Features and Options

The components listed in Alienware's online configurator are like a Who's Who list of high-performance laptop parts. While the test system we received is by no means a slouch in the performance department, there are quite a few upgrades that can still be made. The reverse is also true: anyone looking to save money can easily pare down the options on a few areas. Here's a quick overview of the current possibilities:

Alienware Area-51 m9750 System Configuration Options
Processor Core 2 Duo T5500/T7200/T7400/T7600
Chipset Intel 945PM + ICH7-M DH
FSB Speeds 667 MHz
Memory Speeds DDR2-667
Memory Slots (2) x SO-DIMM, 512MB up to 4GB, DDR2, Dual Channel supported
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce Go 7950 GTX 512MB
One standard or two for SLI
Display 17" WXGA+ (1440x900)
17" WUXGA Clearview (1920x1200)
Expansion Slots 1 x ExpressCard/54
Hard Drive 80/160/250GB 5400RPM, 100/160/200GB 7200RPM
32GB Solid State
160GB with 256MB flash Hybrid
RAID 0 or 1 allows two hard drives
Optical Drive 24X Combo CD-RW/DVD-ROM, 8X DVD+/-RW DVD-RAM
Blu-ray DVDR
Networking/Communications Integrated 10/100/1000 Ethernet and V.90 56K Modem
Intel 3945ABG (802.11A/B/G) or 4965AGN (802.11A/B/G/N) WiFi
Audio 24-bit High Definition Audio with 2.1 Speakers
Soundblaster X-Fi Xtreme (XP only)
Left Ports Flash reader (SD, MS/Pro, MMC)
1 x Gigabit Ethernet
1 x ExpressCard/54
2 x USB 2.0
1 x mini-Firewire
Right Ports 1 x USB 2.0
Volume knob
Headphone, Mic, and 5.1 analog audio
S/PDIF optical out
Front Ports Optical drive
Back Ports Audio in
TV coaxial input (optional)
Component TV out
Modem jack (RJ-11)
Power Connector
1 x USB 2.0
DVI (single link)
Keyboard 99 Key QWERTY (US)
Extras 1.3MP Webcam
9 quick access buttons
Optional NTSC TV tuner and remote
Battery Options 12-Cell 95WHr
Dimensions 15.65"x11.75"x1.5" (WxDxH)
8.5 lbs. (12-cell battery)
Power Adapter 180W
Operating System Windows XP Media Center 2005
Windows XP Professional
Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit
Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit

Alienware is a gaming-centric company, and if you're looking for a high-performance gaming notebook by far the most important aspect is going to be the graphics card. NVIDIA's GeForce Go 7950 GTX continues to be the fastest mobile graphics card presently available. Still not fast enough? Upgrade to SLI and add a second GeForce Go 7950 GTX 512MB - the current upgrade price is $600.

Another extremely important aspect of any gaming notebook is going to be the display, unless you plan on connecting an external monitor. Alienware allows users to choose between a WXGA+ (1440x900) or WUXGA (1920x1200) LCD for the m9750. We can't speak as to the quality of the lower resolution display, but especially if you're looking at getting the m9750 with SLI graphics we see little point in getting anything other than WUXGA. The higher resolution display also comes with "Clearview Technology", which presumably refers to the glossy finish. Unfortunately, we did notice that selecting the higher resolution display currently delays the estimated ship date by about two weeks.

The m9750 is not based on Intel's latest Santa Rosa platform, and it uses an Intel 945PM + ICH7-M DH chipset. That means all of the Core 2 Duo processors are the slightly older models that use a 667 MHz front side bus (FSB). As we pointed out in our Santa Rosa article, clock for clock the faster FSB and other tweaks do help make the new processors slightly faster, but the difference certainly isn't worth losing any sleep over. If the primary concern is gaming and you like to run at higher resolutions, you can even downgrade the processor and still end up with perfectly acceptable gaming performance.

Memory options consist of the standard 1GB, 2GB, or 4GB of memory. All three options populate both SO-DIMM slots, and we would strongly encourage all buyers to upgrade to a minimum 2GB of memory. At the same time, upgrading to 4GB of RAM is currently incredibly expensive ($1000) and would also require the use of a 64-bit operating system (see below), so we wouldn't recommend that upgrade. In other words, take Alienware's - and our - recommendation and go with the 2GB memory configuration. Whichever RAM size you select, you will get DDR2-667 memory.

