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Laptops are much harder to upgrade than their desktop counterparts. So, many companies try to get an edge in the market by making their laptops more upgradeable than their competition. So, does Alienware, one of the top PC brands, offer upgradeable features?
Many of Alienware’s laptops can be upgraded to a certain extent. Usually, the RAM and storage drive are the easiest parts to upgrade or replace. Their flagship series, the area 51m, offers users a scope to upgrade even the GPU and CPU but the options available for this are very limited.
It’s important to know exactly what upgrades you can make with your laptop before you buy one. Otherwise, you may get stuck with an outdated PC and be forced to purchase a new model.
So, in this article, we will discuss just how upgradeable Alienware laptops are. We will look at the limitations of these laptops and the reasons behind them. Hopefully, by the end, you can decide whether Alienware laptops are worth it for you.
Table of Contents
If you have ever browsed the market for laptops, you most likely heard the name “Alienware”. But what is the specialty of these laptops that makes them so popular?
Alienware is a subsidiary of Dell that makes dedicated gaming computers. So, they make laptops, desktops, and related products for gaming purposes. This means that the gaming capacity of their laptops is comparable to top-quality desktops. And their brand is easily one of the most recognizable with their unique “alien head” logo.
For a long time, if you wanted to play the best games on the market, you needed to get a desktop. Laptops at that time were not powerful enough to host all the latest, high-tech games. This is because laptops have a limited space to work with. In contrast, desktops have more hardware and you could easily customize it to your liking.
Laptops had utility in their ease of use and portability. But they did not have the necessary GPU or RAM to run the most advanced games. And their lack of upgradeability prevented users from customizing their laptops to their preference.
But with the progression of technology, companies started making laptops specifically for gaming purposes. And it is here that Alienware established itself as one of the leaders of this industry.
Since its inception, Alienware has been producing gaming-oriented PCs at a remarkable rate, consistently changing and adapting its formula. Needless to say, their strategy and approach to gaming laptops have worked wonders, with the company currently having a revenue of over three billion USD.
The aspect that immediately catches your attention is the design. Alienware laptops are instantly recognizable thanks to their overall “alien-like” aesthetics but it is more than that. Their laptops are sleek, light, and have a constant glow feature. This gives it a sort of extra-terrestrial vibe that perfectly matches its namesake.
Then you have the performance. Alienware aims to pack the power and capacity of a high-end gaming desktop inside the portable shell of a laptop. This provides the user the best of both worlds, as they can enjoy high-end PC games wherever they want basically.
Of course, laptops can only do so much due to their restricted structure. But Alienware has managed to bridge the gap between laptops and desktops significantly over the decades. This has placed Alienware at the forefront of gaming hardware and they are now a staple name in the industry.
When building a laptop, manufacturers have a limited amount of space to work with. Laptops offer their user portability which is a key distinction from desktops. But this also means you have little room to change or replace. And this is the issue when it comes to upgrading laptops.
With desktops, you have a lot more room to house the hardware. Often, you will find extra slots in the motherboard for additional RAM or GPUs. Most of the parts are also attached with screws that you can easily detach.
Laptops do not offer that luxury. Typically, the key hardware such as the GPU, RAM, etc. is soldered or glued to the internal motherboard. You may also find that some parts are wired over one another, making it pretty much impossible to replace those parts separately.
The cooling system is also a problem. You can easily detach and reattach the cooling system of a desktop. Air-cooled systems are connected to the external casing which you can readily replace. But in laptops, the casing is intricately linked with most if not all other major parts.
Then there is the problem of finding spare parts for the exact model of your laptop. This may not surprise you but most companies make their laptop according to their own standard. Meaning, there is little chance that the SSD of one brand will work with another brand’s laptop.
This becomes an even bigger issue with bigger companies. Even if they are upgradeable, you will probably find that you can only upgrade them with parts of the same company. This also limits your choices as those parts may not be available near you at that time.
Some of the more modern laptops are, in fact, completely unchangeable. This is because technicians have made these laptops for maximum efficiency and ergonomics. As such, you cannot tinker with its constitution as you deem fit. For instance, Microsoft’s Surface Pro 2 requires a blow dryer just to melt the adhesive off the casing.
