Alienware Aurora DDR review:

Alienware Aurora DDR

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CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Fast; large hard drive, leading-edge sound card, FireWire, and ample expandability; space-age case design; three-year warranty.

The Bad Extremely noisy fans; tower door blocks access to all drives.

The Bottom Line Alienware's Aurora DDR earns its name with out-of-this-world speed and decent features for its class.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.0 Overall

With its luminescent paint job, cute alien-head logo, and sci-fi-inspired moniker, the Alienware Aurora DDR might appear to be little more than a novelty PC. But underneath the fluff, you'll find screamingly fast performance, awesome graphics, solid bundled peripherals, and a stellar support policy. Plus, we find no fault with the price, which hovers around $1,750. Our only complaint is the Aurora's supersized, superloud tower case and a few quirky design choices. But if you're looking for a performance PC, you can't do much better than this big green monster. With its luminescent paint job, cute alien-head logo, and sci-fi-inspired moniker, the Alienware Aurora DDR might appear to be little more than a novelty PC. But underneath the fluff, you'll find screamingly fast performance, awesome graphics, solid bundled peripherals, and a stellar support policy. Plus, we find no fault with the price, which hovers around $1,750. Our only complaint is the Aurora's supersized, superloud tower case and a few quirky design choices. But if you're looking for a performance PC, you can't do much better than this big green monster.

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.

Performance test
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

Overall rating   
Internet content creation   
Office productivity   
Alienware Aurora DDR
188 
224 
158 
GenTech XP Gamer Special
181 
219 
150 
ViciousPC Phantom
176 
217 
143 
Boldata Challenger N2000
174 
217 
140 
Xi 2000+ MTower Gamer
160 
191 
134 
 
Quake III Arena test
Longer bars indicate better performance
Alienware Aurora DDR
194.7 
ViciousPC Phantom
192.6 
Boldata Challenger N2000
179.8 
Xi 2000+ MTower Gamer
174.3 
GenTech XP Gamer Special
169.6 
 
MadOnion's 3DMark2001 Pro test
Measured in frames per second (longer bars indicate better performance)
16-bit color   
32-bit color   
Alienware Aurora DDR
10,541 
10,183 
ViciousPC Phantom
10,413 
10,075 
Xi 2000+ MTower Gamer
9,963 
9,675 
Boldata Challenger N2000
8,407 
8,242 
GenTech XP Gamer Special
8,082 
7,859 
 
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

ViciousPC Phantom
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.

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