While many of us prefer to build our own gaming machines, there’s also a strong market for ready-built machines.
With a pre-built PC, not only do you save the time and hassle of building it yourself, you know it’s backed by a proper warranty and in many cases on-site help. Alienware’s new Aurora R4 aims for the very top of that readymade market and it’s a genuine monster, with a huge custom chassis that weighs in at a hefty 20kg.
While you might struggle to carry it to a LAN, if you do, the colour-changing lights and fan vents that open automatically under load are sure to impress. Inside the flamboyant exterior of the R4 lies some truly powerful hardware. An Intel i7-3930K Hex Core CPU hums along at 3.2GHz with its own water cooling system. A decadent 16GB of RAM maxes out the motherboard and makes sure you can never be wanting for more. And most importantly, gaming grunt is provided by an Nvidia GeForce GTX 590. You also get a 512GB SSD connected up via SATA 6Gbps, though there’s no secondary storage drive. The R4 has a Blu-ray burner and runs Windows Home Premium 64-bit.
Up on the front you have three USB ports (one USB 3.0) plus audio I/O. Round the back you have the typical LAN, USB and digital audio ports plus 7.1 surround sound output. The GPU has three DVI connectors for multiple monitor setups but does not include HDMI.
To test performance, we put the R4 through a battery of benchmarks. In Heaven, the Aurora averaged 84.1fps and scored 2117. In the new 3DMark 11, the R4 scored P9751 and P35722 in Vantage. When gaming, we managed 117fps in Aliens vs Predator and 106fps in Crysis Warhead. To put these numbers in perspective, late last year the NRG Storm managed 103fps in AvP, scored P7,984 in 3DMark 11, P28,134 in 3DMark Vantage and 1,788 in Heaven at 73fps. When surfing the net the R4 is relatively quiet, but once you fire up a game it does emit a muffled roar. Under full load it slurped 496W and with solid gaming it will use at least $2 a week of electricity.
The great thing about the Alienware lineup is that you can completely customise it online before you order. It’s definitely worth adding in a second drive, though you could also save a wad of cash by opting for a smaller SSD. If you want to upgrade the R4 later yourself it’s easy to do as the side panels hinge out, giving excellent internal access. There are also a bunch of bright white LEDs that automatically turn on while the case is open. There are four extra 3.5in drive bays and even room for a second GPU. The inside of the R4 is well set out, with cables routed neatly and plenty of extra ducts and fans to direct cool air through your components.
While the R4 is not the cheapest PC out there, it provides solid performance and is backed by a name you can trust. Available from Alienware, retailing for $6,030
.APC rating: 6/10