Other times, it is not worth it to upgrade a laptop due to the warranty condition. A common condition in most warranty packs is that you cannot change or alter the original laptop in any way. So, trying to replace the parts may make your warranty void.
Despite all the points we discussed so far being true, you can still upgrade your laptop. So, you are not stuck with your current setup forever and forced to buy a new one.
Switching from an HDD to an SSD is a very common upgrade that many laptop owners prefer. A solid-state drive is usually faster and more reliable than a mechanical hard drive. So, the performance improvement is worth the cost.
Another frequently upgraded part is the RAM. There is a good chance that the RAM slot in your laptop is accessible, especially if it is an older model. Sometimes, you can insert an additional RAM if there is any extra slot in the motherboard.
Changing the CPU and GPU is much harder and is usually not worth the money. These parts are either soldered into the motherboard or the laptop will not work with the new unit. Almost all new laptops have this limitation.
The same is also true for the cooling system as the fans are usually integrated into the casing. And a new casing will not fit all the internal hardware as those parts have a very specific configuration. So, you will be better off buying a new one at that point.
How to Tell If My Laptop is Upgradeable
Upgrading the hardware is a great way for you to stay up-to-date at a cheaper rate. But your laptop has to be able to function with upgraded parts to work properly. Otherwise, you are just wasting your money for nothing. So, here are some tips to find out what sort of upgrades you can perform on your laptop:
Crucial Memory’s Advisor is a great tool for figuring out the specifications of your laptop and how much you can change it. First, you need to go to their website. Then you simply select the brand, type, and exact model of your laptop and find out the options you can select.
Now, they will show you their own products for obvious reasons. But you can get a pretty clear idea as to what sort of upgrades your laptop can handle. For example, if your laptop is operating with a standard solid-state drive, you can probably replace it with an M.2 SSD that will instantly make your PC faster.
Another method is to check the service manual or the hardware maintenance manual for your laptop. Go to the official website for your laptop’s brand and navigate to the service page. You will find an option to select the laptop model you currently have and download the manual.
This manual will tell you how to open up your laptop as well as the type of upgrade you can perform on it, if at all. If all the internal hardware is soldered or sealed, you cannot replace them without breaking the whole thing. So, reading the manual can potentially save you a lot of time and effort.
Unfortunately, not every Alienware laptop is upgradeable. This is partly due to the structure of laptops and partly due to the hardware configuration.
Alienware, or specifically Dell, has their own standard for making the internal hardware of its laptops. So, you cannot insert the CPU from any brand into an Alienware laptop at random and expect it to work just fine.
Take the Alienware area 51 series of laptops for example. The original laptop from this lineup, the A51 R1, was marketed as the world’s first “completely upgradeable laptop”. The promise was that this laptop can host future generations of processors and GPU and you can even replace the thermal cooling system.
Sadly, this was a short-lived dream as the R1 cannot support GPUs beyond its own generation. So, you can upgrade to the RTX 2070 but you cannot opt for the RTX 2070 Super, which is more recent.
Within a year, Alienware announced a newer generation of laptops in the series, the A51 R2. And supporters of this brand are hoping this model does live up to the hype and is future-proof.
Some of the popular, upgradeable Alienware laptops are the M17, M15, and area 51m series of laptops. But remember, you can only change certain components of the laptop. And in some cases, you can only upgrade to a specific company’s products.
You can read the manual or ask your supplier as to which parts are upgradeable and to what extent.
Alienware introduced their flagship model, the area 51m, with much fanfare in 2019. And the high expectations were perfectly understandable given what the company promised. With the area 51m, Alienware wanted to offer gamers a laptop that has power comparable to a desktop while being upgradeable as well.
The thing that will strike you immediately when you handle this laptop is the size and weight. Traditionally, companies try to make their gaming laptops thinner and lighter while packing as much power as they can. But you can only put so much power into such a small construction. Hence, gaming laptops are mostly inferior to desktops in terms of power.
