Most PC and chip makers have, in the past year, dedicated their resources and time into figuring out how to cram more power into smaller form factors. Alienware doesn’t think that’s what “pro” gamers want and has decided to go an entirely different route for its new Area-51m gaming laptop. It’s the first modular notebook, the kind you can customize and swap out components — just like a desktop workstation.
The reason why it’s necessary for gaming laptops to have interchangeable innards is the fact that gamers are used to computers that can be easily upgradable to run whatever’s new in the gaming world. Even on a standard high-end gaming laptop, there’s a possibility you won’t be able to play the latest titles two or in a few cases, one year down the road.
On the other hand, there’s the Alienware Area-51m. Apart from the screen, keyboard and the trackpad which it comes builtin with, nearly all the parts of the Area-51m are interchangeable. You can replace the CPU, battery, and even the GPU which is rather commendable. In addition, the Area-51m employs the desktop-grade Intel 9th Gen i7-8700, i7-9700K, or i9-9900K chipsets — not their laptop counterparts. You can get it with up to a GeForce RTX 2080, 64GB of 2400MHz memory, you get the idea.
But there is a catch. A lot of them, actually. The most significant is the uncertainty around what the future chips will look and function like. The Area-51m uses the company’s own Dell Graphics Form Factor (DGFF) cards which are compatible with all the GPUs and CPUs available today but whether they will support the ones that come out later, Alienware doesn’t know yet. And that’s clearly a critical dealbreaker for someone who might be interested in this $2,549 machine primarily for its customizable nature.
On top of that, it’s worth noting that that is the only audience the Area-51m even has since the rest of the laptop is not as impressive. To begin with, it’s rated to last only 45-90 minutes on a single charge and for charging it, you will have to plug in two power adapters. Plus, as we mentioned earlier, Alienware didn’t go for the ongoing “lighter, the better” trend either. It weighs about 9 pounds (4 kilograms) making it way too bulky to carry around.
The Alienware Area-51m is not going to your next computer but it certainly proves it’s possible in the near future for laptops to become modular and more flexible. However, until it arrives in more portable form factors, it’s hard imagining a purpose. Perhaps, for people who are looking to bring all the horsepower they can for a work trip, the Area-51m might be a viable option. The question is are they prepared to spend $2500 for it?