Dell Alienware Area-51 Core i7-980 X Infused Gaming PC

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If build quality is a primary metric for you with respect to system selection, (and for whom could it not be?), then the Alienware Area-51 is something to take note of.  The machine we received set a standard in terms of both quality component selection and overall system design, materials quality and layout.

    
The Alienware's Wall of Storage

Each side panel of the Area-51 pops open by lifting up on a small lever on the top back area of the case.  Once the latch is released you can open the door and take it off its hinges completely. The right side panel opens to expose the 6-bay drive cage that is lighted even when the system is powered down and unplugged from wall power.  Each bay has two quick release buttons that allow a hard drive to lift up off each SATA data and power connector, for installation or replacement.  Take note however, this drive cage is not hot-swappable and the system needs to be powered off before adding or removing hard drives.  We're a little disappointed at this shortcoming, especially since we're of the mindset to run a RAID 1 array for critical bulk storage as a means of backup redundancy.

    

Behind the left side panel of the case is the Area-51's component area where a custom Intel X58-chipset based motherboard was home to a plethora of the latest computer hardware.  The self-contained water cooler Alienware chose appears to be similar to the Asetek LCLC or the Corsair H50.  There is a small radiator mounted to the top of the case that has an exhaust fan positioned over it as well.  Swinging open a secondary semi-translucent plastic door exposes the card slot area of the motherboard which in our system was heavily occupied by two Radeon HD 5970 graphics cards setup in CrossFire X mode.  The back edge of each card is fitted with an additional retainer tab that plugs into a card rack and keeps the cards evenly spaced within each of their slots. For system memory, three 2GB Elpedia DDR3 10666 memory sticks offer up 1,333MHz of bandwidth, which is plenty enough for the Core i7 platform, as we've shown you previously. Incidentally, the power supply is just barely visible here but it's a 1100 Watt custom Dell supply that was more than capable of handling the power of these two monster graphics cards under full load, even with main processor overclocking.

    
 
    

Like the back side storage rack, the entire internal area of the case is adorned with bright blue LED lighting.  Again these lights require no wall power at all and turn on when the case door is opened but shut down when closed.  It definitely does make for a handy setup working inside the system.  Wiring inside the Area-51 is fairly neat but not what we would call impeccable. Most cables are wrapped behind the motherboard where possible  and there are a few custom cable routing brackets and harnesses, but we would have preferred a few more zip-ties for the little stuff.  However, airflow inside the case is relatively unrestricted and the active heatsink and fan combo on the Intel X58 chip is a beefy cooling solution that ensures stability under pressure.

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