PAX Prime: The Scoop on Alienware’s Area-51 Gaming PC and Alpha Steam Machine
With the PAX Prime dust settled and interviews completed, I felt it would be helpful to take a look at the awesome Alienware gear we had a chance to check out, and break down precisely what each machine has to offer. I’m eying the Alpha myself, but that may have to do with my shortage of gaming-PC funding. I told Eddie of Alienware that if I could, I’d purchase the new Area-51 and mount it above my fireplace.
Alienware Area-51 – Forget Everything You Know
This is the behemoth, the monster, the big kahuna, the literal escape pod. Whatever you want to call it, the latest Area-51 is a heavy hitter by nearly every measure. In an era where new consoles struggle to push 1080p, the Area-51 is actually designed for 4k gaming out of the box. Can every single game support that resolution just yet? Well, maybe not. But that just future proofs this triangular titan ever further.
Area-51’s most notable feature is its Triad chassis, which optimizes thermal management and cooling efficiency, and offers ample room for expandability. You can actually put multiple GeForce Titan Z’s in this thing, and from what I could tell at PAX, it still runs quiet as a mouse. Not a gamer? Up to 32GB of DDR4 RAM and space for both SSDs and HDDs makes the Area-51 a powerful Mac Pro competitor as well. Personally, I think the triad chassis makes a great jetpack design — perhaps a partnership with NASA is in order.
Alienware Alpha – Liberate Your Living Room
Alpha sits at the opposite end of the gaming PC spectrum, and as an affordable, portable Steam Machine with a form factor substantially smaller than a Wii console, it definitely stands to hit a wider demographic. The base version will run you a modest $549, for which you’ll get a modest but punchy i3 processor and custom-built GeForce 2GB GDDR 5 GPU in exchange. If you grab an i7 the total cost still sits under a grand, and all configurations come with the same custom GPU, so upgrading your Alpha a bit is probably the smart decision.
I find the Alpha incredibly appealing, if only for its small size, style and price. Even if money were no object, though, there is a certain appeal to have your entire Steam library loaded up and ready for play on you living room TV. Let’s face it, nobody’s putting an Area-51 on top of their already-too-tall console stack. Alpha, on the other hand, is about as clean as consoles come.
New Alienware rigs large and small will be available soon, with Alpha already up for preorder on the company’s official site. I hadn’t looked at Alienware in a while before PAX, but after seeing some of their crazy, multi-monitor antics, they’ve effectively captured my interest all over again. My Area-51 buy will have to wait, but Alpha should look pretty cool on a mantle too, right? Given its size, it might do better as a gamer-themed holiday ornament. I’ll be sure to equip my Christmas with a good power supply.