ByIngrid Wilhelmina 2019-05-27 2582
Unwieldy and voluminous desktop PCs don't have it easy these days: Notebook manufacturers like Alienware integrate powerful hardware into transportable housings, making the gaming PC mobile.
Maximum performance requires certain compromises, so there are no feather-light cases like Ultrabooks. Nevertheless, even a high-end notebook like the Alienware Area-51m can disappear into the desk drawer or backpack after use without taking up unnecessary space.
While the current NVIDIA® GPU series delivers almost as much performance in notebooks as your desktop peers, the usual notebook processors slow down CPU-heavy games. To save energy and waste heat, mobile processors usually work with a very low base clock. The high turbo clock, however, is often throttled enough by the energy consumption and the cooling system. Especially since most notebook cooling systems prioritize the GPU.
Alienware therefore does not use mobile processors in the Area-51m models, but rather desktop processors. Intel® Core™ i7 processor and Intel® Core™ i9 processor with six and eight cores as well as hyperthreading are used. The top model Intel® Core™ i9-9900K processor even clocks its eight cores with up to 5.0 gigahertz. The close cooperation with Intel on the Area-51m notebooks obviously pays off.
The CPUs are connected with Intel's Z370 chipset, which also comes from the desktop environment and can be found there on boards in the upper price range.
With six to eight cores, high clock rates and thus an exemplary single and multi-core performance, the Alienware notebook is drawing wide circles to outpace the competition with pure mobile hardware, especially in simulations, video editing and other computational applications.
In fact, the performance of the Area-51m is only reached by clearly more unwieldy desktop PCs, in the notebook segment, Alienware ranks at the top, not least because of the remarkable processor performance.
If the GPU works too slowly, players will not get much processor power - the weak point of many supposed gaming notebooks from the bargain shelf. Alienware, on the other hand, only uses RTX graphics chips. Depending on the model, Nvidia's RTX 2060 with 6 GB GDDR5, the RTX 2070 with 8 GB GDDR6 or the top model RTX 2080 with 8 GB GDDR6 are used. Alienware does without the energy-saving, but slower Max-Q models of the GPUs - the Area-51m is all about maximum performance.
Nvidia's RTX GPUs are also capable of calculating spectacular raytracing effects in the mobile versions. The reflections of a Battlefield V, the lighting atmosphere at Metro Exodus - here you need the special raytracing computing units of the RTX graphics for sufficient frames per second. The graphics chips are also capable of edge smoothing via the integrated AI computing units called tensor cores.
But the RTX GPU is only complete with the appropriate video memory: Nvidia is the first to install the brand new GDDR6 memory to achieve the required bandwidth - up to 8 gigabytes of the luxury memory are available to the GPUs. Just as much as the desktop graphics cards of the Turing series and sufficient to gamble with an externally connected 4K monitor or VR glasses. The Next-Gen VR glasses Pimax 5K+ and 8K can exclusively use performance-saving foamed rendering thanks to the RTX hardware.
None of the equipment variants of the Alienware top models rely on pure hard disk systems. Even in the cheapest configuration, an SSHD with 1 terabyte of hard disk space and 8 gigabytes of flash cache is used. Of course, the system feels more lively with a pure SSD assembly - or at least with an SSD as the primary drive. Up to one terabyte can be configured as an M.2 SSD, if desired with a high-speed Optane memory and hard disks at the same time.
Up to 64 gigabytes of DDR4 memory are possible with the main memory, which should easily be sufficient for computationally intensive CAD or video editing projects. But you can also start with smaller configurations and upgrade later:
With the Area-51m, Alienware stomps another prejudice about notebooks: Their poor expandability. The processor from the desktop series is housed in a LGA1151v2 socket and Z370 chipset familiar from the desktop and can be exchanged for models with the same TDP.
In addition, there are four slots for DDR4 SO-DIMM, so that the main memory can also be easily expanded, the same applies to the equipment with M.2 and SATA as well as the corresponding built-in slots.
The graphics solution also sits as a module in a slot and can probably also be changed when future Geforce GPUs appear.
If the performance is convincing, the display should not weaken. Alienware has recognized this and uses high-quality 43.9 cm (17.3 inch) IPS displays with a resolution of 1,920x1,080 throughout. For an extra charge even with 144 Hz and G-Sync for even smoother 3D worlds.
Tobii's eyetracking addon, on the other hand, provides a noticeably increased immersion, especially in racing games and other simulations, but can also be used for other purposes.
One problem of many particularly slim notebooks is the lack of connectivity: For space reasons, often only a single USB-C port is used. The Area-51m does not have this problem.
So the massive but futuristic-elegant case offers connection possibilities for HDMI 2.0, (mini-) display port 1.4, 3x USB 3.1 SuperSpeed, Thunderbolt 3 and a proprietary connector for Alienware's external GPU case called Graphics Amplifier. There's also an RJ45 port for networking up to 2.5 GBit. Wireless LAN is realized by the manufacturer with a Killer Wireless 1550 chip for 802.11ac and low latencies while playing.
It is not a thankful task to find an adequate solution to properly cool desktop CPUs and mobile high-end graphics chips in laptops. The engineers at Alienware have nevertheless solved them very well and called the cooling system Cryo-Tech V2.0.
Cool air is sucked in by two air inlets, because Alienware relies on fans with a very high air throughput. The air is then conducted through copper heatpipes to cool the CPU and GPU - without the deafening noise familiar from older gaming notebooks.
It's amazing how fast a notebook can be. Nvidia's RTX graphics chips offer not only very good performance, but also beautiful raytracing effects and AI edge smoothing over the tensor cores. But only in combination with the fast desktop processors from Intel's eighth Core-i generation can the GPU unfold its full potential. The choice of desktop CPUs also ensures that you can later install compatible, faster CPUs (at least as part of the processor's TDP). The GPU is also designed as an exchangeable module and thanks to four slots for main memory (SO-DIMM DDR4) you can also satisfy the RAM hunger of future applications.
The high CPU performance offers a noticeable performance boost both in simulations and strategy titles, but also when you not only gamble with the notebook, but also edit videos, for example. There are no annoying pauses between calculations and HD material can also be edited just like on a desktop PC.
The otherwise well thought-out equipment with fast SSDs or even Intel's Optane memory and, if desired, data storage in the form of hard disks fits in well with this. The Alienware Area-51m is as future-proof as PC hardware can be and, thanks to simple upgrade options, can also be expanded at a later date.
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