Alienware Area-51m 7700
The largest laptop we’ve seen in quite a while, the Alienware Area-51m 7700 is the quintessential Pentium 4-fueled gaming and multimedia machine. It has a TV tuner; a 17-inch, wide-screen display; a double-layer DVD drive; and an integrated TV tuner (which requires an included dongle). At $3,667 (as of July 2005), it’s also the most expensive machine we’ve seen in quite some time, and though it’s a great laptop, there are still better and cheaper options available. If you’re looking for a purebred gaming machine, we recommend the best-of-breed Dell Inspiron XPS Gen 2, and if you need the integrated TV tuner, we suggest the less expensive.
Tipping the scales at a backbreaking 12.8 pounds, the gargantuan Area-51m 7700 measures 15.6 inches wide, 11.7 inches deep, and 2.1 inches thick; this sucker’s big–even for a desktop replacement. With its immense, bricklike AC adapter (with a three-prong plug), the Area-51m 7700’s total weight comes to 15.4 pounds. On the upside, there’s plenty of room for an expansive keyboard, a dedicated numeric keypad, and a large touch pad that delivers plenty of tactile feedback; unfortunately, there’s no external switch to turn off the touch pad when you’re using a separate mouse.
There’s a good amount of space around the touch pad to rest your palms on when typing, but as with most Pentium 4-powered machines, this laptop gets quite hot; our palms and wrists became a bit sweaty after just a few minutes. Outfitted with a muscular audio subsystem from RealTek, the Area-51m 7700 features four quality stereo speakers, plus a subwoofer and a bank of handy audio controls (including volume up and down, but no mute) that let you play standard CD audio or MP3 music files from optical discs–even without the OS booted. We also appreciate the Area-51m 7700’s sturdy construction and the two latches that keep the lid closed.
You’ll find lots of connections and ports on the Alienware Area-51m 7700, placed mostly along the left edge. These include four USB 2.0 and two four-pin, unpowered FireWire ports, which is quite rare; S-Video out; analog outputs for 5.1 surround-sound speakers and headphones; and four media card reader slots which accept Memory Stick, CompactFlash, Secure Digital/MMC, and SmartMedia modules. Among other typical connections, the back edge hosts a DVI out and S-Video in. Networking options include standard modem and Ethernet jacks, plus an internal 802.11b/g Wi-Fi radio. Replete with multimedia features, our Area-51m 7700 test unit arrived running. Aside from conventional multimedia tasks such as playing and recording DVDs, Media Center can record live TV programming, though you’ll first need to attach a small coaxial dongle before you can connect your cable or satellite box.