A California man has filed a class-action lawsuit against computer maker Dell, alleging that the company “deliberately deceived and misled” buyers of its Alienware Area 51-m R1 gaming laptop, which was announced to be upgraded more than other gaming laptops.
San Francisco-based Attorney Robert Felter argues that Dell is misleading customers into believing that the laptop can be upgraded, possibly into future generations of components.
Felter v. Dell Technologies, Inc. (3: 21-cv-04187) was filed in the United States District Court in the Northern District of California.
The Area 51M Alienware was announced at CES 2019 and launched shortly thereafter. (The complaint alleges that the announcement was published in the summer of 2019, which is incorrect.)
Among the biggest advertised innovations in Area 51 were interchangeable CPUs and GPUs.
At media briefings, Alienware officials told reporters that the processor could be upgraded as long as it uses Intel’s Z390 chipset.
The laptop uses Intel’s 9th generation desktop processors, right down to the Intel Core i9-9900K.
Dell has developed separate Dell Graphics Form Factor (DGFF) modules for Nvidia graphics cards.
However, the lawsuit alleges that consumers have been told that “key components” (ie processors and graphics processors) can be replaced outside the current generation of hardware.
“Dell’s press release did not place any restrictions on upgrading the laptop,” lawyer David Kani said in an email to Tom’s Hardware.
“They also never found that those with the highest specification CPU and/or GPU would be able to upgrade their device.”
Dell officials said the company’s policy did not allow comments on ongoing lawsuits.
The complaint states that “Dell’s Area 51M R1 upgrade display has been expanded to include devices equipped with the fastest and most advanced key components on the market”, creating a reasonable expectation for consumers that the upgrade capability of the Area 51M R1.
The R1 will be expanded to include the INTEL and NVIDIA GPUs and actually create such expectations among users.
The complaint has repeatedly referred to Dell’s allegations of an ‘unprecedented upgrade.’ Those words are still live on the Dell Alienware Area-51M R1 website.
“The graphics card upgrade kits were finally released in November 2019 and include options for the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080.
These were GPUs in the earliest-selling unit -51m, although later were released with the weaker RTX 2060 and GTX 1660 Ti.
Those with the RTX 2070 could theoretically be upgraded to the RTX 2080, and those with smaller GPUs could scroll down the circuit.
But in May 2020, Alienware released the Alienware Area-51m R2, a refresh that added support for tenth-generation Intel Core desktop processors and a wider range of graphics processors from the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti to the newer Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super and AMD options, Radeon RX 5700M.
In June, Alienware set limits on upgrading both machines. Like the previous laptop, which only supported 9th-generation Intel processors, the new one would only support 10th-generation Intel.
Premium RTX 2080 Super and RTX 2070 Super would be the end of the GPU line.
The second-generation Area-51m, which is at the heart of Felter’s argument. “The 51M processor area cannot be upgraded to the new tenth-generation INTEL processor, nor can its GPU be upgraded to the new NVIDIA RTX SUPER 2000 series,” the complaint states.
“In fact, the only way for the plaintiff to own a laptop with these newly built upgraded Core Components is to spend several thousand dollars more than the upgrade would cost to buy the then-released Alienware Area 51M R2, or a similarly equipped laptop.
In other words, the plaintiff will have to buy a new model.
In addition, the plaintiff and his lawyers claim that because Dell included Intel and Nvidia components in its machines, these are preliminary indications that the company knew the laptop cannot be upgraded.
This basically comes down to the motherboard with the Intel Z390 chipset, as well as its own graphics cards.
Motherboards are regularly upgraded to work with the latest processors, although sometimes new processors will run on older boards.
This could set a kind of precedent for how much the motherboard should support the CPU.
But Dell’s graphics were in proprietary form. Felter is seeking compensation, legal aid, and attorney’s fees for himself and those from Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, who bought the laptop themselves from the 2019 edition.
He is represented by attorneys Brian H. Mahany of Mahany Law and Stephen I. Hochfelsen and David W. Kani of Hochfelsen & Kani, LLP.