Alienware revives the Area 51 desktop with a new look

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Dell's Alienware gaming brand is reviving one of its classic desktop lines, with the new Area 51. While it shares a name with the big, boxy, desktop gaming systems of old, this version has an entirely new look and feel, and includes a just-announced high-end processor and chipset from Intel.

The system is built around Intel's new Haswell-E CPU, a late entry to the Haswell generation of CPUs designed to give that fourth-gen Core i-series technology a final boost for enthusiast PC gamers. Intel's Broadwell generation of Core i CPUs won't be around until next year, and the new Core M family is aimed squarely at tablets, hybrids, and ultrabooks, so for now, this is likely to be the marquee processor for gaming desktops. It comes paired with a new motherboard chipset, called X99, that promises to support DDR4 RAM.

Dan Ackerman/CNET
The last time we saw the Area 51 line from Alienware was around 2010, and at the time it was an impressive, if dated, black rectangle, with red accent lights and creature-like fins protruding from the top. This new version has a unique three-sided design, which Alienware calls "triad." The flat corners of the triad shape allow you to rock the massive chassis back easily and access ports or doors with only one hand. You can also grip two of the handle-like points of the triangle to lift or move the system, which will weigh roughly 45 pounds.

Both side panels are removable, offering access to the motherboard, video card slots, and hard drive trays. The Area 51 supports up to three full-width GPUs (both Nvidia and AMD options will be available), up to five hard drives, and the system is designed to support a 1.5K watt power supply. Running hardware like that can generate a lot of heat, so Alienware says the angled design can allow you to push the chassis up against the wall while still allowing hot air to escape.

Dan Ackerman/CNET
Like just about every Alienware laptop or desktop, there is an entire user-controlled light show built in, with nine separate zones, all controlled by the company's AlienFX software.

In our brief eyes-on time with the system, it at least looked different and more sculpted than other gaming desktops, although the traditional market for these systems has been at least partially eroded by better gaming laptops, next-gen living room gaming consoles, and new devices such as Alienware's own Alpha, a small form factor gaming desktop designed for living room use.

Dell says the Area 51 will start shipping in October in the US, and later in the Holiday season globally. The starting price has not been announced, but we expect it to cost a lot.

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Alienware Area 51 (2014)

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