Alienware Aurora R3 System Autopsy

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As the final days of summer wind down, most people will find themselves in one of two situations. Either you're gearing up to head back to school, or it's life as usual, only with worse weather right around the corner. It doesn't matter which category you fall into, because either way, there's a good chance you'll be spending less time outside grilling steaks and squandering more of your free moments inside your home or dorm, sheltered from the inclement weather, sitting behind a PC. If you're ready for a new rig to last until next summer (and beyond), it's time to make a decision: Do you play the part of Polly Prudence and pick up a modest machine that's good enough to surf the Web and hammer out emails, or treat yourself to a decadent gaming PC because, well, you're worth a bit of extra coin?

Boutique system vendor Alienware hopes you'll choose the latter, and to help nudge you in that direction, the company sent its new Aurora R3 in search of life on Earth. It just so happens that one of these rigs crash landed at HotHardware, and today it's us performing the Alien(ware) autopsy on them. We dissected the Aurora R3 from head to toe, discovered what makes it tick, and then fed it a handful of games and other software to observe how it digests a diet of DirectX 11 and other modern morsels, all in the name of science, of course.



Alienware Aurora R3
Specifications and Features (as tested)

Model

Aurora R3
CPU

Intel Core i7 2600K; Alienware High-Performance CPU Liquid Cooling
Memory

4GB DDR3 1333MHz (2 DIMMs)
Graphics

2 x ATI Radeon HD 6950 (CrossFire)
Storage

Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB 7200RPM (64MB, SATA 6Gbps)
Optical

Blu-ray Reader/DVD Burner Combo
Operating System

Windows 7 Home Premium x64
Wired Internet

10/100/1000 Ethernet
Front Panel Ports

2 x USB 2.0; 1 x USB 3.0; Headphone and Mic
Rear Panel Ports

6 x USB 2.0; 2 x USB 3.0; FireWire; GbE LAN; Audio Inputs; Optical SPDIF; Coaxial SPDIF; eSATA
Sound Integrated 7.1 w/ THX TruStudio PC
Power Supply 875W
Weight

~45 pounds (average)
Keyboard / Mouse Dell Studio
Dimensions

9.847" x 25.39" x 16.77" (WxDxH)
Warranty

1 Year Basic Service Plan
Price

$2,448.99 (as configured)


Pricing for the Aurora R3 starts at scant $1,200, and we say "scant" because premium system builders typically charge premium prices for their machines. We're well aware that Alienware was acquired by Dell five years ago, and while some PC gaming purists might still take issue with that, teaming up with a bulk OEM has made Alienware systems accessible to customers on a tighter budget, while still maintaining the DNA of a boutique system builder.

As configured, the Aurora R3 we received checks in at just shy of $2,450 before taxes and shipping. Along with the higher price tag comes a better selection of components, including an Intel Core i7 2600K processor (liquid cooled) running the show, a pair of AMD Radeon HD 6950 graphics cards with double the appetite for gaming goodness, and a Blu-ray reader. Our system didn't ship with a solid state drive, and 4GB of DDR3-1333 is rather pedestrian for an Alienware system, but it does come with a SATA 6Gbps hard drive with 64MB of cache, an 875W power supply, and USB 3.0 ports found on both the front panel and rear I/O ports.

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I have always liked the style of the Alienware cases as they are the best looking of all the boutique system builders. The little touches like the custom lighting is very cool.

I wonder what motherboard they use in these systems? My guess is it's a OEM Intel board, could this hold it back some?

At any rate great review Paul and Marco.

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@Thunderbird: It is an OEM board, model # 046MHW.

@OptimusPrimeTime: The videocards have 2GB of GDDR5 each.

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In all honesty, I believe Alienware are complete rip offs, as you can build a way faster system, for about a 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of their systems. I agree they are nice looking but would go for total performance over looks any day and I have cathode lights and LED fans that look pretty nice! I just think they need to drop their prices, especially since they have been owned by Dell now! 

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"Nice honest review Paul. MY personal opinion is that AlienWare is not what it used to be. I dont like the Chassis anymore and its weight, and I certainly dont care  paying a premium for their stupid lighting. This system is overpriced and underpowered for the money, and for what they are charging, it isnt even overclocked. "

"Over the last couple of years, its been about value and not so much about "Light" eye candy, Alienware has lost some serious sales to companies like CyberPower , Maingear, Digital Storm ect. They cant compete in terms of value for the money  and diversity in terms of options of components and chassis. And I think the only thing that has kept them alive is that Dell owns them."

"I would like to see the 2010-2011 sales figure from Alienware compared to the competition. Anyhow,great review, odd gaming resolutions? One question though, were these 1GB 6950s or 2GB?

-Optimus    

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You are exactly right.  Why pay a premium price when you can do it yourself!

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A friggin loose screw in the case is not a good thing,....Yow!!

As usual, AlienWare/Dell has a unique look about it. People either love it or hate it. They usually have some nice design innovations inside too.

That said, I have to admit that there are a few other boutique builders that I would buy from first. Our fabulous prize sponsors who have given us fantastic high-end PC's for free, and also build excellent retail computers too. They surely deserve our business when we can't find the time to build for ourselves. Their prices are usually a good deal as well.

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"Build quality feels rushed (unplugged 24-pin ATX power cord, loose screw)" Its dell, they mass product things unlike those smaller companies that take pride and love in your orders. lol :P

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I would have to agree. Looking at the cable management alone (or lack thereof), this system doesn't seem up to typical Alienware standards actually.

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yeah the Alienware/Dell thing is definitely a matter of personal preference ya either just love tha appearance brand name or some thing or you do NOT.Aside from the loose 24 pin power cable the loose screw is just totally lame.

Thanks for the review and testing the cpu with prime 95 and Furmark to heat that puppy up and Dell putting in that bigger PSU is a good move.

Anyhow one needs to be able to get into the custom config pages to decide what the best performance and value.Took a bit of time to see what;s available and yep look like they are making a genuine effort to reach a more mainstream market with the Aurora series.Honestly I would recommend some of the other boutique builders that have sponsored rigs for HH.I think they give you a better price and performance value.The guys in New Jersey seem to take a lot of pride in the quality of there work and reputation.

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Great review Paul. I admit, I haven't been interested in anything Alienware for a while but it's nice to see them in stores, even though the build quality is Dellified (ie cheapened.); anyway, this seems like a good build for people who want a midrange system they can buy in the store instantly; I mean if they want more power then they can overclock it later right?

For the rest of us, there seems to be more desirable options. I don't like or hate Alienware, I just feel mostly indifferent to it.

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