CNET First Look
Alienware AuroraWe can't recommend the Alienware Aurora on performance and value grounds, but its unique appearance might appeal to those interested in making a statement with a gaming desktop.
-Hi, I'm Rich Brown, senior editor for CNET.com. Today, we're gonna take a look at the Alienware Aurora. So this is a configurable high-end gaming PC, but this model costs about 2600 dollars. You could see it comes with Alienware's typical stylized case and inside it's a fairly good configuration for high-end gaming. Taking a look at the outside of the case briefly, you can see there's sort of like an angled armored appearance to the front. If you push in the alien head logo, this front door pops down, and you reveal the Blue-Ray drive and the media card reader. And there is no front panel hard drive bay which is a nice feature we've seen on some newer performance PCs, so that's something we wish Alienware actually made available. On the top of the case, there's a panel that pops down and on the leading edge here, you get a couple USB ports as well as USB 3.0 jack and audio inputs. Now, unique to Alienware PCs is what it calls the Alien FX lighting configurator. If you go to the software, you can see there's a little app that lets you control 4 different lighting zones around the outside of the system. We have 2 on the side, 1 on the alien head up here, and one down underneath. Now, with the software, you can set the lights to over 100,000 different color combinations. You can make the blink and pulse. You can even tie them to let you know when you have a new email. Now, no other vendor we know of offer such a feature and this really makes this system unique. That said, it is a little bit gimmicky, so we probably trade that for some better performance. Now the back of the Alienware, you get a whole bunch of ports, and that's great to see. So you get two different kinds of digital audio output up here on the top, as well as the standard set of 7.1 analog jacks on the bottom. For data, you have a lot of options. You have 6 standard USB jacks, 2 USB 3-inputs, as well as a Firewire out. Down here, the video card, you've got a lot of options. You've got 2 DVIs, an HDMI, as well as a variety of many display port outputs. Getting inside the Alienware case is easy enough. You slip this latch on top, the panel drops down and slides right off. You'll notice the inside of the case is segmented into different zones. That's a feature we've seen before and it's semi-useful. It seems like it's a good way to sort of get your bearings inside the case when you open it up. Up here, you have the CPU with Alienware's custom liquid cooling hardware, and the chip is actually an Intel Core i7 2600K CPU. That's the latest Sandy Bridge version of Intel's CPU family and it is overclocked up to 3.9 GHz. That's actually a pretty modest overclock and there are many other vendors in the boutique PC space that will go up to above 4 GHz for basically the same price. There's also not that much memory in this system for it's price. You get 4 gigs of RAM over here [unk] 8 gigs in this price range. Now this 1866 megahertz RAM so it is a little bit faster than [unk] but still we probably rather have more. Now if we pulled back, this section here, you can see the graphics cards. It's 2 AMD Radeon HD 6950 cards. Now for this price range, those are solid and you can get a great performance from this PC. That's one thing we'll say, is that it definitely doesn't lag on our 3D tests. In this section, you can see there's the power supply down here and there's a map, kind of describing the hard-drive layout. So you get 4 hard-drive base and there's actually 2 mechanical hard-drives installed, a total of 3 terabytes of performance. And that might seem like a lot of storage space but we're used to seeing solid [unk] drives in this price range. For a system like this, we would definitely appreciate having that option but in order to add an SSD to his system, Alienware wants you to pay an extra $900. That price is disproportionate to other game desktops out there, so that's something we'd also like to see Alienware improve. Finally, up here, this section seems to be mostly for show, perhaps it has some airflow benefit but up here, you just get the various front panel base including the Blue-Ray burner as well as the mini card reader down here. There's one free bay right here. Overall, this is a pretty unique-looking system. It has some interesting features and it's lightings, some of it's case front elements and elsewhere, but we still wish it had better performance and more flexible configuration options. If you're really into the idea of a stylized gaming PC, you may want to consider the Alienware; otherwise, you can get a better deal from a number of other boutique game PC vendors. So I'm Rich Brown. This is the Alienware Aurora.