Alienware Area-51 7500
The ground outside is covered in snow, the Christmas cartoons are on, the decoration lights are up and there’s a stack full of presents under the glittering tree. That excitement of opening up the gifts that you have been waiting all year for, the adrenaline and sweaty palms, the feeling pulsates through your veins.That’s exactly what it felt like when the the latest review product arrived at my day job. The anticipation and excitement was so great that I had to unbox it there and then, sitting proudly on my desk it grasped the attention of everyone who happened to catch a glimpse of this fire breathing monster as they walked by.What is the latest review product that I have here? It’s the Alienware Area-51 7500 computer. A machine that has been specced out to biblical proportions not seen or touched by TechCast Network before.
Alienware have been producing high end computer systems for those that desire only the ultimate in performance and they package that for both in and out of the home, so you can enjoy gaming nirvana whenever and wherever you want, so long as you’re near an electrical socket of course.
The review unit that we had for testing included the following hardware:
Intel Core 2 Duo E6850 3GHz 4MB Cache 1333MHz
Custom Alienware nForce 680i SLI motherboard
SLI configured 768MB NVIDIA GeForce 8800GTX SLI x 2
2GB 800MHz DDR2 RAM
500GB SATA 3 Gbit/s 7200RPM 16MB cache HDD
28-in1 media card reader
How much does the above all cost? A little over eighteen hundred big British ones. That’s right. A cool £1800 gets you one of the top end computing systems packing enough graphics power to make your eyeballs pop and the streetlights dim with the amount of frames it throws on to your screen.
Alienware have gone all out on their latest P2 chassis, with the review model featuring a stunning gloss black exterior with a silver trim and a new custom lighting control.
Some say it looks like a spacecraft as I’m sure Alienware intended, however others have pointed out that it looks like an old fashioned American car or even an old style steam train. Whatever it looks like, one thing is for sure, it’s a frickin awesome design and one of the best built chassis I’ve come across. The materials feel well made and the overall look and feel of the whole thing screams power and performance.At first glance, you see the front door for accessing the optical drive and media card reader and you expect it to open using standard hinges. This isn’t the case and when you come to pull it open, you see that it is different to your normal door hinge and opens in a sideways fashion.
The gorgeous case is finished with a glossy coat of paint for an extra shiny look and quality finish that is not that far removed from a car. As always with Alienware systems, you get the trademark Alienware lighting system and the latest iteration is software controlled illumination that allows you to control what colour each or all of the five illuminated areas. Lights can be intelligent and signify an event such as new e-mail and all of the lights can be changed to any of the 24 range of colours.
Modders will be happy with the ability to remove the side panels for access to the internal components without the need for a screwdriver. For some it’s more a case of drooling over the components, when we uncovered what was inside this Alienware system we were shocked to see just how huge each of the graphics cards were, each taking up two slots and each offering the ability to output to two DVI monitors. the CPU was fan-lesss with a huge chunk of metal stuck on to it, however there is a side panel fan which is directly above the heatsink.
Despite the number of fans inside the system, it was surprisingly quiet thanks to the temperature sensitive fan system. What also helped with cooling was the very neat and tidy cable management that Alienware have gone the extra mile to make sure it’s all wrapped up nicely and neatly to help improve air flow inside the system.
The sheer dimensions of the entire system are impressive, however the smooth curves and clever design makes the whole unit look smaller than it is. One thing that can’t be disguised is the back breaking weight of the entire system. Alienware have designed this new chassis to be just that extra longer to accommodate the next generation of graphics boards just in case the ones that you configured with the system aren’t powerful enough to run both the Matrix and SkyNet at the same time.
At the front you will find a couple of USB and one FireWire port alongside the headphone and microphone jacks, all well lit with LED lights for when you’re gaming in the dark.BenchmarksExpectations are set high when you see any Alienware system and even higher when you read on paper what the system is packing.
All tests were conducted in Windows Vista Home Premium with all of the latest hardware drivers and Windows patches installed but with no anti virus or security software other than those that come with Vista.3DMark 06, the industry standard and most widely used 3D benchmarking test was used to push the Alienware to its limits.An average of 13439 marks from three tests using the standard version of 3DMark 06 was achieved. This score was based on tests with my 30-inch Apple Cinema Display with a maximum resolution of 2560 x 1600.PCMark 05 is a widely used benchmark for synthetic applications such as video encoding, boot time and general component throughput rates, giving you an overall score for your entire system.Under this test, the Alienware scored 8471 marks using the default settings on the standard version of PCMark 05.
Bioshock played wonderfully well, delivering the rich environment that the developers intended you to see it in. At full quality settings, the game is playable but it doesn’t offer the smoothest of gameplay, however I have to stress that running any game on any system at 2560 x 1600 resolution is going to stress all but the most absolute powerful models.Simpler games such as Command and Conquer 3 looked gorgeous and worked without breaking in to a sweat. With the settings cranked to the fullest and Anti-Aliasing at 16x, I was surprised to find that the frame rates were still smooth, however it does start to crawl as soon as you have more than four players on skirmish mode. Turning off the Anti-Aliasing helps improve the frame rates significantly and the change in graphics quality is hardly noticeable.
Intense, sweat-inducing gaming performance summarises what this machine can do. It really is a technical marvel that can actually bring that ‘wow’ factor out of Vista which Microsoft touts so much. It’s just a shame that it takes this much processing power to bring it out though.
Playing Bioshock on this system with a 30-inch display is an experience that every grown man should experience in their lifetime. However, there is the slight hint every now and again that this machine isn’t quite up to the task. Using the full settings and the native resolution of 2560 x 1600 the amount of bandwidth consumed by such demands does drag the frame rate down significantly enough in some areas of the game that you start to notice it.Since most of us don’t own a 30-inch monitor or one that is capable of the 4 Megapixel resolution, it’s safe to say that this specced out Alienware is enough to blast through current and future games like BioShock, bringing with it a whole new level of ‘scare’ and quality to gaming (just don’t play it with headphones in the dark).Don’t get me wrong, Alienware have gone all out on this fantastic chassis but my issues with glossy plastics apply to all products no matter how powerful or delicious they may be. I could see that the glossy black could not stay in its pristine condition or at least hide the fact that dust loves to settle and show itself on this material.
Wiping it away with a microfibre cloth would then introduce very minor blemishes to the chassis in the form of artificial scratches. Much like my iPod. How could I possibly sleep at night if anything were to ever happen to it?My 30-inch display really does shine when you have this power box attached to it with amazingly sharp graphics that really come to life. Loading up Half Life 2 Lost Coast was able to demonstrate and make use of High Dynamic Range (HDR) lighting which added a whole new level of gameplay realism. I was dazzled by the realistic reflection and shadows from objects and characters in this mini-HL2-level.
To finish up my experience with my first time using an Alienware system, my advice would be if breathtaking graphics is what you’re after and you’re planning on making the most out of DX10 titles such as Crysis and Alan Wake, then a system like the Alienware will deliver that immersive experience. Of course you ideally want to be attaching it to a high resolution display, preferably with a low response rate, superb contrast and a size big enough so that when you look to your left and right, all you see is panel.Order yours today in time for Crysis coming out later this year…