Dum dum, dum dum de dum dum, dum dum de dum! It's hard to resist singing John Williams' theme for Darth Vader while unpacking the Aurora Star Wars Edition. Despite our initial reservations over a PC that has the Death Star on one side and Emperor Palpatine on the other, this special-edition Alienware PC will elicit a reluctant smile from anyone who was a child when Star Wars first came out in 1977. You can't help but grin at such a lavish homage to the movie. Sure, shrug it off as a knowing, ironic smirk, but part of you wants to yell, "Prepare to make the jump to lightspeed!", and slap the side of the chassis.
Alienware's prescriptive attitude to gaming-machine design isn't for everyone. There's always going to be a self-appointed elite who wants to solder bits of a 1968 Mustang engine to an Athlon 64 and call it the best machine money can buy -- despite the fact that it took six weeks working through the night to build their overclocked Frankenstein. Alienware offers fast gaming PCs with fun box designs in off-the-shelf packages. They're pre-configured to the extent that you just have to flick the power switch on the wall -- and they're priced to match the convenience.
This is one furious-looking PC. The chassis itself doesn't differ architecturally from the previously reviewed Aurora 7500 SLI, but to look at it you'd think it was a completely different machine. The graphics on the side are spectacular. Gauche perhaps, but still immensely appealing to any Star Wars fan. Extremely close inspection reveals that these are not in fact airbrushed directly onto the plastic shell of the PC itself, but are giant stickers. These are extremely well affixed to the case: most people we showed it to assumed the artwork had been sprayed on. You'd be very hard-pressed to tell Alienware hadn't individually airbrushed each unit.
Our review model was the Dark Side Edition, but there's also a Light Side Edition to be had (see Images, above). The Dark Side model is dominated by the Death Star on its left-hand side. A battalion of Storm Troopers and a fleet of Imperial Star Destroyers and Tie Fighters surround this intergalactic bringer of death. Bobba Fett can be spotted chilling out in the top left-hand corner, checking his watch. He's probably late for something important.
The Star Wars Aurora's plastic shell is bolted to to a metal sub-chassis. This means you can detach the outer shell from the chassis and replace or repair it, should it see active service at a particularly raucous gaming event. Enormous grills span the bottom edge of the Aurora, culminating in two little alien heads. Cute. A pink light emanates from the grills at the front of the machine. The eyes in the Alienware logo also glow threateningly, but we would have preferred to see a small Darth Vader helmet here.
As with the standard Aurora, the Star Wars Edition generates more heat than the angry Sand People of Tatooine. To compensate for this, a 480-watt PSU and two fans (80 and 120mm) evacuate hot air from the case.
The Star Wars Edition is heavy. You could lug this around the house, but it's one of the bulkiest PC cases we've come across. The largely plastic chassis does help keep it just the right side of unwieldy, but once you've set the machine up, you'll be reluctant to move it far.