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Alienware shows off two new laptops

The new Area-51 m15x and Area-51 m17 won't be available till 2008.

Hot on the heels of the exclusive sneak peek photos we brought you last week, boutique computer maker Alienware finally let the press and public see its new creations in person Monday at a preview event. We call it that rather than a launch event, as the new Area-51 m15x and Area-51 m17x likely won't be available until the beginning of 2008.

The Skullcap and Ripley designs

We did, however, get to see these new systems in action, and as expected, both the 15- and 17-inch models will offer some hardcore hardware, including Core 2 Duo Extreme processors and the latest Nvidia GeForce 8800M GTX graphics. Part of the reason Alienware unveiled the new systems today was to coincide with Nvidia's 8800M launch (that's their latest and greatest graphics chip for laptops).

But those parts will be available in many laptops--what Alienware is really selling is not the steak, but the sizzle. The company has taken lumps for not redesigning its systems enough between generations, but parts of these two new laptops represent a major (for Alienware) design overhaul.

A custom app controls the keyboard color.

Two chassis designs are available: Skullcap has the familiar ridges we've seen on systems such as the m9750, but the new Ripley design keeps just the iconic alien head, against a glossy (and very reflective), flat lid. A backlit keyboard can be programmed to run any variety of colors, similar to the vent and fan lights in Dell's XPS laptops, but the light-up keyboard makes a huge difference, as does the totally flat touch pad, demarcated only by its backlit border.

No pricing or shipping dates yet, but expect to see these available sometime in January.