My Week With A Very, Very Expensive Gaming PC

Alienware has recently launched a new line of its Aurora desktops, a range of very pretty, very expensive gaming PCs. And I just spent a week playing video games on one.

The Aurora R4, unlike the mildly surprising X51, sticks firmly to the company's brief of making high performance hardware at a relatively high cost to the consumer.

THE SPECS

The unit I reviewed was kitted out with the following:

  • Intel Core i7-3930K CPU @ 3.20GHz
  • 16GB Ram
  • 512GB SSD
  • 2x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590s

WHAT'S IN THE BOX

Included alongside the actual desktop PC itself (and necessary software and documentation) in the kit I received were:

  • Alienware TactX keyboard
  • Alienware Optical Mouse (note: not a TactX)
  • HDMI-DVI adapter
  • Power cable

WHAT I TESTED

I installed three games on the system for testing. All were played on the highest graphics settings possible.

  • Crysis 2 (DX11 patch & HD textures applied)
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (HD textures applied)
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

WHAT I LIKED

Looks. The R4 looks great. From the lighting (which can be adjusted to be more...subtle than marketing would have you belive) to the powerful shape of the unit, it looks every inch as expensive and powerful as it's claiming to be. Best part? The stupid "alien" font that the company puts in conspicuous places is consigned to small areas near the back.

Quality. Popping open the case reveals where at least some of your money went: the components and build quality of the internal hardware are top-shelf. Cables, leads, drives, everything looks like it rolled off Skynet's production floor.

Performance. Aside from a strangely lengthy system boot-up, the R4 destroyed all three games I threw at it, running at an almost constant 60fps (only dipping occasionally into the 50s in Crysis 2's cutscenes).

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE

Mouse. The mouse, an "Alienware optical mouse", was a cheap piece of crap. Really, it was like something you'd get at a thrift store. Compared to the quality of both the desktop and keyboard, and considering the costs involved, this was a disappointment. Seeing as the optical is the default inclusion with an Aurora R4, anyone interested in picking one of these up, either BYO or shell out for Alienware's TactX mouse.

Creaks and Crackles. There's no doubting the build quality of the inside of the R4. The outside, though, isn't everything you'd hope it would be. A sliding door covering the blu-ray drive clatters up and down rather cheaply, and the fancy "breathing" fins along the roof of the R4 — which seem unnecessary given the machine is already liquid-cooled — rattled a bit and also sounded cheap. While these sound like minor gripes, when you're paying this much money for a pre-built system, you expect quality everywhere, not just on the inside.

THE FINAL WORD

The Aurora series looks better than anything Alienware has ever released before. And the unit I reviewed, while admittedly one of the more top-end models, was everything I hoped it would be performance-wise. But it's still an Alienware desktop. It's still over-priced for what you're getting, and the flimsy aspects of its case aren't the kind of things you want from something at this end of the market.

Which in the end — and I know this sounds like a cop-out, but I like to think of it more as a constant truth — makes this your typical Alienware unit. Serious users will baulk at its overblown price tag, realising they can get better for less. This one's aimed more at those shorter on experience (and perhaps more endowed with a love for glowing PC cases) and who place a premium on the Alienware brand, because this is about as flagship as Alienware products can get.

Note: My review unit was supplied by Alienware Australia. A comparative system priced from Dell's US site would cost around $US3700.


Comments

    This post is useless with out pics.

    How can you post the article with the first like to be "Looks" then not post any pictures? lol

      ...there is pics...

      I purchased mine just for the brand. I know I could have built something way better and faster. I guess it's just personal preference.

      Skunky99-Atlanta-Georgia-USA

    Overpriced

    Are there any other companies/brands like Alienware? There really needs to be some competition to bring the prices down...

      The only big one I know of in Australia is Origin PC. Still overpriced though.

      the competition comes from wholesalers eg http://www.mwave.com.au/system.asp? where you click on the type eg sandy bridge and then choose everything you would like. still requires a little knowledge but their assistance via email/livechat is good. This is where i send my mates when they want a custom rig but i dont have the time to build them one.

    lolwut. the highest gpu spec for this thing is sli 555's. That is a total joke for the price that they are asking. I'd also expect better than 60fps wiht dual 590's unless he had v-sync enabled.

      might not have had SLi enabled in nvidia control panel as well. which being Luke would surprise me lol.

    To me building and upgrading your own PC is half the fun of being a PC gamer. Not to mention the $$$ you'd save over buying this.

      Completely agree.

      Also wtf is this shit? Testing Crysis 2 and MW3? Hi, welcome to PC gaming, you must be new here.
      The only game there that I'd consider a graphically intensive game is Skyrim...

        Skyrim?

        Pfft, Try BF3, GW2 (If you have access) SWTOR is great for stressing a system. Terrible looking though. Hard Reset is still barely playable across 3 screens with AA and 2 X 7970's. What else?'

