Alienware Demos Desktop-Replacing Laptops to PAX East’s Hardcore PC Gamers

Editor's Note: This article is sponsored content from Alienware and was not reported or published by the Tom's Hardware staff.

Can desktop-replacing laptops truly live up to their name? Experts at CES 2019 told Tom’s Hardware that these portable powerhouses are the future of laptop development, but it’s still early days. And you need much more than hefty desktop CPUs and GPUs to turn a laptop into a PC-killer.

The most zealous PC fans will never feel comfortable buying a laptop unless they can take a rig apart and rebuild it with better components down the line. But, since most laptops have skinny chasses jam-packed with a proprietary jigsaw puzzle of integrated chips, power sources and wires you can’t touch without breaking something, you’re typically stuck with the tech that came in the box.

That’s what makes the Alienware Area 51m laptop unique compared to its desktop-replacing peers. Not only does the premium model come built in with an eight-core Intel i9-9900K CPU and an NVIDIA® GeForce RTX™ 2080 8GB GDDR6 GPU—both designed for premium desktop rigs—but buyers can legally take it apart and insert a better Coffee Lake CPU or RTX GPU without voiding their warranties. In fact, one Tom’s Hardware editor did just that!

This site gave the Area 51m laptop an Editor’s Choice review for its top-of-the-line performance and sleek design, but the tech fans may need more convincing before abandoning their desktops for this new category of computer. That’s where PAX East 2019 came in.

Alienware partnered with Riot Games (publisher of League of Legends) at its PAX East Alienware Outpost booth last week. Visitors were able to challenge one another to 1v1 tournament LoL matches on the eight publicly available Area 51m laptops, and try out the tech for themselves.

Anyone who took a turn got a first-hand look at the 17.3" FHD (1920 x 1080) 144Hz display with Nvidia G-Sync, running LoL at an alleged 270 FPS. With 64GB (4x16GB) DDR4 2400MHz of memory, a 2x 1 TB PCie M.2 SSD in RAID 0 and a 1 TB 5,400-rpm SSHD, the Area 51m gave some visitors their first experience with running a game on max graphics.

Guests probably couldn’t tear their eyes away from the screen to notice, but Alienware radically redesigned the Area 51m from its typical spaceship layout. The new design, codenamed “Legend”, has thinner bezels than normal around its 17” display, more rounded corners to replace the jagged edges on other Alienware laptops, and per-key RGB lighting for its keyboard, including its nine customizable macro keys. And it comes with either Lunar White or Dark Side of the Moon finishes.

They also didn’t get a chance to take advantage of the gamer-centric customization options Alienware offers to its users. The Alienware Command Center lets you configure different overclocking settings or RGB backlighting for different games or applications.

Whereas the free Arena Rewards program gives you Arena Rewards Points (ARP) for completing daily quests, achievements or puzzles in your favorite games or forums. You can then cash in your ARP for discounts, game codes or physical merchandise.

Area 51m: the future of gaming?

At PAX, the Alienware team went all-in on the idea that professional gamers and streamers can switch from their current desktop rigs to the Area 51m without a drop in quality. They invited streamers from the League Partners Program to play LoL live at the PAX Outpost, while simultaneously broadcasting to viewers on Twitch—all on one Area 51m laptop.

Plus, outside of these streams, Alienware partnered with Riot for a series of League-themed events at PAX, including an LoL cosplay contest, a trivia contest and a viewing party of the LCS Spring Playoffs to see which players would make the LCS Spring Finals. The Outpost was packed throughout PAX with LoL fans hoping to either try out the 51m or watch their esports pro idols kick ass while using Alienware hardware.

Currently, most gamers rely on the power and stability of a desktop for their streaming needs; but desktop replacements like the Area 51m could mean gamers could reach live audiences more easily in places like convention centers. Or, that non-gamers could achieve peak performance on demanding applications like Final Cut Pro or AutoCAD.

That peak performance won’t last forever; but as the only current desktop-replacing laptop that lets you replace the CPU, RAM and GPU, you can make your purchase last much longer than is normally possible with any other portable device.

If you’re reading this, you probably couldn’t make it to PAX to try out the Area 51m yourself; but we recommend you still check out the product page and see which model fits your budget. And don’t have any regrets if you can’t afford the top-of-the-line model today: you can always buy the next-best laptop and upgrade it later!