Alienware Area 51

Un­like the real Area 51, Alienware’s is hard to miss...

APC Australia - - Contents - Joel Burgess

Alienware does its best to make its sys­tems look like they ar­rived from a dis­tant so­lar sys­tem, but the Area 51 desk­top takes this aes­thetic to new lev­els with a patently huge ‘alien moth­er­ship’ chas­sis that weighs in at 28kg. At first, we found it a lit­tle hard to fathom how a con­glom­er­ate of com­puter com­po­nents could ever amount to some­thing that may need a struc­turally en­gi­neered desk to sup­port it, but this no-com­pro­mise con­fig is made by its band­wagon of weighty op­tional ex­tras.

The hero of this mar­tian mono­lith is an In­tel Core i7-7820X CPU, a re­jigged Sky­lake pro­ces­sor that’d set you back around $800 out­right. This chip is one of the first con­sumer desk­top CPUs from In­tel to of­fer more than the usual four cores and while it’s not quite as good value as the les­s­ex­pen­sive Cof­fee Lake chips that have started to emerge, the i7-7820X still has an edge when it comes to raw com­put­ing power. Up against MSI’s latest liv­ing room PC, the Vortex G25 (see APC 450, page 22) — the first de­vice we saw with a six-core desk­top CPU (the Core i7-8700) — the Area 51 scored 41.7% bet­ter in Cinebench’s mul­ti­threaded CPU bench­mark. This raw power was fur­ther demon­strated in HWBOT’s X265 1080p me­dia en­cod­ing bench­mark, where it av­er­aged just over 64fps, the high­est score of any pre-built desk­top we’ve tested. A lot of the gains on the i7-7820X come from the fact that it sim­ply has more cores than the i7-8700 (the Cinebench sin­gle-core scores, for ex­am­ple, are al­most iden­ti­cal for the two), but this CPU has also been opened up to over­clock­ing and comes with cus­tom Alienware soft­ware to help make maxxing-out your CPU per­for­mance eas­ier.

Be­hind this mon­ster CPU is a hefty 32GB RAM al­lo­ca­tion and a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 with 8GB of VRAM. These com­po­nents com­bine to dom­i­nate mod­ern games on 1080p Ul­tra set­tings, with fps aver­ages of 98.9, 87, 59 and 123.72 on The Divi­sion, Far Cry Pri­mal, Ghost Re­con Wild­lands and Rise of the

Tomb Raider, re­spec­tively. Thes scores are be­tween 6% and 58% bet­ter than the Aorus X7DT (see APC 447, page 24) which ran on a Core i7-7820HQ, 16GB RAM and a mo­bile GTX 1080. So you shouldn’t have any con­cerns about run­ning a 4K or 240Hz mon­i­tor with a setup this pow­er­ful. That said, when you’re pay­ing 4.5 grand for a desk­top, you’re ex­pect­ing it to have good per­for­mance — and if you re­ally need a PC this pow­er­ful, chances are you’d be more than ca­pa­ble of piec­ing one to­gether your­self for a fair bit less.

Un­for­tu­nately, the model we tested only in­cluded a small 256GB SSD. Sure, that’s a speedy PCIe con­nected drive, and there’s an ad­di­tional 2TB HDD, with three spare bays for ad-hoc stor­age ad­di­tions, but it’s a bit rich to charge an ad­di­tional $200 to up­grade to a 512GB SSD for a PC at this price. There are the ad­di­tional perks of liq­uid cool­ing, a 1.5KW power sup­ply and the Alienware Com­mand Cen­ter soft­ware that should al­low you to push this sys­tem to its the­o­ret­i­cal lim­its. And the case pops open eas­ily, the vents have am­ple space for air­flow and the ports are eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble and even in­clude their own light­ing sys­tem. But the price still hurts.

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