capsule review

Alienware Area-51 ALX Gaming Desktop

At a Glance
  • Alienware Area-51 ALX

    PCWorld Rating

If you're looking for an ultimate gaming PC, look no further than the Alienware Area-51 ALX. But at a list price of $7639, all this power will not come cheap.

With its 3.2-GHz Core 2 Extreme X9770 processor, 4GB of RAM, dual nVidia GeForce 9800 GX2 graphics cards with 2GB of DDR3 video memory, a 24-inch Samsung Syncmaster 245BW display, and a high-end gaming keyboard and mouse, the Area-51 ALX is a serious machine for serious gamers.

Its WorldBench 6 score of 148 easily beat out similar gaming systems. The Area-51 ALX also includes Windows Vista Home Premium; a BD-R/RE BluRay drive; and a wide array of ports including those for FireWire, gigabit ethernet, external SATA, and HDMI connectivity. While the system comes with 5.1 surround sound, other, less-expensive gaming desktops include 7.1 surround sound.

The Area-51 ALX's case is well-constructed and feels very solid, though the glossy black exterior may be prone to scratching and fingerprints. Alienware includes a soft cloth for wiping off imperfections--a nice touch. The case also has adequate ventilation, but airflow around the three hard drives could be better.

Thanks to those hard drives--two 160GB drives in a striped RAID 0 configuration and a third 1-terabtye storage drive--the Area-51 ALX includes plenty of storage space, with room to add more, thanks to a fourth internal drive bay. The machine ships with 4GB of RAM, filling all four memory slots. Of the Area-51 ALX's four PCI-Express slots, two are used by the SLI graphics system. Unfortunately, the graphics card blocks the other two slots, so to access them you would have to remove the graphics card.

The bundled mouse has all the basic functions, plus a number of user-configurable buttons. I personally found the mouse to be a little small and uncomfortable to use. The bundled Logitech G15 keyboard, on the other hand, is great. The G15 has excellent tactile response, a number of programmable keys, and the typical set of brightness and volume control keys. The keyboard is backlit as well. It is a bit big, but not as large as some other gaming keyboards.

If you're serious about gaming--and have the budget--the Area-51 ALX deserves a look.

--Nick Mediati

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Alienware's latest desktop is a gaming powerhouse, but its power comes at a steep price.

    Pros

    • Superior performance

    Cons

    • Hefty price tag
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