Area 51 may still be a mystery to many, but after you read this evaluation you will know whether or not buying a big blue computer that looks somewhat like an alien head is a smart buy. We take a look at Alienware’s mid-range gaming PC.
As many of you might know by now, HardOCP doesn’t "review" systems, we evaluate the experiences they facilitate. We order the system the same as you would and evaluate every aspect of the end-user experience. Not only does this give us a better idea of what hardware an end-user actually receives, it also allows us to obtain a more accurate picture of just how each company functions and treats its customers. As fast as PC hardware has become over the years, we think giving a personal computer "5 stars" based on how fast it ran a synthetic benchmark is simply irresponsible. We think service, support, and reliability are much more important factors in today's climate rather than speed. Fast is easily bought, but purchasing and ownership satisfaction can be elusive.
Debates about Alienware abound. On Internet forums. And mailing lists. And in the halls of consumer electronics conventions. And in IT department bathrooms. Depending on how you look at them, they’re the largest of the gaming-computer boutique builders, or a smaller major OEM.
And the hype. My word, the hype. The last time there was this much hype and controversy over a subject, the church excommunicated Galileo. Pro-Alienware and Anti-Alienware zealots are almost as rabid as the Windows-Mac-Linux troika of flame warrior factions.
Alienware’s claims to fame include a clean system, lots of alien-themed add-ons, and of course, they were making wacky cases before case-modding became an Olympic sport.
We purchased the Aurora 5500, the baseline AMD-based gaming computer from Alienware. Among the mid-range of Alienware’s offerings, the Aurora 5500 is marketed towards gamers but it could also be a good family computer. The computer may be a bit pricey (and bulky) to suit many college students, but configured properly, the 5500 could make a very good mid-range general purpose machine.
Our configuration, however, was beyond what many families would consider for a computer these days. We paid a total of $1,939.00, including $104 shipping via FedEx air. This included a 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 7800GT, which was a steep, $192 upgrade from the 6600GT that was offered as the base video card in the configuration.
We also got a whole bunch of Alienware’s “extras,” including AlienInspection: a “$99 value – FREE!” “exclusive Integration and Inspection,” and AlienWiring: “Exclusive Internal Wire Management,” also a “$99 value – FREE!”