WHAT'S HOT: Our review Alienware Aurora DDR blazed to a score of 124 on our PC WorldBench 4 tests with its 1.67-GHz Athlon XP 2000+ CPU and 512MB of DDR memory. That score made the Aurora unit the third-fastest Windows XP Home system to run through our lab's paces.
Alienware systems are geared toward gamers, and this one is no exception. Alienware bundled the Samsung SyncMaster 950P monitor with the system, but that model has recently been discontinued. Now Alienware offers the NEC FE950+, a 19-inch CRT that, like the Samsung, has received a Best Buy on our Top 10 Monitors chart in the past. Mix that quality monitor with a GeForce 3 Ti500 graphics board and the Klipsch ProMedia 5.1 speaker set, and you have a system to delight most gamers. Quake III and Unreal Tournament ran smoothly at all of our test resolutions, including 1600 by 1200 at 32-bit color, and in-game textures and lighting impressed our Test Center judges.
Those Klipsch speakers--one of the best Dolby Digital 5.1 PC sets out there--passed our audio tests with flying colors. With full sound, crisp separation of channels, thunderous bass, and a 500-watt power rating, these speakers are overkill for apartment dwellers.
WHAT'S NOT: Not surprisingly, all this power comes at a hefty price--you'll have to muster over $3100 to get this Aurora. To cool this powerful PC, Alienware packed in a total of five fans, which make the system hum like a beehive. The green plastic keyboard sports an annoyingly small backspace key and has a light and flimsy feel.
WHAT ELSE: The monstrous green tower, however, is the antithesis of light and flimsy. The heavy, large case looks like it belongs in an industrial park.
In addition to an adequate but aging gaming bundle that includes Giants and Deus Ex, Alienware tosses in Microsoft Works Suite 2002 for users who want to do some home-office work in between games. And in case you manage to fill up the capacious 100GB hard drive, you can move some data to CD-R or CD-RW discs using the swift Plextor 24X/10X/40X CD-RW drive, which will also be a relatively quick burner for your audio CDs.
A setup poster and thorough documentation for individual components came bundled, although the system manual was rather skimpy with only a basic overview of our system.
Alienware knows that gamers like to tinker with their PCs, and has designed the tower to accommodate them. The case is easily opened (though it does have a case lock), and all of the cables have been bundled and neatly tucked away, making upgrades painless. You can add removable media drives without tools by sliding the drives in and out the front of the tower on rails. And the hard drive cages pop out to make adding extra drives easier. There's also another lock on the front drive door, though the plastic hinges make the lock's security level a bit suspect. Our test system had two open PCI slots and an excess of open drive bays--three suitable for removable media drives and another three for hard drives.
UPSHOT: You can probably get everything the Aurora has to offer in far less expensive power PCs, but gamers will appreciate that the Aurora is tuned for speed, very cool looking, and a solid package made by folks who understand gaming.
By Joel Strauch