capsule review

Alienware Aurora 7500

At a Glance
  • Alienware Aurora 7500

    PCWorld Rating

    Pricey but speedy gaming system has a dual-core Athlon CPU, a large LCD, and SLI support.

Alienware Aurora 7500
Artwork: Rick Rizner, John Goddard

The well-equipped Alienware Aurora 7500 comes packed to the gills with top-notch components--it has a 2.4-GHz Athlon 64 X2 4800+ dual-core processor, 1GB of DDR400 SDRAM, an ATI Radeon X850 XT graphics card (with 256MB DDR SDRAM), and two 160GB hard drives in a striped RAID configuration. But at $4041, the Aurora 7500 is also quite expensive.

In our previous tests of the Athlon 64 X2 4800+ processor, PCs with this dual-core chip performed admirably, consistently beating systems that used Intel's dual-core Pentium EE 840 across the board. The Aurora 7500 likewise sailed briskly through many portions of our WorldBench 5 test suite and turned in an impressive overall score of 118. Although that's not the highest rating we've recorded--that honor still belongs to the Xi Computer MTower 64 AGE-SLI with a WorldBench 5 score of 125--the Aurora's mark puts it in third place (after the ABS Ultimate M6) among all the systems we've tested this year.

One of the biggest performance benefits of using a dual-core CPU--as demonstrated by the Aurora 7500's test results--appears when you work with multiple applications simultaneously. In WorldBench 5's multitasking test component, the Aurora 7500 took 386 seconds to complete the test, handily beating the 585 seconds required by the MTower 64 AGE-SLI, which has a faster (2.6 GHz) single-core CPU (an Athlon 64 FX-55). On the graphics side, the Aurora sailed through most of our test games with ease and produced fine--though not top-tier--results. At a resolution of 1280 by 1024 in Return to Castle Wolfenstein, the system managed 151 frames per second (fourth among all systems tested); in Unreal Tournament 2003, it achieved 346 fps (sixth).

The shiny, jet-black Aurora 7500 shares the same showy design as its predecessor (the Aurora 5500), including curvy, silver ventilation grilles that wrap around the sides and add to the machine's powerhouse appearance. Our review system came with a dual-layer DVD±RW drive, a floppy drive, and a media card reader--all residing behind a hinged front panel. Ports for connecting four USB 2.0 devices are at the bottom of the front panel--not so easy to reach if you place the case on the floor. No FireWire ports are on the front, but Alienware provides two in the rear, along with four additional USB 2.0 ports.

Using a screwdriver to open the case, I found it relatively easy to remove the lockable side cover. But replacing the cover is trickier due to the ventilation grilles, which must be accurately aligned. The company pads the spacious interior with sound-dampening rubber foam, and ties and fastens most of the wires and cables to keep things well organized. The ample expansion options include three open externally accessible drive bays, four open internal drive bays, two open memory sockets, two open PCI slots, and three open PCI Express slots (two X1, one X16).

The large BenQ Q20U3 20-inch LCD bundled with our review unit was another major plus. This versatile model is a joy to set up and use: It tilts, swivels, rotates, and is vertically adjustable at a generous range of up to five inches. It also has three USB 2.0 ports (plus one upstream port for connecting to the PC) as well as composite and S-Video ports. Image quality was generally strong with reasonably legible text (though not extremely sharp in the smallest sizes) and colorfully vivid graphics with rich flesh tones and fine details even in the shadows and highlights. DVD movie playback was outstanding, featuring bright, attractive color and smooth action. The superb cinematic-quality surround sound from the accompanying Logitech Z-5300e 5.1-channel sound system adds the finishing touch to the Aurora 7500's suitability as a choice gaming or media center system. Music CDs also sounded elegant and powerful, with no distortion in the high tones or low bass.

The tethered Microsoft Multimedia keyboard (with attachable wrist rest) and IntelliMouse Explorer included with this system worked fine, but at this price, I would have preferred the extra flexibility of wireless input devices. The useful documentation includes a general user's manual with a troubleshooting section, as well as various component guides.

If you can afford it, this power-packed Alienware Aurora 7500--complete with a top-notch 20-inch BenQ LCD--makes an excellent choice for gaming or media center use.

Richard Jantz

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Pricey but speedy gaming system has a dual-core Athlon CPU, a large LCD, and SLI support.

    Pros

    • Ample room for expansion

    Cons

    • Tricky to replace the chassis' cover
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