Laptops

Cracking Open the $5000 Alienware Area 51 m15x notebook

Shiny

The Area 51 m15x notebook is latest in a long line of quality portable computers from boutique manufacturer Alienware. The m15x is also one of the most powerful notebook computers we ever had the pleasure to review. Of course, we couldn't resist cracking open the m15x to see what makes it tick.

About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

48 comments
KPMunn
KPMunn

I bought one of these in 2008. It did not work, "Out-Of-The-Box" and had GPU issues from the start. They even expected ME to service it, before it went back for the 3rd and Final Time. I cannot/would not reccomend Alienware.

crbodieheart
crbodieheart

i want a lpa top today or tomorrow cause i have been wanning one since i was alive.

crbodieheart
crbodieheart

i want to bye a lap top how would i get one i really want one today or tomorrow please give me one.

gbholloway49
gbholloway49

Another 5 grand to the Chinese and we wonder why our economy is in the tank

Narg
Narg

Are you guys sure that one pic is of a "second video"? The second video is actually on the chipset, not a plug-in card. That looks more like a Vista flash ram readyboost option to me...

jesus_borbolla
jesus_borbolla

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davidlarew
davidlarew

1. Photos need filter for bad lighting. 2. Beware of Alienware not shutting down and melting your keyboard in it's case. It happened to a friend that used it for CAD.

ddahrsnin
ddahrsnin

I spent over $4,700.00 on a new MJ-12m 7700 laptop computer? what a piece of junk!!! It is nothing but problems.

pabloiec
pabloiec

Once at my work they bought three Alienware Area 51 with Pentium 4 extreme edition costing each one about 5000$ (of the dollars of 4 years ago, I mean when they were also 5000?). When they were new they were very fast, noisy but powerful. I inherited one from my boss when the laptop was 9 months old, and few months later started to fail and reboot constantly. It happened to the three of them after they were one year old and out of warranty. Then we discover that this problem was happening to many users who indeed have created a web site called: http://blog.alienwaresucks.com/ and in the factory, Alienware, nobody took responsibility. They refused to solve the problem or return the money in something that was a clear problem of design. I would never buy Alienware and even less being so expensive when they production process evidenced a big lack of testing in mid term. It should cost half than a Dell with suck a quality control absence.

PatrynXX
PatrynXX

figures. Dell finances Alienware, of course they'd use the same expansion bay as the Dells. Wonder if My expansion drives work in there. lol

boomelectronics
boomelectronics

For starters this is a full blown workstation slammed into a desktop 19" lcd. IMPRESSIVE to say the least. To that comparison with apple, "the only good thing apple has put out is the ipod" thank you very much ...

CEDeaton
CEDeaton

Unless it can make the bed, clean the house, mow the yard, change my oil AND run all my software at max resolution in lightning-fast times, it's not worth $5000. Rigs like this are only for people that have money to burn and/or someone else paying their bills.

Spiritusindomit
Spiritusindomit

I can't believe this piece of garbage costs 5000 USD. What am I saying though? Alienware hasn't been worth the silicone it's printed on in the last 9 years.

cescobar
cescobar

what's that little thing on top of the ram modules?

benbur
benbur

"Under this heat sink lies the CPU for our notebook: Intel Core2 Extreme X9000, 2.8MHz." You mean 2800MHz or 2.8GHz, right?

fabianc21
fabianc21

This notebook is not worth the money. It has a very bad cooling issues and not only that but there is a huge problem with the CPU downclocking. The Cpu will downclock when its stressed for just a few min. I know many different people same cpu and same problem.

Ekline
Ekline

I don't know about this one... I can't see myself jumping at a $5,000 Laptop for gaming. 1) I don't know that many people with comparible laptops to start a LAN party. 2) If they do have comparible laptops, they're usually playing something like World Of Warcraft or something I really don't have interest in. I will give note that it more then likely give impeckable performance. How HOT will that thing get, sitting next to a "Big Screen" TV for 2 Hours of Game Play? There's Pro's and Con's to having this kind of laptop... I think the Cons & Price tag outweigh the Pros. I just don't think it would be for me; Like the RE: Topic says, "To Each His own."

tiggsy
tiggsy

Gorgeous. And judging by my desktop, Alienware are also reliable.

george.jenkins
george.jenkins

I noticed 3 cables coming from the wireless controller. 1 for the 802.x and the other for BT. What is the 3rd cable for? No one should expect a unit like this to have good battery life without using the optional battery in the CD/DVD bay. Even then I doubt the batteries could keep this dual fanned monstrosity running for very long. Plus, you couldn't watch a Blu-ray DVD since the bay has a battery in it. A small price to pay for such an uber system. Lastly, why are you playing Horde (Alliance FTW)? lolzor.

