Hell hath no fury like an Alienware plugged-in. This company is well known for its high-octane gaming machines, so we expected something special from their factory. This Athlon 64 FX-55 system is housed in a metallic-paint case that looks like a 1950s Ford Thunderbird redesigned by HR Giger. It would be next to impossible to pass this off as a work machine, but we dare you to try.
Gamers who pride themselves on custom-built machines may scorn Alienware's prescriptive approach to high-end gaming machine design, but many of us don't have the time or energy to invest in piecing together a home-grown system. If you're a console gamer looking for the kind of brawn that only the unreleased PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 can deliver, the Alienware Aurora 7500 SLI could be your off-the-shelf alternative. The appeal of an Alienware system is both its looks and reliability. Unlike a DIY system, these machines tend to be a more thoroughly tested, and therefore more reliable, breed of gaming platform.
The Aurora 7500 SLI is big. Seriously big. It utterly lacks any shame over this -- in the same way that a 4x4 doesn't have any qualms about hopping a kerb, the Alienware will take up most of your desk and still look like it deserves all that space. It's an arrogance born of aggressive styling and a bold colour scheme.
Although the 7500's outer shell is plastic, it looks like car bodywork and has a metallic paint finish that gives it a bullet-proof glint. It comes in black, blue, green, purple and silver (pictured) flavours. Certain parts of the outer-case feel slightly less well designed than others, though. While most of the casing is solid, the hinged section that covers the drive bays is not only difficult to open, but feels like a clumsy way to integrate the drives. We would have preferred a slot-loading DVD drive rather than having to repeatedly open and close the whole bay door when swapping discs. This door is lockable, but won't be a huge deterrent to espionage, because everything on the outer case is made of plastic.
The 7500's bodywork is bolted to a solid metal chassis, which is laid out in the same way that most generic PC cases are. The outer bodywork is a facade, and detachable from the main unit if a LAN party gets out of control and you need to send it for a re-spray. Massive vents run down the sides of the 7500 like air intakes on a hot-rod, terminating in small Alienware logos on either side of the bodywork. When the 7500's switched on, the front of the vents illuminate themselves like two fiery chambers in a furnace. The Alienware logo at the top of the front-panel also light up -- the alien's tiny eyes glow menacingly.
Like any high-performance PC, the 7500 generates a serious amount of heat. To deal with this, there's a large power supply (480W) and two fans (80 and 120mm) that draw heat out of the machine. The larger of these two fans is mounted flush with the rear of the 7500 and evacuates air through a large perforated vent that dominates the back plate. You'll need to make sure there's plenty of room behind the tower to avoid blocking this.
This PC is heavy, but it's not unwieldy -- we managed to cart it across London in a taxi for a party. We've lifted much heavier systems, but LAN party regulars might want to consider the Alienware Area 51m 7700, which offers serious gaming performance in a laptop chassis.