Why you can trust ZDNet
Our recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We may earn a commission when you purchase a product through our links. This helps support our work but does not influence what we write about or the price you pay. Our editors thoroughly review and fact check every article. Our process

‘ZDNet Recommends’ What exactly does that mean?

ZDNet’s recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNet nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNet's editorial team writes on behalf of YOU, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form


Alienware MJ-12 8550i

  • Editors' rating
    8.0 Excellent


  • Quad-core Xeon processor
  • 15,000rpm hot-swap hard drives
  • Top-notch engineering and cooling


  • Expensive
  • No Linux option

Alienware recently introduced two powerful additions to its MJ-12 desktop workstation family: the MJ-12 8550i and the MJ-12 8550a. The MJ-12 8550i (reviewed here) is powered by the quad-core Intel Xeon 5300s, whereas the MJ-12 8550a is equipped with AMD’s Opteron 2000 Series. Regardless which processor platform you opt for, creative professionals have two incredibly powerful options for maximising performance-per-watt efficiency and virtualisation potential.

Encased in a sleek black chassis emblazoned with the distinctive Alienware logo, the MJ-12 8550i builds on the foundations set by previous Alienware workstations, utilising top-end technology that's relied upon by design professionals and users of compute-intensive applications. Available in single and dual-processor customisations, the MJ-12 8550i features up to eight total processing cores and delivers some 50 per cent greater performance than previous-generation Intel Xeon processor-based workstations. The system can also be packed with up to four 15,000rpm Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) hard disk drives to maximise storage space and data access speed.

To cope with memory and graphics-intensive applications, the MJ-12 8550i is configurable with up to 16GB of DDR2 RAM, along with rock-solid nVidia Quadro FX and ATI FireGL graphics. User convenience and comfort is emphasised, too, thanks to hot-swap drive bays and custom acoustic dampening. Plus, the machine looks striking — a boon to any business that values its image. The system also has lots of nice touches that make using it a joy. Most noticeably, the case has a lockable front panel with a small door to access the front-mounted FireWire and USB ports. The panel even slides to the side of the case, allowing you to access the optical drive and front-mounted digital card reader without having an open door flopping around on the front.

Looks aside, the MJ-12 8550i is 100 per cent built for business. Under the surface it ships as standard with Windows XP Professional (SP2), an Intel Xeon 5130 processor (2GHz, 1,333MHz FSB with 4MB cache), 1GB dual-channel 667MHz DDR2 (upgradable to 4GB), and a 128MB nVidia Quadro FX 350 PCI-E (optional 1GB Quadro or ATI FireGL). Configurable with up to four hard disk drives, running out of local storage capacity is unlikely to be an issue with the MJ-12 8550i. Data transfer is quick, too, as the MJ-12 8550i offers 15,000rpm SAS drives that deliver lightning-fast access. Storage options include: RAID 0 for increased performance and nearly double the drive-to-motherboard bandwidth; RAID 1 for added security; and single or dual independent (non-RAID/JBOD) drives for system-critical data independence, performance and the storage topology designed to your requirements.

Other niceties include a 700-Watt multi-GPU PSU, Alienware Professional motherboard with Intel Xeon 5000P Chipset, 18x Dual Layer DVD±RW drive, integrated High-Definition audio, integrated Intel Gigabit Ethernet Adapter (DSL-ready), Alienware 28-in-1 Digital Media Reader/Writer, and USB Floppy Drive. If your needs are more demanding (and your budget can stand it), you can opt for an Intel Xeon 5355 (2.66GHz, 1333MHz FSB with 8MB cache), 4GB dual-channel DDR2 RAM (667MHz), nVidia Quadro FX 5500 (1GB GDDR3 with x2 Dual Link DVI), Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Gamer, and 30in. (2,560 by 1,600 pixels) Dell UltraSharp Widescreen TFT monitor. The cost for this computing luxury? How does £4,964 (ex. VAT and delivery) sound?

Computers packing this amount of power typically require a lot of ventilation, which can be noisy. The former is true of the MJ-12 8550i, but advanced features such as Alienware’s Acoustic Dampening Level reduce the noise to near-whisper levels. Most connectivity bases are covered: the MJ-12 8550i provides four high-speed USB ports and three analogue jacks to go with Digital Audio In, Digital Audio Out, Gigabit Ethernet and two FireWire ports.

