Alienware Aurora 5500
At a Glance
If you want top performance, look no further: Alienware's $3699 Aurora 5500 is currently our record-setting desktop. This high-end gaming system scored the highest mark yet--110--on our WorldBench 5 test suite, and, running our graphics-testing games Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Unreal Tournament, it posted the second best graphics speed we've recorded--an average of 283 frames per second. The Aurora's muscle stems from AMD's flagship 2.6-GHz Athlon 64 FX-55 processor paired with dual 160GB hard drives in a RAID 0 array and a 256MB ATI Radeon X800 Pro graphics card.
Alienware sent a great-looking NEC MultiSync 1960NXi LCD with the Aurora. The 19-inch screen is ample real estate for viewing digital battlefields. In less adrenalin-soaked pursuits, the LCD produced sharp text, easily readable at the smallest fonts, and bright, life-like photos with clear details and vivid colors. Although the DVD playback produced bright colors, movement seemed a bit grainy at times. On the other hand, both movies and music sounded great piped through the Sound Blaster Audigy 2 sound card and Logitech X-530 5.1-channel speakers. The Microsoft Multimedia keyboard and matching USB IntelliMouse Explorer were "cyborg green" in our test unit but are available in a variety of colors.
Alienware's case designers seemed to hit the right note of sophisticated gaming coolness. Unlike many gaming PCs that look like they were designed for an amusement park funhouse, the Aurora we tested had a shinny, curved black case (other colors are available) with dual silver ventilation grilles that wrap around the sides--a sort of neo-art deco, Flash Gordon feel we found quite attractive. Too bad Alienware did not spend more time thinking about convenient I/O-port placement: The four front USB 2.0 ports are located at the bottom of the case--potentially tough to access if your system is placed on the floor. Both FireWire ports are on the back panel.
The machine features plenty of open bays and slots for expansion, including three externally accessible and four internal bays, along with two open RAM slots and four open 32-bit slots. Alienware rounds out this gem with well-organized documentation covering the system's every component.
This Aurora is what Alienware does best. It's quick, well-designed, and has a sophisticated cool that will appeal to more than the under-20 gaming set.