Pricing, Upgrades and Final ThoughtsPerformance
Unfortunately we have to start out our analysis of the performance of Alienware’s Area-51 system with a caveat: because this exact configuration is no longer available on the Alienware website we have to judge the performance with a little more care. Looking at raw performance, the sheer power of the components involved in this system is impressive: there are currently no CPUs faster than the Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770, period. Unless you are going to spend the time and effort to overclock then you can’t buy your way into a faster single processor system.
Of course the pair of Radeon HD 3870 X2 cards is the point in which our tested configuration no longer matches up with what is available today. The HD 3870 X2 is no longer listed on the Alienware.com website and they were replaced by the HD 4870 X2, at nearly identical price point. That is good news for you: you get a much faster graphics configuration than I had here for nearly the same price! The pairing up of a pair of the 4870 X2s in CrossFire X creates what is probably the best gaming and graphics solution you can buy today as well.
The rest of the components are just as impressive and include the 4GB of DDR3 1333 MHz memory, highly overclockable nForce 790i Ultra SLI motherboard and Creative X-Fi Xtreme gamer sound card. The new Western Digital VelociRaptor hard drives, running at 10,000 RPM with a 300GB capacity, are paired up in a RAID 0 array that gives you faster read rates as well as a single 600 GB partition.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, I really feel like the external section of the chassis on these cases should be updated. Having what is essentially the same case design since before 2004 makes the brand seem very stale and lagging behind others like the HP Blackbird that have really pushed the boundaries on the one area they can truly differentiate: design. Just ask Apple.
The inside of the case was decent – I would have liked to see more room for hard drives but the completely tool less design left a good impression upon me.
Obviously if you are configuring a system with the kind components used in this review then you won’t likely be upgrading for some time down the road. If you decided to buy a less expensive system and then do in fact want to increase performance later then you would likely find the process to be pretty easy. As I said above, the chassis is nearly all tool less and the only tough area would be working around the water cooling setup that our system used; removing that to upgrade the CPU is going to be a bit more of hassle. The good news is that since the water cooling configuration is completely self contained there should be no need to drain fluids, refill, remove air bubbles, etc.
Overall I think the ability to upgrade the Alienware Area-51 is a strong selling point for first time PC builders.
Discussing the pricing on this system is nearly has difficult as looking at the performance for the same reason: our exact configuration is no longer available. The Alienware Area-51 starts at $2300 for their “gaming” base system that includes a 3.16 GHz dual-core processor and GeForce 9800 GX2 – hardly a “base” configuration at all in my mind.
NOT in any color you want as long as it’s black…
The closest system price we have today to the system we received (at that time) configures at just over $6500. That is a very high price for a computer, even one that includes such high performance components: QX9770, dual AMD Radeon HD 4870 X2 cards, dual 300GB VelociRaptors, water cooling, Blu-ray burner and more.
As I always say with these systems – buying a pre-built enthusiast PC isn’t for the light of wallet!
The Alienware Area-51 system is a pleasure to use, is incredibly fast and offers consumers that want a high performance gaming PC, but don’t have the desire to build it themselves, the ability to get the best hardware available. Our test system included a top-of-the-line processor, motherboard, graphics cards, sound card, storage devices and more – many of these same components can be found in our “Dream System” Leaderboard. As with all boutique system builders the potential drawback is in the price – you’ll have to pay to play, so to speak. If you can get past the somewhat stale feeling of the chassis design, the Alienware Area-51 makes a solid option for gamers looking to buy into their next PC.
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