Alienware Area-51m 7700 review

Alienware is renowned for its powerful laptops and non-traditional designs, but can the company’s latest offering - the Alienware Area-51m 7700 - offer us what we want from a laptop computer? We get travelling and find out.

Forgive us for sounding stupid, but we thought that laptops and notebooks were supposed to be mobile computing solutions. Something that you wouldn’t mind taking on the train or walking into work in the mornings. Alienware seems to think otherwise and has created the Alienware Area-51m 7700, a model so big, that the company has had to create a new category - The mobile desktop.

This new name fits quiet well, for although the machine is packed with features it is roughly the size of a desk and having lugged (carry would be too light a word) it around with us for the last two weeks on the train, plane and anywhere else we’ve been, we would say that it is the weight of one as well (it actually weighs 12.5lbs). The Area-51m 7700’s cause isn’t helped very much by a problem that seems to affect most PC based laptops - the power pack.

Get past the weight and size issue and the laptop packs a mean punch. Those into numbers will revel in the Intel Pentium 4 3.6GHz processor, there is 1GB of DDR-II memory, storage is handled by a striped RAID 0 array of two 7200 rpm drives and the graphics are powered by a 256MB nVIDIA 6800 Go chip and 24X CDRW/8X DVD Combo Drive included as standard.

If that’s not enough to whet your appetite then the crystal clear 17in Widescreen XGA or SXGA+ Entertainment LCD, which is stunning certainly will.

Those who still doubt the power of the 7700 need only look at the multimedia offering - 4 built-in speakers with Subwoofer supplied by Harman Kardon with SRS WOW Support, a 7-in-1 Media card reader so you can transfer your digital images straight to the computer, 802.11a/b/g and Bluetooth wireless support.

In our tests the 7700 performed well, however not without issues. Upping all the settings in Half-Life 2 and real time strategy game Ground Control 2 did make the machine struggle. At normal settings we had no problem. The trouble is, this is sold as a gaming machine, so we would have expected better performance from the chipset and graphics card when stressed.

That said, anything we did run looked amazing on the XGA screen, even if we were sandwiched between a drunk and a man with a burger on the train.

Verdict

We have mixed feelings about the Alienware Area-51m 7700 purely because it's so big and so heavy. In our mind the 7700 offers more brawn than brain. Think desktop replacement rather than portable office solution that you will want to take around the world with you, and forget thinking you can pack this in your bag and hide it from the partner on holiday.

With that in mind we can't work out who this is aimed at. There is no doubt the internal spec is impressive, but no more than that of other machines in this sector. You might get the Alienware design on the front of your machine with a glowing alien head when the machine is on, but you will never get to see this unless you're narcissistic enough to sit in front of a mirror the whole time you use it.

Gamers will be wowed, but then slightly disappointed that the performance is a touch unimpressive. It's powerful, but just too big for us.