Color: Lunar Light
CPU: Intel i7-10700
GPU: Nvidia GTX 1660ti
RAM: 16GB @2933mhz
Display: 17.3″ 100% sRGB 300nits at 300hz with Tobii Eye tracking
Storage: 512GB PCIe M.2 + 1TB 7200RPM HDD
Total Cost: $2,479 (before tax)
Every PC gamer has envied the perfect build whether it’s on a desktop or laptop. While I have finally achieved my ultimate high-end gaming PC build, I’m always one to strive for more or want the latest and greatest tech. Most of us have sat upon a PC manufacturer’s site building our dream build and watching the dollar amount rack up fast or sitting there waiting for the perfect deal. Me, since I was 15 years old, I have done this on Alienware computers and still do to this day. They are gorgeous machines and you can love them or hate them for various stigmas like being a Dell, having terrible customer service, questionable build quality in the past, and charging more for a name brand, but it doesn’t change the fact that these machines are amazing feats of engineering. Alienware has always strived for the best gaming technology in their PCs and usually lands mostly dead-on.
For me though, it’s always been their laptops that fascinate me the most. I’ve had two previous laptops from them, and they were great for their time, but laptop technology has come a long way in two years. We can now get desktop hardware inside these things, and that was a distant dream ten years ago. Alienware has evolved their laptops so much since I last had one, which I donated to a thrift store about 2 years ago, and it’s clear how much. So much of the latest tech is now available in mobile form and not to mention Alienware’s unique striking visual design. These laptops are just dead sexy and stunning to look at. There’s literally nothing else like them out there. The Area-51m R2 is Alienware’s latest flagship high-end gaming laptop with better cooling, desktop CPUs, the latest GPU tech, USB-C Thunderbolt ports, Tobii Eye-tracking, and two, yes two! power supplies bricks.
Enough back story and on to the hardware. Let’s first talk about the unboxing experience. Again, this is a once in a 5-10 year thing for me so it doesn’t happen very often. The box is a lot slimmer this time around and opening it up unveils the laptop, a slip of paper explaining the history and goal behind Alienware, a quick start guide, and a compartment with both power bricks. Not very exciting. Where are the goodies and extras? Despite all that, the laptop’s design drew my eyes immediately and it is the single most beautiful piece of engineering I have seen go into a laptop period. The sharp lines, the large vent that comes out of the rear with the oval RGB ring, the honeycomb vents, the color also amazing, and the feeling of the system too. It’s heavy, but not as heavy as it looks. My model came in at just under 9lbs and it requires two hands for sure. The material also has a nice matte finish that doesn’t attract fingerprints. It feels slightly rough but also smooth.
Once you plug in both bricks and lift the lid the keyboard lights up along with the touchpad and you start the typical Windows 10 startup experience. I spent several hours installing my favorite programs, optimizing Windows 10 and disabling almost everything that runs in the background, and downloading games of course. The system felt as snappy and fast as my desktop and the screen is gorgeous with the 300hz display really shining here. Typing on the keyboard is better than most laptop keyboards thanks to the Cherry switches and the 1.7mm actuation. The keys are a bit higher than most keyboards and I could feel them as my fingers flew across the keys like a desktop keyboard. They are a bit clicky and the material is the same matte finish as the rest of the laptop so there was no slick shiny nonsense that most laptops are subject to. The spacebar in particular clicks loud and is very satisfying. This is probably the best laptop keyboard I have ever used. The F1 keys have functions attached such as screen brightness, volume, touchpad, AlienFX lighting, and the graphics amplifier if you have one attached. One thing I wish this keyboard had was multimedia controls for music, but the FN+an arrow key works just fine.
The touchpad is also a huge improvement over any laptop I have used including my old Alienware. It has a nice rubbery feel to it and I can hear my finger slide and scrape along with the pad which is satisfying. The right and left click buttons have a nice deep actuation (seems like 2mm or more) and don’t rock left or right like my old laptop did which drove me nuts. I actually hated the old Alienware touchpad. This touchpad uses Microsoft’s touch drivers so you can use multiple fingers to swipe around which is so nice. The touchpad has a decent amount of adjustments for acceleration, and sensitivity, among others. It’s actually a great touchpad and the backlighting just makes it that much more enjoyable to use, but a mouse is still always preferred.
Let’s jump into some of the technical aspects of the laptop. The BIOS is sadly very limited. There was no option for XMP profiles as I believe you have to use Dell branded 3200mhz RAM to use the XMP profile. I also can’t say anything about CPU overclocking as I had a non-K CPU installed (not really necessary for gaming in my opinion), but there was a lot to control compared to previous Alienware laptops and just most in general. Don’t get too excited about advanced BIOS features like on desktops which is quite a shame for the price you’re paying. That was my first major ding for this laptop, but not a crippling one.
