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Alienware Aurora FX53 system put through paces

Review Built with space precision
Sun Jun 06 2004, 11:10
WE HEARD ABOUT ALIENWARE a few years back but until now we were unable to look at modern systems through the prism of others' eyes. Alienware decided to focus on the biggish enthusiast market, since you have to have the best of the best if you want to play games at 1600x1200 with FSAA and Anisotropic on.

If they want to follow latest greatest trends they have to get all the latest products and get them into their extremely futuristic and cool looking cases. For this machine Alienware used the Athlon FX53, which uses socket 940 and plugged into an Asus SK8V motherboard based on the Via K8T800 chipset.

This motherboard has very good overclocking options and its BIOS is built for enthusiasts, but bear in mind that you will face some limits if you try to overclock as the K8T800 chipset can notfix your AGP speed to 66MHz and if you overclock your CPU you will overclock the AGP bus as well. This will bring a machine to its limits far quicker than a chipset that can modify this value. This is likely to be fixed for the new Athlon FX and the upcoming K8T800PRO and Nforce 3 Ultra chipsets.

The machine uses the well known Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS card that will equip you with state of the art sound. There is not much to say about this except that it supplies everything a gamer might need.

The machine is equipped with two times 512MB of Corsair memory (the CMX512RE-3200LLAW DDR400) which is registered low latency memory - about the best that you can get.

As for a graphics card, this system uses the BFG Asylum card with a dual fan cooling system. The card is based on the Nvidia FX 5950 Ultra that is still Nvidia's top offering, even though it has announced the 6800 series. We actually heard from non Alienware sources that the company will have 6800 Ultras clocked at 450MHz cards but we are talking about future systems, presently unavailable. FX 5950 is a good card, but if you buy this system it's better to get the one with the Nvidia 6800 series card or the ATI X800 series.

Athlon FX machines are virus free as there is a special feature that protects you from many Blaster like worms, as they don't let them execute. You have to install Service pack 2 for this feature that will soon be available.

At this specific configuration they build in two hard drives in Seagate barracudas serial ATA of course and they are installed in RAID mode. This will definitely make loading things faster on this PC.

Alienware equips this machine with two optical devices. They give you Pioneer DVD 8X multi standard writer and DVD- +CD RW combo drives both from Pioneer and both in black as complete case is black.

The power supply unit is Alienware-branded and able to provide enough power for all the devices. The cabling details are impressive, you don't see a bushel of spaghetti when you open the case.

However, the cooler is definitely not the top end part of the machine as it's pretty much a standard Athlon FX cooler. This is a down side. For its price, this machine should offer a better cooler and we hope that Alienware will improve this feature in the future.

But, the fact that Alienware cares about cooling is shown by the fact is has four nice blue glowing coolers inside. This makes things a little noisier than I would have liked, but this is a high performance high end system, so perhaps it doesn't matter that much.

The front of the Alienware machine is equipped with four USB ports that will make using your USB sticks an easy job. The overall system is built with all the tiny details in mind.

alt='alien' Alienware branded Microsoft mouse and keyboard are used with this machine, but you have the option to choose and match your case, mouse and keyboard in other colours, such as green, yellow or blue. Even in black it's good looking. The Alienware case is by far the best designed case that I have ever seen. One friend said that he expected the machine to fly when I turned it on as it looked so futuristic.

As for performance I didn't want to do the usual tests, and only have a few results for you. I can say it's fast, and yes, it's extremely fast. You won't regret buying it, but I guess that it would be better to get it with the state of the art graphics card that are just around the corner to make things even faster. This system with 5950 Ultra will be fast enough for all games, but still if you buy this specific machine you want to have the best of the best - and that's Geforce 6800 Ultra or the Radeon X800XT Platinum.

In Quake 3 this machine delivered 390.3 FBS at 1024x768, 346.7 FPS at 1280x1024 and 282.2 FPS at 1600x1200. In 3Dmark, it delivered 6595 marks or should I say 39.3 FSP in the mighty mother nature test.

This all comes at a price - and that's over $3,000 at Alienware's site, but if you have the money I guess it's worth it. For that cash you get a high performance, high end system. I would change that cooler to make a quieter system. This is the Ferrari of computing. It's damn good but it's a spicy price. But aren't all things in life like that? µ


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