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Alienware Area-51 7500 (Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700) review: Alienware Area-51 7500 (Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700)

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The Good Fast, single 3D card configuration that will power you through any game on the market; case lighting customization software finally done and works as intended.

The Bad About $2,000 more than PCs with similar hardware, but with few benefits in performance or features; 700-watt power supply not enough for SLI with the GeForce 8800 GTX 3D card it ships with.

The Bottom Line We'd like this latest quad core-equipped Area-51 7500 if it were about $1,000 cheaper. It's as fast as it should be, but other vendors have similarly configured PCs that can do just as much for significantly less. Alienware's trademark care in assembly is evident, but that's not enough to justify the cost.

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6.6 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 5
  • Performance 7
  • Support 7

Review Sections

Alienware Area-51 7500 (Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700)

Buying a high-end gaming rig isn't supposed to be cheap. We've come to expect that the best of the best in PC hardware will run you around $5,000 or more. The problem is that once one vendor throws a wrench in the works, the whole game changes. The Alienware Area-51 7500 we've reviewed here will cost you $5,779. For that price you get an Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 chip, aka an "Intel Quad", and a single Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX graphics card, among other performance hardware. That price tag seems high for a game PC with a single 3D card, but knowing that you'd add about $1,000 worth of additional hardware to make this system an SLI rig (scalable link interface, which allows two video cards to be linked together, producing a single output), we don't blame Alienware for trying to keep the price lower on this review unit, especially when even one 8800 GTX is overkill for games currently on the market. Here's the problem: Polywell offers a nearly identical configuration but for $2,000 less. The Area-51 7500 has more bells and whistles, from its case to its internal cooling hardware, and its look is definitely more distinctive. But from a raw price-performance outlook, it's hard to look at the price tag of this Alienware system and feel like you're getting a good deal.

When you compare the Area-51 7500 and the Polywell Poly i680 SLI side by side, the Alienware box has more features but not as many as you'd expect. Both come with the aforementioned Intel quad-core CPU and the GeForce 8800 GTX graphics card. They also both have 2GB of high-quality 800 MHz DDR2 SDRAM. They each have the same pair of 150GB, 10,000rpm hard drives working in tandem as the same boot partition for fast loading of the operating system and applications, although Alienware gets the edge here with its extra 250GB, 7,200rpm storage drive. Alienware also has a $200 special Alienware-branded Sound Blaster X-Fi card, while the Polywell relies upon onboard audio. Polywell gets the win with optical drives in that it has a dual-layer DVD burner and a DVD/CD-RW combo drive. Alienware only has a single DVD burner, although it does give you the option to add two Blu-ray burners for an additional $900.

Beyond the typical features, our Area-51 7500 included all of Alienware's chassis upgrade options: liquid-based cooling hardware, a video cooling fan array, and the finally finished AlienFX System Lighting software. The lighting software, which lets you customize the external lighting color and make it blink or otherwise alert you to various system events (new e-mail and so on), is actually useful and lives up to the claims Alienware made about it when they showed us an early version of the software in 2006. No other PC we know of has lighting you can customize to that extent, and we especially like the fact that it actually serves a purpose other than looking gaudy.

It might surprise you to find out that even though this system's price tag is close to $6,000, it's not quite SLI capable. Its Nforce 680i SLI motherboard has three full-length PCI Express slots (two at PCI Express's full 16x of bandwidth), but the problem is the power supply unit (PSU). The review unit that Alienware sent us only has a 700-watt PSU. A modern SLI configuration will require at least a 750-watt power supply, if not a 1-kilowatt unit. This means this system can only run a single GeForce 8800 GTX graphics card, not two of them, which the motherboard is designed to support. Alienware offers a 1-kilowatt PSU on its configurator for an additional $350, so you can certainly turn the Area-51 7500 into a viable SLI platform. We can also see why you might only want a single GeForce 8800 GTX card right now. Two of those cards are probably overkill for current games unless you're going really crazy with resolution and image-quality settings. The 700-watt PSU also helps keep the price down, but not enough to stop us from scratching our heads over the Area-51 7500's value proposition.

At $5,779, this system is the priciest Core 2 Extreme QX6700-based unit we've seen so far, even surpassing the

For games' performance, the Alienware has a slight edge over the Polywell but, again, not enough to justify its cost. We should add that given their next-generation hardware, both of these PCs will play any game on the market at its highest image-quality settings. Interestingly, the Alienware Edition sound card that comes in the Area-51 7500 is supposed to improve game performance thanks to added onboard memory, but based on our 3D testing (which we conduct with audio enabled) the games we tested it with don't seem to benefit from the added X-RAM. Perhaps other titles would see some performance gain, but we suspect this new technology will need developers to code their games to support it, and we haven't heard any announcements along these lines so far.

Multitasking test (simultaneous McAfee AntiVirus scan, DivX 6.1 video encode, .CAB file extraction)
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Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test
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Apple iTunes encoding test
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Cinebench 9.5
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Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  

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