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Speed and power to grow on with the Alienware Area-51 7500

The specifications for the Alienware Area-51 7500 are impressive: an overclocked Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 Quad CPU, the NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTX, 2GB RAM, and a RAID 0 set of hard drives. This personal computer is fast, powerful, and physically imposing. But more importantly, purchasing this Alienware desktop in May 2007 will put you well ahead of the average personal computer curve and keep you there for a long time.
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By Mark Kaelin on
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1 of 21 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
The specifications for the Alienware Area-51 7500 are impressive: an overclocked Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 Quad CPU, the NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTX, 2GB RAM, and a RAID 0 set of hard drives. This personal computer is fast, powerful, and physically imposing. But more importantly, purchasing this Alienware desktop in May 2007 will put you well ahead of the average personal computer curve and keep you there for a long time.
This gallery is also available as a TechRepublic ""="" href="http://www.techrepublic.com/downloads/abstract.aspx?docid=296838">download and as a TechRepublic ""="" href="http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/geekend/?p=680">article.
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2 of 21 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet
Before we get started, in the interest of full disclosure, I would like to state for the record that I am a PC gamer and I like fast, powerful computers. I am also the proud owner of two Alienware desktop PCs. With that being said, I would also add that I have very high expectations of Alienware and the products they sell and I will be the first to tell you if the company was not living up to those expectations.
The specifications
I am reviewing the Alienware Area-51 7500, which is probably the company's most popular line of desktop PCs. The review machine has these specifications:
  • Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 Quad CPU
  • 768MB NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTX
  • 2GB RAM
  • 300GB RAID 0 hard drive (2 physical drives)
  • 250GB hard drive
  • Logitech G5 gaming mouse
All of the technical information can be summed up as fast and powerful. The screenshot shows you how Windows Vista categorizes the performance.
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3 of 21 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet

To put some numbers behind the concepts of fast and powerful, I ran the standard set of FutureMark's 3DMark06 benchmarks available in the free downloadable version of that performance testing suite. The composite result of 12043 does not disappoint.

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4 of 21 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet

The Alienware Area-51 7500 was the 34th fastest machine reported to the FutureMark Web site so far. A little overclocking of the graphics card and it would no doubt reach into the top ten.

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Froggy's pond from the NVIDIA DirectX 10 demo.

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The Alienware Area-51 7500 is DirectX 10 compatible, and while there aren't any games selling at the time of this review that take advantage of DirectX 10, there are a few demos floating around the Internet. One of the cutest ones is called Froggy, where you not only get to see a cute amphibian you also get to poke, prod, and stretch him. DirectX 10 should see a marked improvement in the way textures are rendered on screen. In Froggy's case, you can see he is wet just by looking at him. You can tell his skin has texture and depth. As game developers start to create environments and objects that take advantage of this new leap in technology, you'll start to see games with an increasingly deeper level of immersion.

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7 of 21 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet

This is a screenshot from another NVIDIA DirectX 10 demo -- Cascades. It demonstrates particle physics (pay particular attention to the waterfall).

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A bug fly through.

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The familiar opening screen to Half-Life 2. It is not that easy to find a game that pushes the limits of the Alienware Area-51 7500. Two years ago, you needed a very powerful PC to run Half-Life 2. The current Area-51 barely breaks a sweat.

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10 of 21 Mark Kaelin/ZDNet

This street scene looks good now, but imagine what it could look like two years from now.

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FutureMark's 3DMark06 benchmarks begin.

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The first 3DMark06 graphics test. Lighting effects are prominent.

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Test 3 emphasizes particle physics and features a beautiful sea monster.

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The sea monster jumps over a zeplin. That's a big monster.

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The DirectX 10 demo of Lost Planet: Extreme Condition is the first playable demo using DirectX 10.

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While Lost Planet: Extreme Condition looks to be a mediocre game, it does give us some eye-candy.

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Directional lighting is featured in the basement here.

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Note the blurring effect. This bad guy is swinging is appendage with some serious velocity.

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Lots of small bugs flying around while water falls in the background may not sound like a big deal. But speaking graphically, there is plenty to process.

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More lighting effects. The light from above is diffuse and softer than it would be if it were direct.

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The Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 Quad CPU can pump some serious multitasking through the system. While there are no games to take advantage of four CPUs yet, there are some on the horizon.

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