CES 2019 | Alienware Area-51m is a 17-inch laptop with two AC adapter ports and removable GeForce RTX graphics
Unveiled at CES 2019, the 17.3-inch Alienware Area-51m laptop represents the next evolution in the long-lasting flagship Alienware 17 series. The model is set to launch alongside the new Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 for mobile.
What's notable about the Area-51m is that it's not a simple revision of the Alienware 17. Instead, it's a complete re-imagining of what a flagship Alienware laptop should be. The system will drop both the soldered 45 W mobile-class CPU and soldered GPU as found on most other gaming laptops for a standard LGA 1151 socket and a removable GPU form factor. The result is a significantly more powerful system that can support 95 W desktop CPUs up to the Core i9-9900K (or newer) with overclocking options and a user-upgradeable 180 W TDP graphics card.
|Alienware Area-51m R1||Alienware 17 R5|
|CPU||Core i7-8700, i7-9700K, i9-9900HK||45 W Core i9-8950H, soldered|
GeForce RTX 2060 w/ 6 GB GDDR6 DGFF removable
GeForce RTX 2070 w/ 8 GB GDDR6 DGFF removable
GeForce RTX 2080 w/ 8 GB GDDR6 DGFF removable
|GeForce GTX 1080, soldered|
|Display||17.3-inch matte FHD 300-nit only. G-Sync, Tobii eye-tracking, 144 Hz optional||17.3-inch FHD, QHD, 4K UHD, 120 Hz, G-Sync options|
|RAM||4x SODIMM, Up to 64 GB DDR4-2400||2x SODIMM, Up to 32 GB DDR4-2400|
|Wireless||Killer 1550||Killer 1435|
|Storage||2x M.2 2280 + 1x 2.5-inch SATA III||2x M.2 2280 + 1x 2.5-inch SATA III|
|Ports||3x USB 3.1 Type-A, 3.5 mm mic, 3.5 mm headphones, 2.5 Gbps RJ-45, mDP 1.4, Thunderbolt 3HDMI 2.0, Graphics Amplifier, 2x AC adapters||USB Type-C Gen. 1, 2x USB 3.0 Type-A, 3.5 mm mic, 3.5 mm headphones, 1 Gbps RJ-45, mDP 1.2, Thunderbolt 3, HDMI 2.0, Graphics Amplifier, 1x AC adapter|
|90 Wh||99 Wh|
|Dimensions||27.65 x 410 x 402.6 mm||30 x 424 x 332 mm|
|Weight||3.87 kg||4.42 kg|
Dell is skipping the standard MXM form factor for its own proprietary DGFF (Dell Graphics Form Factor) solution. Dell claims that Nvidia support for MXM is waning and so the development of DGFF was the best direction for the series. Of course, this also means that Dell can sell individual RTX 2070 or RTX 2080 cards as proprietary DGFF modules and potentially charge users without competition.
The removable DGFF graphics card comes with some notable perks not found on most other gaming laptops. Serviceability will be much easier and Dell says it is working on supporting future Nvidia GPUs that will eventually succeed Turing. Should Nvidia ever launch the "RTX 3080", for example, existing owners could simply swap out the GPUs not unlike on a desktop.
The actual process of replacing the GPU will still be relatively involved because users must remove the bottom plating and heat sink beforehand. To alleviate this, Dell will offer upgrade options where users can send in their Area-51m laptops for professional servicing and more.
Dell says Quadro GPUs will not be supported as the Area-51m will focus on games. In contrast, many Clevo laptops like the Eurocom F5 can swap between Quadro and GeForce GPUs for a wider variety of applications. If the DGFF form factor takes off, however, we wouldn't be surprised to see future Precision laptops adopt the concept in some way.
All these new changes present a challenge to Clevo and other barebones ODMs. Laptops like the Schenker XMG Ultra 17 or Eurocom Sky X7C have long had the ability to upgrade both the CPU and GPU. A few existing MSI and Asus laptops also have the ability to upgrade either the CPU or GPU such as the GT75 and ROG Chimera G703. The Alienware-51m is Dell's way of entering the same enthusiast gamer market with a "performance at all cost" philosophy.
Although the new laptop is actually smaller than the Alienware 17, don't expect it to be that much more portable. The system requires two independent 280 W AC adapters to run at maximum performance much like on the Asus ROG Chimera series and some Zotac mini PCs. Clevo and Eurocom have already solved this cumbersome issue by designing a special high-power AC adapter to negate the need for two adapters.
The Alienware Area-51m launches on January 29th for a starting price of $2549 USD with more affordable configurations to come at a later date. The system acts as an anti-thesis to the thin-and-light Alienware m17 while directly replacing the outgoing Alienware 17 R5.