A close look at our Alienware Gaming Machine.
When we decided to start our voyage into the world of PC games with a series of special features, we immediately knew that we needed a sponsor, someone willing to support us throughout this voyage. There are many well known PC manufacturers, but just a few of them are entirely focused on creating machines optimized for gaming. One of the companies we approached was Alienware (official website: www.alienware.com), well known among the PC gaming crowd for their state of the art custom made gaming PCs and for their excellent costumer support. Alienware answered our request of sponsorship, offering us a machine powerful enough to blast our way through DOOM 3 at Ultra settings.
The configuration of the machine we decided to use for these features follows closely the indications we gave you in our introductory article, with an intriguing juicy twist, the NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT graphics card, one of NVIDIA's current top of the line cards.
More than a simple review, this article has the scope of showing how a gaming machine is different from a randomly assembled PC; a solid gaming machine is a machine powerful enough to run all kinds of applications as they really should.
The importance of communication and support
Alienware's excellent reputation was confirmed in our first months of experience with them. We acted like normal customers, so we could not only have a physical proof of Alienware's quality in the PC we received, but we could also have a taste of their renowned 24/7 customer support. Quality and availability of support is something of primary importance when purchasing delicate machines like Personal Computers on the Internet.
Alienware's customer support services come in different forms; it's immediately evident the company takes advantage of all the experience it has gained from its launch in 1996, when it almost created the "Computer Boutique" market.
The intuitive website is the first channel Alienware uses to communicate with their customers. The website offers a Live Chat, where you can get 24/7 tech support, but also forums and an excellent searchable knowledge base. The knowledge base contains answers to the most common and the not so common questions, from system optimization to installation of new components for your PC. If you need to install a new HDD in your Alienware PC, for example, the knowledge base has a clear How-To complete with a downloadable video, which coupled with the smart internal wiring (which Alienware calls AlienWiring) of all Alienware systems makes everything amazingly simple even for the amateurish computer technician (like me). The website also includes all the drivers you need to keep your Alienware PC updated.
Anyhow, while the website is an invaluable resource, Alienware also offers more classic 24/7 toll free phone support and even free onsite support, but only if you live in certain areas of United States or United Kingdom. The systems come with a 1-year warranty, but you can eventually purchase a 2 or 3 year warranty (a good investment, considering the quality of the service offered and the fact Alienware machines are supposed to last longer than a "normal" PC).
Creating your machine
The first thing we were asked by Alienware was to configure our machine using their online system configuration service. When in doubt, you can always contact Alienware talented sales team (available from Monday to Friday) and ask them to help you to create a machine that really fits your needs. This can be as easy as asking them "I need to play recent games like Half Life 2 - what's the right configuration for me?"; they know their stuff well, and you will get some good suggestion on the fly.
In fact, unlike normal computer manufacturers, purchasing a PC from Alienware means creating a unique machine. Alienware hasn't PCs on the shelves ready to go; all Alienware PCs are custom made following the customer's requests, and they are carefully tested by the techs at Alienware before shipping - together with your PC you will receive a detailed list of all the tests performed on your machine as it was assembled, complete with factory benchmarks and other useful information. That's why each Alienware PC is really unique, and has a special dedicated file inside the company database that will help their tech staff whenever you need support.
Alienware produces amazing notebooks, but we focused our attention on their desktops. The desktops are divided in many different series, many of which have become well known in the gaming community for their power and reliability but also for their unique style and look, like the Area-51 and Aurora series. There is a PC for every gamer at Alienware, from the Area-51 SLX series (which includes all the most advanced technologies available on the market) to the budget priced BOT systems; prices vary greatly, from more than $5000 to $600, with all imaginable possibilities in between. What's truly important is that even budget priced machines include only high quality components. Our suggested PC configuration from the previous article (with a 3.0GHz processor, 1GB of RAM and a 128MB graphics card) should cost you around $1300 (monitor and speakers not included). You can play with the Alienware configuration pages and create your dream system, following also our guide, with the overall price calculated in real-time as you add or remove components.
Once you have created your system, you can submit your order. The online configuration system will calculate the approximate estimate shipping date according to the components you have selected (for example, newer processors or most requested graphics cards can delay your order of more than 30 days). The waiting can be extremely painful, even if the customer support will keep you updated about your order, but as I said, Alienware doesn't sell ready-made PCs. Your credit card is billed the day Alienware starts building your system.