Alienware Area-51 ALX 7500

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/ Updated: April 4, 2005 6:02 PM PDT

Alienware Area-51 ALX 7500

Alienware introduced its hand-tailored approach with its original ALX line of PCs, letting customers call up and practically tell Alienware's system builders what color screws to use. Using the flexibility of Nvidia's new Nforce4 SLI Intel Edition motherboard chipset, the new Area-51 7500 maintains that degree of customizability, to a potentially confusing degree. Alienware will offer both Intel's 3.73GHz Pentium 4 Extreme Edition CPU, as well as the brand-new dual-core 3.2GHz Pentium Processor Extreme Edition 840 chip. Even better, you can also request that Alienware overclock the Extreme Edition 840 to ramp up performance. Throw in the new Nvidia chipset's support for two-fisted 3D graphics via SLI, and you potentially have one of the most advanced (and, when Alienware finalizes pricing, likely most expensive) gaming PCs on the planet.

Upside: Performance potential. We've run a similar system from Falcon Northwest through some early benchmarks, so if the preliminary results hold after more extensive testing, for application performance at least, an overclocked Extreme Edition 840 processor could be the fastest option around--among Intel-based PCs. We can't assume that one PC's early success translates to all others using the same technology, of course, but the outlook for the Area-51 ALX 7500 as a high-end gaming rig is promising. It should reach dizzying heights of performance, not necessarily because of the dual-core CPU's multithreaded processes (no games support multithreading yet), but because Intel unlocked the CPU, which lets overclockers do their thing with a non-AMD processor for the first time since 1998. And thanks to the Nforce4 SLI Intel Edition's support for two graphics cards, the Area-51 ALX 7500 also has the potential to score big with 3D games and graphics.

We've heard that Alienware has improved on the case design and made the side panel easier to remove than in the past . We're sticklers for that sort of thing, especially in pricey PCs. Here's hoping the changes make a difference.

Downside: With high-end PCs, price is always an issue, and don't expect the Area-51 ALX 7500 to be that different. Then again, if you're even looking at PCs of this caliber, dollars might not matter to you that much. As we mentioned earlier, we can't compare scores from different systems using the same tech outright because, among other reasons, different hands put the boxes together. What we can say is that in our preliminary testing, the aforementioned Falcon Northwest PC, using the same Nforce4 SLI Intel Edition as the Area-51 7500, didn't hold up well in 3D performance compared to an AMD-based SLI PC. Definitive? Hardly. But it's an issue that we look forward to investigating further.

You might find yourself confused when you're deciding just what CPU to go with. With single core, dual core, overclocking, and other factors, a novice might be totally at a loss as to what to buy. We obviously have our own part to play in that arena, but we hope that Alienware's customer-support staff is prepared to answer a lot of questions for those intrepid souls who don't consult with CNET first.

Outlook: We've said it before and we'll say it again: we need final benchmarks before we pass judgment on the Alienware Area-51 ALX 7500 or any PC that uses Nvidia's new SLI-for-Intel chipset. We'll keep you posted, so check back soon.

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Alienware Area-51 ALX 7500

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