Alienware Area-51 X58 review: Alienware Area-51 X58

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
  • Overall: 8.3
  • Design: 8.0
  • Features: 9.0
  • Performance: 9.0
  • Service and support: 8.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Cost-effective for a $6,500 PC; more storage than we've ever seen.

The Bad Clunky Alienware case; overclocking and other features reserved for a still higher-end Alienware system; no HDMI output.

The Bottom Line Even if we have a few reservations about this system, we can't deny that Alienware has an outstanding deal on its hands, with the Area 51 X58. It offers the same core hardware and twice the storage capacity as PCs that cost $1,500 more. High-end bargain hunters, assuming they exist, will find an amazing deal in this PC.

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Alienware pitched us this $6,473 Area-51 X58 desktop as one of the first PCs it has shipped that truly takes advantage of the buying muscle afforded by its parent company, Dell. Given that the features you get for the dollar noticeably surpass the $8,000 Falcon Northwest Mach V we tested last week, we have a hard time arguing. We still find the classic Alienware case clunky. We also wish Alienware offered overclocking in this model. Still, for the sheer density of features, Alienware offers an amazing value here. If you're a gamer whose wallet can take such a large hit, you'll find everything you need in this PC.

We won't spend too much time on Alienware's classic case design. It's one of the best known gaming chassis, and as such it's something of an icon. The stylized outer shell also lends more weight to the system and complicates removing and replacing the side panel. We don't love it, but perhaps you do.

  Alienware Area-51 X58 Falcon Northwest Mach V
Price $6,473 $8,028
Motherboard chipset Intel X58 Intel X58
CPU 3.2GHz Intel Core i7-965 Extreme Edition 3.79GHz Intel Core i7-965 Extreme Edition (overclocked)
Memory 12GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM 12GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics (2) 1GB ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 (2) 1GB ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2
Hard drives (2) 128MB Samsung MLC solid state hard drives; (2) 1TB 7,200 rpm Seagate hard drives 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive; 80GB Intel X-25M solid state drive
Optical drive 4x dual-layer Blu-ray burner 20x dual-layer DVD burner with LightScribe; 4x dual-layer Blu-ray burner
Networking Killer K1 Gaming NIC; Gigabit Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit Windows Vista Ultimate SP1 64-bit

To get a sense of just how much Alienware has crammed inside this desktop, consider the side-by-side features chart above that pits the Area-51 X58 against the Falcon Northwest Mach V. Each has Intel's latest high-end processor, 12GB of DDR3 system memory, and a pair of dual-chip ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 cards. We expect those features in any $5,000-plus PC. But the Alienware also has twice the storage capacity in standard hard drives, 2TB between two hard drives, compared with the single 1TB drive in the Mach V.


Alienware offers more storage than we've seen in any other desktop.

Each vendor installed the operating system on fast, silent solid-state storage. Alienware trumps Falcon Northwest here by spanning the Windows boot partition across two 128GB Samsung solid-state drives. Falcon Northwest went with a single 80GB Intel X-25M drive. We can't speak to the Samsung versus the Intel drives in side-by-side competition, but as our system-level performance charts show, the Area-51 X58 competes very well against the Mach V, especially given that the Alienware isn't overclocked, and Falcon Northwest system costs $1,500 more.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Cinebench
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  
Falcon Northwest Mach V
21,461 
5,353 
Alienware Area-51 X58
19,368 
4,695 
Velocity Micro Edge Z55
17,055 
4,265 
Maingear Ephex
15,271 
4,408 
Dell XPS 730 H2C
14,867 
4,173 

You can see on our charts that clock speed definitely matters. The 3.2GHz Alienware lags noticeably on our iTunes tests behind both the 3.79GHz Falcon Northwest Mach V and a 3.8GHz Dell from earlier this year. It also loses on our other tests, by measurable amounts. Professionals and performance-sensitive gamers will find that the Falcon Northwest PC will provide a faster user experience, so we can't recommend the Alienware to those for whom speed matters above all else. Of course, if you value storage capacity as well as performance, we have yet to see a computer that offers such an impressive balance of both as the Alienware.

Unreal Tournament 3
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920 x 1,200  
1,280 x 1,024  
Alienware Area-51 X58
373 
325 
Dell XPS 730 H2C
223 
252 
Maingear Ephex
129 
181 

Crysis
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,600 x 1,200 (high, 4x aa)  
1,280 x 1,024 (medium, 4x aa)  

Our gaming tests reveal the Area-51 X58 to be one of the fastest desktops we've ever tested, and it even squeaks by with a win on our high-resolution Unreal Tournament 3 test. Because both this system and the Falcon have a pair of dual-chip ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 cards inside, each system has four distinct 3D chips to work with. We give our Crysis test a bit more credence at this point, since the 300-plus scores on Unreal Tournament 3 push that test beyond the point of relevance (we're working on a new gaming benchmark). On Crysis, the Falcon Northwest Mach V remains the only system to handle that game at 1,600x1,200 with full detail and hit 60 frames per second, the PC gaming hallowed ground. Again, the Area-51 X58 is no question a member of the upper echelon of gaming PCs. If Alienware offered overclocking in this model, we suspect it would compete with the Falcon Northwest Mach for the top spot across every test.

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Where to Buy

Alienware Area-51 X58

Part Number: PC-A51-X58 Released: 18 Nov 2008
Pricing is currently unavailable.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Regional specs shown for US. AU specs are unavailable.

  • Release date 18 Nov 2008