Alienware Area-51m 5550 unboxing

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Get ready to feast your on eyes on my latest laptop computer. It is an Alienware Area-51m 5550 that was delivered to me in June 2007, about two weeks after I placed the order online at www.alienware.com. If you didn’t know it already, my previous computer was an Alienware Area-51m 766, that I got in August 2004. Get the details in the My Tech Toys section of my website.

The 766 is still working and is a great computer, but I’ve gotten a few more BSOD’s (blue screens of death), in the past few months, which gets annoying after awhile. Most likely, I will re-format the hard drive and re-install Windows XP Pro. Hopefully, this will get rid of the BSOD’s, but if it doesn’t, then errors are most likely hardware-related. In that case, it is a good thing I got the new 5550 laptop, since finding replacement hardware for the 766 is next to impossible. Alienware no longer provides replacement parts and my 3-year warranty expires in one month 🙁 .

Oh well, let’s get to the fun stuff and the “unboxing” of my brand-new Area-51m 5550 laptop. Curtains please…

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A brown box? Yeah, they always say that good things come in ugly packages, right?

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Ah, that’s more like it. The menacing alien head – the symbol of Alienware!

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As expected, protective packaging is minimal, but it is just enough to protect the valuable laptop.

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This is the inner box that holds the accessories. Two alien heads are better than one, right?

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Again, the inner box only contains what you ordered. Not an single AOL disk or other non-Alienware promotional literature to be found anywhere inside.

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Even more alien heads! Note the supplied telephone cord. Why?

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Why am I showing the AC adapter? The output requirement is only 20V, 4.5 Amps. My previous AC adapter for my 766 was 20V, 8.0 Amps. This is a huge difference, plus the fact that the 5550 AC adapter is 50% lighter. With the lower output requirement, I should be able to use the power from the business-class airline seat. 😎

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The 5550 secured by the protective foam and plastic.

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Almost there…now without the protective foam.

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It’s alive and it can breathe! Hehehehehe… If you notice the LCD screen is NOT the clear-view type screens that are popular today. I like it this way, because the reflections from clear-view surface would annoy me.

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Here’s is the right-side view of the 5550. The analog video connector (blue) has been eliminated. Now its all digital. On another note – one thing that that I wished Alienware would have done was to add covers to the Ethernet port and the multi-card memory slot. A lot of dust will get in these openings after awhile.

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Here’s the back view. I still don’t understand the need for the telephone port. Who still uses telephones? 😉

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Here’s the left side view.

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Here’s the top view of the keyboard. This is basically a full size keyboard that you would get from a desktop keyboard, minus the full keypad. A few annoyances about the 5550 keyboard: (1) The function keys seem louder than the other keys, especially around the F1, F2, F3 keys. (2) The keyboard isn’t as sturdy as my 766 keyboard. On the 5550 keyboard, some of the keys feel like they are going to pop-out. (3) The Fn key position in the lower left should have been switched with the location of the CTRL key next to it. However, I got used to this after using my 766 for almost three years. (4) The wrist rests on the 5550 will get very warm after extended usage. This potentially will get very annoying if it gets any hotter. I never had this problem with my 766. Even after 8 hours of usage, the wrist rests on my 766 were as cool as if the laptop was not even turned on.

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For your reference, this is my 766 keyboard. Notice that the mouse-pad and buttons are black (typical Alienware), however on my new 5550, the finger-pad and buttons are grey (typical Dell). Ugh! 😡

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Here’s a side-by-side view of my 766 (left) and my 5550 (right). The only reason the 766 is larger (length-wise) is because there are speakers below the LCD screen. On the 5550, they’ve eliminated those speakers, so they can knock off about one inch on the length of the laptop. The width remains the same. Given the facts that the components on the 5550 have to be packed tighter together and that I have double the RAM sizes on my video card and main motherboard, probably are the causes for the warmer wrist rests.

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Here’s the back-view comparison. Notice how I have propped up both computers to allow air-flow underneath. Even though my 5550 is new, I’m still going to do this, since I realized this will practically eliminate any shutdown issues related to heat. Keep in mind, though, I still use a cooling pad with fans on my 766 (not shown).

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Here’s the top-view comparison picture. Notice again the black alien head on the 766 and the grey alien head on the right. I still think the black alien head looks more menacing. Also note the absence of the Alienware marking on the 5550. The name actually moved to the LCD side, which I think is a marketing mistake by Alienware. No one would be able to see the Alienware name when the laptop is closed.

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Above are the specs for my 766. The “marketing discounts” that I got back in August 2004, was free shipping, which saved me about $200.

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Above are the specs for my new 5550. No free shipping offered here, but I did get a free Alienware sticker!

To summarize, here are some Pro’s and Con’s of my new Alienware Area-51m 5550:

Pro’s:

(1) Smaller form factor, which means it is lighter in weight. It is only 6 lbs. (with battery) vs. 9 lbs. (with battery) for my 766.

(2) The AC adapter has a lower output requirement so that I can use it on business-class airline seats with no problems. The AC adapter is also lighter than that of my 766. Keep in mind that the 766 AC adapter potentially could get very hot and that’s why it needed it’s own fan built-in! Whoa!

(3) More powerful than my 766 – basically twice the motherboard RAM and twice the video card RAM. The updated Intel Core 2 Duo chip was an added boost. Bye-bye Pentium 4!

(4) The laptop doesn’t come with all those trial softwares installed, which ends up cluttering your system. With Alienware, you only get what you pay for. Hopefully, that doesn’t change after Dell’s acquisition of Alienware, but I’m not very optimistic about it.

Con’s:

(1) Keyboard is rather flimsy and the keys are louder than normal.

(2) Wrist rests get very warm.

(3) The laptop case design doesn’t have the typical Alienware quality or uniqueness. It seems after Alienware was purchased by Dell, all the Alienware computers will copy Dell’s form-factor, which is unfortunate.

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