The Aurora's gaming performance is more encouraging. The two Radeon HD 6950 graphics cards give this system respectable scores on all of our 3D tests. Our Crysis test shows the impact of having only 4GB of RAM instead of 8GB, but that memory dependence is also fairly unique to that game, which itself is a worst-case scenario. The fact that the Aurora broke 60fps on the higher-resolution version of that test should tell you that this is a worthy gaming system.
Our more recent gaming benchmarks include Metro 2033 and 3DMark 11. On the challenging Metro 2033, the Alienware system posted the second-highest score we've seen at 2,560x1,536, which means its performance is appropriate for its price. Our more GPU-vendor-neutral 3DMark 11 test is also our newest benchmark, and arguably more representative of future DirectX 11 gameplay. While we have not yet accumulated a broad data set for that test, we can at least say that the Aurora is faster than the Velocity Micro system, as it should be.
With two double-wide graphics cards in the Aurora, you get no other card expansion options. You might not need more, but Maingear's Vybe does offer a free 1x PCI Express slot in addition to its pair of 3D cards. The Aurora also comes with all four RAM slots occupied, which seems a shame in this system since with only 4GB of memory the RAM is the first thing we'd upgrade in this system. Unfortunately, you'll have to throw away all four 1GB sticks to make that upgrade. At least you get two free out-facing hard-drive bays.
The Alienware Aurora fares better with its connectivity. On the back of the system you get six USB 2.0 jacks, two USB 3.0 ports, a FireWire output, both optical and coaxial digital audio outs, and a set of 7.1 analog audio jacks. The graphics cards also offer a ton of display output options, with ports for DVI, HDMI, and Mini DisplayPort connections. The only output option we can think to add would be an eSATA jack, but we expect that for most gamers the extant ports will more than suffice.
|Alienware Aurora||Average watts per hour|
|Raw (annual kWh)||558.86|
|Annual power consumption cost (@$0.1135/kWh)||$63.43|
While we were underwhelmed by the Alienware Aurora's performance, at least its power consumption is not disproportionately high. We've been impressed by the efficiency provided by Intel's new Core i7-2600K chips, although even higher-end gaming PCs still draw too much power to qualify for Energy Star certification. That's not a surprise for this price range, and the Aurora's power draw is in keeping with its competition.
Service and support
Alienware backs the Aurora with a straightforward one-year parts and labor warranty. You get discretionary home repair service, 24-7 phone support access, and remote diagnosis capability through DellConnect. That's about what we expect from any boutique vendor, although you'll need to face the perils of Dell's call-center-based support operation, rather than getting the more personalized in-house service you generally find from smaller boutique vendors.
We can't recommend the Alienware Aurora to those who put performance and value above all other considerations in their hunt for a higher-end gaming desktop. It simply lacks too many of the advanced tweaks and features you can get from other vendors for the same price. Alienware's design and case lighting features give it unique visual appeal, however, and if you prioritize making a visual statement, this system is worth consideration.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Alienware Aurora (Core i7-2600K, Spring 2011)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600K; 4GB 1,866MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2) 2GB AMD Radeon HD 6950 graphics cards; 1TB SATA 300 7,200rpm hard drive; 2TB SATA 600 7,200rpm hard drive
Falcon Northwest Mach V (Core i7-2600K, Spring 2011)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.6GHz Intel Core i7-2600K (overclocked); 16GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2)1.5GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 graphics cards; 128GB solid-state hard drive; 1TB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive
Maingear Vybe Super Stock (Core i7-2600K, Spring 2011)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB AMD Radeon HD 5870, 250GB Intel SSD, 1TB 7,200rpm Samsung hard drive
Origin Genesis (Core i7-2600K, Spring 2011)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.7GHz Intel Core i7-2600K (overclocked); 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1.5GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 graphics card (overclocked); 80GB solid-state hard drive; 1TB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive
Velocity Micro Edge Z40 (Core i7-2500K)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.0GHz Intel Core i5-2500K (overclocked); 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 560Ti graphics card (overclocked); 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive