Alienware Area 51 M17 R2 review
Quick verdict: Dell pulls out all the stops for the Alienware Area 51 M17 R2, although it'll leave a hefty dent in your wallet – and your lap if you leave it there.
- Amazing gaming performance
- Highly configurable
- Comfortable keyboard
- Heavy and very uncomfortable on the lap
- Requires two power points for maximum performance
- Poor battery life
Dell's Alienware line has long had fans in the gaming community, and it's produced some great gaming PCs in the past. The Alienware Area 51 M17 R2 fulfils most of its gaming aims with ease, although at this size and weight, it's totally a desktop replacement, and in no way a laptop that you'd want to use in a portable sense for all that long.
- Huge and heavy
- Base ridge is uncomfortable on your lap
- Plenty of ports
- Great keyboard
17-inch gaming laptops are never going to be thin and light, and the Alienware Area 51 M17 R2 certainly fits that description. Depending on its configuration, it weighs in at between 4.1kg and 4.7kg, or in other words – heavy. Like all things Dell, there are configuration options for the display, starting at Full HD and shifting up to UHD, and with refresh rates anywhere from 60Hz to 300Hz. There's no lack of available ports on this hefty machine, with HDMI, DisplayPort, 2xUSB 3.2, Killer Ethernet, Thunderbolt, Audio and Alienware Graphics Amplifier ports, and no less than two power supply sockets at the rear.
The keyboard is expansive, and it's one of my favourite parts of the Alienware Area 51 M17 R2. Where most gamers go for noisy mechanical actuation, Alienware's gone the other way, with a soft touch and quiet keyboard layout with RGB backlighting. Sure, nobody's buying Alienware not to play games, but I could easily do my daily writing work on the Alienware Area 51 M17 R2 without trouble.
Where I'd struggle, however, is if I wanted it on my lap. It's not just the dual power supplies or the weight. There's a raised ridge on the base that works well on a desk to tilt the keyboard towards you but is downright uncomfortable on your lap. In other words, this is a laptop that's actually not well suited for laps.
- Range of 10th-gen Intel Core processors and memory
- Superb performance (at a price)
There's not just one single model of the Alienware Area 51 M17 R2, because you can configure it nearly endlessly. The model that Dell sent in for review runs on an Intel Core i7-10700 "Comet Lake" processor, with 32GB of RAM and a 512GB PCIe M.2 SSD, plus a 1TB 7200 RPM Hard Drive for storage. On the graphics front, it's running on an 8GB NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080. That's the effective flagship model, with a price point to match. At the time of writing, if you want one of these, you'll have to part with $5,898.
Mind you, what you get is a machine that can seriously crunch numbers, or (more realistically) help you crunch the bones of your enemies. Here's how it compared across a range of PC benchmark applications:
Naturally enough, we did test it out with gaming apps, and the GeForce RTX 2080 flew through everything we could pass by it with no issues at all. One slight catch here is that you really do need both power supplies plugged in to make the most of the Alienware Area 51 M17 R2, because otherwise, it loads in a lower performance mode. Again, though, this is more of a luggable device than a truly portable laptop to speak of.
- Poor battery life away from power
- The two tethered power bricks are huge
Gaming laptops typically have poor battery life, and this is definitely the case for the Alienware Area 51 M17 R2 if you do need to run it without both power supplies plugged in. While we've only reviewed a handful of true gaming laptops to date, the Alienware Area 51 M17 R2 still didn't compare well in our benchmark tests:
It's the same story if you do fancy a little gaming action without having the power plugged in, with the Alienware Area 51 M17 R2 battery depleting very quickly with demanding titles in play.
Should you buy the Alienware Area 51 M17 R2?
- Buy it if you want a high-end gaming laptop and your budget can match it.
- Don't buy it if you want a portable gaming PC, or your space is limited.
The Alienware Area 51 M17 R2 fulfils the mission of being a top-flight gaming laptop for the most part, but the biggest compromise you'll hit is in your wallet. Even at lower specifications than the model reviewed, you're not walking away with an Alienware Area 51 M17 R2 for less than around $4,300, which is a big ask at the current time. It's a lovely machine – but you do have to pay for it.
Pricing and availability
Where to buy
Images: Dell website