To call the Alienware Aurora ALX overkill would be an exercise in subtlety. But then, that's the Alienware brand — to deliver ridiculous performance and bling, in exchange for your bank account, car or small luxury island.
Its all matte black and monolithic look is certainly imposing, and the silver alien emblem and cut away Perspex sides are almost an effort in understatement. Until you turn it on.
Fans briefly blast to maximum torque, making you think it's going to take off. LEDs traced all over the case light up. Venting fins, lined across the top, bristle open and then settle down, from that point on opening and closing based on how much heat the thing needs to expel. It's like a living, breathing, oddly luminescent beast.
We like it. Those who prefer the understatement though have the ability to turn all of this off.
Case and accessories
Customisation is key with Alienware. Sadly, the Stormtrooper white version isn't available, but there are plenty of other things to keep the tweak freak happy.
At the back, for instance, is a button that lights up the slots and ports so you can see what you're doing. A brilliant touch, though the button is sadly difficult to locate and the light fades off a little too quickly. Ports here are fairly standard: six-channel sound offered in 3.5mm jacks, plus optical and coax, along with six USB ports, one eSATA, gigabit Ethernet and 1394.
The rest of the case is fancy mechanics — the first vent on the top slides away to reveal two USB ports, a 1394 port, headphone and microphone jacks. Press the alien head on the front and a panel at the front silently whooshes down to reveal the optical drive and card reader, cleverly lit by white LEDs.
Then we come to the most audacious feature of the Aurora — the lights. Broken into eight zones, each can be programmed with 20 different colours that either stay solid, cycle through a range or "pulse" (which is more of a gradated flash than a smooth transaction). According to Alienware, all of this adds up to 25 billion combinations — we've long forgotten how to do permutation maths, so we'll have to take the company's word for it.
Everything lights up. Everything. (Credit: Dell)
It's not just the case though — the included TactX keyboard and mouse also feature colour-changing LEDs, but don't support transitions. Unlike usual keyboard and mouse bundles, Alienware's are of high quality, and as far as we can tell they're custom jobs too. The keyboard comes with two USB cables (presumably for extra power for the LEDs), and has a big and obvious mute button — a nice touch. Response itself feels slightly cushioned and a little slack, resulting in the user having to hit harder than what they are perhaps used to to register all key presses.
Media control buttons sit on either side of the silver alien head at the top, and require a fair bit of force to actuate. To the left are six "C" buttons, all of which can perform a customised task including macros. There are also three shift states (activated by the "S" keys in the top left), giving a total of 18 customised buttons.
The macro editor itself is decent, allowing you to insert and modify delays after recording, and even emulates mouse clicks. If you're familiar with LUA scripting, it's supported as well. Quick macro recording is done by pressing the R key at the top left, hitting one of the C keys, typing what you want to record, then hitting the R key again to store the macro in the selected C key.