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Alienware Area-51 ALX (Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770) review: Alienware Area-51 ALX (Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770)

Review Sections

World in Conflict (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920x1,200 (4x AA, 16x AF)  
1,280x1,024 (4x AA, 16X AF)  
Alienware Area-51 ALX
61 
65 
Dell XPS 730 H2C
46 
55 

Crysis (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,600x1,200 (high, 4x aa)  
1,280x1,024 (medium, 4x aa)  
Alienware Area-51 ALX
47 
70 
Dell XPS 730 H2C
25 
67 
Maingear Ephex
13 
32 
Uberclok Ion
9 
35 

Based on its game scores, though, it's obvious that the Area-51 ALX was built specifically to crank through polygons. The Crysis scores in particular are impressive, as it's the first system we've seen break 40 frames per second on our demanding 1,600x1,200-pixel resolution test. However, we wouldn't blame you for being frustrated. You paid nearly $8,000 to achieve only acceptable high-resolution frame rates. That shows, for better or for worse, how far Crysis is ahead of the hardware. For scores more indicative of the PC gaming market at-large, we'll point you to Alienware's score of about 250fps on our high-resolution Unreal Tournament 3 test.

While there's no question that the Area-51 ALX is fast today, what about making upgrades? You get some leeway for making changes, but our review config was pretty well packed. With two double-wide 3D cards and three hard drives already in residence, you get room for a 1x PCI-Express card, and either a third full-sized PCI Express card or a standard PCI card in the one double-purpose slot. There's also a single free hard drive bay, and two free memory slots, although the system won't benefit from more RAM unless you change the operating system to 64-bit. The cabling is mostly well-done, and the hard drive power and data connections are situated where they should be, but in all, Falcon Northwest does a slightly better job of routing the cables for the cleanest internal appearance.

Alienware's service and support basically mirrors that of the Dell XPS 730 H2C. The default warranty gets you one year of parts and labor coverage, with onsite service included, as well as 24-7, toll-free phone support. Alienware includes its Respawn recovery software for restoring the system to its factory-pure state, and you can also find all manner of support resources on Alienware's Web site, from system-specific configuration help to driver downloads, and more general pages dealing with Alienware's upgrade policy and other topics.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Alienware Area-51 ALX
Windows Vista Home Premium; 4.0GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 (overclocked); 4GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2) Nvidia GeForce 9800 GX2 graphics cards; (2) 160GB 10,000rpm Western Digital hard drives, 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive.

Dell XPS 730 H2C
Windows Vista Home Premium; 3.8GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 (overclocked); 2GB 1,600MHz (overclocked) DDR3 SDRAM; (2) 1GB ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 graphics cards; (2) 160GB 10,000rpm Western Digital hard drives, 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive.

Falcon Northwest Mach V
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit; 4.0GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770; 4GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2) 1GB Nvidia GeForce 9800 GX2 graphics cards; 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive.

Maingear Ephex
Windows Vista Ultimate; 4.0GHz (overclocked) Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650; 2GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2) 512MB ATI Radeon HD 3870 graphics cards; (2) 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm hard drives; 750GB Seagate 7,200rpm hard drive.

Uberclok Ion
Windows Vista Home Premium (tested); Windows XP Professional SP2 (second partition); 3.2GHz (overclocked) Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM, 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT graphics card; 500GB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive.

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