Hardware

Cracking Open the $8000 Alienware Area 51 ALX

Sleek

The Area 51 ALX systems from Alienware are their flagship desktop computers. Our review unit came with three nVidia GeForce 280 GTX video cards, each carrying 1GB of dedicated GPU RAM. We had to crack it open to see what a case full of video cards actually looks like.

Follow this link for a full review of the Alienware Area 51 ALX.

About

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.

87 comments
Blutonium Boy
Blutonium Boy

Yes, Vista supports DX10, however, if you notice the benchmarks shown in the "Orb Beta" screenshot, the "Fastest System" was performed by a machine hosting an XP OS. Alienware should not be sending out their machines with that crappy OS on them. If I "was" going to pay $8,000.00 for a machine, it would be for the machine that nearly doubled the performance of the ALX system.

lastnitescurry
lastnitescurry

What a serious cool looking box..... why did they let the engineers cut holes in it!!!! and I am one :) Could they have not put an extra few desgin dollars, into laying out the front panel {two USB ports, a Firewire port, and audio and microphone jacks} so that it is more balanced!!! To me it suggests a face.... audio & mico, jacks being eyes.... firewire is a nose.... USB ca be ears....

clif
clif

Bought one a year ago. Video card won't go 3 hours without overheating and locking up. Alienware support is horrible. Wouldn't accept my observation that it was the video card. Spent months doing ad-hoc diagnostics at home. No fix or replacement for a year, then "out of warrantee". Opened the case and put a 24" fan to it. Now no problem. Seems trashy for a $8K computer.

smonrad
smonrad

Yikes, we bought a so-called custom Alienware a couple of years back for $4 grand for DV work - the worst purchase ever. Never worked, no support except reinstall the rescue/many software disks advice from a kid in Costa Rica. Case caught fire, etc. etc. Don't even think about this vendor...check out the negative stuff on the web. Get someone to build what you need far cheaper.

eddy315west
eddy315west

Hope You Got Vaseline LMAO . Im Not Gonna Lie awesome system but overpriced like a mother !!! 200 FPS In counterstrike stress test ?? lol i get that running 2 9800GTX+ in sli

dodgeviper_121
dodgeviper_121

That score sucks. My Gateway P-6831FX totally pwns that score. It got 23,768 running the same benchmark program!!! Specs are: 17" lcd Intel core 2 duo 1.83Ghz 320gb hard drive 3gb ddr2 memory 8800M GTS 512mb graphics card Vista home permium 32bit

mborho
mborho

I built a system (solidworks not Gamming)win xp64pro, dual intel quad core processors, 32GB of FB RAM, 750watt power supply, coolmaster case, V raptor drives 24"wide LCD, Quadro FX 5600 graphics card Tyan Motherboard with 5400 chipset and a few other odds and ends for 6000.00. I think I could build something to match Alien a bit cheaper

robspcfixerupper
robspcfixerupper

Why not 8 gigs of Ram? For $8000, this thing better have about 2 TB of hard drive space, 8 gigs of Ram, and everything else this thing said. Of course the system kicks ass, but max it out.

chatch
chatch

WOW... i just built a system with only one gtx 280- 3 is amazing. $8000 is way overpriced. my system had a 3.0ghz quad core(oc'd to 3.51ghz!) and 4gb ram, dual 150gb 10000rpm velociRaptors etc and only cost just shy of $4000. 2 more video cards would be maybe $5200. you can see mine at http://chrishatcher.webs.com/fastestcomputerever.htm

pd.snyder
pd.snyder

This is a nice machine and is somewhat overpriced, but not as bad as most people are complaining about here. I just looked everything up at NewEgg.com and here is a list of parts minus any extra cables needed or Arctic Silver. Antec Nine Hundred Computer Case $99.99 EVGA NVIDIA nForce 790i SLI FTW ATX Intel Motherboard $289.99 Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 Yorkfield 3.2GHz $1,450.00 GIGABYTE 1200W SLI Power Supply $314.99 3X EVGA GeForce GTX 280 1GB Video Card $1,349.97 2X CORSAIR XMS3 2GB (2 x 1GB) DDR3 1600 $382.00 2X WD VelociRaptor 300GB 10000 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s HD $579.98 WD Caviar Black WD1001FALS 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s HD $196.99 Logitech G15 2-Tone USB Wired Standard Gaming Keyboard $89.99 RAZER Lachesis 9 Buttons 1 x Wheel USB Laser Gaming Mouse $79.99 Windows Vista Ultimate SP1 32-bit DVD - OEM $179.99 Some type of Water cooling $200.00 Shipping $26.52 Total $5,240.40

dhn2910
dhn2910

Man, what body part do I have to sell to get this rig

jasondlnd
jasondlnd

Meh...I can build one of these for about $2,000. I do have to say, though it definitely meets the minimum requirements for Vista! If I am going to spend a lot of money on a computer, I'd rather get a dual quad core Mac Pro with multiple graphics cards and 32 GB of RAM for about $3,500.

Smart_Neuron
Smart_Neuron

Hi. Alienware is making a hefty profit on this machine! It depreciates as soon as you buy it! Only 4 GB of RAM? Pleeez...

