The Alienware Area 51: REVIEW

The Alienware Area 51

The Alienware Area 51: Review has always been a vast gaming desktop, but it will be the only pre-built PC with the new AMD Threadripper processors this year. Essentially, that means Alienware will be the only significant hardware maker to exclusively use the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X and all of the company’s other high-end processors.   

Pricing and availability

Now that you’ve had a moment to relax, we can confirm that this is indeed a costly desktop. Even if we were to price the Threadripper 1950X at $999 (PS999, AU$1,439) and the Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition at $699 (PS689, AU$1,099), the base shell and other components would cost around $2,000, which should sound like absurd if you are only familiar with building systems. Of course, the materials, labour, and engineering required to build the Alienware Area 51 come at a price.    

We recommend the same specs as our review unit if you want to get the most out of AMD’s flagship processors. The Area 51 Threadripper Edition’s initial install price of $2,999 (~2,310 PS, AU$3,795) is a bummer. At this level, the system features the same processor but limits the rest of the Nvidia GTX 1060’s components to 6GB of VRAM, 8GB of RAM, and a 2TB hard drive. In Australia, the AU$2,999 base model features an Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti with 2GB of VRAM for a graphics solution.   

From there, users can upgrade to the latest generation of Broadwell Extreme processors; however, Alienware has already announced that Intel Core X-based models will be available shortly. Since Alienware has exclusive rights to Threadripper, there are no off-the-shelf systems for us to compare prices here. However, if you’re looking to get a custom PC from a system manufacturer, you’ll likely spend the same amount as buying an Area 51.  

Design

Alienware’s triadic design for Area 51 hasn’t changed much since its first introduction in 2014, but it’s not dated either. No company has attempted an even more extravagant PC, including the HP Omen X, a cube-shaped desktop sitting on the edge.   

While the Area 51 isn’t as big as some dual-system cases like the EVGA DG-87 or Cooler Master’s updated Cosmos II 25th Anniversary Edition, we wouldn’t call Alienware’s flagship desktop small. Everything about this desktop is excellent, from Area 51’s 28kg empty weight to its heat-shielding side panels. Of course, this big beast is brilliant too.  

Zone 51 tilts all components inside at a 45-degree angle to increase airflow. This allows the system to direct air directly to the CPU liquid cooler and directly to the GPU fan.  

Most importantly, you won’t have to worry about ground clearance or installing the board on the carpet, as the power supply and other fans aren’t located on the bottom of the desktop.

Upgradability

 Like the Alienware Aurora R5, the Area 51 upgrade requires virtually no tools.    

To upgrade a graphics card or add a second one, all users have to do is pull the latches on the expansion slots and turn a few thumbscrews on the GPU support bracket. Storage slot, memory slot is easy, and even the water cooling bracket comes with thumbscrews. The only thing you really need a screwdriver for is to change the power supply, which shouldn’t be a problem for those who have invested in an oversized 1500W power supply.    

Performance

The 16-core AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X in Area 51 isn’t just for show; it works. With four times as many cores as any single off-the-shelf PC we’ve tested, this processor is the most powerful PC we’ve ever tested. Compared to the Corsair One and MSI Aegis 3 powered by the latest 7th Gen Intel quad-core processors, Area 51 knocks them out of the water with much higher benchmark scores and in-game frame rates. The Origin Millennium performs better thanks to the latest Intel Core i7-6850K Extreme processor and can even outperform Area 51 in graphics-intensive tests, but that has more to do with having two Nvidia GTX 1080 GPUs in SLI.   

Although the Threadripper 1950X offers more power, you need to know the processor’s mode. As discussed in our processor review, AMD’s flagship chip can be either Creative or game. The latter disables half of the CPU cores and switches to a more traditional memory access protocol for higher frame rates in the game.   

However, in our tests of both the processor and this gaming PC, we found that Game Mode did not significantly increase performance in all games except for real-time strategy games. Benchmarks aside, the Alienware Area 51 is a powerful gaming PC.   

It covered all our needs for editing images, videos, and games. We were able to play Battlefield 1 in 4K resolution on ultra settings and immerse ourselves in the beautiful military world without any frame rate issues.    

We couldn’t say the same about the whole game Rise of the Tomb Raider, which ran at around 27fps at 4K and 58fps at 1440p. So the performance will vary depending on the game, but you will get a playable experience throughout with a few tweaks. 

Final verdict

The Alienware Area 51 Threadripper Edition is arguably the most powerful gaming PC we’ve ever reviewed.    

However, given the high cost and complexity of the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X, this desktop isn’t for everyone. Gamers who want to be the next YouTube or Twitch star will get the most out of a setup like this, especially if they feel like they don’t have the know-how to build one on their own. Threadripper was designed for the most intensive mega tasks, and whether you’re playing, recording, streaming or encoding video, this rig can do all those things and all simultaneously.   

Beyond the Threadripper version, Area 51 is an impressively designed and customizable, albeit expensive, PC platform. There aren’t many other pre-built gaming PCs that are as beautiful or easily expandable as this one, and for those reasons, it’s well worth a look.

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