Alienware Area-51 m5500 notebook
Lacking that special Alienware 'something'?
Review Eagle-eyed - and slightly geeky - viewers real-time drama show 24 of would have noticed the evil terrorists led by Marwan all used Alienware notebooks to hatch their evil plans. The goodies used Dell. Hmmm. And in the popular game F.E.A.R, the notebooks lying round the offices of the company whose troops are shooting at you are also Alienware-branded. So it's official: Alienware is the choice of bad-asses everywhere.
Clearly Alienware's marketing people have been doing their homework, but what of Alienware's notebook designers? The Area-51 m5500 is one of its new line-up of mobile products. Whereas its previous laptops were known for being seriously over specced, its current range is broader and has a more affordable look it. The m5500 in particular offers a sensible balance between size, power and cost. Highlights include its widescreen 15.4in display and, echoing a trick we first saw in the Rock Pegasus 650, the m5500 has two graphics chips, which you can flip between with a flick of switch and a reboot. There's Intel graphics for extended battery life and an Nvidia GPU for gaming. Indeed, the m5500 features the same chassis as the 650 so its size, 32.6 x 27.8 x 3.1cm, and weight, 3kg, are the same.
Alienware has draped its notebook range is a rather drab battleship grey. Looking at the notebook when it's open, there's little to distinguish this from the rest of the laptop crowd. The back of the lid is a different matter though. The slit-eyed Alienware head is present and correct, with a blue glow when the notebook is powered up. There are also some rubberised grips on either side. These will help you hold onto the notebook a little more effectively but it seems to be as much for the looks as for any practical benefit. However, the lid did feel a tad thin for my liking and it was easy to flex the screen from behind causing a ripple in the LCD panel.
The display on our review unit had a resolution of 1280 x 800 but shipping units will have 1440 x 900 as standard, which is much better for a screen this size. There’s even an option for 1920 x 1200 though that may be pushing it a bit for a 15.4in screen. At the time of writing, next to each of these options on the Alienware website is written, "may delay your order", which is disappointing. A better choice than any of these sizes, however, would be 1680 x 1050, as used by the Rock Pegasus 650.
Alienware hasn't gone with a high-contrast coasting on this screen, which means the colours lack vibrancy but the screen won’t suffer from reflectivity issues. The display could do with a bit more brightness though, and viewing angles aren't incredible, either ,with a definite colour shift as you move up and down and side to side, though I've seen far worse.