Deciding on which operating system you want on your shiny new Alienware laptop may be one of the more difficult choices to make. First, 64-bit operating systems are not an option, so if you haven't already just forget about using 4GB of RAM for now. Very likely, the reason 64-bit operating systems are not listed is that driver compatibility would be suspect at best. Consider the following statement regarding Windows Vista: "Windows Vista does not currently support NVIDIA SLI functionality. If you choose Windows Vista with your SLI system, only a single graphics card will be enabled. Alienware will notify you once a Windows Vista SLI driver becomes available." If you're not interested in the m9750 with SLI, that might not be a big deal, but if you're after maximum gaming performance in a notebook you will almost certainly want to stick with Windows XP. If you choose any operating system besides Windows XP Professional, the configurator also gives you the option to get a USB Media Center remote and a single channel ATSC TV tuner. Adding a TV tuner will currently delay processing, however.

The hard drive options are pretty unusual for a notebook, as the m9750 chassis is able to support two 2.5" SATA drives. Users can choose to have either single or dual hard drives, and if dual hard drives are desired three options are available: RAID 0, RAID 1, or dual drives without RAID. In the case of the latter, it's important to note that you only get one possibility: a 32GB Solid State Drive (SSD) combined with a 200GB 7200 RPM drive. Single drive options range from 80GB up to 250GB with 5400 or 7200 RPM spindle speeds - the fastest 7200 RPM Drive is 200GB while 250GB is available with a 5400 RPM spindle. A 32GB SSD is also an option, as is a 160GB Hybrid Hard Drive with 256MB of flash memory. (You would want to use Windows Vista as your operating system if you get the hybrid drive.) RAID options allow you to select two of any of the hard drives, other than the hybrid and SSD drives. For maximum performance at the cost of not having as much internal storage capacity, you can even select two SSD drives in RAID 0. The cost for such an upgrade is about $1000, which apparently means that Alienware is not using the MTRON 32GB SSD we've looked at recently. Optical drive options consist of the typical DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive or a DVD burner with optional LightScribe technology. A Blu-ray optical drive is also available if you're willing to delay shipping a bit.

The remaining options consist of a few accessories and your choice of software - 14 different games can be preinstalled, in addition to the usual security and office suite possibilities. You can also choose to upgrade to a Draft-N wireless networking card and if you select one of the Windows XP operating systems you can add Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi audio. The only other important option in the online configurator that we would pay attention to is the warranty. Alienware Area-51 m9750 notebooks come with a standard 1-year warranty, but you can add a 2-year warranty for $200 or a 3-year warranty for $300. We're not sure about the rest of you, but especially with notebooks we're inclined to purchase an extended warranty. Alienware does offer a pretty comprehensive warranty, including on-site service. If they deem it necessary to have your notebook sent in for repairs, they will cover the shipping costs both ways and they use FedEx 2-Day Priority Mail. Phone support is also available 24/7.

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  • Guspaz - Saturday, September 01, 2007 - link

    Anybody considering buying a gaming notebook should refuse to purchase one until nVidia gets their act together and starts releasing notebook drivers with regularity.

    I myself am a notebook gamer, with a modest Dell Inspiron 9400, Core 2 Duo 2.16GHz, and aGeForce Go 7900gs. I run Vista.

    Well, nVidia currently DOES NOT OFFER Vista notebook drivers at all. Not a one, nada. Your only options are to either use Dell's driver, which is an ancient beta missing support for most features of the GPU, or a hacked desktop driver (which still is missing many features under Vista, and lacks PowerMizer support).

    Under XP, the situation isn't much better. nVidia's latest notebook drivers for XP are 84.63, released over a year ago on July 5, 2006.

    Your notebook manufacturer MIGHT provide newer drivers, if you're LUCKY. For Dell's part, their XP drivers are still ancient and stuck in the 90 series, and they only ever released ONE driver for Vista, probably thinking "Well, they have drivers now, that's good enough."

