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One unusual aspect in the interior is the that there's a PCB with what looks like a SODIMM attached to the motherboard, which has been fixed to the base of the case. This is in turn attached to a PCB with some sensors that's fixed to the side of the bottom frame of the case. There's also a PCB attached to the inside of the removable case side along with a bracket for a side mounted 120mm fan. The contacts are there to provide power to the fan and the light under the alien head on the case side, without having to have a wire, which would be pulled off everytime you took the case side off. It's a neat solution but Alienware did not actually choose to fit a fan in the side.
There are two PCI slots and one of them is filled with a Creative X-Fi Xtreme music sound card, which always makes games sound a treat. There are four side facing 3.5in internal drive bays each with pre-fitted screwless hard drive rails. Two of the bays are filled - each with a 250GB Samsung hard disk, which run quite quietly. External storage is provided by a dual-layer writer, though only one has been specified. Oddly, a floppy disc drive was included, but not a card reader - though you can easily add one at build-time.
To finish off, a very impressive Logitech G15 gaming keyboard was supplied. This adds a real Star Trek feel to the Alienware thanks to its flip up LCD screen, a volume control wheel, numerous extra shortcut buttons and blue backlit keys. The Logitech MX 518 mouse supplied is also eqully solid.
The question is then, how does it all pull together? I compared it to its most recent rival, the Dell XPS 700, ironic considering Dell now owns Alienware. With the far better specification, the Alienware fairly blasted the Dell out of the way in our 3D SpodeMark tests. One exception in the 3D results was Prey, but that is almost certainly down to the fact that the graphics driver on the Alienware was slightly older and didn't feature a profile for Prey, which meant it couldn't use SLI to its full benefit. In our custom 2D benchmarks, which run both single and multi-core tests, the Alienware maintains a consistent lead ahead of the Dell, as one would expect of its faster CPU and memory combination.
Cost wise, this system is a lot more affordable than the near £4,000 that Alienware was asking for last time. At the time of writing I specced it up to be £2,758 - not cheap, but very similar to the Dell XPS 700, which I specced online to match the Alienware as closely as possible and got a similar figure.
Of course if you want to go out and put your own system together then you will certainly be able to match the core specs for a lot less cash - I'd say at least £500 cheaper. But time, as they say, is money. You have to factor in the time it would take to build a system like this and the effort you would need to debug and troubleshoot it properly. And while you could get a pretty flash case, to get it to do the cool light show you'd have to mod it - pushing your costs and time investment up. Also included in the price is a two year warranty collect and return service and a 24 hour technical support line.
The Alienware is well built, well specified and fast, while it's only a noisier than it needs to be because of power supply irks. It's undeniably expensive, especially if you decide to compare to a self-built system and as such it can't quite pick up a recommended award. However, when you take into consideration the improved Alienware design, the immaculate interior, the performance and the support package as a whole, this is a PC you'll want to own.
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