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

Test Setup, PCMark 8 And Cinebench

How We Configured Our Test Systems:  We configured other reference test systems in this article on an EVGA X79 Dark motherboard powered by an Intel Core i7-4960X six-core processor and 16GB of Corsair DDR3-1866 RAM. The first thing we did when configuring the test system was enter the system UEFI and set all values to their "high performance" default settings and disable any integrated peripherals that wouldn't be put to use. The memory's X.M.P. profile was enabled to ensure better-than-stock performance and the solid state drive was then formatted and Windows 8.1 Professional x64 was installed. When the installation was complete, we fully updated the OS and installed the latest DirectX redist along with all of the drivers, games, and benchmark tools necessary to complete our tests.

Dell's Alienware Area-51 was tested in an "as delivered" configuration, with the only modification being a quick update to the latest NVIDIA WHQL drivers for the GeForce GTX 980 graphics card.  It was only in our overclocking test area that we modified any of the speeds and feeds of the system.

HotHardware's Test Systems
Haswell-E And Ivy-Bridge-E Powered

Gaming Tests Only - HH Test System:
Intel Core i7-4960X
(3.3GHz, Six-Core)
EVGA X79 Dark
(Intel X79 Express)

Radeon R9 290X
Radeon R7 295X2
GeForce GTX 980 x 2
GeForce GTX 970 (MSI and EVGA)
GeForce GTX 780 Ti x 2
GeForce GTX Titan x 2

16GB Corsair DDR3-1866
OCZ Vertex 3 SSD
Integrated Audio
Integrated Network

All Tests - Alienware Area-51:
Intel Core i7-5930K
(3.5GHz, Six-Core)
Custom Dell Motherboard
(Intel X99 Express)

GeForce GTX 980 x 3

16GB Corsair DDR3-1866
Samsung SSD 850 Pro 256GB
Integrated Audio
Integrated Network

Relevant Software:
Windows 8.1 Pro x64
DirectX April 2011 Redist
AMD Catalyst v14.30.1005 B2
NVIDIA GeForce Drivers v344.07

Benchmarks Used:
3DMark "Fire Strike"
Bioshock Infinite
Hitman: Absolution
Metro Last Light
Sleeping Dogs
Crysis 3
PCMark 8
Cinebench R11.5

General Performance Testing Notes:  For our gaming tests in this review (arguably the most critical for many in our audience, since this product is geared specifically to gamers) we compare the Alienware Area-51 to our database of reference graphics card scores that were taken on the testbed noted above.  Though not a direct identical configuration comparison, HotHardware's reference graphics test system is also a 6-core Core i7 setup with 16GB of DDR3 memory and a fast SSD. GPU throughput will affect these game test results almost exclusively, but regardless, these numbers are for frame of reference only. The Area-51 is configured with a very powerful graphics subsystem, and for game tests, we haven't compiled enough 4K resolution test data to draw direct comparison to competitive systems. This is why we chose to offer our graphics testbed for comparison, where we have 4K data.

In a couple of CPU-centric, general purposes tests, we've compared the Area-51 to other reference gaming PCs from various system integrators. Again, these are relative metrics to offer watermarks of performance levels in specific applications. Since we have direct A/B comparison data in these test conditions, we opted to compare Alienware's new machine to these other high-end systems on the market.

PCMark 8
General System Performance

PCMark 8 v2 is the latest version in Futuremark’s series of popular PC benchmarking tools. It is designed to test the performance of all types of systems, from tablets to desktops. PCMark 8 offers five separate benchmark tests--plus battery life testing—to help consumers find the devices that offers the perfect combination of efficiency and performance for their particular use case. This latest version of the suite improves the Home, Creative and Work benchmarks with new tests using popular open source applications for image processing, video editing and spreadsheets. A wide variety of workloads have also been added to the Work benchmark to better reflect the way PCs are used in enterprise environments.

These tests can be run with our without OpenCL acceleration. We chose to run with OpenCL acceleration enabled to leverage all of the platforms’ CPU and GPU compute resources.

The Alienware Area 51 performed well in the PCMark 8 benchmarks, but couldn't quite catch the Devil's Canyon powered Digital Storm system. The Bolt II's higher clocks (and hence, better single-thread performance) gave it an edge here, though the Area 51 was right behind it in the Work portion of the test. In the Home portion of the test, those triple graphics cards don't help the Area 51 much at all, and it ends up trailing the other systems.
Cinebench R11.5
Software Rendering On The CPU
Cinebench is an OpenGL 3D rendering performance test based on Cinema 4D from Maxon. Cinema 4D is a 3D rendering and animation tool suite used by 3D animation houses and producers like Sony Animation and many others. It's very demanding of system processor resources and is an excellent gauge of pure computational throughput. This is a multi-threaded, multi-processor aware benchmark that renders and animates 3D scenes and tracks the length of the entire process. The rate at which each test system was able to render the entire scene is represented in the graph below.

The Alienware Area 51 takes second place overall in the Cinebench R15 CPU benchmarks. Although its powered by Intel's latest Haswell-E microarchitecture, the system's Core i7-5930K doesn't turbo high enough to catch the Haswell and Ivy Bridge-E based systems in the single-threaded test. In the multi-threaded test, the 5930K's six cores propel it up the charts, but its base / turbo clocks of 3.5GHz and 3.7GHz aren't high enough to catch the Core i7-4960X's 3.6GHz and 4.0GHz.

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