    In order to play BioShock on a notebook, you have NO other option but to hack the desktop drivers.

    This is NOT an acceptable situation. As notebook gamers, we should REQUIRE nVidia to SUPPORT THEIR PRODUCT and release regular updates for their cards. The fact that their desktop drivers work so well on notebooks with a simple INF tweak should show you how EASY it would be for them to release official notebook drivers. They give us this bullshit story about how driver updates need to come from the notebook manufacturers due to differences between notebooks. This is bullshit. I don't get my desktop graphics drivers from Abit because they happen to have made the motherboard.

    So what do I plan to do? I have no choice. I'll keep using hacked desktop drivers for lack of ANY other option.
  • monitorjbl - Saturday, August 25, 2007 - link


    an Ono-Sendai Cyberspace VII that we can all use to jack into the matrix. Just watch out for the ICE....

    Yay, a William Gibson reference!
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, August 25, 2007 - link

    Bonus points if you actually played the old Neuromancer game by Interplay. Cue Devo...


  • strafejumper - Friday, August 24, 2007 - link

    i never understood the concept of all these laptops such as this alienware

    the idea of a laptop to me is it is portable
    however if the battery only last 60 mins it is not really that portable
    for $5000 i would want to be able to for example watch a dvd
    however this cannot even do that seemingly simple task!

    battery life to me is so much more useful than the extra cpu and gpu cycles
    when watching a dvd, browsing the internet, playing cards, backgammon, chess or other simple games, listening to music, typing documents, emailing, messengering etc. etc. the extra horsepower of the cpu and gpu are not even being used.

    battery life > some extra frames in the latest game (which is better on a desktop probably anyway with bigger screen, full keyboard + mouse, desk, speakers, etc.)
  • Inkjammer - Saturday, August 25, 2007 - link

    I am one of the people who have bought, buy and will buy workstations like these. People like me don't buy them as a "laptop" but as a "portable desktop replacement" (DTR).

    Some of the justifications:
    Lugging an entire system to LAN parties can be frustrating, especially since I have a 24" monitor, large keyboard. I'm also using a Coolermaster 830 CM Stacker case, which weighs a ton, and breaking it down, setting it up can take far, far too long.

    I also tend to take my DTR notebooks systems with me to work, where I can game during nightshifts. I'm also stationed overseas, so being able to easily transport a FULL system, even if contains in a laptop, is invaluable. I also do high end art and 3D animation, and need the additional power for job and hobby.

    The tradeoff for portability and battery life on a notebook is fairly steep, but there's not much in the way of compromise.

    And yes, I have a second laptop for my "on the go" needs.
  • yyrkoon - Friday, August 24, 2007 - link

    Some people do not have room for a desktop(or a desk), and use nothing but laptops. Others may travel, staying in hotels nightly, having a plug available, but do not want to tote around a desktop with them. Other people like truckers may be able to use an AC inverter for power, but have limited room in their sleepers for a computer.

    Having said that, I have been a trucker, and kept a full sized desktop in my sleeper, and I have also worked over the road, staying in a hotel nightly, and used a desktop during this time as well. Not everyone is like me however, and some of these people may preffer something smaller, and easier to carry around, or maybe just smaller to maximize their given 'alotted space' where ever they may be. I wouldnt buy one though . . .
  • wolfman3k5 - Saturday, August 25, 2007 - link

    Well, how about there east bound, you got your ears on? I totally know what you mean, how ever I never had time for gaming. Battery life was always more important to me. I'm also an ex trucker, God, it's a lonely job. Anyway, just wanted to say hi:) Reply
  • yyrkoon - Monday, August 27, 2007 - link

    Myself, for 2 years(and around 200k miles) I would typically drive 8HRs/day, 2-3 months at a time. Plenty of down time, and plenty of time to game, even in the early to mid 90's ;) Of course back then, there was nothing like this availible, and I was probably one of the first drivers to have a full blown desktop in their cab(IMB compatable 386SX-25 with 4 MB of ram YEEE HAAW!) lol . . . Reply
  • yyrkoon - Monday, August 27, 2007 - link

    IBM compatable . . . Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, August 27, 2007 - link

    IBM compatible you mean? :) Reply

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