When rendering video, the Alienware Area-51 R5 is literally a time machine

Alienware Area-51 R5 Review |
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

During our time with the Alienware Area-51 R5, we came to realize that some of our benchmarks just weren’t challenging enough to truly put the machine’s 18-core processor to the test.

So, we devised a new one using Adobe Premiere Pro. Using a custom workload, we measured how quickly the fully-loaded Alienware Area-51 R5 could render a video file. Our control in this experiment is a machine renowned for its on-the-go media management horsepower, the MacBook Pro 15.

Apple vs. Alienware

Here’s the thing: Obviously the Alienware Area-51 R5 will outperform the MacBook Pro 15. That’s not really up for debate. What we’re looking at here is how much time a machine like the Area-51 R5 cuts off of a typical Premiere render, the MacBook Pro 15 is just our yardstick.

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The MacBook Pro 15 is a familiar laptop, you’ve probably seen it in the background of many of your favorite YouTube content creators’ videos, especially “behind the scenes” videos illustrating just how they go about creating the content that keeps their lights on. For video editors, anyone who has ever fired up Adobe Premiere Pro in a professional setting, the MacBook Pro 15 is a very familiar platform.

Even fully-loaded though, video renders can take an awful long time if you’re working with long videos with complex editing timelines, or manipulating raw 4K, 5K, or 8K video. It’s not uncommon to see render times hit upward of an hour for videos as short as six or seven minutes. Scale that up to feature-length films and you can see why long render times are familiar enough for video editors that they’ve become meme-worthy.

The Alienware Area-51 R5 might have enough horsepower to change all that.

Off to the races

First let’s go over the exact specs of our two test systems here. Our Alienware Area-51 R5 review unit featured an Intel Core i9-7980XE 18-core processor, 64GB of RAM, two Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 graphics cards running in SLI, and a 1TB M.2 SSD.

The MacBook Pro 15 we used is a late 2016 model with an Intel Core i7-6920HQ quad-core processor, 16GB of RAM, and a discrete AMD Radeon 455 Pro graphics card with 2GB of RAM. We ran the test on the local drive, a 512GB SSD.

For our test project we stitched together three separate 8K raw R3D video files, threw on a bunch of extraneous color correction layers, and measured how long it took each system to finish an in-to-out render from the local drive. On top of that, we ran it a couple times just to be sure, and our numbers speak for themselves here.

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Let’s just look at those numbers for a minute. An almost-fully-loaded MacBook Pro 15 took just over 25 minutes to crunch a sixty second raw 8K video. That’s actually not bad at all, that’s pretty quick for a laptop. But the Alienware Area-51 R5 with its 18-core processor, 64GB of RAM, and dual GeForce GTX 1080 graphics cards, just annihilated the MacBook Pro’s time here.

We could have run the Alienware through that same render about 76 times in the time it took the MacBook to crunch the same file. That’s right, the Alienware Area-51 R5 fully rendered sixty seconds of raw 8K video, with several color correction layers, in just 20 seconds.

That’s important for a couple reasons.

Time is money, but it’s also time

Sure, contests of strength like these are fun, but they can serve an important purpose when determining how much you want to spend on computer hardware. The Alienware Area-51 R5 is an exceptionally powerful machine, and as such it’s exceptionally expensive. Our review unit would run you about $6,700. A fully-loaded MacBook Pro 15 is going to run you about half that, maybe $3,300 depending on the specs you choose.

Alienware Area-51 R5 Review |
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

They both have their advantages and disadvantages, you’re obviously not going to be carrying around the Area-51 in a svelte messenger bag as easily as you can a MacBook Pro 15. But when it comes to performing this kind of work, video editing, handling media, time is incredibly important.

If you spent an entire workday editing video on a MacBook Pro 15, you might end up spending half that time waiting for clips to render. Imagine how much work you could get done if your render times took one 76th the time they do now.

Time is valuable, and in the right professional setting, spending some extra cash for a powerful high-end desktop like the Area-51 R5 can give you a hell of a lot more of it.

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