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Reader Review: Alienware's Area-51 m5550i Notebook

Pre-purchase Thoughts

Editor's Note: This is the first product review from a reader we have published. We would like to publish more of these, because, as you can see from Paul DeJarnette's review, you have different takes on the computers you buy and have to live with than we do on the computers we test and send back to their manufacturers in a span of 3 weeks. For example, I know just how Paul feels about the dead pixel on his new notebook's screen, but as an objective reviewer, a dead pixel on a notebook I can't keep has little impact on my psyche. So, live a little, write for us. If you'd like to do a review of a product you own, write me with details and a brief outline. My email address is

After fighting a losing battle with a Toshiba notebook that was a "lemon," I began a search for a new notebook computer. Key factors in my hunt were performance and predictability. After careful research, I chose to purchase an Area-51 m5550i notebook from Alienware.

When I ordered, they said that the status of my notebook build would be updated online daily and an email would be provided as well. When status updates were not posted to the Alienware website, I emailed a status request to them in the middle of September (halfway into the wait period.) They responded in 24 hours and gave me a detailed update and estimated dates for the next phases. The estimates were accurate and the system arrived only 2 days later than the original estimate provided by the sales representative.

System Specifications

I ordered with a budget in mind, not a typical Alienware offering. I was looking for a moderately performing notebook. When the Intel Core 2 Duo came out, it brought pricing way down. My system was configured as follows:

I figured that the low processor clock speed would be fine, considering the reviews I had read regarding possible heating issues. The configuration I got would cost around $2000 right now because of pricing changes, but my total ended up at a little over $1700.00. That is the same price I paid for the "lemon" Toshiba that I bought in 2005.

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