Summary

Our Score

7/10

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Alienware Area-51 m5500

Eagle-eyed, and slightly geeky viewers real-time drama show ‘24’of would have noticed the evil terrorists led by ‘Marwan’ all used Alienware branded notebooks to hatch their evil plans. The goodies used Dell. Hmmm. Also, in the current 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 kit. So it’s official - Alienware – the choice of baddies 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 choose 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 so it’s size (326 x 278 x 31 (WxDxH), and weight, 3Kg, are the same.

Style-wise Alienware has draped its notebook range is a rather drab battleship grey. It is fitting I suppose, as the Aliens featured on all its products are known as ‘Greys’. 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 the logo above it and both glow blue when the notebook is powered on. 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 too 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 1,280 x 800 but fortunately shipping units will have 1,440 x 900 as standard, which is much better for a screen this size and there’s even an option for 1,920 x 1,200 though even I think that may be pushing it a bit for a 15.4in screen. Rather worrying, at the time of writing, next to each of these options on the Alienware web site it says, ‘May Delay Your Order’, which is disappointing as you’re going to have to choose one or the other. A better choice than any of these sizes however, would be 1680 x 1,050, as used by the Rock Pegasus 650.

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