MajorGood
MajorGood

In your article there is a comparison to the number of ports that are present on the Macbook Air. The Macbook is an Ultra light. The Air is designed to be as small and as light as possible. Don't you thing you may want to compare it to the Macbook Pro? Which compares pretty favorably to the m15x

boomelectronics
boomelectronics

All the ranting i've been hearing seems to be operator ERROR! I own 10 and never had a problem. Once a month dustin will keep any pc alive.

k5r
k5r

I also spent $5000+ for 2 Area 51 m7700 laptops, Which turned out to be junk. Both laptops lasted all of 3 mos, which happened to be the end of the warranty period. Both laptops were returned to alienware for service, which maybe took about a month each. Support suks the big one, and the h/w is junk. I have nothing good to say about alienateware . Be warned!!!

lucien86
lucien86

As soon as you describe a problem the engineer types are finding solutions. Yours sounds rather like blocked air intake ports. With a dusty house its a problem I have every few months with my machines. Take the fan casing apart and there will be a line of lint covering the inner heatsink intake - it only takes a few seconds with a paintbrush to get it out and its amazing how it changes the machines reliability. Hope that helps - Lucien

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

I used the m15x for several weeks. I played Crysis, COD4, World of Warcraft, Civ4 and ran some benchmarks and did not notice any downclocking or changes in performance like you are suggesting. Not to say it is not possible, just that I did not notice it at all - and I log a lot of hours playing games.

benbur
benbur

I prefer a nice 60-80 lb tower with a carrying case.... :D

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

You are not the only one to mention heat as a concern. The strange thing heat was not really a problem. The fans kick in of course, but the heat is thrown out the back and does not build up. But the weight is too much for laptop use anyway - at least for me.

benbur
benbur

Could it be 802.11n?

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

I have played both sides, but when Technologia started many of us were looking for a change from Alliance. Besides an undead Warlock is just too cool to pass up. Elkwinkarma is my third one. :)

DNSB
DNSB

Seriously, I'd suspect that the multiple cables are connecting multiple antennas for the draft-n wireless controller.

powershaker
powershaker

Alienware isn't about to compare that M15x to the Macbook Pro. They know it doesn't hold a candle to it. Do you think they're stupid? They have to get customers. $5,000 for a piece of junk PC running Windows. Man, how can they even compete with OS X? Not possible. That's why, too. The newest Macbook Pro is so sweet with the 512 megs of VRAM and the 17" screen. Also, you get more and faster drive space for less now. I'm thinking of selling this 2.4GHZ Macbook Pro and buying me a 2.6GHZ. Wow! :) Once you go Mac, you never go back.

lordorwell
lordorwell

The macbook air is actually thinner than some of the ports. There is no way it could hold a ethernet port.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

I wasn't really comparing the m15x to the MacBook Air in terms of performance. Just pointing out that the Alienware is a full notebook with lots of peripheral connections. In other words, I was agreeing with you - the Alienware m15x is nothing like the Apple MacBook Air.

DrToddK
DrToddK

personally i have had my hands on a macbook air, nice, sleek, light, feels like a toy and i own several alienware's, video editing rigs, over the years mac was king of the video world, the past 3-4 years, mac lost that lead today there is no contest pc rules the roost and it has nothing to do with mac's are stable. yadda, yadda, yadda, they just blow rendering speeds of the mac out of the water

Constantdrone
Constantdrone

The old saying "let's compare apples to apples" works here. But you could say that these are niche market machines, and that they would not be able to compete against the everyday meat and potatoes machines. Maybe they started thier filter with price tags.

fabianc21
fabianc21

well we used RMclock to monitor and prime95 to stress and with my x9000 it only takes about 10 min for the cpu to reach 93c then it will start downclocking. For others it depends some take 20 min some do it in five. This doesn't happen to everyone just seems to happen to most people with the extreme processors.

tmcintosh
tmcintosh

I'm an Ally fan. 3 70's and no life. I do have a lvl 12 BE Lock though..

psion
psion

...just $5000 laptop users. (Base on the comment of a high price hooker..There are no $1000/night hookers, just $1,000/night johns."

imanitguy
imanitguy

After using an Air Book and being fond of the way little surprises "open up" to available ports it would seem to me that an ethernet port could be engineered much like older pcmcia card modems which had "pop out" phone jacks tucked inside. Matter of fact, that would be very simple for integration and would also make the air book more desireable. How cool would that be?

MajorGood
MajorGood

These days its pretty hard to tell the difference. Most of the video cards and GPU hardware are the same across both Mac and PC lines. So if you are comparing like machines and not the specialty nich machines, I think both are pretty close in rendering performance (with the possible exception of machines running Vista) OK I had to poke at Vista

DNSB
DNSB

Comparing Maya on Windows, Mac and Linux platforms, the Mac version runs faster on the same hardware using the in-box rendering. OTOH, the fastest rendering I am aware of on what are "personal computers" runs on a Linux cluster.

geo
geo

It may be little late for a comment on this "cracking", but in 2008 a $5000,- computer, be it a laptop, with a CPU of 2.8 Mhz????? This kind of typo seems to be perennial in our business ...

DNSB
DNSB

One of my fellow employees who purchased an Airbook also picked up Apple's USB Ethernet adapter. Works quite well though limited to 10/100 mbps operation. For the $30 price tag, he's very happy with the results. Hmmm... how long ago would writing "limited" and "10/100mbps" in the same sentence have been laughable?

lordorwell
lordorwell

The entire mac OS is open-gl based, as compared to requiring a separate library for graphics functions. The mac OS is simply more efficient therefore runs faster on similar hardware.