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.