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Prepare for liftoff
The Aurora DDR edges out every other Athlon XP 2000+-based system we've tested to date. This is due in no small part to the Aurora DDR's 512MB of DDR SDRAM; its 7,200rpm hard drive (which, at 100GB, is also mammoth for the price); and its leading-edge GeForce4 Ti 4600 graphics card. At this writing, there's no faster card on the planet, which helps explain why the Aurora DDR and the ViciousPC Phantom achieve some of the fastest 3D graphics performance we've ever seen. Aurora now includes a 1.80GHz Athlon XP 2200+ configuration that we have not yet tested, but we're looking forward to it. After all, the XP 2000+-based systems were bested only by more recent (and more expensive) P4-based desktops such as the 2.4GHz Dell Dimension 8200 and Athlon XP 2100+- and 2200+-based systems such as the 1.73GHz ABS Bengal.
Alienware backs the Aurora DDR's great performance with excellent peripherals. NEC's FE950+ 19-inch CRT monitor complements the graphics card well, boasting a flat aperture-grille screen that stays crisp and vibrant all the way to 1,600x1,200. Like most applications, games look great on the flat tube. Speedy DVD-ROM and CD-RW drives round out the hardware package, with Roxio's Easy CD Creator 5 Basic on hand for CD-burning chores. Alienware also supplies two excellent games--Deus Ex and Giants--along with playable demos of Quake III Arena and Comanche 4. A Sound Blaster Audigy Gamer card and Inspire 5.1 5300 speakers make up the audio system. Among other high-end features, the Audigy offers Dolby Digital decoding for 5.1-channel sound in games that support it--a good match, especially if you plan to watch DVDs. Serious audiophiles might prefer a more powerful set, however; Alienware offers several options, including the legendary Klipsch ProMedia 5.1.
Cover your ears
Whichever speakers you choose, you'll want to crank the volume in order to drown out the noise created by the Aurora DDR's gargantuan tower case. Inside, four large fans keep the system cool and comfy--and make it sound like you have a jet parked beneath your desk. We've never heard a noisier PC.
The Aurora DDR's "Cyborg green" case design also has its trade-offs. Despite Alienware Web-site photos that suggest the contrary, a matching monitor costs another $49. The system's tool-free removable side panels make upgrading easy, and the many available drive bays, PCI slots, and memory sockets give you plenty of room to do so. In addition, one FireWire and four USB ports let you connect peripherals to your heart's content. Just one complaint: The hinged door on the front of the tower blocks access to all drives when closed--and it's easy to knock off accidentally when it's open.
Generous support policies
If you can imagine the icing on a cake of this color, the green Aurora DDR comes with Alienware's three-year warranty on parts and labor. It includes a year of onsite service and 24/7 toll-free phone support.
100=performance of a test machine with a PIII-800 processor, an Intel 815EEA motherboard chipset, 128MB of 133MHz SDRAM, a GeForce2 with 32MB DDR, ATA/100 hard drive, Windows 2000 with Service Pack 1, and Windows' display properties set to 1,024x768 and 16-bit color at 75Hz
Longer bars indicate better performance
|Quake III Arena test|
Longer bars indicate better performance
|MadOnion's 3DMark2001 Pro test|
Measured in frames per second (longer bars indicate better performance)
|Alienware Aurora DDR|
Windows XP Home; Athlon XP 2000+ 1.67GHz; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; 128MB GeForce4 Ti 4600; Seagate WD1000BB 100GB 7,200rpm
Boldata Challenger N2000
Windows XP Home; Athlon XP 2000+ 1.67GHz; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; 128MB GeForce3 Ti 500; IBM IC35L060AVER070 60GB 7,200rpm
GenTech XP Gamer Special
Windows XP Home; Athlon XP 2000+ 1.67GHz; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; 64MB GeForce3 Ti 200; Western Digital WD1200JB 120GB 7,200rpm
Windows XP Home; Athlon XP 2000+ 1.67GHz; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; 128MB Nvidia GeForce4 Ti 4600; IBM IC35L060AVER070 60GB 7,200rpm
Xi 2000+ MTower Gamer
Windows XP Home; Athlon XP 2000+ 1.67GHz; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; 128MB Nvidia GeForce4 Ti 4600; Maxtor 6L040J2 40GB 7,200rpm
The Aurora DDR edges out all the other budget-gaming systems, as well every Athlon XP 2000+-based system we've tested to date. This is due in no small part to the Aurora's 512MB of DDR SDRAM, 7,200rpm hard drive (which, at 100GB, is also mammoth for the price), and leading-edge GeForce4 Ti 4600 graphics card. At this writing, there's no faster card on the planet, which helps explain why the Aurora DDR and the ViciousPC Phantom achieve some of the fastest 3D graphics performance we've ever seen.