The x16 PCI Express slot is home to a BFG nVidia GeForce 6800 Ultra graphics card with 256MB of GDDR3 memory. Although this is a decent card it has been well and truly trumped by the new GeForce 7800GTX and considering that it will only cost you £48 to upgrade, my suggestion would be to spec this machine with a 7800GTX instead. Ultimately, when you’re paying this much for your dream PC, £48 is pretty much a drop in the ocean.
The only other expansion card is a SoundBlaster Audigy 2 ZS in the bottom most PCI slot. Again, a keen gamer isn’t going to want the performance hit associated with integrated sound solutions, and also the Audigy card gives you full EAX support for all those in-game environmental effects. Another superb touch is the rigid plastic supports for the expansion cards. I have seen machines arrive with the graphics card rattling about inside – don’t you just love couriers? The result is a broken graphics card at best, and completely smashed internals at worst. Not only do these braces ensure that your machine arrives in one piece, but they also look pretty damn cool, giving the system internals a pseudo industrial look.
The 510W power supply ensures that this system is ready for some SLi action, should you want to purchase a second graphics card at a later date. The PSU offers no cooling, but there is a 120mm fan sucking hot air out of the rear of the case. Although the large case fan isn’t too loud, the machine as a whole still makes a fair bit of noise, despite the noise deadening foam. Of course you have to remember that there’s another case fan, a fan on the CPU cooler, a fan on the graphics card and even a small fan on the motherboard chipset.
As far as peripherals go, you get a Logitech multimedia keyboard and a Microsoft mouse. Both items are wired, which is a bonus when it comes to gaming – I’ve yet to find a wireless mouse that I’m happy to play games with. Unfortunately, I found the Microsoft mouse just a tad too big for a slick gaming experience, but I do have pretty small hands. But the thing that annoyed me more than the size was the scroll wheel. As with most Microsoft mice these days, the scroll wheel no longer clicks as you rotate it, the motion is now completely smooth. Now, this may be preferable for scrolling through documents, but when you’re trying to switch between weapons in the heat of battle it can make things very difficult indeed. With a traditional mouse wheel, one click is one weapon change, but when you have no clicks, you’re never really sure how far to spin the wheel to get to your weapon of choice.
If you’re thinking that the Star Wars theme only extends to the artwork on the system case then you’ll be in for a treat when you power this system on for the first time. Alienware has also gone to the trouble of completely skinning Windows XP in a Star Wars theme. So, your wallpaper, menus and all your icons have the Force with them, so to speak – I’m particularly fond of the Death Star icon for Internet Explorer, kind of apt wouldn’t you say?