At CES 2019 Dell unveiled its then-flagship gaming laptop, the Alienware Area-51m. One of the biggest selling points was that Dell promised the system would be upgradeable, allowing owners the option to disassemble and replace internal components. This meant the laptop would never go obsolete in terms of hardware.
Unfortunately, the laptop never lived up to its potential of being an upgradeable laptop that mimics a desktop. The announcement of the Area-51m R2 in 2020, nearly a year after the original model, offered a wider selection of GPUs including support for Nvidia’s GTX 1660 and the RTX 2080 Super, along with an AMD RX 5700M option and support for the 10th-gen Intel desktop processors.
Now, the computer manufacturer faces a class-action lawsuit after Robert Felter, a California resident, filed a complaint against Dell claiming it “intentionally misled and deceived” those who purchased the original Area-51m laptop with the promise they could upgrade the system’s parts in the future.
The complaint describes that the Area-51m laptop’s processor was “not upgradeable to the new Intel 10th generation CPU, nor was its GPU upgradeable to the new NVIDIA RTX SUPER 2000 series.” The motherboard inside the laptop supported Intel’s Z390 chipset, meaning the laptop would not support the 10th-generation Intel processors.
As far as GPU upgrades go, Dell started selling Area-51m upgrade kits for those that wanted to upgrade to the RTX 2070 or 2080, but they came at steep prices, beginning at $700. But when the RTX 2070 and 2080 Super variants came out, R1 laptop owners could not upgrade to those parts as the system only supported the current generation of graphics cards.
In the press release announcing the Area-51m, Dell noted that the laptop would be “the first true desktop replacement,” and repeatedly mentioned that this laptop was “upgradeable,” even going as far as to say the “Area-51m is the most powerful, upgradeable gaming laptop ever conceived.” Dell even went as far as to claim the laptop had “unprecedented upgradeability” as presented on the Alienware Area-51m laptop’s product listing on Dell’s website.Dell said the Alienware Area-51m would provide users the option to upgrade both the CPU and GPU. (Source: Dell)
The complaint notes that “Dell’s representations of the upgradability of the Area 51M R1 also extended to units that were equipped with the fastest, most advanced Core Components available to the market, thus creating a reasonable expectation with consumers that the upgradability of the Area 51M R1 extended to yet-to-be-released Intel CPUs and Nvidia GPUs, and did in fact create such expectations with consumers.”
The complaint for this case was filed on June 2nd in the United States District Court in the Northern District of California. But there is a chance that the case could be rejected. For instance, Dell did note that the computer was upgradable but never explicitly said the upgrade capabilities were limitless. Additionally, there is an error in the complaint which claims that the announcement for the Alienware Area-51m R1 was announced in the summer of 2019, which is false as the laptop was unveiled at CES 2019 held in January.
The suit calls for damages, relief, and attorney fees for Felter, in addition to those residing in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington that purchased the Area-51m R1 since it its 2019 launch.
We reached out to Dell for a comment, which a spokesperson told IGN that it does not comment on pending litigation as part of its company policy.
Taylor is the Associate Tech Editor at IGN. You can follow her on Twitter @TayNixster.