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Alienware Area-51 m5500 - Alienware Area-51 m5500
Alienware hasn’t gone with a high-contrast coasting on this screen, which means it lacks vividness, but it benefits from being natural looking and won’t suffer from reflectivity issues. The screen 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.
A microphone is built into the top left of the screen, while running below the screen are speakers and, according to Alienware, a built-in sub-woofer. Sound quality wise it did a good job of pumping out MP3s but it’s no replacement for a decent set of speakers or headphones. A microphone, headphone and line-out is located at the front of the unit, with one socket doubling up as an optical SP/DIF out. If you are going to connect it up to an amp, a rear connector would have been better.
Keyboard wise, the keys are mostly full size, with the enter key the only major one shrunk down. It’s comfortable to type on but there was some sponginess under the F keys at the top left. The trackpad and buttons work well enough and on the right hand side there’s an area to move up and down in web pages easily, which is genuinely useful. There are shortcut buttons for the web browser, media player and the built-in Wi-Fi, though Bluetooth is noticeable for its absence. The power button has the de-rigueur blue lighting underneath.
Aside from this the look is fairly generic, which has to be said is a touch disappointing for an Alienware. I was also a bit put off by a quiet but distinct whining noise from the area where the power was connected - though possibly this was a pre-production glitch.
Inside the machine, there’s a Pentium M 760 processor. This runs at 2.0GHz, which is slightly less than the 2.13GHz 770, used in the Rock Pegasus 650. Oddly our review sample was fitted with only 512MB of RAM, limiting it to single channel mode. There is a second bay free for use however, so you could specify at least a second 512MB module on ordering as less than 1GB isn’t ideal these days and will provide a boost thanks to dual-channel support. It’ll cost an extra £113 though, which is steep.
There’s 60GB of hard disk storage, which isn’t humungous by today’s standards. At least it’s a decently fast Hitachi TravelStar drive with a spindle rotation speed of 7,200rpm. Removable storage isn’t so impressive. There’s no DVD Burner, only a CD-Writer/DVD-ROM combo drive – very passé. A DVD Burner is available as a cost option though.