Our Summary And Final Take-Aways
Performance Summary: The all new Alienware Area-51 performed very much on the level of the sum of its parts. That is to say that with a 6-core Haswell-E processor, tri-SLI GeForce GTX 980s and a fast SSD on board, you're bound to light up some benchmarks. In many tests, the system was either in the number one spot or in the top three of all test systems we've configured to date. However, what's perhaps more impressive is the manner in which the Area-51 is able to offer up this performance.
Love it or hate it, and again we happen to be in the former group, the Area-51's new Triad chassis design enables top-end performance with thermal and acoustic profiles that are best of class in high-end gaming systems. We'd go so far as to suggest that even for workstation professionals, not just gamers, the Area-51 has a lot of merit. Beyond thermal and acoustic characteristics, chassis design and appeal is mostly personal preference. For us, once the glitz wore off with the Area-51's fancy lighting system, its intrinsic mechanical design advantages really began to grow on us and we think it looks just dynamite too.
Further, servicing or upgrading the Area-51, with its quick-release side panels and mostly screwless design is a breeze. There are very few competitive pre-built OEM systems on the market currently that can match the Area-51's component accessibility and chassis mechanics. It really does offer function that matches its striking form. Aside from the not-yet-final glossy black plastic face plates of the prototype system we tested, aesthetically and mechanically, we're pretty impressed with what Dell-Alienware has put together with the new Area-51.
The other side of the equation is cost and of course, if you picked up parts yourself and built your own system, you could probably configure similar performance for less. That argument has gotten so old to us over the years. Obviously you could build it yourself if you have the know-how, time and are willing to research component compatibility, costs etc. On the other hand, you're definitely not going to be able to buy a chassis design and system setup like the Area-51 offers, not to mention the man-hours put into engineering a system like this with all its secondary features and thermal performance. There's a significant market opportunity for killer pre-built gaming rigs like the Area-51 and it's why Dell stepped up to acquire Alienware back in the day.
The new for 2014 Area-51 will be going on sale at Alienware's site shortly, starting at a base price of $1699. With that configuration you're setup with Radeon R9 270 graphics, a Core i7-5820K, 8GB of RAM and a 2TB standard 7200RPM hard drive. It's clear that Alienware is trying to make the new Area-51 accessible to as many enthusiast and power users as possible. From there you can dial things up quite a bit, as was the case with our test system, accomodating 8-core CPUs and up to three of the fastest GPUs money can buy, as well as SSDs and up to 32GB of DDR4 memory.
MSRP for the Area-51 configuration we tested is projected to be around $4649. That's a lot of coin and three $550 GeForce GTX 980 graphics cards certainly drives-up cost quickly. However, based on its entry-level price and available component configuration, you can configure and Area-51 for a lot less. We have no problem recommending this system to any gamer or performance enthusiasts looking for something special. The Alienware Area-51 has striking good looks, a break-out chassis design that delivers tangible benefits for thermals and accessibility, along with warp-speed performance to match its alien angles.