The latest system to pass under the [H] microscope is a Vista machine equipped with an AMD processor. Is the combination of gaming hardware and Windows Vista an out-of-this-world experience or an extraterrestrial headache?
As many of you might know by now, [H] Consumer 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 a synthetic benchmark is simply irresponsible. We think service, support, and reliability are much more important factors in today's climate than speed. Fast is easily bought, but purchasing and ownership satisfaction can be elusive.
This process allows us to not only evaluate the system, but the OEM that builds it. Our goal is to give you the wide-angle lens view of the computer and the company so that you can make informed and educated decisions as to what you purchase or recommend to clients, friends, and family.
We’ve been visited by two Alienware machines so far; the Aurora 5500 and the Area-51 7500 R3. The Aurora 5500 performed surprisingly well in our evaluation process and received a very respectable overall score. The machine was solid overall and the only major issue we had was that the consumer had to pay a big premium for the Alienware name and design. There was also the landmark event where we were able to actually make the machine smoke.
Our next experience with the Area-51 7500 R3 came at an interesting time since Dell had just acquired Alienware and we were keenly interested to see if anything had changed. The machine remained strong in our performance-based categories, but technical support took a significant nosedive compared to our earlier experience. We ultimately recommended the Area-51 machine, but with reservations given the high price and unimpressive support.
Alienware machines have generally been solid and we expect to see more of the same. We’re also looking for improvement in technical support. Customers pay a high premium for Alienware machines, and they deserve premium service.
This is our first evaluation of a PC running Windows Vista. While we’ve already had some experience with Vista, we are very interested to see how well companies are integrating the new OS into their product lines. Hardware and driver conflicts are the biggest issues thus far affecting Vista compatibility, so we’re anxious to see how Alienware has addressed those concerns and if it can provide competent support on those issues, should they arise.
*Note: The Aurora 7500 now comes equipped with an NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB.