Alienware Area-51m: an exclusive look inside


– This is Alienware’s new
juggernaut of a gaming laptop, and I’m gonna take it apart, because Alienware designed
this one to be easily rebuilt. (upbeat music) With the new Area-51M,
Alienware is banking that gamers will spend
thousands of dollars on a 17-inch portable gaming rig, because this one can be
upgraded like a desktop. I’m a desktop PC guy. I’ve never been able to
imagine spending this much on a laptop, only to watch it go obsolete after a few years, because
you’ve never been able to swap out the graphics card until now. (thoughtful music) That is an Nvidia RTX mobile GPU that you can pull right out of the laptop and replace with another one. That’s why we’re looking at a laptop that fits interchangeable graphics chips up to Nvidia RTX 2080,
the beefiest GPU there is. And you can swap out the CPU, too. There’s a bonafide
desktop processor socket that can hold up to an
octa-core Intel Core i9-9900K, the fastest gaming CPU you can buy. That is a desktop Intel CPU. Why is Alienware finally doing this now? I asked them, and the
company said it was growing so frustrated with the compromises of ever-thinner gaming laptops it decided to do something thicker for
once, something upgradable. – We don’t use special screws, we don’t tape over screw heads and say it voids your warranty, none of that. So when we thought about
an idea of a customer upgrading these two
components, the CPU and GPU, we knew that we needed
to design from there out. – What surprised me
most about the Area-51M is it’s built like a desktop, too. The first time I cracked open the case of this early development
sample, I discovered that it’s logically laid out to the point it shows you what to do. So right away there’s this handy warning to make sure you disconnect the battery so you don’t get electrocuted
before you start, definitely appreciate that. 91-hour battery, probably
one of the biggest you can fit on an airplane, it’s got an extra cell on the back here. Then there’s these fabric
tabs, you don’t see these often inside laptops, unless you’re going to pull them apart yourself. And this plastic shroud here
with all these different labels tells me exactly how many
screws and what size I need to get this off, so I
won’t make any mistakes missing a screw and accidentally trying to break the plastic as I pull it up. You should be able to
just unscrew all these and get inside. So I just took off that plastic shroud and here’s the cooling unit. It’s got two giant fans and it looks like seven heat pipes here. It even has, oh, it’s even got the order in which the screws are torqued properly to put it back on again,
that’ll come in handy. Could you still make mistakes
and screw up this laptop? Yeah sure, but it didn’t feel any harder than building a desktop PC. And Alienware says it’ll send
out its own techs at first to ensure smooth upgrades,
likely for a small fee. The bigger question is
whether you’ll ever be able to meaningfully upgrade
this laptop’s graphics because Alienware is
using its own proprietary Dell graphics form factor
cards, or DGFF for short, for those upgrades, and
neither Nvidia nor AMD has promised that future chips
will fit onto this board. There Alienware’s refreshingly
honest, it’s not sure. – We’d like to be able to say yes. Right now, honestly, we have no idea. The only thing we’re
guaranteeing to a customer is if they buy a 2060 they
can go to a 2070 or a 2080. – So what I’m hearing is
Alienware is only promising to let you upgrade to
a slightly better GPU that you could have bought
to begin with anyways? That’s not exactly what
I was hoping to hear. But Alienware does say
it’ll make future chips work if it’s technically possible. – If it fits in the same form
factor, the same electricals, we think we’ll be able to pull it off, but at this point, you
know, we don’t know. I don’t have an Nvidia road map, I don’t have an AMD road map. If you happen to have one,
pass it along, that’d be great. – So we’ve got to take a little break and talk about the elephant
in the room, listen to this. (computer roars) I’m doing literally nothing
on this machine right now. It’s just sitting there, blinking at me. Mind you Alienware sent me
an early development unit, and they say it’s gonna be fixed, it should be whisper quiet at launch. Then there’s battery life, not great. – Yeah, it’s not good. (Joe and Sean laugh) The battery life is uh, you know, we think that on a battery benchmark you can get three and a half hours. You and I both know that’s
not a representation of real world use. So we believe, and what I think we’ll be telling customers at CES is you’ll get, you know, an hour, 90 minutes. That’s really about it. – So no, this isn’t a
laptop you’re gonna use to game at the coffee shop or
on your airplane tray table, particularly since you
need two power supplies to get the maximum performance. You can think of it more
as a gaming work station you’d lug around, or a desktop that folds, or as Alienware’s product
director likes to say– – I joke around with this and folks, it’s the first portable
all-in-one we’ve made and we give you a free heap, right? (Sean laughs) – I’m not yet sure the Alienware Area-51M is the future-proof gaming
laptop I’ve been waiting for. Before I spend any of my
own money on a PC like this I want to know the upgrades are there. But the thoughtful, modular
design inside this machine really gives me hope. The Area-51M ships this
month, on January 29th, starting at $2,549 for
an entry level config with an RTX 2070 Core i7 CPU
and eight gigs of memory. And look, I put it back
together in 16 minutes. So what do you think about
this laptop, would you buy it? Tell me in the comments below, and if you like laptop
news you might want to take a look at a little show called CES that’s happening in Las Vegas right now. We’re there live; not me personally but you might know
Dieter Bohn who’s there. Hi Dieter, hope you’re having fun.

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