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Alienware m17 vs. Area-51m: Which Is the Best 17-Inch Gaming Laptop?

Alienware has been the purveyor of some of the most impressive hardware we’ve seen in gaming laptops. But how does the company’s most powerful 17.3-inch gaming laptop, the Area-51m ($3,999), compare to its super slim alternative, the m17 ($3,999)?

It’s obvious that the Area-51m kills it with its performance and graphics, but you shouldn’t count the m17 out quite yet, as it boasts a smaller profile and a much better screen than its big brother.

Here’s how these Alienware laptops stack up.

Alienware m17 vs. Area-51m: Specs Compared

Alienware m17Area-51m
Starting Price (as configured)$1,599 ($3,999)$1,949 ($5,099)
ColorsNebula Red (Epic Silver available)Lunar Light (Dark Side of the Moon available)
Display17.3 inches, 3840 x 2160 (1920 x 1080 available)17.3 inches, 1920 x 1080
CPUCore i9-8950HK (Core i7 available)Core i9-9900K (Core i7 available)
RAM16GB (32GB available)64GB (8GB, 16GB, 32GB available)
GraphicsNvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q (RTX 2060/2070 available)Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 (RTX 2060/2070 available)
SSDDual 512GB SSDsDual 1TB SSDs and a 1TB Hybrid Drive
PortsThree USB 3.0, one Thunderbolt 3, HDMI 2.0, Mini DisplayPort 1.4, RJ45, security lock slot, headphone jack, Alienware Graphics Amplifier PortThree USB 3.0, one Thunderbolt 3, HDMI 2.0, Mini DisplayPort 1.4, RJ45, security lock slot, headphone jack, microphone input, Alienware Graphics Amplifier Port
Size16.1 x 11.5 x 0.7~0.9 inches16.1 x 15.9 x 1.2~1.7 inches
Weight6.2 pounds8.5 pounds

 

Design

Whether you want your laptop to be big and beautiful or slim and sexy, you’re going to be immensely satisfied with both the Area-51m and m17.

The Area-51m has a soft-touch aluminum lid with a gorgeous white paint job accompanied by an RGB Alienware logo and an Area-51m sci-fi-esque decal. The hinge curves outward from the lid and forms a infinity loop with mesmerizing RGB lighting. The model that I tested is painted Lunar Light (white), but you can also get it in Dark Side of the Moon (black).

The m17’s exterior is painted a stunning Nebula Red (Epic Silver available) and has three lines carved into the lid in the shape of a Y that meet at the center of the lid. There’s a lot less going on than the Area-51m, but it also has an RGB-lit Alienware logo.

When it comes to the interior, the white design just looks so fresh on the Area-51m, making it hard to beat, especially when the m17 has a standard black design. On top of that, the Area-51m’s bezels are much thinner than the m17’s.

However, in terms of size, the Alienware m17 is king. The m17 comes in at 6.2 pounds and 16.1 x 11.5 x 0.7~0.9 inches, which is nearly half the height of the Area-51m (8.5 pounds, 16.1 x 15.9 x 1.1~1.7 inches).

There’s so much give and take with these two machines that it’s hard to decide which one is takes the crown for style, but considering that the m17 is actually somewhat portable, it wins design.

Winner: Alienware m17

Buy on the Alienware m17 Dell

Ports

Despite their differing sizes, the Alienware m17 and Area-51m have almost the same exact ports, and there are quite a few of them. Each system has three USB 3.0 ports, one Thunderbolt 3 port, an HDMI 2.0 port, a Mini DisplayPort 1.4, an RJ45 Ethernet port, a security lock slot, a headphone jack and the Alienware Graphics Amplifier port. The only thing that the Area-51m has on the m17 is a seperate microphone input and an additional power jack, which basically cancels each other out in terms of points because no one wants another power jack.