But Alienware took a different approach with the A51 line. Instead of going with the trend, they made a thick, heavy, and powerful machine that blurs the line between desktops and laptops. It has a 17.3-inch display and weighs about 8.5 lbs. This is easily heavier than a lot of modern gaming laptops.
The benefit to all this girth is the level of performance this PC can muster. It utilizes Nvidia’s RTX series of GPUs and an intel core i9-9900k desktop chip. This is a big deal as you can enjoy desktop-class processors as well as a full-powered mobile GPU on a laptop. The A51 can rival dedicated gaming desktops for power and performance.
The second major appeal of the area 51m is its upgradeability. We already discussed how difficult it is for users to upgrade their laptops to keep up-to-date with the latest technology. The 51m was built in a manner that you could get into the interior and replace the RAM, storage drive, and even the GPU and CPU.
The desktop-level power and performance coupled with the potential to upgrade are what makes the Alienware area 51m series of laptops so special in the industry.
While the potential upgradeability was a big part of the initial appeal of the area 51m, the reality is noticeably different. Let’s look into this in more detail.
Most “upgradeable laptops” only allow you to upgrade the RAM or the internal storage drive (HDD or SSD). But the GPU and CPU remained untouchable as they were often sealed onto the motherboard. So, the fact that you can readily access these parts in the area 51m immediately sets it apart from the competition.
However, just because you can change these components does not mean you can replace them with any product. And here lies the problem with the original area 51m. Most people thought that the 51m was “future proof”, meaning you can upgrade the processor or motherboard chipset to their latest version and it will work perfectly fine.
In reality, the 51m R1 (first generation of the 51m) can only support graphics units within its own generation. So, when a newer and more advanced GPU comes out, the GPU in 51m R1 will become backdated.
As for the RAM and SSD, they are more reasons to upgrade. You can get one 1 TB hybrid drive with 8 GB RAM for the price of two thousand dollars. And you can get two separate 1 TB M.2 SSDs plus a 1 TB hybrid drive with the five-thousand-dollar model.
If you want to upgrade any of the internal hardware, you first need to open the casing and access that part. So, we strongly recommend that you make a backup to all your essential files before starting this process.
Start by removing the bolts from the bottom of the laptop casing. You will quickly realize just how packed the interior of a laptop truly is. Make sure you do not break the wi-fi wire or any other sealed parts.
Let’s begin with the easy parts. Many laptops will have an additional RAM slot that is unoccupied. So, you can simply put in another, more improved RAM without removing the old one. If there is only one slot and it is removable, you can simply change it out. Make sure the RAM is compatible with your laptop.
Upgrading the storage drive is pretty similar and invariably results in improved performance. You can get a smaller storage drive when you buy the laptop that you can change later on.
Now, the Alienware area 51m series of laptops have desktop-styled sockets for the processor and the GPU. So, you can remove them after detaching the correct screws or latches. Then place the alternate gear that you want to use and screw it in place. Once again, you are very limited as to the options that are available for the upgrade.
One of the common complaints about Alienware laptops, in general, is that they are fairly expensive. For example, their flagship area 51m series can cost between 2,000 to 5,000 USD depending on the specification. You can buy an actual, customizable gaming desktop with this money and still have plenty of spare.
So, why should you spend this much on a laptop? Well, the answer entirely depends on you and what you are looking for from your PC.
Alienware offers terrific gaming facilities, high-level graphics, powerful processors, and GPUs that make them comparable to desktops. But unlike desktops, you can carry this around with you. And this last part is key.
Alienware laptops are mostly targeted toward hard-core gamers, who need this level of performance in a portable package. And for them, Alienware laptops are ideal as they can perform pretty much any other task besides gaming.
Plus, these laptops come with a good warranty and a very stylish design. Their keyboard and touchpad provide excellent quality and durability. A lot of their laptops house a full keyboard with a macro keypad.
However, if portability is not an issue, you are better served by getting a proper gaming desktop. For less money, you can build a completely personalized computer that you can upgrade with very few restrictions in the future.
There is no debate that Alienware makes top-of-the-line gaming laptops. But whether they are the right laptop for you depends entirely on your preference and requirement. If you can bear the expense, you will be more than pleased with the performance you receive from this brand’s laptops.