Alienware's desktop PCs - is the 2019 lineup worth the price of admission?

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Alienware is a brand with an interesting arc. Around the launch of their brand they were well known for powerful prebuilt desktop monsters to which a bunch of additional flashy lighting and extraneous bells and whistles were added, driving the price up well beyond the range of similar machines you could build yourself. But the brand has spent a long time rehabbing their image and their core design tenets, particularly after their acquisition by Dell, and modern Alienware (which still has discrete teams for design, marketing, and support) produces high end, thoughtfully constructed PCs for not much more than you'd pay buying the components independently. 

Any time you're shopping for the best gaming PC, or for an Alienware specifically, there are few key elements you should consider. First, naturally, is price. Alienware's offerings represent a good value curve, meaning you'll get a steadily increasing performance return for dollars invested. If you're looking for something affordable but that's easy to upgrade (in case you decide you want to sink more cash into your rig later on), the entry-level Aurora is an excellent option. If, on the other hand, you want a powerful machine that's future-proofed and lives on the cutting edge of current GPU and processing tech, the Area-51 starts where the Aurora leaves off and goes all the way up to an overpowered monstrosity packing one of Intel's brand new XE processors and one of the most powerful video cards on the planet, the RTX 2080 Ti. 

If you do decide to join the Alienware family, you'll need some smoking hot peripherals to complement your new gaming machine, so check out our guides to the best gaming keyboard and best gaming mouse you can buy right now. 

 Why buy an Alienware? 

At first glance, an Alienware PC can seem like an intimidating prospect. They’re fairly pricey, for one, and look unlike any other desktop tower out there, with their bold angles and vivid lighting. But Alienware has been increasingly pushing towards accessibility. Their latest models are not only ready to crush the latest games at the highest settings, as you’d expect from a high-end PC, they’re also focused on user-friendly design and upgradeability. The cases are built with easy (and largely tool-free) expansion in mind, meaning that even if the stock performance or storage isn’t enough, it’s a fairly simple matter to further future proof your machine. 

While the price tag may seem steep, Alienware (with Dell's resources at their disposal) manages to keep pricing in line with roughly what it would cost you to assemble the same machine by yourself, buying the components independently. But with Alienware you get a prebuilt machine backed by their support team and with some welcome quality of life features. And Alienware computers are no longer the province of only the elite and ultra-rich; with their Aurora line and the range of customization options available, owning an Alienware no longer necessitates a crushing blow to your bank account. Equally, though, you'll still need to budget big if you want one AND one of the best gaming monitors to use with it.

 So which Alienware is best for you? 

Every Alienware model offers a range of standard builds, and we’re mostly considering the top, unmodified choice in each line. But bear in mind, if you don’t mind stepping back the power a bit, or are looking for even more bang for your buck, they can all be customized to include more or less horsepower with the concomitant price shift.  

Alienware Aurora

Alienware’s base model is still a powerful package

CPU: Intel 8th Gen Core i7-9700K | Graphics: Nvidia RTX 2070 with 8GB GDDR5X | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 128GB SSD + 2TB HDD

 Alienware power that’s not prohibitively priced 
 Sleek mid tower with PSU swing arm 
 Significant fan noise 

The Aurora is Alienware’s 'entry model,' but as you might expect it still packs a wallop under the hood, especially if you opt for one of the higher end iterations. The most affordable model, starting at around $1,300, comes equipped with a GTX 1060 and one of Intels 9th gen Core-i5 9600Ks, but in the Aurora range the specs climb all the way up to one of Nvidia's shiny new raytracing RTX 2070s alongside a might Core i7-9700K. It’s hard to find a better equipped desktop for under $2,000 (the top specced Aurora before customization is $1,900). 

The stylish mid tower, while not quite as exotic looking as the rest of the Alienware line, is distinctive, well-lit, and easy to crack open and upgrade. It includes a PSU swing arm that allows you to easily unlock and slide the power supply out of the way without detaching any cables, making it a breeze to swap out video cards or add RAM or storage. And with two full length PCIe lanes, slots for five storage drives, and enough room to expand to up to 64GB of DDR4, there’s plenty of ceiling to accommodate future upgrades. 

The Aurora is a great starting point if you want to get a taste of Alienware power and the option of future expansion. If you pick one up, keep our guide to the best DDR RAM for PC gaming handy, in case you need to add more.

Alienware Area-51

One of the most powerful PCs ever

CPU: Intel 8th Gen Core i9-7980XE | Graphics: Nvidia GTX 2080 with 11GB GDDR6 | RAM: 32GB | Storage: 512GB SSD + 2TB HDD

 Blazing performance 
 Distinctive triad case designed to make upgrading easy (and tool-free) 
 Bulkier than most conventional mid towers 

The Area-51 is the real powerhouse of the Alienware line, particularly if you prefer an Intel processor. The ridiculously powerful 18 core i9-7980XE will laugh off any challenge presented by modern games and applications, and is easily capable of 'mega-tasking,' crushing a huge number of demanding workloads simultaneously. It’s a great choice if you use your PC for work as well as gaming and it absolutely excels in both, with a big, triad case that's easy to open up to get at those powerful innards. A swinging cage inside the chassis and a PCIe card door make pulling and adding new components easy and tool-free, and the entire internal architecture is neatly and logically designed to facilitate tinkering (as well as being spacious enough to fit all of those pieces without crowding). 

The Area-51 is an insanely powerful PC designed to be the centerpiece of a combined entertainment and work space, and can manhandle virtually any task you toss down its hungry maw.

Alienware Area-51 Threadripper

Featuring the latest AMD processor, specifically for power gaming

CPU: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X | Graphics: RTX 2080 Ti with 11GB GDDR6 | RAM: 32GB | Storage: 512GB SSD + 2TB HDD

 AMD’s excellent Threadripper CPU 
 As easy to upgrade as the base 51 
 Same case as the standard Area-51 eats a lot of space 

The counterpart to the base Area-51 model deploys AMD’s colorfully named Ryzen Threadriper 1950X, a 16 core beast that’s a very capable alternative to Intel’s top performers at significantly less cost. The high-end stock model comes with an even more potent GPU, an RTX 2080 Ti with 11GB of video RAM, which means the Threadripper Area-51 is balanced slightly more towards gaming than the default Area-51 (though it’s an absolute killer in terms of more conventional workload as well). It features the same great second gen triad chassis as the standard Area-51, meaning its just as easy to upgrade and swap parts and is just as attractive, replete with bold, sharp angles and full RGB lighting. If you’re a committed fan of AMD or want a machine that’s specifically constructed to be a gaming monster, the Threadripper is the Alienware for you.

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