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Alienware Area-51 review

Richard Easton
21 Jan 2015
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
3,500
inc VAT

The Alienware Area-51 is one of the most eye-catching PCs to come along in a while

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Specifications

Processor: Six-core 3.6GHz Intel Core i7-5930K, RAM: 32GB, Front USB ports : 2x USB3, Rear USB ports: 4x USB3, 4x USB, Total storage: 256GB SSD, 4TB Hard disk, Graphics card: 3x AMD Radeon R9 290X, Display: None, Operating system: Windows 8.1

It’s not often a computer case radically departs from the standard ATX layout, so for that reason alone the Alienware Area-51 gets kudos. In a sea of drab black towers, the radical and unmistakeable ‘triad’ is a refreshing change of pace.

You could be forgiven for thinking the outlandish shape dictated the overall system design, but according to Alienware it was a by-product; optimal thermal management and improved ergonomics were the deciding factors for using the triangular chassis. Designed to rock back and forth on its base for easier access to the front and rear ports, anyone used to struggling to find USB ports on the back of the system will find it a welcome break from the norm.

Each corner can sustain five times the system’s weight, which is reassuring as the Area-51 can be a very heavy system if fully specified. Handles at the top and in the base make it easier to grab and carry but how often you’ll do this remains to be seen. 

As we’ve come to expect from Alienware, the silver triad chassis has LED lighting on the side panels and front panel. These can all be customised with a multitude of colour combinations from the Alienware Command Center software, while games developed with the AlienFX API can automatically control the LED combinations for a greater degree of immersion.

A small light switch near the rear connectors turns on two further LEDs that illuminate the I/O panel, making it much easier to plug in your peripherals. You get Gigabit Ethernet, coaxial and S/PDIF audio outputs for surround sound and eight USB ports, four of which are the faster USB3. You also get two USB ports on the front of the system, along with an SD card reader and twin 3.5mm audio jacks for plugging in a headset.  The R9 R90X graphics card can output to 2x DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort, so it’s easy to connect up multiple monitors.

Gaining access to the internals is simply a matter of removing a single screw and popping each panel off with quick release clips. The side panels are interchangeable so you don’t need to remember which side is which. It’s here the triangular design makes sense; the front intakes blow air across the components at an angle, while there’s room for a larger exhaust at the back for venting out hot air. The shape also gives greater clearance when placed close to a wall, making it easier for the fans to do their job efficiently.

Storage drives are mounted separately on their own side of the chassis, which helps with cable management and airflow. The case can support three 3½in drives and one 2½in drive. Our system was equipped with three graphics cards and cable management was as neat as we would expect for such a congested motherboard. The fans were never obnoxiously loud, but were certainly noticeable during intense gaming.

The base Area 51 costs £1,299, but there’s plenty of scope for upgrades. If you want the very best, you can add Intel’s 8-core i7-5960X overclocked to 4.0GHz and three graphics cards, or two Nvidia GeForce Titan Z cards for a quad-SLI setup.