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Alienware Area-51 Gaming PC review

Ardjuna Seghers



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Alienware Area-51 Gaming PC
  • Alienware Area-51 Gaming PC
  • Alienware Area-51 Gaming PC
  • Alienware Area-51 Gaming PC
  • Alienware Area-51 Gaming PC
  • Alienware Area-51 Gaming PC
  • Alienware Area-51 Gaming PC
  • Alienware Area-51 Gaming PC
  • Alienware Area-51 Gaming PC
  • Alienware Area-51 Gaming PC
  • Alienware Area-51 Gaming PC
  • Alienware Area-51 Gaming PC
  • Alienware Area-51 Gaming PC
  • Alienware Area-51 Gaming PC
  • Alienware Area-51 Gaming PC


Our Score:


Anyone who has been following the PC gaming market for the last decade will probably know the name Alienware. Over the years, it has become to gaming PCs what BMW once was to performance saloons, which is probably the main reason it was acquired by Dell in 2006.

The Area 51 is the company's second-best and therefore also second-most expensive system, and the configuration we've been sent for review packs some of the fastest hardware available, including an Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 processor and ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 graphics card.

The system comes well packaged in a manner similar to Dell's XPS 630, which makes sense considering it's essentially the same company. This means the PC is well-protected during transport so it should arrive free from damage.

In the box you get some spare SATA cables, the floppy cable and both dual and quad SLI bridges, all coloured black and neatly packaged in sealed plastic. There's a black fake-leather wallet containing the manual and black CDs, including Vista Home Premium 32-bit, the Area-51 support CD and Nero Essentials. You also get an Alienware mouse-mat featuring a picture of the famous alien head with glowing eyes, which will go well with your PC if you ordered black casing and blue lighting. It's fairly decent quality, and just the right size - unlike its equivalent with the XPS.

Likewise, the peripherals are better than the standard ones you receive with Dell XPS gaming PCs, though that's not saying much; you get a bog-standard black Logitech mouse and Classic 200 black keyboard. Suffice to say, if you're spending nearly £2500 on a system, we'd recommend you add an extra £100 or so and specify a decent keyboard and mouse, like the Logitech G15 gaming keyboard and G9 Laser mouse. Although, considering the overinflated prices Alienware demands, you may well be better off sticking with the cheap set and buying a decent keyboard and mouse separately. Either way, there should be an option to specify no peripherals at all.

But let's move onto the PC itself. Alienware has always had distinctive cases, and this is no exception. It's a love-it-or-hate-it design, with thick rounded plastic sides sloping to a front ironically somewhat reminiscent of the Predator's face mask. The unfortunate side effect of all that plastic is the case also has a very large foot print and, because the internal structure is all made of steel, its a very heavy one as well. There are 'gills' in the side exposing metal mesh which serves the dual function of enhancing the design and the more practical one of increasing airflow.

Our chassis arrived with the Saucer Silver finish, though you can also go for blue, black and green. This was complemented by Fusion Red lighting, though again you can pick from a broad selection including Lunar White and Nebula Aqua. On each side and on the front reside the classic Alienware 'alien heads', surrounded by a red halo and with red glowing eyes, which is a rather cool effect.


October 26, 2008, 5:46 am

about the EIDE optical drive, there have been some problems reported with nvidia boards and SATA optical drives and HDD set up in RAID and using an optical drive on PATA can combat this. so Alienware are doing customers a favor.

Hans Gruber

October 26, 2008, 9:14 am

"Extreme performance yet buggy, noisy, expensive and with a poor balance of components."

Sounds ideal, if you like needlessly wasting heaps of cash paying over the odds for a second rate build and a processor that costs more than most pay on a complete system (including monitor). What is the point in choosing a 790i (Nvidia) board with support for SLI and then supplying the ATI card? No wonder it's buggy too. It'd be hot, consume tons of leccy and be mismatched right from the off.

2 gigs of (pointless DDR3 1066MHz) ram, a measly 500 gig SATA hard drive and great choice of operating system (32bit). Great for future upgrade malarkey. Even the case looks like an unhappy amalgamation of a cylon and robocop (or is that dusty bin?). Not a good combination. Oh dear. And just 2 and a half grand is the asking price. Meh.


October 26, 2008, 11:50 am

good review. nice to see a reviewer taking everything other than performance into account in an alienware review. thoroughly deserved its score.

by the way - is the case really that long or is it the gills making it look like a limosine?


October 26, 2008, 5:04 pm

"The system comes well packaged in a manner similar to Dell's XPS 360,"

Really? Nobody else here caught this typo!?


October 27, 2008, 1:23 pm

@Jay, Thanks for pointing that out, but in that case Alienware should have gone for a different motherboard, surely.

@Azro: Couldn't agree more, except that the system stayed fairly cool thanks to its multiple (noisy) fans. Some of the bugginess might possibly be due to the videocard having been damaged in transit after all.

@ilovethemonkeyhead: Thanks ;) and yes, the case is a fair sight longer than most, largely because of the curved plastic front.

@Ohmz: The XPS 360 WAS well packaged, or am I missing something? :)


October 27, 2008, 1:31 pm

@Ohmz: Sorry, not awake yet, monday blues :D Wish Dell DID make a custom 360, well packaged or otherwise. Well spotted!


October 27, 2008, 4:08 pm

@Ardjuna: yeah they should have gone for a different motherboard, i'm currently thinking of building my own pc but stuck on which motherboard to use, i would have used this one if i was using Nvidia GPU but i have decided to use ATI, because of this problem, so want one that is crossfirex compatible and intel CPU.

Hope you dont mind but if there is a good one that comes to mind would you mind posting please? thanks


October 27, 2008, 5:30 pm

@Jay: What kind of budget did you have in mind, and are you planning on using DDR2 or 3? Without further details, the http://www.trustedreviews.com/... might be worth a look.


October 28, 2008, 1:22 am

@Ardjuna: i was looking to get the best possible board for around 𧵎ish (can be a bit more or a bit less) as i am looking to get a mid to top range GPU and then buy another later and crossfire them. as with RAM DDR2 is fine.

the idea is for the board to be 'future proof' as much as that is possible, and just keep upgrading.


October 28, 2008, 1:26 am

also (pressed send by accident) thank you for the recommendation that is the type of board i am looking for just wondering if there are any real gains by spending more and getting a small increase on MHz ect, if you know what i mean


November 7, 2008, 4:45 am

Re: the preamble. BMW is still very much where it's at for performance saloons. Don't you Merc and Audi fanbois forget it, neither.

Jay Werfalli

November 7, 2008, 6:16 am

Off-topic I know, but I totally agree with TheSecretName (but then I am biased) ;)

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