The new Area-51 ALX, introduced on Friday, uses overclocking, or the practice of pushing a processor past its factory speed setting, to elevate a standard Intel Pentium 4 chip to 4GHz. Because overclocking a processor can cause it to overheat, the desktop also includes a special liquid-cooling system devised by Alienware.
Purchasing the 4GHz Area-51 ALX desktop is an expensive proposition for most consumers, as the machine starts at about $4,200, according to pricing on Alienware's ALX Web site. But PC enthusiasts, such as game players, have traditionally been willing to pay more to get the latest, fastest hardware they can find. This has helped give rise to a number of high-end PC makers, including Alienware and Falcon Northwest.
The launch lets fans get a jump on getting a machine with a 4GHz chip. Intel recently pushed back introduction of a 4GHz Pentium 4 to the first quarter of 2005, having earlier announced plans to introduce it this year. The fastest current Pentium 4 runs at 3.6GHz.
Alienware says that thanks to its chip speed, the new ALX desktop is particularly well suited to multimedia applications such as 3D games, 3D content creation and digital video. The machine also incorporates PCI Express architecture, which boosts bandwidth to the graphics card and can be configured with up to 4GB of dual-channel memory.
In addition to the 4GHz Pentium 4 and a liquid-cooling system, the most basic Area-51 ALX desktop comes with 1GB of RAM, a CD-burner, ATI Technology's Radeon X800 graphics card, a 74GB Western Digital Raptor 10,000 rpm hard drive and a Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS High Definition sound card.
Pumping up the machine with 4GB of RAM, Nvidia's GeForce 6800 Ultra graphics card, twin 74GB Raptor hard drives and a DVD-burner increases the price to about $5,700.
Customers can easily pile on hundreds of dollars to the price of an ALX-Area 51 by deciding to add multiple, larger-capacity hard drives or by moving up to a Pentium 4 Extreme Edition processor. Alienware offers its own version of that chip as well, overclocked to 3.8GHz. Right now, Intel's fastest Extreme Edition runs at 3.4GHz.
However, not all PC enthusiasts want to buy Intel. To please those customers who prefer Advanced Micro Devices' processors, Alienware sells the Aurora ALX, a desktop that includes AMD's Athlon 64 FX 53 and starts at about $4,500.