Winner: Draw

Buy the Alienware Area 51m on Dell

Display

Since the Alienware m17 is boasting a 17.3-inch, 4K display and the Area-51m has only a 17.3-inch, 1920 x 1080 panel, there’s a huge gap in color. Despite that, the Area-51m’s panel has a 144Hz refresh rate while the m17’s is capped at 60Hz.

In the most recent trailer for The Lion King, both panels were able to sufficiently reveal detail in the walls of the dark cave that Simba and Nala found themselves trapped in. The difference in color was apparent when Simba started eyeing a beatle. His fur was gold and white on the Area-51m’s panel, making it look realistic, but his fur glowed an orangish red on the m17’s screen, which looked over-saturated in comparison.

However, the m17’s edge on color made a darker scene look more atmospheric compared to the Area-51m, which had drained the moonlight in the background. And it’s hard to beat the amount of detail that the m17 provides with its 4K panel -- Simba’s fur looked so sharp I thought I could touch it.

MORE: Alienware Gaming Laptops - Brand Rating and Report Card

The Alienware m17’s screen covered a wild 195 percent of the sRGB gamut, leaving the Area-51m’s 118 percent in the dust.

Both laptops were nearly neck and neck on brightness, with the m17 nailing 310 nits and the Area-51m averaging 284 nits.

Winner: Alienware m17

Keyboard and Touchpad

My fingers felt like they were typing on a cloud with the Alienware Area-51m’s keyboard. Its thick, seemingly connected keys made it easy for my fingers to traverse along the deck. Surprisingly, the Alienware m17’s keys felt clicky and responsive as well, despite their lower travel. However, I prefer typing on the Area-51m due to its thicker keys.

I took the 10fastfingers.com typing test and hit 69 words per minute on the Area-51m’s keyboard, and I hit 67 wpm with the m17, which isn’t far off. The Area-51m’s keyboard had 2.2 millimeters of travel and the m17 hit 1.1 mm. Ironically, they’re both out of our 1.5 to 2.0 mm preferred range, but more is usually better.

The Area-51m’s 3.9 x 2.2-inch touchpad is super soft, has two discrete buttons and has RGB backlighting, while the m17’s 4.1 x 2.5-inch touchpad has a little more real estate, but doesn’t feel as satisfying to use nor does it have discrete buttons.

Winner: Alienware Area-51m

Gaming, Graphics and VR

These Alienware machines are the best of the best, outfitted with Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 GPUs with 8GB of VRAM, but the m17’s is built with Max-Q technology, and while that lets the machine slim down, it’s a huge sacrifice in performance, which puts the Area-51m at an advantage.

On the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark (Very High, 1080p), the Area-51m blazed through at 92 frames per second, creating a large gap between the m17’s average of 52 fps.

The gap shrunk ever-so-slightly on the Hitman benchmark (Ultra, 1080p), with the Area-51m scoring 143 fps while the m17 leapt into the triple digits with 110 fps.

The Area-51m dominated once again, nailing 105 fps on the Grand Theft Auto V benchmark (Very High, 1080p), while the m17 was left behind in the double digits, at 78 fps.

MORE: What to Look for in a Gaming Laptop - Buying Guide for Gamers

On the Middle-Earth: Shadow of War benchmark (Ultra, 1080p), the Area-51m created the largest frame gap yet with 132 fps, as the m17 averaged 43 frames lower, at 89 fps.

Winner: Alienware Area-51m

Performance

Just by looking at a spec sheet, the winner is clear. The Alienware m17 has an Intel Core i9-8950HK laptop CPU and 16GB of RAM, while the Alienware Area-51m is armed with a Core i9-9900K desktop processor and 64GB of RAM. It’s a slaughter.

On the Geekbench 4.1 overall performance benchmark, the Area-51m scored an insane 32,591, which towers over the m17’s score of 23,400, despite it being powerful in its own right.

The Area-51m transcoded a 4K video to 1080p on our HandBrake benchmark in just 6 minutes, blazing past the m17, which completed the test in 9 minutes and 33 seconds.

