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Alienware is still fairly new to the UK market and up to now has stuck to its guns and produced only very high-end, and very expensive, machines. But Alienware is not only well known for the high-end nature of its systems, but also for its large, stylish cases.
That’s why I was both pleased and disappointed with the Aurora 5500. Sure, £1,399 is not bargain basement, but it does at least make an Alienware machine accessible to more people. On the downside, when I unpacked the Aurora 5500 I couldn’t help but be disappointed by the look of the case.
But, of course, looks are only skin deep and it’s what’s inside that really matters. Even though the Aurora 5500 is Alienware’s new entry level AMD powered system, it’s still more like a high-end system from other system integrators. But let’s start with taking a closer look at the case, since it’s very different from what we’ve seen in the past from Alienware.
At first the new housing looks like a small server case, which I’m fairly sure it’s based upon. It’s shorter than the standard Alienware case and as such has less room for drives. A small flap on the dual hinged door enables access to the front mounted ports without having to open the door. Behind the flap are two USB 2.0 ports, a single six-pin FireWire connector and a headphone and mic socket. Having a dual hinged door means that it can be opened in a way so it’s flat against the side of the case, and as such it’s not really in the way.
Open the door and you’re greeted by a large fan-duct housing a 92mm fan. This doesn’t add to the aesthetics of the machine, but as long as you keep the door shut, you won’t really see it. Above the fan are three 5.25in drive bays, one housing a DVD writer and one the floppy drive. This is placed in 5.25in bay via an adaptor as there are no external 3.5in drive bays. A neat touch is that smaller memory keys or similar devices can remain plugged in while you open and close the door as long as you remember to open the front flap.
Take the side of the case off and you’re greeted by a very tidy machine, something that adds to the overall quality feel of the Alienware PCs. The hardware isn’t bad either. The processor is a 3800+ Athlon 64 (single-core) and this has been paired with 1GB of PC3200 DDR memory but the heatsinks are Alienware branded. For some reason the latency of the memory wasn’t set as low as it could have been, (CAS 2.5 rather than CAS 2.0), so there’s an opportunity for a slight performance boost by tweaking this.