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CES 2019 | Alienware Area-51m is a 17-inch laptop with two AC adapter ports and removable GeForce RTX graphics

Alienware Area-51m is a 17-inch laptop with removable GeForce RTX graphics card and an LGA 1151 socket (Source: Dell)
Alienware Area-51m is a 17-inch laptop with removable GeForce RTX graphics card and an LGA 1151 socket (Source: Dell)
Dell is pulling a Clevo by offering a laptop with desktop CPU options and an upgradeable GPU. Instead of adopting the MXM GPU form factor like MSI and Clevo, however, Dell has created its own proprietary DGFF GPU form factor that promises better support and easier serviceability.

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 R1Alienware 17 R5
CPUCore i7-8700, i7-9700K, i9-9900HK 45 W Core i9-8950H, soldered
GPU

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
Display17.3-inch matte FHD 300-nit only. G-Sync, Tobii eye-tracking, 144 Hz optional17.3-inch FHD, QHD, 4K UHD, 120 Hz, G-Sync options
RAM4x SODIMM, Up to 64 GB DDR4-2400 2x SODIMM, Up to 32 GB DDR4-2400
WirelessKiller 1550 Killer 1435
Storage2x M.2 2280 + 1x 2.5-inch SATA III 2x M.2 2280 + 1x 2.5-inch SATA III
Ports3x 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

Battery

90 Wh 99 Wh
Dimensions27.65 x 410 x 402.6 mm 30 x 424 x 332 mm
Weight3.87 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 calls its Alienware-51m laptop a "true desktop replacement"
Dell calls its Alienware-51m laptop a "true desktop replacement"
Slightly wider top bezel for the webcam
Slightly wider top bezel for the webcam
The new "Legend" design pays homage to the outgoing Alienware 15/17 design
The new "Legend" design pays homage to the outgoing Alienware 15/17 design
Sharp bezels and corners a la the Alienware 17
Sharp bezels and corners a la the Alienware 17
Chiclet keys a la the Alienware 15 and Alienware 17. Both the NumPad and Macro keys are included
Chiclet keys a la the Alienware 15 and Alienware 17. Both the NumPad and Macro keys are included
Per-key RGB lighting, of course
Per-key RGB lighting, of course

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.

Lid opened to maximum angle
Lid opened to maximum angle
Large protruding rear for more ventilation
Large protruding rear for more ventilation
Dell says the new chassis is 32 percent smaller than the Alienware 17
Dell says the new chassis is 32 percent smaller than the Alienware 17
LED lighting along the perimeter of the rear
LED lighting along the perimeter of the rear
Strong hinges and a glossy inner bezel
Strong hinges and a glossy inner bezel
White and Gray color options will be available
White and Gray color options will be available

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.

Bottom plate requires just a Philips screwdriver to remove
Bottom plate requires just a Philips screwdriver to remove
Dell says the honeycomb pattern maximizes rigidity and airflow in contrast to the long narrow slits found on most other laptops
Dell says the honeycomb pattern maximizes rigidity and airflow in contrast to the long narrow slits found on most other laptops
Two 280 W AC adapters will be included in every purchase
Two 280 W AC adapters will be included in every purchase
Specifications list (Source: Dell)
Specifications list (Source: Dell)

Source(s)

Dell

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2018 12 > Alienware Area-51m is a 17-inch laptop with two AC adapter ports and removable GeForce RTX graphics
Allen Ngo, 2019-01- 8 (Update: 2019-01- 6)
Allen Ngo
Allen Ngo - US Editor in Chief
After graduating with a B.S. in environmental hydrodynamics from the University of California, I studied reactor physics to become licensed by the U.S. NRC to operate nuclear reactors. There's a striking level of appreciation you gain for everyday consumer electronics after working with modern nuclear reactivity systems astonishingly powered by computers from the 80s. When I'm not managing day-to-day activities and US review articles on Notebookcheck, you can catch me following the eSports scene and the latest gaming news.