The hard drive bay accommodates up to four drives across the case that makes it easy to connect the SATA cables with an 80mm fan to keep the bay cool. In the review system, Alienware chose to install a pair of 500GB Seagate 7200.10 drives in a 1TB RAID 0 array on the integrated Intel RAID controller.
This struck us as a poor choice, as the increased performance of RAID 0 is more than offset by the risk of failure. The array will be destroyed if either drive or the RAID controller on the motherboard fails - that’s three potential points of failure. With a single drive you avoid some of that risk, and a single terabyte drive can be absurdly cheap - see our round-up, here.
Target the thermal exhaust port...
The Area 51 ALX CFX's other components are an Asus P5E3 Deluxe Wi-Fi AP motherboard with 2GB of 1333MHz DDR 3 memory from Patriot, and an Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 CPU. Alienware overclocks the processor from the standard 3GHz to 4GHz by the simple expedient of raising the clock multiplier from 9x to 12x. The CPU voltage is raised from 1.3625V to 1.55V, and the memory is powered at 1.7V with low latency timings of 7-7-7-20.
Keeping it all under control there’s a small water cooling system that sits above the CPU socket inside the rear of the case with a 100mm fan that exhausts at the rear.
That’s the housekeeping out of the way, so let’s turn to the CrossFireX graphics that uses a pair of Diamond HD 3870 X2 graphics cards with 1GB of DDR 3 and two Radeon HD 3870 GPUs on each card. Unsurprisingly, Alienware has specified a hefty power supply, rated at 1000W. The graphics cards effectively fill the bottom of the case, leaving just one PCI slot and one PCI Express x1 slot available for expansion. There’s room to install a sound card, but as things stand you’ll probably be relying on the integrated SoundMAX audio.
I purchased an Area-51 from Alienware
And I am going back to building my own systems.
I thought, geez, I'm tired of all the research, compatibility testing, tuning, and troubleshooting... Why not pay someone to do that for me? Alienware had a great reputation the last time I checked (that shows how long ago I checked, I guess). So I shelled out thousands of dollars for a fancied-up glowing box with oodles of RAM and an Intel Core 2 Quad processor, with a nice RAID-1 setup. [aside: I don't ever want to live through another hard drive crash. I still back up offsite, even my games, but I'm RAID-1 from here until death.].
After spending over 20 hours of on-phone time, and countless more hours of other time downloading testing software and running long tests, my machine is still unusable. I have used Vista on other machines, and for all its problems Vista is not enough to explain this level of instability. To anyone who has built systems it is obvious that the frequent random bluescreens are a sign of a hardware issue. Even after running Alienrespawn to wipe the drive and reset to factory configuration, it bluescreens. However, Alienware insists that it is a software issue, and will not do anything except tell me to run more tests.
If a company won't stand by their product enough to fix or replace obviously broken systems, I have no use for them. I am contemplating sucking it up and paying the 15% restocking fee (which is enough to buy a nice new laptop by itself!), just to see the back of this nightmare. I hope everyone at Alienware gets warts on their eyelids.
Is there any decent company that makes premium systems, or am I stuck building my own forever? It was fun for a while, but now it is just work.
and people say Apple make overpriced computers!
No sound card??
'There’s room to install a sound card, but as things stand you’ll probably be relying on the integrated SoundMAX audio.'
That comment there is enough for me to never look at an Alienware rig again, a decent sound card is part of a good gaming machine now days, onboard sound just doesn't cut it.
@£3624 I'd expect a top of the range x-fi card.
At that price, it's about 2 grand more than it's worth...
Can we have a NSFM tag on articles like this one? - Not safe for monitors. There's a lot of coffee gonna be spat out at the sight of that price tag.
Mac Pro? Seriously?
Since when has an 8 core Xeon workstation cowered in fear of a Core 2 based gaming rig? That doesn't make even the slightest bit of sense - the Mac Pro and this abomination of good taste are intended for an entirely different market.
And Price wise - the Mac Pro starts at $2,299 US - with a 2.8 GHz 4-core Xeon. The Area 51 starts at $2,099 US with a2.66 GHz Core-2 Duo.
That's just asinine.