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Alienware starts selling GPU upgrade kits for the Area-51m

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The promise of a user-upgradable laptop GPU is finally here

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Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Alienware’s Area-51m came onto the laptop scene at the beginning of the year with a big promise: that you’d be able to upgrade nearly every component of the laptop, including the GPU. And this week, Alienware made good on the last part of that promise by releasing its first GPU upgrade kits for the Area-51m.

The new kits aren’t the biggest update: they’re essentially just the Nvidia RTX 2070 and 2080 GPUs that were already offered on the high-end models which were available at launch. That means these kits are less for users looking to squeeze even more power out of their laptops and more for ones who are having some buyers remorse about picking up a less powerful GPU when they first configured their machines.

Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

The kits come with three parts: a new GPU built on Dell’s DGFF (Dell Graphics Form Factor) specification; a thermal kit for that GPU (the more powerful GPUs need better cooling); and a more powerful charger. Dell is also offering a service where a technician will come by and perform the installation for you, should you not be comfortable taking apart your laptop yourself.

But while the GPUs here aren’t exactly “new,” it’s still a welcome sign for anyone who bought into the Area-51m. The upgrade kits show that Dell is taking its promise of user upgrades seriously, and gives hope that future GPUs might be released for customers to customize their machines going forward.

The biggest issues with the upgrade kits are the steep prices: the RTX 2070 kit costs $1,038.99, while the RTX 2080 kit is $1,638.99. That’s not that much more expensive than the initial cost to upgrade when first buying an Area-51m, but it’s still a heavy price to pay to upgrade a laptop that already starts at $1,999.99.

To help sweeten the deal, Alienware is also running a limited time introductory discount on the two kits: the RTX 2080 kit is 39 percent off at $999.99, while the the RTX 2070 will be available for 32 percent off at $699.99.

Update November 7, 4:55pm: Added details for Alienware’s introductory deal on the upgrade kits.