When are you guys going to break down and setup a decent product photography area? It really is not that hard. What the heck send me the hardware and I will do it for you. (of course some of the products will not make it back)I am really tired of the amateur punch flash stuff. Other than that keep up the good work.

jmorris907a
jmorris907a

I wonder if the Admin Section would let me budget for one in the last quarter? To use at home for work related responsibilities of course. (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)

DomBenson
DomBenson

I have to say that I really don't get the choices in the spec of that system: Disks: # 1TB (2 x 500GB) SATA 3Gb/s 7,200RPM 2 x 16MB Cache # 500GB SATA 3Gb/s 7,200RPM 16MB Cache (storage drive) Why aren't the striped 'system' disks SSDs? OCZ have some extremely fast and respectable capacity SSDs now at reasonable prices. The disk performance would go up massively - I tried it recently in a new machine (regrettably not for myself!) RAM: # 4GB Corsair Dominator Overclocked Dual Channel DDR3 SDRAM at 1600MHz A bit stingy? I appreciate that there is an issue if it is shipping with an OS that doesn't support more, but frankly it shouldn't. Also, how exactly did we get to a point where there is 75% as much video memory (in total) as system memory? Surely the fact that 2GB DIMMs are easy to get hold of even at that speed should prompt in the direction of 8GB overall. One also wonders somewhat quite what is going on with the sound: if you're spending >?4,000 on a system, is onboard audio really what you had in mind? These sorts of changes wouldn't have made a great deal of difference to the underlying price - relative to the astronomical sale price at any rate. Overall, it just feels like Alienware are trying to get away with only spending money on the 'headline' components, and glossing over everything else.

djames
djames

I just returned my 4000.00 Alienware M15X because the company is crap. Great concept, just don't buy their stuff cuz the company behind it sux.

admin
admin

Typical, 30% for the system 70% for the name, thanks but no thanks!

willcomp
willcomp

Antec Sonata cases have had slide out drive trays since their introduction several years ago. Antec P180 series cases also have slide out drives trays. There are probably other reasonably priced cases with the same feature. The Antec cases are the ones I've seen.

Sand Tech
Sand Tech

Seriously lets see am just going with newegg, first thing i find 4 TB Hard drive 1. Your Price:$139.99 for Seagate 1TB. $560 Video Cards 2. Three Video Cards $439.99 = $1320 Motherboard 3. ASUS Striker Extreme LGA 775 NVIDIA Lets say $500 Processor 4. Intel Core 2 Extreme CPU lets say $1000 Others including case, cd roms, dvd rom. lets say another $1000 total 4380

Systems Guy
Systems Guy

The power connectors on the case side door was done 15 years ago by IBM. Nothing new.

donengene
donengene

That is about 8 times what I would spend, a fast gamming machine can be built for about $1000, even cheaper if you canabalize parts from your old machine. This is over kill. What make was the motherboard? You missed why I am interested in a tear down is to buy the parts cheaper and build it myself.

danyetman
danyetman

Things never to brag about: 1 - Having only one nut. 2 - Going to a 'special' school. 3 - Owning a Gateway computer. NOT necessarily in that order, either.The only thing you've worth boasting about is a decent video accelerator, and even then, come on.

zooterboy
zooterboy

I hate to inform you, but with that config AND running Vista, you would be lucky to get 2376 on that program. My laptop is faster than yours and has dual video cards and won't break 10,000. Nice try though. My desktop that cost 1/4 of what this system does, and has one less video card scored 20,250 on 3DMark06, so this isn't very impressive in that regard. (and yes, I can prove it) :)

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

I notice several have mentioned more RAM. For a 32-bit system I thought 4GB was more than enough. So it makes me wonder, is everyone ready to adopt 64-bit operating systems? I have considered it, but have been holding off on my gaming rig - I don't want to mess up a good thing. Will the 64-bit OS be standard soon?

fernlyn
fernlyn

sure you could build it for less... but try selling it with support ? and you can build it for even less in three months time .. but will it look as cool ? throwing these parts together is not quite as easy as some make it look, there are always issues with drivers, chipsets and vidio cards. It is probaly the best comercaly available machine of its type. If I wanted i could phone these guys up and have it neatly packaged at my door with , baseball cap, pen and ongoing support. Slick delivery and having it just work is what you pay for. F:)

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

You'd also have to factor in your time to build it. If your time is worth $100/hour to you, then you will likely save money by building it yourself.

dhn2910
dhn2910

Man, what body parts do I have to sell for me to get a rig like this.