Most of the overclocking will happen in Alienware Command Center and it works well enough. ACC is very limited in terms of lighting control and overclocking, but it works and the results were fine to me. ACC allows you to change lighting effects from pre-installed presets or limited change of colors. Previous versions of ACC allowed actual timelines of colors and morphing and pulsing, but somewhere in the last 10 years that vanished. What is here is fine, and thankfully the Area-51m R2 has multiple lighting zones on the keyboard for WASD, the Numpad, the F keys, and various others, or you can do one unified profile. You can control the light on the power button, rear alien head, RGB ring on the exhaust, and touchpad. It’s a decent amount of lighting and the RGB ring is the most eye-catching and striking of them all. That’s what will turn heads and bring people over.
ACC also allows you to manage your power settings in a limited fashion. Mostly just screen timeouts and sleeping. The macro feature is also a tad limited as I couldn’t map Windows functions to make the four macro buttons multimedia keys, but it works and you can do quite a bit with them like record keypresses and add program shortcuts. The Fusion section also allows auto or manual fan control. There are 5 profiles that I find are just fine and keep the laptop cool. Even overclocked my GPU never really gets above 70c and the CPU does stay below 80c on the Performance option which kicks the fans to 80%. Balanced drops them to 35% which is rather quiet. I don’t really hear these things unless the fans are above 60% and they are not annoying to listen to. Overclocking was a little limited as all I could do was bring the thermal limit up and then push the core clock and memory clock up to 300+ which the 1660ti easily did in the memory. I started noticing crashes and artifacts on the core clock above 190+ which is pretty good. I wish I could increase the power limit, but I still get a 10% boost in power with this OC. To use the fan profiles you can add games to the library (which is an ugly mess of stretched-out icons) and is sad won’t detect Windows Library games so for those you have to manually set the fan speed each time, however, the OC profile has to manually set no matter what. ACC is limited, but some quality of life improvements could make this software pretty robust. At least it works right?
Once overclocked I got a 3DMark TimeSpy score of 6017 which is pretty amazing for a laptop. The 1660ti is no pushover either. Actually, gaming on this thing surprised me as I could run every game maxed-out settings above 60FPS, with most being above 100 or just around there. Shadow of the Tomb Raider, The Witcher 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Borderlands 3, Forza Motorsport 7, Mortal Kombat 11, Wasteland 3, The Outer Worlds, and many more all ran without an issue at maxed-out graphics settings. Now I will say this, the laptop does get hot on the right side where your hand is as that’s where the CPU is. It didn’t get uncomfortable, but your hand does heat up and that’s kind of expected. You have a 10700 desktop CPU mere inches below your hand. The 1660ti never really got too hot, but I’m sure the RTX GPUs do.
The upgradeability is questionable though as you can put an i9 CPU in here straight off the shelf, and getting into the laptop is rather simple and easy compared to most laptops. You can add 4 M.2 drives if you wanted with one 2.5″ drive. There’s also an option for 64GB of RAM which is more than anyone would ever need on a PC these days. My question is the GPU. These are slotted, but Dell isn’t selling upgrades and you have to rely on the Alienware Graphics Amplifier instead right now. I would love to later on just plop a 3070 into this thing as Dell is using their own proprietary socket for these GPUs.
After over a week of using this laptop as a daily driver, I have to say I love it. It’s the best laptop I’ve ever used and I can’t really find any faults. The laptop stays really cool and the fans aren’t all that loud, and if you have headphones on, you won’t even hear it. If I were to nitpick I would say the ACC software suite is lacking. There’s not a lot of customization with the lighting and the BIOS is mostly locked away. These aren’t major problems, but enough to knock it down half a point. The laptop also gets very warm on the left side where the CPU is, but that’s probably expected with a machine like this. I also don’t particularly care for hauling around two power bricks, but this is a portable desktop.
On a side note, I would not recommend buying an Alienware computer or any new electronic like a computer or tablet right now. As of this writing, and due to COVID, it was a nightmare getting my laptop to me. With $80 expedited shipping it still took a week to receive my laptop, and it made numerous stops along the way, and they are all being shipped right off the assembly line in China. When I got my tracking number for UPS and saw it left China, I knew there were going to be some issues right away. UPS and FedEx pilots are currently refusing to fly into China, so the shipments are stopping in Japan or South Korea first, then Alaska, then the major distribution hubs in the US for customs release. I’m not sure if it’s due to the new tariff laws or just the sheer amount of orders being made, but my computer was held in Ontario, CA by customs for 2 days with no reason as to why. It just said it was held in a warehouse until a transaction agreement could be made. I’m not sure if the volume is causing paperwork errors in China or if Dell just didn’t pay the correct fees. It then took 12-24 hours at each stop to depart and then another 12-24 hours to arrive. It was a prolonged and painful shipping process, one of the worst I have ever had.