does and would give many of the best gaming PCs a run for their money.