        There are more games out there then Skyrim. Open your world!

          skyrim wiht HD texture gives myself more of a work out then BF3. Though for different reasons. That being Skyrim is so poorly optimised that it starts throttling itself.

          lol dude you are mis-informed (see what i did there :) )

          skyrim runs on my $700 laptop with a geforce 520m gpu on 1366x768 on high settings... i assure you, BF3 doesnt... even with the highres texture pack, the slowdown is minimal.

      ^^ This. I built my beast piece by piece over the space of about 6-7 weeks (because of my small wages) and it sat partly assembled in my lounge as a constant reminder of why I was working overtime. Oh so rewarding when it was complete - a feeling you couldn't get from handing over $2000 in one transaction. A sexy case for $200 and being able to choose everything inside it? Give me that any day.

        Amen to that.

    Tagline should be

    "Aurora R4: Just f$*&^$#! because.

      Years later after starting this campaign, Razer would merge with Marlborough to become: Tarrlyton Cigarettes.

    Who actually buys these things? I am genuinely curious - are there really hardcore PC gamers out there with $4k to spend but without the ability to build their own rig (or have it built for them)? Is the market 40+ year old men with cash but no time to spend crawling over MSY price sheets?

      It's more a perception problem. Too many people think that to play the newest games you need the newest technology. Thanks to the prevalence of console gaming, the vast majority of the newest games coming out are being chiefly designed for hardware that has now been on the market for 7 years (360/PS3). Hell, even the NextBox is using a card currently considered low-end as its base model, and it's not due out for years yet. They're capitalising on the ignorance of the public, and the fact that they're still in business would suggest that it's working.

      It's the people who enjoy the "scene" but don't have the closet nerdness that we have. EG my now brother in law like PC gaming but doesnt know a thing about custom rigs or how to build them. He used to show me all these "cool" rigs from Alienware "they must be awesome, look at all the LEDs". Also having disposable income helps. luckily i stepped in after a while and told him id build him one if he wanted and save him 2.5k at least.

      If I jad 4k to spend on a machine I'd buy a Mac Pro. There's no substitute for good components that work well together - 6 core Xeon, 16Gb RAM and 2 decent video cards that can power 6 screens FTW! Dual boot that beast with MacOS and you have a decent workstation that can be upgraded *substantially* in the future.

      Better than heading down the local computer store to buy individual components made by crappy Taiwanese companies that go as well together as the Taliban and women's rights.

        You do realise that the Mac Pro, as well as other Apple lines are built in the same Chinese as Asus and Gigabyte anyway?

      I did but not this model. I got the larger Area 51 model, fully spec’d out for about 6K not 4k (so I was an even bigger dumbass I guess).
      Why? At the time I hadn't built a PC for about 8-10 years and in all honesty was a little worried I wouldn’t be able to, firstly from a purely technical skills perspective and secondly I have an extremely demanding and time consuming job, 2 kids and a wife and thought I just don’t have the time to properly research and build it.
      I will happily admit to more money than sense at this point. The plus side is Dell did teach me a valuable lesson in that paying more does NOT equal getting a better product.
      When I got it, luckily I shilled out for extra warrantee because 18 months, about 7 tech support visits and numerous calls later I was informed that my 6k machine was 'broken', they cant fix it and all they can (or would) offer as a replacement was a machine worth 2K less.
      This is honestly the BEST THING that could have happened for me as firstly It pissed me off enough that I pushed for and got a full refund. Secondly with refund $s I have been able to build my own PC (maybe not of equal spec but pretty close) PLUS a second PC I use as a HTPC (not high end but it’s also a capable gaming PC) PLUS a Vita… PLUS… well I still have money left over.

    LOL DERP Luke of course cut scenes aren't going to be 70 frames ITS A CUT SCENE!!! its pretty much just an Mpeg embedded in the game. Unless its 3d they and therefore doing it at like 120 frames etc they don't go higher then 60 depending on if PAL or NTSC, HD or SD. Seriously wonder about Luke's intelligence sometimes. SD NTSC is 29.97 frames per second.

      I'm not sure about Crysis 2, but the first one had cutscenes rendered in real time.

    skyrim take an arrow to the knee im actually not a big fan of skyrim..i found the graphics ps2 worthy.

    People actually buy Alienware?

    I got one, though with a cheaper graphics option as planning to slot in a kepler unit later.

    I am going to keep this rig 3 years. Paying $2 per day premium for something I spend a lot of time with and is an absolute joy to own? I'd be stupid not to.

    Custom PC's. Learn to make your own. It's easy and WAY CHEAPER.

    Gizmodo:

    Get $4k PC for testing

    Play Modern Warfare 3

    *Facepalm*

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