Dell Alienware Aurora Gaming PC

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Alienware is known for being the one-stop solution for gaming PCs and laptops, and their Aurora and new Area-1 series of gaming desktop PCs affirm that fact. When discussing performance and gaming PCs, terms like powerful processor, whopping amount of RAM, dual-GPUs and such are most common, but, high-end variants of the Alienware gaming PCs have given these terms new meaning altogether.

As you read this, we have with us a high-end variant of the Alienware Aurora gaming machines. It’s common to see mainstream and high-end PCs using dual-core and quad-core Intel Core i7 CPU variants respectively. It’s also common to see 6 GB and 8GB RAM on high-end machines. What’s rare and exciting to see in a PC is the combination of double the amount of RAM, good graphics cards running in SLI and most importantly, an ultra-high-end CPU in the package.

Before we start on the looks part, we can’t wait to tell you about its real beauty, the hardware. So here it is! This particular machine is powered by an Intel Core i7 975 Extreme Edition processor. It has 12 GB triple channel DDR3 RAM (that’s right 12 GB), two Nvidia Geforce GTX 260 (1.8 GB each) cards in SLI and two 500 GB hard drives in RAID 0. And, it only gets more interesting. Let’s marinate on that while we take you through the unpacking bit.

The complete package is so heavy and large, that it’s impossible for a single person to carry. Nonetheless, once we had it in our labs, the unpacking took merely a few minutes. There were two boxes, one carrying the machine and the other had the keyboard, mouse and goodies that gaming machines usually bundle.

Speaking of which, the package includes an Alienware lazer gaming mouse, a stiff gaming mouse pad with the Alien face on it, a couple of un-intimidating Alienware-stickers, a power cord, and discs for OS recovery, drivers, utilities and such. Setting up the PC was seamless, ten minutes, and it was up and running.
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Design
As far as the looks and overall design are concerned, it’s a typical Alienware machine with customizable color LEDs that illuminate on either side, at the front-bottom grill and underneath the chrome Alien logo on top. This Alien logo doubles as the button used for collapsing the upper part of the front cover to expose the Blu-ray combo drive and multiple memory card readers. While these fancy lights and the unconventional design might not work with laptops, it sure makes desktop PCs look super-cool.
Most of cabinet is black, except for the translucent plastic panels on either side. Though the entire exterior is plastic, the material used is heavy gauge and top notch. While the side panels of the machine are glossy, the top grill and the front panel are matte. The overall design of the machine is truly a gamers’ delight, with the lights, contours, illuminated alien logo in front and so on. All-in-all, it’s a great-looking machine to have on your spacious desk. The interiors are equally impressive; all the bays are well-spaced and accommodate the hardware in a channelized fashion, resulting in no cable clutter at all.

Features
While the Alienware Aurora encompasses a very powerful set of hardware, it is feature-rich too. Well at this price, it’d better be right? To begin with, it offers the Alienware liquid-cooling for the CPU, there’s a Blu-ray combo drive, so even an HD-movie experience is awesome. We connected an HDTV to this machine and it worked like a charm. Though we didn’t find an HDMI port on the machine, a DVI to HDMI cable did the job. You can use the Nvidia control panel to use the card in full-throttle by enabling SLI, and even switch on the Nvidia 3D stereoscope vision feature. The machine comes pre-loaded with Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit) and we didn’t come across any serious hiccup, neither with games and nor with the OS.

Now that we have the hardware and features covered, let’s look at the ports. There’s 7.1 channel audio, so you’ll find six audio jacks, and co-axial out and optical too. Display options include four DVI ports and two S-video ports. Consider the absence of an HDMI port as a downside. Other features include 6 USB, FireWire, an eSATA and an Ethernet (gigabit) port.

Now, on the top of the machine (behind the power button) if you push the cover inward, you’ll expose 2 USB and a FireWire port and audio jacks, which are connected via headers on the motherboard.

More room and more speed
There are two 500 GB (7200 rpm) hard drives configured in RAID 0 and the available storage space is 1 TB. This setup is usually used in gaming machines where performance is a prerequisite, and data management takes a back seat. In any case, the idea is to get the most from your gaming experience, and that you shall get.

The beast within
While it’s hard not to rave over the rest of the hardware, it’s the processor that caught our attention the most. We couldn’t agree less to what Intel says on their site about their Core i7 975 Extreme CPU, you can literally ‘fly through everything you do on your PC - from playing intense 3D games to creating
and editing digital video, music, and photos’. But let’s see what really makes all of this so seamless. The Core i7 975 Extreme is a quad-core processor, so you get four cores, and thanks to Hyper Threading (HT) technology, you get eight simultaneous processing threads. So multi-tasking is what this machine is what this machines does best. Now, to add to this, the default core speed is 3.33 GHz, much faster than mainstream and even some high-end CPUs. So, imagine what all cores running at this same speed can churn out. This is some serious number-crunching power. To take this ascension further is the whopping 8 MB L3 cache, which only boosts the performance of the machine like nobody’s business.

