Alienware Area 51 Threadripper Edition review: The best pre-built gaming PC ever

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Alienware’s Area 51 Threadripper Edition is unmatched when it comes to gaming performance but it’s ludicrously expensive

Pros
  • Unmatched performance
  • Easily upgradeable
  • Efficient cooling
Cons
  • Expensive

AMD’s new lineup of processors, under the Ryzen name, is an exciting proposition for PC enthusiasts. Finally, after many years of struggle AMD has come up with a range of CPUs that can go toe-to-toe with Intel’s best. Built to be considerably more efficient than anything else AMD has released before, the Ryzen series runs faster and performs better than anything we’ve seen from the firm so far.

What you need to know

Case in point, the flagship Ryzen Threadripper 1950X, which is found at the heart of Alienware’s appropriately named Area 51 Threadripper Edition PC. This is full-bore CPU power: it’s a 180W CPU with 16 physical cores and 32 threads, runs at a base clock speed of 3.4GHz and a boosted, maximum clock speed of 4GHz and is equivalent to Intel’s hyperthreaded Core i9-7960X.

For your money (and it’s a lot, see below), the Area 51 Threadripper Edition backs that up with 64GB of fast DDR4 RAM and a pair of Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti graphics cards. As for storage, there’s a 1TB M.2 PCIe SSD, paired with a 2TB hard disk. A great balance of performance and capacity, this speedy SSD allows for fast booting and quicker software load times, while the sizeable hard disk gives you double the storage space for larger files.

Price and competition

Alienware’s Area 51 Threadripper Edition PC doesn’t come cheap, though. Configurations start at £2,149 for the Ryzen Threadripper 1900X-equipped model, with 8GB of DDR4 RAM and a single Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti. The top-end model, which I was sent for review, will set you back £5,299.

Ludicrous, but direct competition is in short supply. The Area 51 is the only pre-built gaming PC being made today equipped with AMD’s high-core count processors. Yes, you can pick up one of these top-end processors from almost any PC components retailer, but no other manufacturer – not HP, Acer or Asus – offers a similar package.

Regardless, the pinnacle of what you can get with “mainstream” parts – that is a top-specced Ryzen 7, with an Nvidia GTX 1080 TI – will set you back £2,150.

Design, ports and connections

It may be similar to the 2014 original but that’s not to say the Area 51’s looks have faded. Its Blade Runner-esque chassis, which looks a bit like the cross-section of a giant, futuristic Toblerone is still as eye-catching as ever and looks great plonked on any desk. You will need a big desk, with sturdy legs, though, because the Threadripper weighs a not-inconsiderable 28kg and measures a monstrous 570 x 639 x 273mm (WDH).

Inside, all of the components sit at a 50-degree angle, to help boost airflow with cool air passing through the front and exiting at the rear. This fancy design doesn’t get in the way either, simply lift off either side panel and you can access all of the internal components.

On the outside, you get a good selection of connection ports, including nine USB 3.1 ports (seven at the back and two at the front), two USB 2.0 ports, one USB Type-C port and two Gigabit Ethernet ports. There’s also an SD card reader and optical DVD drive on the front.

As for display outputs, you’ll find one HDMI port, complete with a dual-link DVI and DisplayPort. And, on another happy note, there is extra room for three 3.5in storage drives, and one 2.5in drive, along with a spare PCIe 4x and PCIe 16x slot.

Performance

Of course, we’re most interested in how AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper 1950X CPU performs. It’s good news, at least according to our 4K application benchmarks, where the Area 51 wiped the floor with pretty much everything else we’ve ever tested.

It returned an image test score of 68; it also performed well in the video encoding test, scoring 241, and came out with 262 in the multitasking benchmark and 451 overall. Nothing else has come close.

Still, £5,300 is no small sum of money, so it’s fair to expect a PC with unrivalled gaming capability as well. Thankfully, Alienware’s latest monster more than delivers on this front as well.

Running Metro: Last Light Redux at ‘Very High’ graphics settings delivered an average frame rate of 109fps at 4K resolution. Tinker with some of the other graphics settings, like anti-aliasing and advanced physics effects and you’ll see a drop in performance, but I never saw it drop below an average of 70fps. Reduce the resolution to Full HD and you’ll see upwards of 114fps.

That’s no surprise, Nvidia’s GTX 1080Ti is very much a high-end graphics card and although it’s not the fastest GPU in Nvidia’s range (that mantle falls upon the Titan Xp), it’s definitely still in the upper echelons. With two in place, it’s hardly surprising not much can faze it.

Likewise, the Area 51 is a storming VR gaming machine. The Steam VR Performance Test – a necessary benchmark for any VR-capable PC – returned a score of 11, indicating that the hardware can run everything maxed-out at above 90fps. L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files ran without a hitch, and I was interrogating bad guys and engaging in high-speed car chases on our test HTC Vive without a single dropped frame.

The only potential issue is noise. While the Area 51 runs perfectly quiet for the most part, the front intake fan does drone on rather loudly, especially when you’re taxing the CPU and GPU at the same time.

Verdict

Unrivalled performance and brand-spanking new components mean Alienware’s Area 51 Threadripper Edition is an unbeatable gaming PC and the perfect showcase for AMD’s new high-core count Ryzen processors.

At £5,299 I’m hard-pressed to find any real reason for recommendation, however. Despite the fact that it’s an alarmingly high-calibre machine, spending upwards of five grand on a PC, no matter how impressive it is, feels ridiculous, especially considering you can build a decent 4K-capable gaming PC for half the price, if not less.

Regardless, if you absolutely must spend that inheritance money on a beast of a gaming PC, there’s no better way to burn your cash than the Dell Alienware Area 51 Threadripper Edition. For pity’s sake, though, do make sure to pop it on your home insurance.

(expertreviews.co.uk, https://goo.gl/UwMceD)

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