Storage is another of the 7500's strong points. Skinflints can buy the standard 250GB hard drive, but if you're a multimedia file hoarder you'll be better off spending an extra £100 to get the twin 250GB hard drives in our review sample. A RAID 0 configuration (for improving disc access times or providing automatic backups to the secondary disk) is also available. Sadly RAID was absent from our test model, so the second hard disk was essentially just a dumping ground for games.
A Blu-ray disc drive is available, but if you've no interest in watching Blu-ray flicks don't bother spending £510 and stick with the ordinary 18x dual-layer DVD-rewriter drive. This can write up to 8.5GB of data to compatible discs -- nowhere near as much as Blu-ray's 25GB single-layer capacity -- but it's fine for making the odd backup.
Getting files on and off the system is made all the easier thanks to a pair of front-facing USB ports and a single six-pin FireWire port, plus there are headphone and mic sockets so you don't have to deafen your neighbours with the sound of virtual gunfire. There are four additional USB ports at the rear, an external Serial ATA port, plus parallel and USB ports. Parallel ports are a surprising addition on modern PCs, but they're a welcome addition for anyone with legacy devices.
It's possible to add a wealth of other gaming goodies to the 7500 package -- joysticks, games and the like -- but there's little in the way of useful bundled software. You get Kaspersky Anti-Virus Professional Edition and Windows Vista Home Edition -- but that's it.
The 7500 is fast. It racked up 7,138 in PCMark 2005, which is among the highest scores we've seen. For reference, the last Alienware we reviewed, the similarly named Aurora 7500, which uses an Athlon FX-60 CPU, scored 6,486.
Graphics performance was, as you'd expect, marvellous. It raced its way to 114fps in F.E.A.R. and 8,553 in 3DMark 2006. The Aurora 7500 scored 8,460, but that was with two GeForce 7800 GTX graphics cards running in tandem.
All that performance comes at a premium -- noise. It makes a real racket when it's just idling, and even more of a din when the graphics card and CPU fans are asked to prevent the system from going into nuclear meltdown. You won't want to sit the machine on your desk, which is a shame, because it looks great.
Editor's note: At the time of publication, Alienware is unable to supply the Area-51 7500 with the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS. Instead, buyers will get the superior 8800 GTX, the review for which can be found here.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide