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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.