JABBER_WOLF
JABBER_WOLF

Why dont you price out that Quad core mac with 32gb of ram. Then price out the exact same thing with lets say a Dell T7400. Why does using a mac make people's math skills retarded!? Not to mention PC's allowed to use GPUs in SLI or crossfire mode. Or that now CS4 will only run in 64 bit mode on Vista 64. So in any argument, you fail !

stpaul77
stpaul77

Unfortunately a Mac Pro with 32 GB of RAM would be a $9,100.00 upgrade for a total of over $15,000.00 on a rig with 3 weak video cards and other similar specs. To build your own PC with 3 of the GeForce GTX 1 GB cards will start out @ $1,200.00 (at least $400 each) but would still be less than $8K. I agree that Apple makes systems and OSes that are superior to PCs and Windows but for practical purpo$e$ and gaming it is hard to beat a PC.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

Actually, one of the reasons I had to send the ALX system back early was because we are starting construction on, among other things, a new permanent studio for videos and photo galleries. Now, I am not a professional photographer, but with the help of some better lighting and a consistent place to shoot I hope the images will get better.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

I have personally owned four Alienware systems and have found them all to be excellent PCs. I have also found the company easy to deal with and generally interested in my satisfaction - even after being bought by Dell. It's too bad that your experience was such a sour one.

camerond
camerond

Isn't Alienware owned by Dell?

Lenny1882
Lenny1882

I've got the same system (except double the RAM, air cooled, and I'm still waiting for the graphics cards to arrive... oh, and I've got, in my opinion, a much nicer case - the Coolermaster Stacker 830 nVidia edition), and it cost me just over ?4000. Before I built it, I looked for all the components on Newegg, because someone told me I'd get them cheaper, and it came to just over $4000 (but the damned company doesn't deliver to the UK. Boo hoo) - very close to Sand Tech's estimate, in fact. So whilst it's a nice rig, and performs spectacularly well, the Alienware version is incredibly overpriced. And if you want it because you like the case, don't NZXT make a similar one? Sure, by building it yourself you don't get the ULTIMATE bragging rights (what else is an $8000 computer from Alienware for?), but you do get slightly lesser bragging rights and you also get to keep four grand, which you can then spend on six monitors and your own power station.

hani_9
hani_9

You forgot the Water Cooling which will cost anther $4000

Spiritusindomit
Spiritusindomit

Ended up in the 4300 range as well, good eye. However, the motherboard/proc combo they have can be had for 499 USD, so you can reduce the figure a bit.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

It is new for the Alienware PCs that I have reviewed. Previously you had to unplug the case door to remove it completely.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

It is an ASUS Striker motherboard. The number of the chipset escapes me now, but their very latest version specifically designed to support 3 video cards.

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

if this aint your thing, move along to something that is! Otherwise ---- "This post has been self censored by the original poster" :^0 See Tammy, I can control myself (to some degree) :^0

mborho
mborho

64 bit systems kick butt I am not a fan of Vista yet...I built a few systems with Vista as an OS...not happy with them XP Pro 64 is damn good tho

griff.computerservices@ve
griff.computerservices@ve

Without a doubt. However, I've been custom-designing systems for years and years. With $4,000 in hand there is little doubt that this system could be duplicated (provided one knows what the heck one's doing). In the long run, it's a matter of expertise and experience... BTW, not only could I make it *look* cool, I'd make it even *cooler*.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

I used to build my own PCs, but the last time I received a bad stick of RAM. It took me a week and several phone calls, several motherboards to finally get to the problem. After that I decided I would just pay someone to put together my PCs.

danyetman
danyetman

This sort of configuration would probably only take 2 hours at MOST to set up, and that's if you were thumbing through the motherboard manual looking for every little specific. Buy the stuff from newegg, and even at USD1000/hr, it's a savings!

pd.snyder
pd.snyder

Well, being a PC builder I personally could put that $300 to better use. Like $900 towards a Prometeia Mach II GT Cooler Unit and 775 kit for some extreme overclocking that would put in into a real Alien Extreme. And of course some cool green or purple lighting to make it pop. :) But that is if I have $8000 to blow on a sweet rig. :)

danyetman
danyetman

Perhaps, but you seem to have missed a rather small detail. I did not use USD, but rather Pounds Sterling. USD$8000 is roughly ?4500. As to the case, 'stylish' may go a long way towards the marketability of a personal computer in the States, but as a recent transplant from the UK, I can definitely say that we (The Britons) are less concerned with form as opposed to function. Frankly, I'm quite happy with my ?1400 home-brew - it performs quite ably all tasks to which I have assigned it. My point was more of a comment on the bloated price-point of an excessively overpowered product, the sole existence of which is to provide the owner a year or two of bragging rights at the expense of others. Honestly, what's the point? In a few years, it will be out-of-date. All this computer amounts to is a USD$8000 electronic wanking device. And the heat this thing puts out must be tremendous. I'm well aware of the usefullness of liquid cooling, but I'd rather stay on the safe side of things and NOT have the risk of my USD$8000 computer turn into a very expensive paper-weight, as is the case in many of the horror stories that are flung about like so much monkey poo when the coolant LEAKS. Thank you, but no thank you!

techrepublic
techrepublic

But I challenge you to produce a case anything like that stylish - also, if it goes wrong, you're stuck with your own support: that might be good, but probably has its limits. Also, not everyone who wants a gaming rig is a computer-savvy techie who can sort out hardware issues themselves. In short, yes - you could save a packet and build it for $5000. But if you're spending that kind of money on a PC, chances are that cash isn't that big a deal for you, and that having it working perfectly without hassle is worth the extra...