Alienware Area-51 M9750: Top of the Gaming Heap

Gamers take note: a hot new Alienware rig has landed. Its styling is subtle yet unearthly, avoiding a flashy point job in favor of a Stealth Black design that Batman would love. Despite its modest appearance, it packs the oomph needed to obliterate your gaming opponents, and it doubles as a mean multimedia machine. It'll cost you nearly five grand, but that’s par for a system of its class.

The m9750 has the hardware to generate high frame rates. Its Intel Core 2 Duo T7600 is fast (2.33 GHz), though the m9750 doesn't yet support Intel's latest Centrino Duo platform. Graphics power comes from two nVidia GeForce Go7950 GTX cards yoked in an SLI configuration. The m9750 sizzled on our 3D gaming tests, beating out other recent gaming laptops on nearly every one.

This unit is one of the most media-rich gaming laptops around. It has dual 16OGB hard drives in a RAID 0 array, and its connections consist of three audio ports for speakers, an optical-out port for digital audio for home theaters, and S-Video-in and DVI-D ports. Also included is a standard NTSC (alas, not HD) TV tuner and a swivel 1.3-megapisel wcbcam. The keyboard is quite responsive, though the mouse buttons were barely usable.

The m9750 has a frame made of a sturdy magnesium alloy composite and comes with a 17-inch glossy widescreen with 1,920-by-1,200 resolution. At 9.2 pounds, the unit is lighter than most competing systems. But since its 96-Wh battery lasted a mere 1 hour 15 minutes on our DVD rundown test, you won't want to take this rig far from an electrical outlet.

With its sleek, understated styling, power packed components (which produce gaming scores to match), and abundant media features, the Alienware Area-51 m9750 is a system to be reckoned with. It unseats the Dell XPS M1710 as the Editors' Choice for gaming laptops.

Alienware Area-51 M9750: $4.708

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