back to article Alienware Area 51 ALX CrossFireX gaming PC

How much would you spend on a gaming PC? Alienware hopes the answer is ‘about four grand’. It has delivered a colossal gaming PC with two AMD ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 graphic cards, but does the machine's performance match its price? We’ll get on to the CrossFireX graphics in just a moment, but let’s start with the cosmetic …

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I'm all for wasting cash...

... especially as the chassis looks so nice. But only 2gb RAM for this price and alluded performance? Shurly shome mishtake?

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Boffin

Poor man's RAID

A RAID controller that can blow an array through either motherboard or RAID controller failure is pretty stoopid IMHO. I assume we're talking about Intel Matrix Storage Technology. I've used a built in RAID controller from Silicon Image in the past which allows the drives to be transplanted to a similar controller on another machine without a hitch, presumably because enough of the RAID config was actually stored in the HDs. This has saved my life on more than one occasion.

Having said that, RAID 0 as a boot drive is not a foolish idea. The OS benefits from faster boot-up etc, the only thing to make sure of is you don't keep anything critical there. Me I've got a Windows installation on RAID 0, with all user docs on a separate RAID 1 pair. Blistering speeds with no risk to data loss.

Alternatively, I've heard that the Intel controllers can do RAID 0+1 over 2 drives, not sure how good it is though (would suspect "not very")

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Coat

I still want one.

It has a Thermal Exhaust Port. Why doesn't my PC have a Thermal Exhaust Port?

I have fan and a grill instead. I want a Thermal Exhaust Port. Where do they come from Halfords?

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Ash

Where do you get these numbers?

I run a Q6600 on a non-TOTL motherboard with 4GB budget DDR2 and an 8800 gtx, no overclocking, and get 60+fps in Crysis all the way up to the "shoot dem turrets!" end sequence.

V. High "patch" for xp made a bit of a dent, but still more than playable on a rig supposedly a lot lower power than either of those you tested.

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Joke

@ tardigrade

the death star had a thermal exaust port, and we all know what happened there...

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Hand of Dell

The impressive door hinge has been on Dell XPS systems for ages (well the old 600 anyway) but while the motherboard maybe a good make I'm not surprised it runs like treacle due to all the crap thats probably preloaded.

Had a fatally damanged Dell XPS 600 (was cooking its insides due to a damanged fan controller and they failed to get three replacements to me undamaged) for a month and that had all the bells and whistles for the time but it ran like a dog because of all the rubbish on it along with the preinstalled drivers having problems that I fixed.

Unfortunate that AW got bought by them as they used to produce decent machines, don't waste your hard earned on this people, go for a Mesh, I did and have never looked back.

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Anonymous Coward

RAID and itunes

Onboard RAID is a nightmare.

One of my recent builds I started with 2 x 500gb in RAID 1, using the onboard (the user can't be trusted with proper backup). X64 Vista ran smoothly, until...firing up a movie from itunes.

At which point the RAID was lost, and a 4hr rebuild ensured. This is repeatable, and regularly so, as the user likes to listen to his music & video from itunes.

I am now in the futile game of blame netball most techs will be familiar with - Gigabyte, microsoft, apple...guess who's fault it is?

And since when does itunes have permission to make calls (dodgy ones at that) to hardware?

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What a pile of crap

As usual. Never liked Alienware stuff. It's always way overpriced, and easily beaten by anyone with half the cash and a little imagination. This doesn't seem any difference. Rubbish. Not even shipping it with a monitor for over £3500 is just mental. I built a tri-screen dual-opteron/quad core SCSI-driven SLI bad boy 16 months ago for something over £2000 (and it's got more memory than that thing!) - Alienware are out of their tiny minds if they think anyone's going to pay that price for this guff.

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Sorry folks, HOW much?

And people still wonder why PC gaming is declining....?

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It's the Prada of PC manufacturers

I agree with Greg.

I have just gone to arbico.co.uk and got almost identical specs (admittedly without the garish case) for £993.46 inc VAT. Even pulling up the bits and bobs missing from that quote (like OS, slightly better motherboard and tech support) I reckon that even Reg's £2K estimate is too much.

So, that little badge on the front costs £2000. Hmm.

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@Ash - Crysis

Ash my Crysis figures are from a save game early on. It's just after the beach section as you head up a path to the extraction point. Lots of foliage, bright sunlight, sky, sun and guys shooting at you. It plays well on most PCs with a decent CPU and graphics unlike the later stages that hammer almost every PC under the sun.

I load the saved game and play through a section with FRAPs running and those are the figures in the test results.

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Mm...nice.

I see that Alienware haven't got round to hiring Jonathan Ive yet then.

You'd have to hide that case away well out of sight to avoid ridicule.

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Pirate

seriously...

...it's one thing to spend that much money on a PC, sure. but to spend that much on something so fucking hideous looking is another thing completely.

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Can't believe it doesn't have Blu-Ray

That is all.

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Alien

Never sell any, but that's the point?

Never sure if these types of machines are only ever built for showing off purposes. I can only imagine that the target market is absolutely tiny (at this scale we're surely looking at spec-your-own jobs?).

By showing that they are capable of building high end machines of this power/cost, it's almost a marketing strategy. Would be good if they worked though... I'd put most of it down to the fact that the graphics card setup is so new, they don't have stable enough drivers for it yet.

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Jobs Horns

Apple Mac Pro's hiding in fear of being stomped

... wimpy and grossly over-priced Apple Mac Pro's are hiding in fear of REAL high powered computers like this one and others. And for guys like @Greg, compare the feature set vs. a Mac Pro and then compare the prices and then see who's over-priced!

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Anonymous Coward

But owner feel$ cool?

Probably similar reasoning to spending ridiculous amounts of money to customise a car rather than buying food for the illegitimate child.

Anonymous 'cause I'm not interested in a drive-by.

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@Webster - You should have gone to SpecSavers

Seriously, I don't care if it has more computing power than NASA - I wouldn't have that thing in my house.

It looks like a half-melted turd with a blue light stuck on it.

Kool-Aid, anyone?

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Alert

@Greg

Actually... Alienware -used- to be the best available for any money. Once Dell bought them out... it all went downhill.

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PC Gaming

I would have to be totally batshit insane to pay this much for a gaming machine, especially considering the way PC games look.

There entire definition of "good graphics" is "more polygons". A typical PC game will throw a billion polygons a frame at poorly animated characters and ugly brown scenery.

You shoot someone in the arm enough and they just slump over dead. You go to open a door, and your character just waves his hand and the door magically opens. Two characters battling just stand there waving swords at each other while their numbers go down. It says "missed" when it very visibly did not.

Then it crashes.

But at least it's anti-aliased. At least, it is on the Mesh system :P

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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.

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Anonymous Coward

Wha?!

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.

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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...

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holy cr*p!

and people say Apple make overpriced computers!

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Flame

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.

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