Top ZDNET Reviews

Building on the foundations set by previous Alienware workstations, the MJ-12 8550i is a flexible and powerful system. Available in single and dual-processor customisations and featuring up to eight processing cores in total, this machine should deliver around 50 per cent greater performance than Alienware's previous-generation Xeon-based workstations. And although it’s a solid machine with immaculate build quality (just check out the internal cabling), similar-specified workstations from competitors can be had for less money. Dell, for instance, offers a Precision 690n from just £986 (ex. VAT) which comes with a choice of Linux, up to 64GB DDR2 667MHz quad-channel FBD memory and a 19in. TFT monitor. But you pay a premium for top-notch engineering, and that's what Alienware delivers.



Product Form Factor Tower
Packaged Quantity 1
Built-in Devices LED panel
Processor / Chipset
CPU Intel Xeon E5310 / 1.6 GHz
Number of Cores Quad-Core
64-bit Computing Yes
Data Bus Speed 1066 MHz
Chipset Type Intel 5000X
Processor Main Features Intel Execute Disable Bit, Intel Extended Memory 64 Technology, Intel Virtualization Technology
Processor Socket LGA771 Socket
Cache Memory
Installed Size L2 cache - 8 MB
Cache Per Processor 8 MB
Type L2 cache
Per Processor Size 8 MB
Installed Size 8 MB
Max Supported Size 16 GB
Form Factor FB-DIMM 240-pin
Slots Qty 8
Empty Slots 6
Interface Type Serial ATA-300
Type none
Read Speed 48x (CD) / 16x (DVD)
Write Speed 48x (CD) / 18x (DVD±R) / 8x (DVD±R DL)
Rewrite Speed 32x (CD) / 6x (DVD-RW) / 8x (DVD+RW) / 12x (DVD-RAM)
Memory Speed 667 MHz
Memory Specification Compliance PC2-5300
Features fully buffered
Configuration Features 2 x 512 MB
Technology DDR2 SDRAM
Installed Size 1 GB
Rated Memory Speed 667 MHz
Type none.
Hard Drive
Capacity 1 x 250 GB
Interface Type SATA 3Gb/s
Spindle Speed 7200 rpm
Type HDD
Interface Class Serial ATA
Installed Qty 1
Capacity 250 GB
Type keyboard (on selected markets only), mouse (on selected markets only)
Storage Controller
Interface Type Serial ATA-300 / SAS
Channel Qty 8
Type Serial ATA
Installed Qty 1
Storage Controller (2nd)
Controller Interface Type ATA-133
Installed Qty 1
Optical Storage
Drive Type DVD SuperMulti
Interface Type IDE
Installed Qty 1
Max Supported Qty 2
Type Xeon
Processor Number E5310
Manufacturer Intel
Clock Speed 1.6 GHz
Storage Removable
Type none
Brand Alienware
Product Line Alienware
Model MJ-12 8550i
Packaged Quantity 1
Compatibility PC
Data Link Protocol Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet
Form Factor integrated
Ethernet Ports 2 x Gigabit Ethernet
Monitor Type None.
Color black
Type personal computer
Hard Drive Capacity 250 GB
Form Factor tower
Manufacturer Form Factor tower
Built-in Devices LED panel
Graphics Controller
Form Factor plug-in card
Interface Type PCI Express x16
Graphics Processor NVIDIA Quadro FX 560
Video Memory 128 MB GDDR3 SDRAM
Dimensions & Weight
Width 7.8 in
Depth 20.1 in
Height 16.7 in
Manufacturer Warranty
Type 1 year warranty
Audio Output
Form Factor integrated
Sound Card Name Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeGamer
Sound Output Mode 7.1 channel surround
Compliant Standards High Definition Audio
Processor Socket LGA771 Socket
Data Bus Speed 1066 MHz
Chipset Type Intel 5000X
Interface USB
Type none
Expansion / Connectivity
Bays Internal 3.5" x 1/3H
External 3.5" x 1/3H
3 (total) / 2 (free) x external 5.25" x 1/2H
Slots 2 (total) / 1 (free) x CPU
8 (total) / 6 (free) x FB-DIMM 240-pin
2 (total) / 1 (free) x PCIe x16
1 (total) / 1 (free) x PCIe x8
2 (total) / 2 (free) x PCI-X / 133 MHz
1 (total) / 1 (free) x PCI
Technology optical
Interface USB
Features scroll
Physical Characteristics
Form Factor tower
Type power supply
Power Consumption Operational 700 Watt
Operating System / Software
OS Provided: Type Microsoft Windows XP Professional
OS Provided Microsoft Windows XP Professional
Type Cyberlink PowerDVD, Drivers & Utilities, Nero
Video Output
Interface Type PCI Express x16
Graphics Processor NVIDIA Quadro FX 560
Graphics Processor Series NVIDIA Quadro
Video Memory
Technology GDDR3 SDRAM
Installed Size 128 MB
Service & Support
Type 1 year warranty
Service & Support Details
Type limited warranty
Full Contract Period 1 year