Its giant dimensions seem like overkill: the Alienware Area-51 m9750 is a 17in laptop yet it is more than 20mm deeper than the 17in Samsung M60 we recently tested and, at 5.4kg, is more than 2kg heavier than the M60.

The Alienware, then, is a laptop designed for static use, rather than being carted about from place to place. Its ridged, all black casing is certainly durable, but the brutish Alienware Area-51 m9750 doesn't look all that attractive, particularly when set alongside similarly sized laptops.

However, the Alienware Area-51 m9750's specification list and resulting performance more than make up for its lack of style. The striking screen does a good job of showing off graphics, photos and video. And with a gaming score of 43fps the Alienware Area-51 m9750 is on the right track as a gaming notebook.

Both in-game graphics and DVD film action are smooth, looking crisp and colourful on the Alienware Area-51 m9750's higher-than-standard 1,920x1,200 resolution screen. The strong graphics support includes a 512MB nVidia GeForce Go 7950 GTX card. Coupled with the 2.33GHz dual-core processor, this ensures the Alienware Area-51 m9750 makes a capable video-editing laptop too.

The high specifications also guarantee the Alienware Area-51 m9750 is able to turn in an impressive WorldBench speed benchmark performance, notching up 79 points. While this has been bettered recently by the Samsung M60 and the HP Pavilion HDX, the Alienware Area-51 m9750 is up against a particularly strong group of laptops.

When it comes to battery life, however, the Alienware Area-51 m9750 slips up. THe 64 minutes it lasted in our battery endurance tests was the shortest of any of the 15 laptops we reviewed this issue. We were also concerned to note that the Alienware was a huge energy guzzler, sucking 180 Watts of power at its peak.

Nor were we taken with the slightly off-centre trackpad. It isn't really recessed, which means it gets in the way and isn't easy to use. To the right of this is a responsive scrollbar. This is a single strip, which takes some getting used to if you're used to left- and right-tapping. The keyboard itself is large and easy to use and benefits from the vast dimensions of the Alienware Area-51 m9750 – the maker has even found room to include a numerical pad.

When it comes to its main selling point – entertainment – the Alienware Area-51 m9750 is hard to fault. The large speakers with subwoofers at the front produce full and booming surround sound, while Alienware has crammed in a multi-format drive that includes DVD-RAM (useful for archiving video you've edited), a TV tuner and 1.3Mp webcam. There's a volume control dial on the side and the most common playback options can be selected via quick access keys.


Although the Alienware Area-51 m9750 isn't the best looking laptop, severely let down by its limited battery life, it is still a powerful and well featured multimedia notebook with adequate memory and two whopping 250GB capacity hard drives.