Alienware released its second-gen desktop replacement, the Alienware Area-51m R2 on Tuesday, prompting questions of whether it would be any more upgradeable than the original. It doesn't sound like that will be the case.
When the first Alienware Area-51m (now dubbed the R1) launched in early 2019, we praised it for incredible performance, beautiful design, and its upgradeability. Ultimately, customers could upgrade from a GeForce GTX 1660 Ti to an RTX 2070 or RTX 2080. But when the new version, the R2, was announced, it was made clear it was the end of the line for GPU upgrades on the original. CPUs, too, were locked to 9th Gen Intel.
It ends up the Alienware Area-51m R2 will suffer a similar fate: the GPU upgrades on the Dell Graphics Form Factor (DGFF) will be limited to those of the current generation: from the GTX 1660 Ti to RTX 2070 Super and RTX 2080 Super. The CPU upgrades will only be in the 10th Gen Comet Lake family.
The upgrade kits for the RTX 2070 and RTX 2080 went up on Dell's website late last year, including options to have a technician install it for you. I'm told that's on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic gripping the world and much of the United States. Notably, while RAM and SSDs for the device are in Dell's store, those GPUs currently aren't listed.
In some ways, this is a disappointment. Without upgrades to next-gen components, the desktop replacement experience falls short in one way: upgradeability. The laptop is still far more repairable than most, and our experience with the original model was one of luxury, if you can afford the expense. But don't expect the new model to go up to the RTX 3080 (or whatever Nvidia's next-gen flagship gets called) at any point.
Even when Alienware first announced the original, it didn't promise further cards would work, so it's not entirely unexpected. There is one thing you can expect, though: the addition of AMD graphics. Alienware said there would be Radeon RX 5700 models earlier this year, but you can expect to see them this summer. AMD's graphics will be on the same DGFF modules, but there won't be any upgrade kits available for them.
We haven't had the chance to try out the Alienware Area 51-m R2 yet, but the original was as good a desktop replacement as we've seen yet. It's just a shame we can't live that upgradeability dream.