Alienware Area 51 m5500 notebook

Upgraded before it even shipped...

Review Anyone planning to buy a hardcore gaming laptop will almost certainly have Alienware on their list of possible suppliers. Casual gamers and mainstream users might be put off by the machines' let alone the price, so Alienware's assembled the more mid-range Area 51 m5500. It doesn’t look as dull as your average laptop and offers a solid set of gaming-friendly features...

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Alienware recently announced an upgrade to the m5500, though the bad news is it won't be shipping it until the end of August. The good news, then, is that buyers will end up getting a better machine for less money.

The machine I tested had a Pentium M 780 processor clocked at 2.26GHz, this has since been nominally replaced by a Core Duo CPU. Will this be replaced too, by a Core 2 Duo, before Alienware ships? The review unit featured 1GB of DDR memory, along with an ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 GPU connected to 256MB of VRAM. The graphics choice on the new model is either a Mobility Radeon X1400 or a GeForce Go 7600, so the 3D scores aren’t quite comparable.

The 100GB 5,400rpm IDE hard drive has been traded in in favour for a 7,200rpm SATA drive. The optical drive remains the same: a 24x CD-R/8x DVD-ROM combo drive. The screen comes in at 15.4in and will be available in either 1,280 x 800 or 1,920 x 1,200 as our review model. Although I’m in favour of resolutions above 1,280 x 800 on a widescreen notebook of this size, I have to say that 1,920 x 1,200 makes me have to squint when I read some things.

Having this super-high resolution display means that you won't have enough 3D power to play most games at the native screen resolution, at least not given the current GPU choices. In its defence, you will be able to watch 1080i HD video in full resolution on the screen, which might be appealing.

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