At CES 2019, Alienware made a shocking announcement. The corporate’s then-new Space-51m gaming laptop computer wouldn’t simply be a typical boutique refresh. The brand new system might be upgraded sooner or later, in a way and diploma completely different than typical laptops.
Then, about 16 months later, Alienware backtracked. Abruptly we had been advised that the Space-51m may solely be upgraded with elements out there when the system was ordered. The Space-51m, in different phrases, wasn’t actually upgradeable in any explicit or particular approach in any respect. Now, Alienware has been sued for what the plaintiff claims is fake promoting. Wanting again at Alienware’s particular statements in regards to the Space-51m, it’s laborious to not really feel just like the plaintiff has some extent.
Robert Felter has filed a class-action lawsuit, shared with ExtremeTech, in opposition to Dell within the Northern District of California, arguing that the corporate “deliberately misled and deceived the general public to be able to create a aggressive benefit based mostly on false illustration to spice up gross sales of its flagship gaming laptop computer, the Alienware Space 51M R1.” He’s represented by Brian Mahany, David Kani & Steve Hochfelsen.
Bait and Swap
In its CES announcement, Alienware claimed that the Space-51m was “the primary true desktop alternative.” Right here’s Alienware’s January Eight 2019 PR:
Virtually twenty years after Alienware launched the primary gaming laptop computer with upgradeable graphics, garnered reward for its efficiency and went on to garner a number of awards, the corporate is proud to launch its second flagship pocket book with upgradeable graphics and processors.(Emphasis added)
In case you missed it, the corporate repeats the “upgradeable” half once more, straight beneath. “The reimagined Space-51m is essentially the most highly effective, upgradeable gaming laptop computer ever conceived. It marks the primary and solely laptop computer with a ninth Gen Eight-core desktop processors, 64GB2 of reminiscence, 2.5Gbps Ethernet know-how, upgradeable graphics and desktop processors, and 17” Alienware laptop computer with a narrow-bezel show with 144Hz.” (Emphasis added).
The Verge had a glowing writeup of the Alienware Space-51m able to go proper out of the gate. The subhed of the story reads: “The ‘world’s strongest gaming laptop computer’ desires to carry user-replaceable processors, graphics playing cards, storage, and RAM to moveable computer systems.” The Space-51m is claimed to unravel the 2 basic issues of laptop computer gaming: Viable sperm counts A scarcity of highly effective elements in top-end techniques and the truth that laptops can’t be upgraded.
The Verge writes:
Extra importantly, not like practically each different gaming laptop computer on the market, the Space-51m is designed to allow you to swap not solely the laborious drive, RAM and battery, however the CPU and GPU, too.
It’s not simply lip service: Alienware is severe about letting customers take this factor aside similar to they might a full-fledged desktop, down to simply detachable screws and labeled guides imprinted into the body of the laptop computer that can assist you by means of disassembly or reassembly (together with specs for every screw must you lose observe of 1 alongside the best way). There are pull tabs that can assist you take away the laptop computer’s delicate cables by hand, with out damaging them, and it exhibits you the precise order it is advisable flip the screws for the large CPU / GPU cooler to correctly torque it down.
Within the context of building how Alienware communicated about this laptop computer, these particulars matter. The corporate didn’t launch a PR with a imprecise reference to future upgrades. It declared that upgradeability was central to the product and gave journalists a deep dive into all of the considerate methods the system was designed to assist house owners by means of the improve course of.
The 1,719-word Verge story ultimately reveals that Dell would possibly or may not launch contemporary GPUs for the Space-51m, relying on system gross sales and vendor assist. This important data is buried some 800 phrases deep within the story, and it isn’t disclosed in Alienware’s press launch in any respect.
There’s no data within the Verge story implying that CPU upgrades may not be supported; we raised that ourselves once we wrote the information up. Alienware wasn’t speaking that to would-be prospects in any respect, regardless that it introduced a severe, seen downside in January 2019. Intel, traditionally, doesn’t assist platforms for multiple improve cycle. ninth Gen chips just like the Core i9-9900Okay had already changed CPUs just like the eighth Gen Core i7-8700Okay as Intel’s flagship.
Alienware clearly pulled out all of the stops to promote the concept that this laptop computer can be an actual upgradeable product. The “Oh, nevertheless it may not work out,” was introduced as a CYA second moderately than a severe expectation when the corporate spoke to press.
The criticism is easy: Alienware took benefit of how ardently laptop computer players need upgradeable laptops by pretending it will promote one. It later deserted these claims, after prospects picked an Alienware over a special system they could have chosen as a substitute.
Dell selected to market this machine as upgradeable, figuring out that prospects would perceive that to imply “I can put a CPU or GPU within the machine that was not out there on the day the laptop computer launched.” Desktop alternative PCs have existed for many years. The concept the Space-51m was a “true” desktop alternative hinged on the concept that you possibly can swap the CPU and GPU out for one thing new.
What’s notably damning is that Alienware didn’t trouble updating finish customers that their techniques wouldn’t be upgradeable till Might 2020, lengthy after Space-51m techniques had begun transport to prospects. As an OEM, Alienware would have recognized that Intel would transfer to LGA 1200 for 10th Gen lengthy earlier than Intel confirmed it publicly, and information of LGA 1200 had leaked by July 2019.
I’m not going to fake I do know what occurred. Perhaps Alienware genuinely had the most effective of intentions. Perhaps the individuals who had been backing the Space-51m upgradeable idea left the corporate. Regardless, this was one of many worse bait-and-switches we’ve seen a tech firm pull. It’ll be fascinating to see how Alienware defends itself and its utilization of the phrase “upgradeable” in these contexts.