On the right side of the chassis is an 8x DVD writer that will burn to DVD+R/RW and DVD-R/RW as well as writing to CD-R and CD-RW media. There’s also another bay below this one allowing you to install a second optical drive if you choose to do so.
At the front of the casing is a set of multimedia controls along with an LED display. With these controls you can playback CDs without needing to boot up Windows, and the integrated speakers are good enough to make this a decent option for someone wanting to listen to music.
The left hand side is inundated with features. There’s a single Type II PC Card slot, a 7-in-1 memory card reader. There’s a full complement of audio ports including a stereo line-in, which you don’t see too often. Next to the audio ports, you’ll find two four-pin FireWire ports, four USB 2.0 ports and an S-Video connector.
The rear is equally well stacked with S-Video and composite video inputs, modem socket, a network port for the Gigabit Ethernet controller, a PS/2 port, DVI, parallel and serial ports, and finally the power socket.
There’s also integrated 802.11b/g wireless networking as well as Bluetooth, so you should be able to use the Area-51m to stay in touch under any circumstances.
On the whole the Alienware Area-51m 7700 is a decent mobile gaming platform that would have performed far better if it had been equipped with the latest hardware that the company is now offering. Price wise, it doesn’t come cheap, but then Alienware products rarely do. Alienware quoted me a price of £2209.28 including delivery and VAT, but when I specced the system up on the Alienware website a mail-in rebate of £170 was applied, which brought the cost down considerably.
If you do fancy an Alienware machine, it’s also worth checking out the finance packages on offer. Just remember that you’ll be paying interest, so the overall cost will be higher, but then not too many gamers have over £2,000 burning a hole in their pocket.
It’s hard to give a firm judgment on this machine, because it’s not 100 per cent indicative of what the end user will buy, especially with the newer graphics card giving a major performance boost. That said, the Rock Xtreme Ti, offers a noticable performance edge with a higher resolution, high-contrast screen thrown into the bargain.
Like all the gaming notebooks based on this Clevo chassis, the Alienware Area-51m 7700 does its job admirably. Performance has been spoiled slightly by the older nVidia graphics card employed in the review sample, but customers will benefit from the newer DDR3 version. Ultimately though, you can buy an almost identically specced machine from Rock, with a higher resolution screen for less. With the basic chassis it had to work with, even Alienware hasn’t been able to transform this large, ungainly notebook into something sleek, sexy and desirable. That said, I imagine that Alienware already has a super-cool replacement waiting in the wings and I can’t wait to see it.