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Alienware’s Area-51m modular CPU and GPU upgrades can add up to a $4,000 laptop

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Intel Core i9 and Nvidia RTX 2080 are $450 each

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Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

The Alienware Area-51m is trying to deliver on a dream: a gaming laptop with user-upgradeable CPUs and GPUs like a desktop so it won’t become obsolete. (At least that’s the plan; check out our feature story.)

But as you might expect, the most premium parts won’t be cheap. Alienware’s configurator page now shows that a fully kitted Area-51m — complete with a bona fide 8-core Intel Core i9-9900K desktop processor, Nvidia RTX 2080 mobile graphics, and a 144Hz screen — will cost $4,000 today. That’s too rich for me.

Yes, one of the great things about an easily upgradable laptop is that you can start out with a lower-end $2,549 config and add more potent parts later. But Alienware’s configurator shows that it’s currently charging $450 just to upgrade from an RTX 2070 to an RTX 2080, suggesting that you may pay north of that when Alienware eventually sells that graphics card separately.

And since Dell is using its own proprietary DGFF (Dell Graphics Form Factor) cards for GPU upgrades, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to buy that upgrade anywhere else. Still, Alienware’s desktop processor socket can take any CPU compatible with Intel’s Z370 chipset, and the RAM, SSD, and HDD slots are standard ones.

Dell’s modular graphics cards.
Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

On the flip side, if you’re a gamer (or content creator, or...) with a serious bank account, Alienware will let you take this machine up to $4,844 and change if you opt to stick with a pair of 1TB PCIe SSDs in a blazing-fast RAID 0 array and keep a slow 1TB magnetic hybrid drive along for the ride.