While both SSDs are outfitted by Alienware, they run at radically different speeds. The Area-51m’s 1TB SSD copied 4.97GB of data at a rate of 1,272 megabytes per second, which is on a different planet compared to the m17’s 512GB SSD, which ran at a rate of 508.9 MBps.

Winner: Alienware Area-51m

Battery Life

Despite all their trimmings, Alienware laptops tend to defy the odds on our battery test. Not this time. Both the Alienware m17 and Area-51m battery lives are still disappointingly short. After the m17 continuously surfed the web over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness, its battery lasted only 2 hours and 50 minutes, falling short of the 3:13 premium gaming laptop average. To no surprise, the Area-51m didn’t do any better, at 2 hours and 36 minutes. Even though the m17 survived 14 minutes longer, both machines are equally bad when it comes to battery life.

Winner: Draw

Value and Configurations

The Alienware m17 and Area-51m are both highly configurable and super expensive, so it’s difficult to draw the line and decide which gives you more value, but at least the m17 won’t put you in the hole.

The Area-51m that we tested cost $5,099 and had an Intel Core i9-9900K desktop CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 GPU, 64GB of RAM, two 1TB SSDs, a 1TB Hybrid Drive and a 1920 x 1080 144Hz display. Meanwhile, the m17 that we reviewed runs for $3,999 and comes with a Core i9-8950HK processor, an RTX 2080 Max-Q GPU, 16GB of RAM, two 512GB SSDs and a 3840 x 2160 display.

In comparison, you’d pay $1,100 more to upgrade to a 9th Gen desktop processor, expand to a full GPU that delivers roughly 1.5 times more performance, add 48GB of RAM, double your storage and add a 1TB Hybrid Drive on top of that. You’d be sacrificing the 4K display, but all in all, the upgrade for that price seems plenty worth it.

However, the m17 is more affordable if you want to spring for the base model. It costs $1,599 and comes with Core i7-8750H CPU, an RTX 2060 GPU, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB Hybrid Drive and a 1920 x 1080 display. The Area-51m’s base model will run you $1,949 and downgrade you to a Core i7-8700 processor, an RTX 2060 GPU, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB Hybrid Drive and a 1920 x 1080 60Hz display.

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If you go with the m17 you can save nearly $400, get double the RAM and get the same GPU (non Max-Q), storage and display. You’ll only be missing out on the Area-51m’s desktop-level CPU.

There’s no middle ground to compare the two systems part for part, but the m17 is the better alternative if you don’t have a stack of cash lying around.

Winner: Alienware m17

Overall Winner

The Alienware m17 and Area-51m are both impressive in their own right, but the Area-51m takes the battle by storm with its overwhelmingly power performance as well as its gamer-friendly keyboard.

Alienware m17Alienware Area-51m
Design (10)98
Ports (10)99
Display (15)1412
Keyboard/Touchpad (15)1314
Gaming, Graphics and VR (15)1215
Performance (15)1215
Battery Life (10)44
Value and Configs (10)76
Overall (100)8083

However, the Alienware m17 has its own place in the world. If you want to avoid breaking your back when traveling, this laptop’s smaller profile will serve you well. You’ll also enjoy playing games with its wildly colorful 4K display. Not to mention that you’ll be saving over $1,000 if you go with the m17.

But overall, the Area-51m’s rigorous performance keeps it at the top of Alienware’s food chain.

Credit: Laptop Mag

As soon as Rami Tabari sprung out of the College of Staten Island, he hit the ground running as a Staff Writer for Laptop Mag. He reviews every shape and form of a laptop as well as all sorts of cool tech. You can find him sitting at his desk surrounded by a hoarder's dream of laptops, and when he navigates his way out to civilization, you can catch him watching really bad anime or playing some kind of painfully difficult game. He’s the best at every game and he just doesn’t lose. That’s why you’ll occasionally catch his byline in Tom’s Guide, taking on the latest Souls-like challenge.