Alienware Area-51m 5750
With its Area-51m 5750 entertainment-focused notebook, Alienware appears to be courting consumers who might ordinarily choose an HP Pavilion or Toshiba Qosmio as their 17-inch-screen desktop replacement. The effort is not without merit. The Area-51m 5750 is a fast gamer with superb stereo sound and an instant-on DVD capability, like its competitors. But a flawed keyboard and fewer entertainment options lessen its appeal.
A backlit alien head emblazoned on the 5750's lid is this black-and-silver notebook's only conspicuous sartorial nod to the Alienware theme. At 8.8 pounds (not including the 2-pound power adapter), it weighs 0.8 pounds more than a similarly configured Pavilion, but a 1.5 pounds less than a Qosmio.
Our $3269 (as of 11/6/2006) 5750 came with the Windows XP Media Center Edition operating system, a powerful 256MB ATI Mobility Radeon X1800 graphics card, Intel's top-of-the-line 2.33-GHz Core 2 Duo T7600 processor, 2GB of RAM, dual 100GB RAID-configurable hard drives, a dual-format DVD burner, and the PowerCinema instant-play application for playing DVDs, CDs, videos, and slide shows without launching Windows. The unit's stereo speakers are quite nice. Boosted by a subwoofer, they add loud, rich-sounding audio detail to movies and music, and sound that's almost on a par with that produced by a Qosmio's Harman/Kardon speakers.
The 5750's plentiful connections include a FireWire port for digital downloads, a DVI-D connection for hooking up digital flat panels, the new ExpressCard/54 slot, and four USB ports--three of which are conveniently located on the right side of the notebook. A Wi-Fi switch is provided on the front. Built-in Bluetooth, however, is not an option; a USB adapter is $30 extra.
The 5750 excels in raw speed: It set new PC World performance records, blazing through business applications to produce a WorldBench 5 score of 125. (The previous high scorer, a Micro Express HEL8021 equipped with a 2.16-GHz Core Duo T2600 chip and 2GB of RAM, earned 120.) In gaming, the Alienware system pulled down some of the highest frame rates we've recorded for Doom and Far Cry on a notebook: 95 and 152 frames per second, respectively.
The 5750's Achilles' heel is its keyboard, specifically its right Shift key, which is the size of an alphanumeric key and is set too far to the left. With practice a touch typist might eventually learn to hit it, but it's worth noting that the HP Pavilion dv9000t has an identically sized right Shift key that gives no such trouble because it's placed more conveniently.
Finally, the 5750 can't quite match the finer entertainment features of its competitors. The laptop offers no option for a TV tuner, so it can't double as a portable TV like the Qosmio and Pavilion notebooks. And oddly, its volume wheel doesn't work in quick-play mode. Small things for some people, perhaps, but for multimedia aficionados, these deficiencies might make the Area-51m 5750 a disappointment.
Alienware Area-51m 5750
The 5750 is a fast gamer laptop with superb sound. It lacks a TV-tuner option, however, as do many comparable systems.
- Excellent big-screen entertainment
- Poor battery life
- Problematic keyboard