Alienware Area 51 (2017): Our first take

Alienware’s Area 51 looks out of this world, but it’s awesomely practical

The Alienware Area 51, packed with up to 16 cores, is ready to conquer all challengers.
The Alienware Area 51, packed with up to 16 cores, is ready to conquer all challengers.
The Alienware Area 51, packed with up to 16 cores, is ready to conquer all challengers.

Highs

  • Unique design
  • Lighting syncs across Alienware devices
  • Accessible, spacious interior
  • Supports the latest hardware

Lows

  • Absolutely massive
  • Doesn’t offer all Core X chips

Alienware came to E3 2017 packing eye-opening announcements, and none was more impressive than its upcoming Area 51 systems with AMD Threadripper and Intel Core X processors. These super-high-end configurations are, for many gamers, the definition of a dream machine. And we had a chance to look at them on the show floor.

A familiar but still awesome chassis

The models of Area 51 announced at E3 may be stuffed with cores, but they’re packed in a familiar crust. Luckily, it’s as appealing and delicious as ever. Triangular in design, the Area 51 is still unique in the world of gaming desktops.

Alienware’s unusual aesthetic has some functional benefits, as well. It allows a simple, straight avenue for airflow through the case, with intake coming in the bottom, and exhaust flowing out the top-rear. And plugging a headset or controller into the forward points, which are sloped towards the user, is easier than with most standard setups. It’s even easier to pick up the Area 51 than most rectangular cases.

Shape aside, the Area 51 is not overly boisterous. Its sleek, gray side panels don’t scream for attention as loudly as the tempered glass windows and sculpted plastic front façades found on some competitors. Still, the system does include a triad of AlienFX lighting on each side, as well as some touches along the front. These light strips can coordinate with other Alienware peripherals through a bundled software interface.

The real power is inside

Of course, looks are half the story – or maybe a third. The real news is what’s inside these systems. Area 51 systems with AMD Threadripper will ship July 27, while the Core X version will ship in late August. Strangely, the system will only ship with Intel Core X chips up to the 10-core i9-7900X.

The massive chips are noticeable even under the water blocks that conceal them. Most systems have a water block that, at its core, is the size of a dollar coin, but these Area 51 rigs have blocks the size of a hockey puck. Even then, some elements of the socket are visible from beneath them. That’s what multi-core insanity looks like.

Alienware also displayed an Area 51 system stuffed with two Radeon video cards (no – they weren’t Vega). Gamers can order the rigs with up to two Nvidia GTX cards in SLI, or up to three AMD Radeon cards in CrossFire. Quad-card setups aren’t supported. At least, not yet.

Normally, we’d expect such firepower to consume much of a rig’s interior space, but the Area 51 does an excellent job of managing its components. The case door simply snaps off and, once inside, most components are accessible without removing other components. Power and data cords are smartly run as well, so they shouldn’t get in the way of upgrades.

Mainstream for a reason

Alienware’s Area 51 is among the most popular gaming desktops available, yet it’s also full of clever ideas rarely found elsewhere. Its massive, unusual case has practical benefits, and its internal layout is among the cleanest in the business. The new Area 51, packed with up to 16 cores, looks ready to conquer all challengers when it’s released in late July.

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