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Review: Alienware Aurora r3 Core i7-2600k Desktop

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As the Dragon roared across the screen for the umpteen time again, I finally couldn't take it anymore. This was the last time I could watch my roommate hog the Xbox 360 while battling Dragons in Skyrim. It's the same experience I had with Oblivion --- "That looks sweet bro, but when do I get to play?"... This time something had to be done!

The last gaming console I bought was an old school Xbox. Unfortunately, my HP dv6t select laptop isn't up to task for a graphically intensive game like Skyrim. Sure I could copy cat the roommate and buy my own Xbox 360 but I thought to myself, if I'm going to throw some chips at this boredom killing project I'm going all in. Let's face it, consoles are cheap but a good old fashioned PC is still the ultimate gaming machine and it's about time I get the one up on my roommate.

Alright, PC it is, and if we're going all out it has to be top of the line.

Cue realization that top of the line is about two to three grand.

Okay, top of the line is out of the question, so I'll build my own. If I add up the cost of a high end processor and graphics card and I'm almost at a grand... that's about what I wanted to spend total.

So the mind battle began: Do I build from scratch or do I buy a lower end PC and proceed to upgrade? Then I saw this beauty in a post New Years sale at TigerDirect: an Alienware Aurora r3 Quad-Core i7 desktop:

Alienware Aurora r3 desktop for $1,000. Core i7-2600k unlocked processor (~$320), GeForce GTS 450 (~$110) graphics, Liquid Cooling, 875 Watt PSU (~$200), 7200rpm 1TB HDD (~$70), 6GB RAM (~$90)... Wait did that just say 6gigs of RAM? That's kinda low for modern games but the price looks right... and I can always upgrade, so I took the plunge and bought it. Here are the results.

There were simple 3 things I was looking for in a desktop

  1. Play the newest video games (Skyrim) with reasonable speed
  2. Upgradable
  3. Reasonably priced

1) The Core i7 processor with GeForce GTS 450 runs Skyrim well.
Since I've watched my roommate play Skyrim on the Xbox 360 this seemed the logical game to test my new machine. After logging about 12 straight hours on the first day and several intense sessions throughout the first week I report no major flaws or lag. Running the game on high resolution gives perfectly fine performance but if I go extra heavy I do notice some lag.... this can be easily solved by upgrading the video card from the mid-range GTS 450 to something on the higher-end of the spectrum. Upping RAM to at least 8GB wouldn't hurt too.

2) An 875 Watt power supply means any upgrades I want I can have.
After opening the machine I noticed the tightly compact but logically organized parts. Upgrading won't be too difficult and the heavy duty power supply means almost no limits as to how high end I want to go.

Alienware Aurora r3 opened with CPU, liquid cooling, RAM, etc.

3) For $1,000 I saved time and money.
Taking advantage of TigerDirect's New Year sale was the right move. To build this machine myself would cost anywhere from $900 to $1,160. Not to mention the hours saved assembling which inevitably comes with mistakes and headaches. The only loss was the feeling 'I did this myself' which was not worth the extra $100 in potential savings (or if I didn't buy components at the cheapest price, a custom built machine may potentially end up costing more).  Of course, building a system yourself gives you a lot of flexibility in motherboard choice, heatsink, and especially case/PSU options, something well worth the time if available.

Other Notes on the Alienware Auroa Desktop:

  • It came in an absolutely giant box. I had it delivered to my parents home and when it arrived my 55 year old mother couldn't physically move it into the house from the snow filled porch (the delivery guy didn't offer to help either). Fortunately I arrived a few hours later and there were no complications.

  • It came with an Alienware mouse and keyboard that look a little old school but have a great feel to them. Since I lack a gaming keyboard and mouse I find these work just fine.
  • This machine lacks an SSD but obviously that's another upgrade to save up for and definitely something I will do.

Unfortunately the TigerDirect New Years sale is long over as they ran out of stock before the end of January. The current best deal for the Alienware Auroa AAS is at Microsoft for $1,449 plus a $200 coupon toward future purchases. That's not a bad deal since in the summer of 2011 this desktop was selling for $1,700. The current next best price online for this desktop is B&H photo for $1,600.

Dell is selling the newest line of Alienware Aurora's r4 desktops. The cheapest starts with Quad Core i7-3820 and GeForce GTX 555. If you ignore the $200 bonus from Microsoft this is possibly a better machine to start out with. But ideally you would try to get any of these machines more near the $1,000 price point, this should start happening as Ivy Bridge configurations starts showing up later this year.

    Past Editor’s Notes and Discussions

  • Mike PaddockMar 19, 2012

    Interested in the Alienware Aurora line-up of desktops? A brief review on this liquid-cooled desktop goes over some of the pros and cons you'll find with this "premium" desktop.

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