Above the lights is a door which cooly opens sideways on hinges to reveal the external drives. Round the back, you’ll find that the rear of the system has been clad in a silver cover and the blanking plates treated with a black coating, which adds a quality feel. The rear connectivity adds another four USB ports, two Gigabit capable network ports and connectors for 8-channel audio. However, this could be confusing as this is from the motherboard integrated audio, which isn’t used and for which no drivers are installed. This means you can’t use the optical and coaxial S/PDIF connectors – though you could of course manually install the drivers should you need them. Usefully there’s an E-SATA (external SATA) port, so you could house a regular SATA drive in an Icy-Box and get full speed connectivity.
Alienware advertises toolless entry for the system and that’s what you get – though pulling the side off is easier than getting it back on. Inside you’ll find that the interior chassis is essentially a regular PC, which is somehow a little disappointing compared to the swish exterior. There’s plenty of space inside and I could only be impressed by the neatness of the cabling and layout – it’s immaculate and as good as I’ve ever seen. The graphics and sound card are also secured down with card keepers, so there shouldn’t be any unwanted movement in transit.
Alienware has mounted a full size 120mm fan to the front and rear of the case. The CPU cooler is a stock Intel model, but in it does a good job and doesn’t make too much noise. The power supply does though. It’s a 650W SilverStone SST-ST65ZF, which does it’s job but makes the vast majority of the noise from this system. We stopped the CPU and rear fans for a few seconds and the noise level barely dropped. This is a shame as there are quieter PSU’s out there and using one would really enhance the overall impression of the system – it would be silent as well as deadly. Perhaps Alienware is keen on the RoHS compliancy of the SilverStone.
The motherboard is an Asus P5N32-SLI SE Deluxe and is based on the nForce4 chipset. Both the North and the Southbridge are passively cooled. The motherboard has two x16 PCI-Express slots but only one card has been supplied – it is SLI though in the guise of a GeForce 7950 GX2. The second slot is free should you wish to add a second one and go quad SLI though you’d need to change the PSU to be able to run though. The card is EVGA branded and the runs at the standard GX2 clocks of 500MHz for the core and 600MHz for the memory (1,200MHz effective).
This is backed with 2GB of DDR2 system memory. It’s branded Patriot, which I must admit is one that I’ve never heard of, but at least it runs at 800MHz, which is more than could be said for the memory in the Dell XPS 700. There are two free slots too, so you could add more if required.