Alienware Area-51 ALX Review

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Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Software & Support
    • 9
    • Upgrade Capabilities
    • 9
    • Usability
    • 10
    • Design
    • 10
    • Performance
    • 10
    • Features
    • 8
    • Total Score:
    • 9.33
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10


  • Pros

    • Interior lighting
    • Fantastc hard drive setup
    • Powerful
  • Cons

    • Loud
    • Heavy
    • Pricey

Quick Take

If you can afford it, it's one of the best gaming experiences you can get.

The Alienware Area-51 ALX represents Alienware’s top-of-the-line offering. With a starting price tag of more than two thousand dollars, the Area-51 ALX packs together multiple GPUs, heat sensing fins, fat stacks of RAM and a removable power supply for what Alienware hopes is the consummate gaming experience. Is it worth your dime? Read on for our full review.


  • Processor: Intel Core i7 960 @ 3.20GHz (8MB L2 cache)
  • Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • Memory: 6GB DDR3 SDRAM
  • Hard drive: 2 x 1TB Seagate @ 7200RPM (RAID 0 configuration)
  • Optical drive: Blu-ray readable / DVD+/-RW
  • Graphics: 2 x ATI Radeon HD5970 w/2GB GDDR5 in CrossFire
  • Networking: 2 x Gigabit Ethernet
  • Dimensions: 23.4 x 10.9 x 25.8 inches (HxWxD)
  • Average weight: 84lbs

The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for this configuration was $4749.

Build and Quality
When we reviewed Alienware’s slightly smaller gaming offering, the Aurora ALX, we went over how the Dell-owned PC maker recently went through a branding and identity change. Gone are the Art Deco-spaceship-curved-lines-forties feel. Replacing all of that is an aggressive and industrial feel that does well to bring Alienware’s offerings into this decade.

One of the things that is immediately noticeable about the Area-51 (as opposed to the Aurora) is just how much bigger it is. The Aurora can charitably be called a minitower, though it sort of stretches that definition, but the Area-51 falls concretely into the full-sized tower category. In addition, the sides of the case are constructed of a relatively solid aluminum. As a result, the Area-51, whether you go for the high-end ALX version or not, is big, solid, and above all, heavy. With a shipping weight of over a hundred pounds, this is not going to be a machine that gets moved around very often.

As part of the upgraded ALX trim, the Area-51 ALX features the same heat-sensitive fin setup as the smaller Aurora ALX desktop. Comprised of a high quality black plastic, the fins are louvered and open and close depending on the ambient temperature inside of the case. Via the pre-installed OEM software, users can change the temperature at which the fins move, and decide whether to leave them shut, halfway open or fully open at all times.

Do the fins work to actually change the temperature or performance of the machine? Not really – at least, not to any appreciable amount; especially since base models still feature a drilled-out vent system on top. What they do seem to excel at, however, is look very cool. Despite what Alienware’s marketing team and managers claim, that’s probably much closer to their true purpose. Upon turning the system on, users are greeted with fans spinning up and the fins closing, opening, and ultimately coming to rest at whatever predetermined level the owner sets.

In addition to the fancy fin movement up on top, the Area-51 also comes with a vastly improved front covering. While the doors Alienware used to put on their desktops to cover the front port selection and optical drives were well-engineered, they were still doors. Doors sit out to the side, get in the way, break off and generally make nuisances of themselves. In the new models, the front panel actually slides into the base of the machine in one smooth motion. The iconic alien head logo that used to power on the machines still lights up – but now it opens the hydraulic door, smoothly sliding it down to reveal the front access bay. It’s a slick piece of design, and so much better than having a door sticking out – there’s no way to snap this off if you need to leave the ports revealed for an extended period of time.

As mentioned, Alienware’s logo on the front of the machine does light up, but it’s far from the only bit of light and trickery on the machine. Lights adorn the top and sides, spilling out from translucent panels along the bottom of the machine. If you spring for the advanced keyboard and mouse, they’ll light up, too.

“The glowing alien face on @JR_Nelson ‘s Alienware review unit is literally glaring at me from across my desk. It’s creepy.”

The pre-installed software Alienware puts on the machines allows for a significant amount of customization – each lighted region can be one of a dozen or so colors, each independent of the rest. If you really hate yourself, or those around you, you can even have them all blinking random colors. One thing that deserves special mention in the lighting arena, however, is the internal lighting setup that the company installed. When either side of the case is opened (both sides can be opened on this model), a series of white LEDs burst into life, illuminating the components. It’s a great idea since, as mentioned in the Aurora ALX review, most people aren’t going to want to leave the desktop plugged in when messing around on the inside.



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