Presentation, Exterior Finish & Build Quality
Removing the Cyborg Green Area-51 7500 from its box is quite an experience for a number of reasons. First off, carrying the 40+ pound box can be an unwieldy task. Secondly, seeing the Cyborg Green case with its multiple alien heads and AlienIce gills can bring an anticipatory grin to any enthusiast's face. And finally, lifting this beast out of the box to hook it up can be a challenge, especially if you aren't very strong. We'd recommend getting some reliable help for lifting the box before unpacking and for removing the system from the box.
Part of the reason that the Area-51 7500 is heavier than other systems is because the chassis is an extended (not standard) ATX case. This is great for fitting extra long add-in cards, like those 8800 GTXs residing in this test system. While the case may look like it's just colored, molded plastic, it's actually all steal and then covered with the plastic pieces.
Overall, the quality of the exterior finish and aesthetic touches throughout the chassis are quite good. We didn't find any scratches or other blemishes on the case.
Alienware definitely fits its otherworldly namesake perfectly with the design of the P2 chassis. Even without the Alienware alien heads and their glowing eyes, you still would wonder what planet this case comes from. To maintain this look, Alienware hides the external drives behind a door emblazoned with a relatively big alien head. This alien head is actually the system's power button. That is a pretty cool and unique touch. For those of you wondering, no there is not a baby alien head that functions as a reset button; there is only a power button on the P2 chassis.
Behind the door, we found three 5.25" bays and no 3.5" bays. Our test system features a 16x dual layer DVD+/-RW drive with LightScribe Technology and a flash media card reader. We were glad to see that the door actually swings over to the left side of the case after opening, which will help keep it out of the way.
Under the door, you can see a mix of ports: a mic jack, a headphone jack, a FireWire port and two USB 2.0 ports. We were quite pleased when we saw the labels for these ports light up when we first powered on the system. Nice touch, Alienware. The little things can make a big difference.
When we turn the Area-51 7500 around to inspect the back, we see a typical set of I/O ports and connectors, including two PS/2 ports, one FireWire port, six USB 2.0 ports, a digital audio out jack, six analog audio jacks, and two RJ-45 (network) ports. Below the motherboard I/O, you can see the four DVI connectors that belong to the 8800 GTX video cards. To the right of the motherboard I/O, you can see a custom Alienware fan grill. While it looks cool and definitely adds to the theme of the case, we would like to see Alienware take the design one step further by allowing better airflow through the grill.
One of the cooler features on the Alienware P2 chassis is the lighting. If you choose the standard lighting configuration, you get to choose one of seven colors, and all the lighting will be the same color. Or, for an extra $200, you can upgrade to the AlienFX system lighting, which provides the user with a system lighting interface (software) to customize the lighting to his or her heart's content. Each lighting zone can be a different color, and you can even program pulsating or morphing colors. The screenshot below is of the AlienFX application and shows the zones and how each can be a different color.