If you think that this machine looks good from the outside, just wait until you open it up. The side panel is secured by two thumb screws – once these are removed you can pull the catch on the side and slide the panel away. You need to be careful when removing the side panel since there’s a fan attached to the grille and the cable needs to be removed. When you look inside this machine you get some idea of where your money is going. This is, without a doubt, one of the most beautifully constructed PCs I’ve ever seen.
The first thing I noticed was that the inside panels of the case are all clad in acoustic dampening foam, to reduce the amount of noise intrusion that often emanates from high-end gaming systems. Of course all the foam is cut to size and branded with the Alienware logo. The cable routing is exemplary, and there isn’t a single errant strand of wire anywhere to be seen. The PSU loom is routed behind the drive bays and then onto the waiting motherboard and peripheral sockets. All the cables are also braided to ensure maximum tidiness.
There’s space for four optical drives, but Alienware has only fitted one, although it’s a pretty good one. Residing in the very top bay is an NEC ND-3520A DVD writer. This is a great unit, although it has since been superseded by the even faster ND-3540A. That said, you’re still not going to be hanging around too long waiting for your discs to burn with this drive.
Attention to detail is top of the list with this machine and the cross member of the case is populated by a line of screws, ready and waiting for your next optical drive installation like a belt of ammunition. There are two 3.5in drive bays, one of which is already fitted with a floppy drive. It might seem strange to find a floppy drive in such a cutting edge machine, but since Alienware has configured a RAID array, it makes sense to have a floppy disk for any reconfiguration or emergencies.
Talking of RAID arrays, Alienware has gone for two 160GB 7200rpm drives. With speed being of the essence these drives are striped, so they both make up one large volume of just over 300GB of usable capacity. Both drives are SATA units and once again the cabling has been pristinely routed for ultimate tidiness and unrestricted air flow. Both the drives are connected to the nVidia SATA controller, which still has two connectors free for upgrades. There’s also a second Silicon Image SATA RAID controller on the board in case you want to go all out with your storage. This is definitely an option with the four empty hard disk bays on offer.
The Asus motherboard is, of course, based on the nVidia nForce SLi chipset although only one of the PCI Express graphics slots is being used in its current configuration. Two of the four memory slots are occupied with Corsair XMS PC3200 low latency DDR memory – two 512MB modules for a total RAM complement of 1GB. Nestling in the CPU socket is an AMD Athlon 64 FX55 processor, recently superseded by the stupidly fast FX57. Alienware does offer the FX57 as an option on this machine, but it’s considerably more expensive – personally I think that the FX55 gives a far better price/performance ratio and represents a solid choice.