That said, looking at the clock speeds of the Go 6800 card – 250MHz core and 300MHz for the memory (600MHz effective) – I suspect that this is an older DDR1 card, rather than the newer DDR3 version that Alienware is now offering. The core is running even slower than the GO 6800 that was in the MV Ixius that I looked at several months ago, so you could probably push it up to around 275MHz using PowerStrip or something similar. With the faster DDR3 memory version of the GO 6800 you might see a decent performance boost. The good news is that the price I’ve quoted in this review includes the new DDR3 version of the chipset.
As things stand though, the Area-51m is still a great mobile gaming platform. For a bit of subjective testing, I fired up Counter Strike: Source and tried nailing a few bad guys (anyone on the opposite team is a bad guy in my opinion). Running at a widescreen resolution of 1,440 x 900, without any image quality settings, the Area-51m 7700 provided smooth and silky playback – this is definitely a mobile gaming platform that will do you proud at your next LAN party (if you’re into that kind of thing).
But one area where the Alienware does lose out to the Rock is in the display department. Both notebooks sport 17in widescreen panels, but the Rock panel had a resolution of 1,680 x 1,050, while this Area-51m only manages 1,440 x 900. Once again though, Alienware does offer a 1,680 x 1,050 panel as an option, so if you want the extra desktop real estate you can have it, as long as you’re willing to pay the extra £228. That said, the screen on the Area-51m is a standard TFT display, while the Rock Xtreme Ti had a high contrast glossy screen. I know that some people don’t like this finish on TFT screens, but I’m a big fan, especially on a device that’s sole purpose is entertainment.
The keyboard is identical to the the other notebooks I’ve looked at based on the Clevo chassis. It’s a full size affair, with a numeric keypad to the right. Now, if you’ve read my previous reviews you’ll know that I think that the numeric keypad is a mistake. The reason for this is that the numeric keypad pushes the centre of the keyboard over to the left, resulting in you not sitting quite in the middle of the screen. It’s only a small point, but one that annoys me. But, as always I have to put this criticism in context, and it’s not as though it ever bothered me when I was playing games.
Typing on the keyboard is pleasant enough. The keys are full size and there’s a decent amount of travel to the keys. The break is solid and the springback firm, so you can type at a decent speed. There is a little bit of flex when typing hard and fast, but no more than I’ve encountered with many other notebooks. My biggest gripe with the keyboard has to be the tiny left hand Shift key, coupled with the massive right hand one – very strange and not condusive to a fast typer.
The large touchpad is far enough away from the Spacebar to avoid any inadvertant cursor selection when you’re typing fast. As touchpads go it’s decent enough, and has a scrolling section located on the right hand side. I prefer trackpoints, but I imagine that a machine like this will have a mouse plugged into it most of the time.