Sometimes there’s a computer so cool, so fast, and so funky that just looking at it makes you happy. Here is that computer.
Alienware has long been one of the foremost manufacturers of gaming PCs, but with the recent redesign of their machines, it seems they intend to become the Lamborghini of the industry. Such aspirations may seem odd for a company that makes PCs, but one look at the new Area-51 is all it takes to realize it’s unlike anything else on the market. With a design straight out of a science fiction film and a set of internal components equally out of this world, the Area-51 may just pass Lamborghini in terms of speed, beauty, and cachet.
Like a sports car, Alienware’s computers come in a choice of seven colors, but choosing anything other than black hikes up the price. The Area-51 has a sleek, molded plastic case that perfectly fits the name, but honestly, the machine looks more gaudy than anything else. But even gaudy is somehow more appealing than having a plain, beige box sitting on your desk. My biggest complaint with the case is the difficulty the shape creates in opening and closing the box to perform upgrades. Expect to spend far more time figuring out how to open and close it than you will actually installing that new video card. Not that you should expect to install any new components anytime soon; the PC itself is absolutely state of the art.
As a games machine, the Area-51 is beyond compare and worth every penny. Frame refresh rates become insignificant on this machine, as games like “Quake III” or “Unreal Tournament” rarely drop below 200 or 300 frames per second. Since I’ve begun testing games on this machine, I haven’t had to lower any graphic options or screen resolutions from their maximum settings except on maybe one or two games, and even then negligibly so. Alienware offers the choice of high-end video cards by both ATI and nVIDIA, but since both perform so amazingly well, it’s up to personal preference. I’d probably recommend an ATI Radeon, only because it performs better with Microsoft’s DX 9 technology.
The system itself is gargantuan and somewhat unwieldy, so it’s not the kind of PC I’d recommend if you intend to schlep your machine to LAN parties every weekend. Alienware was thoughtful enough to put four USB 2.0 ports on the front of the case, but I wish they had stuck a FireWire port on the front as well. Along with the one FireWire port, there are six more USB ports in the back, four free PCI slots, a couple of open DIMM slots, and a few open bays for additional drives. Obviously, connectivity options or the freedom to install new components aren’t compromised at all.
If your Alienware machine isn’t blazingly fast and high-powered, there’s no need to customize it; the company offers as much as 2GB of memory and hard drives 250 times that. The system I reviewed is a 3GHz Pentium 4 with 1024MB of memory and a 120GB hard drive. It’s absolutely the fastest and most consistently impressive PC I’ve ever used, and this set up is just a hint of what the company has to offer, if you have the capital to endlessly upgrade the basic components.