Alienware Aurora ALX review

£2259
Price when reviewed

Alienware machines are some of the most unashamedly aspirational systems on the market today – powerhouses that place just as much emphasis on first impressions as they do framerates. The firm’s latest, the Aurora ALX, is no different.

The exterior features the dramatic lines and matte black finish that we’ve come to expect, and every crack and crevice is filled with a light – which, of course, can be changed to a colour of your choice, or even made to pulse and flash. The lid is adorned with a row of motorised fins, which are designed to rise up and let more air into the case should the temperature inside reach a certain threshold.

Inside, the major components are sequestered into their own areas to improve airflow and heat dissipation, while the processor is chilled by a Cool-It water-cooling unit. There’s even a battery-powered light that illuminates the inside of the chassis when the side is removed, in line with Alienware’s claim that the Aurora ALX is one of its most easily upgradeable machines ever.

Alienware Aurora ALX

While some of these additions sound impressive, they’re less useful in the real world. The roof fins, for instance, made no difference to CPU and GPU temperatures: when the system was stress-tested with and without the fins activated, the processor peaked at around 68. The graphics card, meanwhile, always ran around 5˚C hotter. With just a single intake fan at the front and another on the rear water module, those top vents just don’t get the air pushed towards them to be of any real use.

We also found the case awkward. The GPU cage and housing makes graphics card removal far trickier than it would be in the average chassis, and while there’s a decent amount of room to upgrade – three free DIMM slots, a pair of hard disk bays and a single PCI Express x16 slot – the numerous stray cables that litter the interior make the upgrade process a bit clumsy.

The water-cooling unit also generated plenty of noise, especially when the Aurora ran through our demanding graphical tests. It’s possible to reduce the fan’s RPM via Alienware’s thermal control software, but this still left an audible hum that became significantly louder during arduous sections. The use of water-cooling should really be about pushing a processor to its limits, but the chosen CPU – an Intel Core i7-920 – is inexplicably left running at its stock speed of 2.66GHz. A quiet heatsink and fan would have done the job perfectly well.

Warranty

Warranty1 yr return to base

Basic specifications

Total hard disk capacity2,000
RAM capacity6.00GB
Screen size22.0in

Processor

CPU familyIntel Core i7
CPU nominal frequency2.66GHz
CPU overclocked frequencyN/A
Processor socketLGA 1366
HSF (heatsink-fan)Cool-It water cooling

Motherboard

MotherboardAlienware MS-7591
Motherboard chipsetIntel X58
Conventional PCI slots free0
Conventional PCI slots total0
PCI-E x16 slots free1
PCI-E x16 slots total2
PCI-E x8 slots free0
PCI-E x8 slots total0
PCI-E x4 slots free0
PCI-E x4 slots total0
PCI-E x1 slots free1
PCI-E x1 slots total1
Internal SATA connectors6
Internal SAS connectors1
Internal PATA connectors1
Internal floppy connectors1
Wired adapter speed1,000Mbits/sec

Memory

Memory typeDDR3
Memory sockets free3
Memory sockets total6

Graphics card

Graphics cardATI Radeon HD 5870
Multiple SLI/CrossFire cards?no
3D performance settingLow
Graphics chipsetATI Radeon HD 5870
Graphics card RAM1.00GB
DVI-I outputs2
HDMI outputs1
VGA (D-SUB) outputs0
DisplayPort outputs1
Number of graphics cards1

Hard disk

Hard diskSeagate Barracuda 7200.12
Capacity1.00TB
Hard disk usable capacity931GB
Internal disk interfaceSATA/300
Spindle speed7,200RPM
Cache size32MB
Hard disk 2 make and modelSeagate Barracuda 7200.12
Hard disk 2 nominal capacity1,000GB
Hard disk 2 formatted capacity931
Hard disk 2 spindle speed7,200RPM
Hard disk 2 cache size32MB
Hard disk 3 make and modelN/A
Hard disk 3 nominal capacityN/A
Hard disk 4 make and modelN/A
Hard disk 4 nominal capacityN/A

Drives

Optical driveSamsung TS-H6536
Optical disc technologyDVD writer
Optical disk 2 make and modelN/A
Optical disk 3 make and modelN/A

Monitor

Monitor make and modelAlienware
Resolution screen horizontal1,920
Resolution screen vertical1,080
Resolution1920 x 1080
Pixel response time2ms
Contrast ratio80,000:1
Screen brightness300cd/m2
DVI inputs1
HDMI inputs2
VGA inputs0
DisplayPort inputs0

Additional Peripherals

SpeakersN/A
Speaker typeN/A
PeripheralsN/A

Case

ChassisAlienware Aurora
Case formatMicro ATX
Dimensions216 x 615 x 430mm (WDH)

Free drive bays

Free front panel 5.25in bays2

Rear ports

USB ports (downstream)8
FireWire ports1
eSATA ports1
PS/2 mouse portno
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports1
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports1
Modemno
3.5mm audio jacks6

Front ports

Front panel USB ports2
Front panel FireWire ports1
Front panel memory card readerno

Mouse & Keyboard

Mouse and keyboardAlienware wired keyboard and mouse

Operating system and software

OS familyWindows 7
Recovery methodRecovery disc
Software suppliedAlienware ThermalControls, Alienware AlienFusion, Alienware AlienFX

Performance tests

Overall application benchmark score2.04
Office application benchmark score1.65
2D graphics application benchmark score2.28
Encoding application benchmark score1.73
Multitasking application benchmark score2.53
3D performance (crysis) low settings158fps
3D performance settingLow

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