Alienware Aurora Extreme
At a Glance
Whether you're talking about size, performance, or price, the Alienware Aurora Extreme is over the top. A 2.4-GHz Athlon 64 FX-53 processor and 1GB of DDR400 memory helped the Aurora achieve a PC WorldBench 4 score of 150--the fastest we've ever seen. The Extreme has two 74GB Serial-ATA hard drives connected in a RAID level 0 array, along with an additional 250GB Maxtor parallel-ATA drive. However, all of this size and power comes with an equally large price tag: the Aurora Extreme we tested costs $4619.
From straight on, the Aurora Extreme looks like the front of an old Chrysler, with an enormous metallic case and a grille on either side. The only design element not resembling a car is a small alien head affixed to the front of the case. The side panel comes off easily using the handle--no thumbscrews or screwdrivers required. This handle includes a case lock, which is useful for protecting the system's expensive innards.
Even with all of the drives (a DVD rewritable and a CD-RW, plus the three hard drives) that came installed on our review unit, the enormous interior of the case had two unoccupied externally accessible drive bays and one open internal bay. There are plenty of ports for peripherals: The back of the case has three FireWire ports and four USB 2.0 ports, and the front has four additional USB 2.0 ports. Some minor annoyances: Two of the rear USB ports are occupied by a cable that loops back inside the case to connect to two of the front ports; this rather inelegant solution looks untidy. Similarly, one PCI slot is blocked by a plate that provides two FireWire ports. But those issues aside, the Alienware offers a lot of options for those who want to make the Aurora Extreme better, stronger, and faster.
The Logitech Z-680 5.1 speaker system and Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS sound card produced rich, complex, loud sound. We were also impressed with the graphics: Equipped with a 256MB ATI Radeon 9800 XT graphics card, the Alienware produced images that looked smooth and realistic, even during the faster scenes of our test DVD and when running games at high resolutions. The 22-inch NEC MultiSync FE2111SB CRT monitor showed clean, legible type and good detail, but color (such as skin tones) looked somewhat muted.
If you have a big desk and a bigger wallet, the Alienware Aurora is a fun and powerful gaming and multimedia system.