The Aurora 7500 is the perfect showcase for Alienware's ability to produce high-performance PCs. Its specification makes for impressive reading and should appeal to anyone with even a passing interest in games. Alienware has equipped it with not one, but two of the latest graphics cards, 1 terabyte of physical storage and the fastest gaming processor available. If you're after a PC that won't shy away from anything, you're reading the right review.
This PC is available direct from Alienware's Web site. If you click through to the Aurora 7500 page you can configure this review model -- it should come to about £3,400, depending on the extras you choose.
Wrestling an Alienware PC out of its enormous delivery box is always an exciting moment. It's a heavy beast -- it took two of us to safely extract it from its cardboard prison and lift it to its desk perch. Like all of the Aurora range, the 7500 uses the familiar Alienware Full Tower case, which is well over half a metre tall and has the customary set of gill/rib-like protrusions on either side of its lower quarters. Adhering to Alienware tradition, these are illuminated by LED lights -- the colour of which can be chosen when you purchase the PC.
The front of the chassis has a pull-out door, behind which lurks a pair of optical drives. There's an ordinary floppy disk drive mounted just below these, but there's a conspicuous lack of any memory card reader. There's some compensation in the fact that you get two pairs of USB ports at the bottom of the chassis, but you'll need to do a lot of bending over to access them if you position the base unit on the floor.
The rear of the PC plays host to a comprehensively-equipped rear input/output panel. This has four additional USB ports, a FireWire port, an external Serial ATA port, and a pair of Gigabit Ethernet adaptors. The motherboard has an onboard sound card, but Alienware has chosen to equip the PC with a Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeMusic, which includes four discrete audio ports and a serial port (other sound options are configurable on the site).
Internal examination of the Aurora 7500 reveals the same attention to detail we've come to expect from Alienware. All cabling is neatly arranged in an attempt to aid internal airflow and easy access. Our only gripe in this respect is that the outer shell of the case feels a tad plasticky and left us with the impression that Alienware has put all its efforts into the PC's components and neglected the exterior. Imagine a Ferrari made entirely of Lego and you'll see where we're coming from.
Despite its questionable outer build quality, the Aurora 7500 is still an Alienware, and as such, it uses quality components. The excellent Asus A8N32-SLI Deluxe gaming motherboard serves as a great foundation for the PC and provides a number of useful features including twin gigabit LAN ports -- each of which can transfer files across a wired network at up to 10x quicker than an ordinary 100Mbps network adaptor.
One of these ports has Nvidia's ActiveArmor hardware firewall, which provides good security against Internet threats, and more so if used in conjunction with Windows XP Home's software firewall feature. By virtue of its twin LAN ports, the PC can function as a network router, enabling you to share Internet and printer resources with another PC.
Installed on top of the motherboard is an AMD Athlon FX-60 CPU -- currently the fastest desktop gaming processor available. Unlike its predecessor, the FX-55, it's a dual-core model, which means it uses a pair of processing cores on a single die. This is a tremendous aid to performance, particularly in multimedia or multitasking environments. If you like to listen to music, surf the Web and encode home movies all at the same time, you'll be pleased to know the FX-60 will do this without breaking a sweat.
The Aurora 7500 isn't lacking in memory, either. A hefty 2GB of DDR400 RAM is installed -- one 512MB DIMM in each of the motherboard's four memory slots, but this is something of a mistake on Alienware's part. The Athlon 64's memory controller can't access four separate memory modules at full speed -- the Command Rate in the BIOS drops to 2T instead of the faster 1T setting. We'd have expected the self-proclaimed experts in high-performance PCs to know this. If you want to make the most of your money, we'd recommend you buy the Aurora 7500 with two 1GB DIMMs instead of the four 512MB modules supplied here.