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Maximum PC Staff Feb 09, 2010

Alienware Aurora ALX

At A Glance

Probiotics

Truly unique chasis with multicolor perimeter lighting.

Probed

Needs backup drive for storage; outperformed by overclocked machines.

A Xenomorph might be involved

One of the PC’s weaknesses is the tendency to be generic. That’s certainly not a weakness of Alienware’s new Aurora ALX. Using a new redesigned chassis, there’s no way your Aurora ALX will be confused with a bland black box.

And how could it, given its signature Xenomorph look? Previous Alienware cases have felt like rebadged commodity cases, but this new case is clearly unique. When we plugged the PC into the wall socket, the set of ventilation vents on top slowly flapped open and closed—as though the ominous black creature were alive and just took a breath.


Getting inside of the case added to the mystery. Like a caveman hammering away on a flying saucer with a rock, we just didn’t know how to open the thing. We finally found that lifting the very last ventilation flap unlocks the side hatch. With the door off of the blowing, pulsing, and breathing Aurora ALX, was it alien technology we saw? Fortunately, it was more Earth-bound. Inside, we found a water-cooled Core i7-975 Extreme Edition on a custom Micro ATX X58 motherboard. Graphics were in the hands of the latest hotness, two CrossFired ATI Radeon HD 5870s. Along with 6GB of RAM and a Blu-ray combo drive, there wasn’t much wanting in the rig. We do take issue with the storage configuration, which comprises two 1TB drives in RAID 0, with no local backup drive. Scary. However, we like the mounting system, which gives you easy access to drives.

The Aurora ALX sports programmable perimeter lighting and top venting that opens as the case warms up.


Also quite cool is the Aurora’s new lighting system. Multicolor LED lights are embedded in the case, and the lights on the included keyboard and mouse can be changed in Windows to pulsate or even alert you if you have email waiting. The same application also lets you control the vents on top. It’s well done and far beyond what you can get from the typical boutique vendors, whose main customization is exotic paint.


This would be nothing without performance behind it, and the Aurora’s stock clock Core i7-975 performs as you’d expect it to. It’s plenty speedy but by no means a record breaker, especially when compared to the spate of 4GHz 975 rigs we’ve tested. The vast majority of those systems, however, pushed the $7,000 to $9,000 mark. The Aurora ALX is practically a bargain at $4,200. Compared to its direct peers, though, the Aurora ALX poses an interesting dilemma. Falcon’s $4,800 Talon system (reviewed in January) is faster, thanks to its overclocked 3.83GHz Core i7 and quad CrossFire configuration, but it’s also an LGA1156 system. The Aurora ALX is LGA1366, so when Intel comes out with its hexa-core Core i9 next year, the ALX can take the upgrade—the Falcon cannot.

That puts the ALX in a good place for folks who want a unique machine—without any of the hassles that can crop up with overclocking.
WINDOWS 7 BENCHMARKS

Zero Point
Falcon Northwest Talon
Premiere Pro CS3 496 sec
459
Photoshop CS3
94 sec
79
ProShow
513 sec 504
MainConcept 977 sec
935
Crysis 37 fps
66
Unreal Tournament 3 198 fps
230

Our current desktop test bed consists of a quad-core 2.66GHz Intel Core i7-920 overclocked to 3.66GHz, 6GB of Patriot DDR3/1333, a Radeon HD 4870 X2, and a 1.5TB 7,200rpm Seagate 7200.11 hard drive. The motherboard is a Gigabyte GA-EX58-UDR3 motherboard and a Corsair TX850 PSU. OS is Windows 7 in 64-bit mode.

Specifications
Processor Intel 2.93GHz Core i7-870 @3.83GHz
MOBO
MSI P55-GD65
RAM 8GB Crucial DDR3/1600
Videocard
Two MSI Radeon HD 5970 in CrossFire mode
Soundcard
Onboard
Storage
Two Intel X25-M 80GB in RAID 0; 1TB Samsung Spinpoint 7,20rpm hard drive
Optical
Lite-On 22x DVD burner
Case/PSU
Silverstone case with Exotix paint job and 1,000 Silverstone PSU
THE VERDICT

Alienware Aurora ALX

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