What’s worth mentioning is that, it’s the motherboard that helps leverage all this power due to the technologies involved in the chipset. The PC uses an Intel X58 chipset motherboard, which supports the Core i7 series of processors. Technologies like the Intel Quick Path Interconnect (QPI) and the dual x16 PCIe 2.0 interface not only help deliver phenomenal PC performance, but also get the best out of the graphics cards that are working in SLI.
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Performance
It’s not only a gaming rig but overall a very powerful desktop PC too. We put the machine through several tests before being convinced as to how good it was.

For the performance tests, first we ran the standard benchmarks and noted the real-world game play also. Although the GPUs aren’t the most powerful individually, two of them used in SLI make up for it. For gaming, we used Crysis, Batman Arkham Asylum and Left 4 Dead and got playable frame rates even at high resolutions and settings. Crysis at high settings was playable with over 40 fps, and similar was the case with Batman Arkham Asylum, and Left 4 Dead with over 60 fps was like a piece of cake for this beast. We played HD movies and the playback was seamless, so this PC with its 7.1 channel sound and excellent movie playback can double as an HTPC too. Also, it’s not only gaming that’s attractive about this machine, in fact we’d say it’s the number-crunching power that steals the show, really. So, heavy computing tasks such as using designing suites, and, audio and video editing/encoding can be done on this machine. All-in-all, it’s a true workhorse.

Options
Though this particular variant is one of the most powerful and quite, there are other options to choose from. Click here to see the various hardware specifications available. In a nutshell, Aurora PCs are available in two architectures, Intel P55 and Intel X58, the former seems to target entry-level and mainstream users with Core i3 and Core i5 processor variants respectively. The latter ofcourse targets enthusiasts, as it features the Core i7 variants bundled with other high-end end hardware.

What's next?
This particular model evidently targets a very specific set of consumers. It is mainly for people who want a performance machine with good gaming capabilities. It’s not for someone looking for any run-of-the-mill gaming rig. And now we’re waiting to get our hands on the new Dell Alienware Area-51 series of gaming PCs that offer ‘Merciless Performance’.

Specifications:

  • Form factor: Mid-tower chassis with Micro-ATX board
  • Dimensions (inches): Height 16.77, Depth 25.39, Width 9.84
  • Weight: 21 Kg (approx)
  • Chipset: Intel X58
  • Processor: Intel Core i7 975 Extreme, 3.33 GHz
  • Memory: 12 GB Triple-channel DDR3
  • Hard drive: 2 x 500 GB
  • Bundle:Alienware gaming mouse, mouse pad, Alienware Keyboard and manual
  • Price: Rs 2,00,000.
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    Gameplay on the Dell Alienware Aurora

    Batman : Arkham Asylum
    At 1920 x 1080 and with 4x anti-aliasing turned on, the game-play is truly a treat to the eyes, and, even quick movements such as running and looking around are smooth. Character detail is clear and you’ll find no artefacting or lag whatsoever, making you want to play more and more. Playing this game on a 42-inch LCD does not give you a heavy head, and that clearly shows that this machine can handle it very well. The only qualm I found was that, immediately after a cut-scene, the movement in the game lags slightly for a second or so, but otherwise, it’s the perfect machine to play this game on!

    Left 4 Dead
    If there’s one game that you have to try on the Aurora, it’s Left 4 Dead. The lighting effects are awesome, and the game is quite fast paced. The rendering and frames rates remain constant, no matter how intense the scenario gets (like when you have a horde of zombies charging at you). You can run the game at maximum resolution, say 1680 x 1050, with 8x anti-aliasing turned on and play seamlessly. The Aurora handles it with ease. Character detailing is smooth and facial expressions can be seen quite clearly. All-in-all, Aurora does a great job with Left 4 Dead too.

    Crysis: Warhead
    While the previous two games might seem reason enough to buy the Alienware Aurora, this one will show you why it doesn’t deliver extreme performance. Even if it might be working well at 1768 x 992 with 16x anti-aliasing turned on, scaling the game resolution to 1920 x 1080 exploits the machine to the max resulting in a performance dip. In which case, cut scenes are not so much fun to watch, as the rendering is quite slow and then, while playing the game you see artefacting making the experience sad, a downer for the Aurora.

    Personal Take
    Playing Batman and Left 4 Dead on this machine will make you feel that the Alienware Aurora is the thing that you’ve been waiting for, but not just yet! Crysis shows you why Alienware’s new Gaming PC is not ‘absolute’ value-for-money, I mean, after paying so much money, you obviously want to play all games with all settings maxed out. So, keeping sheer performance in mind, we’d say that Aurora is not flawless, especially considering the price point!


Published Date: Jun 03, 2010 11:41 am | Updated Date: Jun 03, 2010 11:41 am