Monday, November 19, 2007

New Alienware Area-51 notebooks: The mother of all systems?

The most powerful 17-inch notebook ever?

The most powerful 15.4 notebook that's ever been thought of?

It was with that kind of unbridled enthusiasm that Alienware Corp., makers of musclebound gamers' notebook and desktop computers, rolled out its latest high-powered efforts at a New York press conference on Monday (Nov. 19).

According to Alienware, a subsidiary of PC giant Dell Corp., in addition to powerful processors and fast hard drives, the new Area-51 m17x 17-inch notebook (above) and Area-51 m15x 15.4-inch notebook (below) offer graphics performance far above that offered by any other current notebook.

"This is really the mother of all systems when you're talking about performance," said Bryan de Zayas, Alienware's associate director of product marketing, after he uncovered the m17x at the press conference.

He went on to describe the m17x as "the most powerful 17-inch notebook that has ever been created" and noted somewhat modestly that the m15x was the most powerful 15.4-inch notebook "that's ever been thought of and brought to market."

The specifications for the sleekly designed Area-51 units seem to bear out some of his enthusiasm. Both come with Intel Corp.'s Core 2 Extreme processors, Blu-Ray optical disk burners and up to to 4 gigabytes of system memory.

The Area-51 m17x offers a 17-inch, 1,080p widescreen display and can be had with dual nVidia GeoForce 8800M GTX or dual GeoForce 8700M GT graphics processors and up a gigabyte of dedicated graphics memory--an astounding amount video muscle for a notebook. The Area-51 m15x has a 15.4-inch, a 1,080p widescreen display, a single nVidia GeoForce 8800M GTX graphics processor and up to half a gigabyte (512 megabytes) of graphics memory.

De Zayas noted that the just-released nVidia 8800M GTX graphics chipset used in the new notebooks is two performance levels above the nVidia chipsets now in use by other notebook makers. This means, he said, that the Area-51 units can easily digest the most demanding PC games, including the recently released Crysis from Electronic Arts Inc.

However, nVidia noted that the 8800M series graphics chipset will soon be available in machines from other notebook makers, including Canada-based Eurocom, Gateway Inc., and Sager.

While the Area-51 units are obviously designed for the best possible games performance, they offer amenities that make them useful as high-end business units. For example, with the touch of a button above the keyboard, you can tune the units down to a low-power "stealth" mode, which reduces processing muscle, but extends battery life long enough time to perform mundane non-gaming tasks during a long flight. You can also tune down the graphics muscle in order to extend battery life a little further.

The units come with backlit keyboards which can change color and a touchpad that's invisible save for an lit outline that lets you know where it is on the palmrest area.

Both units will be available next year and pricing has not been set yet, according to Alienware representatives.

Photos courtesy of Alienware.

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