Alienware Area 51: Triad, Tri-SLI GTX 980, Haswell-E

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Introduction and Specifications

Dell's Alienware division has a knack for making a splash with PC system design, whether it's with their big, bad unapologetic notebooks, unique X51 small form-factor PCs, or their no-holds-barred Area-51 killer gaming rigs. In fact, for some folks, Alienware designs can be an either "you love it or hate it" affair. Full disclosure: personally, we tend to be cut from the former affectionate group of performance enthusiasts that generally favor Alienware's outside-the-box design efforts -- and oh boy, Alienware's recent redesign of the Area-51 is way outside the box.  

In fact, it's not really even a box at all, it's what Dell's Alienware design team calls a "Triad" design. 


With 45-degree angled front and rear face plates, that are designed to direct control and IO up toward the user, in addition to better directing cool airflow in, while backside warm airflow is directed up and away from the rear of the chassis, this machine grabs your attention right away. There's nothing else like it on the market currently. Alienware might call it Triad, but we'd actually call it pretty bad-ass.

Update 11/3/2015: We recently tested the new smash hit game title Grand Theft Auto V on the Alienware Area 51, to show you what this 3-Way SLI enabled beast can do causing mayhem on the mean streets of Los Santos. Suffice it to say that at max image quality settings, even this juggernaut was breaking a sweat in an effort to hit 4K resolution. Be sure to check it out as this game engine test showcase offers you more datapoints in the overall performance profile of this behemoth killer gaming rig.

First, let's give you the nickle tour walk-around of this wild beast...


Alienware Area-51
Specifications & Features
Processor:
Intel Core i7-5930K @3.5GHz Six-Core
Memory: 16GB DDR4-2133 (4x4GB)
Graphics: 3 x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 - Tri-SLI
Motherboard: Custom Alienware Area-51, Intel X99 Chipset
Storage: 1 x 256GB Samsung SSD 850 Pro Solid State Drive
4TB WD HDD 7200 RPM
Optical: Slot-Loading 6X Dual Layer Blu-ray DVD-RW Drive
Power Supply:
Custom Alienware 1500 Watt
Chassis:
Custom Alienware Triad Chassis
Cooling System:
Self-Contained Liquid CPU Cooler
Connectivity:
Gigabit LAN, Killer NIC e2200, Intel Dual Band Wireless AC-7260, Bluetooth 4.0
Front Ports:
2 x USB 3.0, Headphone/Mic, SD-Card Slot,
Rear Ports:
4 x USB 3.0, 4 x USB 2.0, Audio, 3 x DVI, 3x HDMI, 12x DP 
Operating System:
Windows 8.1 64-bit
Dimension/Weight: 
25.16"x10.74"x22.41" (DxWxH) - Approx. 61.7 Lbs.
Warranty: 1 year Alienware Enhanced Support that includes standard Dell limited hardware warranty and includes In-Home Service and Remote Diagnosis, along with 24/7 phone support.
Price: Starting at $1,699, ~$4649 as configured and tested

What you're look at above is actually one of the very first systems to ship out to members of the press. In fact, it's a prototype unit with skins that are slightly unfinished.  Dell-Alienware noted that specifically the black shiny plastic grill and top handle areas will have textured and painted finishes for a much more premium look and feel. We've seen the final production chassis in person and it does look much nicer. 

And you better not be cheating on your push-ups, Alice, because this thing comes with a jacked-up 61 pound plus fighting weight and that's just the base system.  It's a good thing the top of the chassis is also designed as a handle that supports the full lift weight, though we found picking it up from the bottom to offer a reasonable gripping surface as well. However, admittedly, you should remember "rule 18" and limber-up first. 

Alienware's custom X99 chipset-based motherboard will support up to an 8-core Core i7-5960X Haswell-E chip, but our test system came configured with a 6-core Core i7-5930K, which is multiplier unlocked and also of the Haswell-E variety. On the graphics side of the equation the Alienware team decided to amp things up and configured the system with a trio of GeForce GTX 980 cards, in Tri-SLI, just the thing for this triangular-shaped beast of a gaming rig. 

That's all backed-up by a 256GB Samsung SSD 850 Pro SSD, a 4TB HDD, 16GB of 2133MHz DDR4 memory and a slot-loading Blu-ray DVD-RW combo drive.  Some of these were upgrade options in our system (approx. $4649 as tested), though base systems start at a reasonably-priced $1699, which also come standard with an Intel 7260 802.11AC 2x2 WiFi NIC, Bluetooth 4, and a Killer E2200 Gigabit gaming NIC. 



Alienware Area-51 "Triad" design airflow with air-gap between chassis and objects behind it.


Alienware also offers factory warrantied overclocks on CPUs.  The Core i7-5930K, which typically has a base clock of 3.5GHz and Turbo Boost speed of 3.7GHz, is offered with a modest 3.9GHz overclock. As you'll see later, we achieved significantly higher results with our own tweaking. 

And of course, Alienware and Dell offer all the peripherals you might need to complete a system package, including 4K panels. For our test purposes we employed a 24-inch Dell UltraSharp UP2114Q 4K panel with a native resolution of 3840X2160, 99% color gamut coverage, 8ms G-to-G response time and 60Hz refresh rate over DP 1.2.  You could say we were dialed in nicely for testing but before we dug into the numbers, we wanted a look under the hood to see what makes this Alien ship tick...

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