CES 2019 is officially underway, which means the time has come for every gaming PC maker under the sun to introduce new hardware. Dell and its Alienware subsidiary are no exception, and on Tuesday, the latter announced a new flagship gaming laptop called the Area-51m.
The 17-inch notebook will be available on January 29 starting at $2,549. That’s expensive, but the Area-51m appears to pack the kind of high-end power you’d expect for that price. Alienware says it will include Intel’s 9th-generation desktop CPUs and what the company says are the “full-fat” versions of Nvidia’s GeForce RTX GPUs. The entry-level model comes with a six-core Core i7-8700 chip and RTX 2060 with 6GB GDDR6 video memory, but those can be upgraded up to an eight-core i9-9900K and RTX 2080 with 8GB GDDR6 if desired.
Alienware is pushing the Area-51m as the beginning of a new design language for the brand. To be clear, the device still looks very much like a Gaming Laptop: it’s heavy (8.54 lbs), chunky (1.7 in), and loaded with RGB lighting effects. But the bezels are a bit slimmer, the lines are a bit cleaner, and the overall footprint is smaller. That last part is due in part to a reworked thermal system. The display sits on a hinge in front of a large exhaust area that juts out the back of the device. A series of hexagonal fans sit on the bottom of the magnesium alloy chassis. Alienware claims this will keep heat and noise levels manageable, though we’ll have to test the device to confirm that.
As for the rest of the spec sheet: the Area-51m comes configured with 8GB of DDR4 RAM with options up to 64GB. The 17.3-inch 1080p IPS display comes with a 60Hz refresh rate by default but can be configured to 144Hz, with options for G-Sync and Tobii eye-tracking tech also available. Alienware says it gets up to 300 nits of brightness. Several storage options are available, starting with a 1TB HDD + 8GB SSHD hybrid drive and moving up to a triple storage config that includes two 1TB PCIe M.2 SSDs and a 1TB hybrid drive.
Beyond that, there’s a Thunderbolt 3 port, three USB 3.1 ports, an optical drive, an HDMI 2.0 port, a G-Sync compatible Mini-display 1.4 port, a connector for Alienware’s external graphics amplifier, and a 2.5Gbps Ethernet port. Alienware says the Area-51m’s keyboard gets 2.2mm of travel and that the whole device will come in white and black color finishes.
Notably, the company says everything besides the display and keyboard is user-upgradeable going forward. That said, the Area-51m is using Dell’s proprietary Dell Graphics Form Factor (DGFF) for its cards here. Neither AMD nor Nvidia have come out and said they will make future GPUs compatible with that particular format, so the extent of the device’s upgradability is still somewhat up in the air.
As you might expect from a laptop pushing this much performance, battery life won’t be great: Alienware says the Area-51m will get around 3.5 hours of juice on average. Expect overclocking and heavy-duty gaming to drop that even more. There are a handful of dual A/C adapter options for keeping the notebook charged while using it, too. So if you hadn’t already figured it out, this is far from the most portable of laptops—but it should be powerful.
A more portable 17-inch gaming laptop
Apart from the Area-51m, Alienware is rolling out a more portable 17-inch gaming laptop called the Alienware m17. This follows in the footsteps of the 15-inch m15 notebook Alienware launched last October: it keeps the company’s traditional design language in a relatively svelte chassis (for a gaming laptop, that is). The m17 measures 0.91 inches thin and weighs 5.79 pounds.
This notebook comes with 8th-gen Intel mobile CPUs, starting with a quad-core Core i5-8300H and going up to a six-core Core i9-8950HK. GPU configs start with a last-gen GTX 1050 Ti and move up to an RTX 2080. Those higher-end options use Nvidia’s Max-Q design, so they aren’t as powerful as the base RTX models, but they are more optimized for the thermals of thinner notebooks like this. Besides that, the m17 includes a 1080p resolution by default, with the option for a 4K panel, 8GB of RAM with the option to get 32GB, and various storage configs up to two 1TB PCIe M.2 SSDs. The Ethernet port can’t get speeds up to 2.5Gbps, but like the Area-51m, there’s a Thunderbolt 3 port.
The m17 will be available on January 29 with prices starting at $1,650. The company is also updating the existing m15 with configs that include a Core i9-8950HK processor and/or RTX graphics. Those new options will also arrive on the 29th and start at $1,580. Alienware says the next iterations of these notebooks will align more closely with the design of the Area-51m.
Dell G Series gets refreshes, too
Finally, on the more budget-friendly side of the spectrum are Dell’s G Series gaming laptops. The 15-inch G5 15 and G7 15 are getting a round of updates, while Dell is rolling out a 17-inch G7 17 as well. All of these will now have options for RTX graphics—the G5 maxes out at a Max-Q RTX 2070, while the G7 models go up to a Max-Q RTX 2080. They’ll continue to roll with 8th-gen Intel mobile CPUs, with up to a six-core Core i7-8750HQ chip on the G5 and up to a six-core Core i9-8950HK on the G7 models (though Dell says the i9 configs won’t be available until later this May).
Both come with 1080p, 60Hz, IPS displays with the option for G-Sync and a 144Hz refresh rate, as well as keyboards with numpads and an option for customizable RGB backlighting. Dell says only the options with RTX graphics will include a Thunderbolt 3 port, however—last year’s models included the port by default. Each model is user-upgradable, though.
Notably, the company also says one G7 15 config will include an OLED panel with a 4K resolution sometime in late April. The company does not seem to be making a point to publicize this—it only lists the config as a footnote in its press materials. But the move should result in a more vibrant picture, albeit one at risk of eventual burn-in with the number of static icons that usually exist in Windows.
Last year’s Dell G laptops were generally decent values in terms of performance, but they have a flimsier build quality compared to higher-end Alienware laptops. After briefly checking out the notebooks at an event in New York City last month, that looks to be the case again. Both lines are generally very similar in function, though the G5’s display looks to be less impressive. The G7 15 is thinner and lighter (0.78 in. and 5.77 lbs) than its predecessor (0.98 in and 6.31 lbs), while the G5 15 is slightly bigger than before. Both have narrower borders around their displays, too.
All the new G Series laptops will be available on January 29: the G5 15 starting at $1,000, the G7 15 at $1,099, and the G7 17 starting at $1,380. (Given that these models debut with last year’s GTX 1050 Ti GPU, though, you may want to pay a bit more.) Dell will also sell a “special edition” of the G5 15 with a transparent bottom plate that shows off the fans inside the notebook.
Listing image by Valentina Palladino