Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dell XPS 360

Hailed as a rig that "gamers won't outgrow," the XPS 630 that we originally peeked at CES is finally official. As expected, the tower is ATI CrossFire and NVIDIA SLI-ready and will support Intel's Core 2 Quad and Core 2 Extreme processors on the nForce 650i SLI chipset. You can beef things up with 4GB of DDR2 RAM, 1TB of HDD space or an optional Blu-ray drive and AGEIA PhysX accelerator, and you'll have plenty of room for all those peripherals thanks to six total USB 2.0 ports, an optional 19-in-1 media card reader, gigabit Ethernet, audio in / out, FireWire and even PS/2 mouse and keyboard connectors. Also of note, it's the first pre-fab PC to support the Enthusiast System Architecture (ESA), and you can snag your own for as little as $1,249 right now.

Under the hood:
  • NVIDIA nForce650 SLI Chipset
  • NVIDIA SLI Single/Dual Graphic options
  • ATI Crossfire Single/Dual Graphic options
  • Overclockable Intel Processors
  • OverclockableCorsair® DOMINATOR® Memory
  • 750-watt Power Supply
  • 4 Internal HDD bays (Up to 3 Factory-Installed)
  • 4 DIMM slots
  • Two PCIe™ X16 Graphic slots
  • Light FX 2.0 (4 lighting zones)
  • AGEIA PhysX™ Accelerator option
  • Blu-ray Disc™ Drive option
  • Red and Black Bezel Color Choice

Acer Aspire Predator

The Acer Aspire Predator is back! The third generation of the Aspire Predator G7750 attacks with gamer-savvy graphics, razor-edge processing and ultra-fast memory technology for a wickedly powerful PC. Coupled with the Acer GD245HQ 3D full HD monitor, the new Aspire Predator boasts enhanced features like customizable overclocking, dual LANconnectivityand liquid cooling. Gear up with the best in 3D! The Aspire Predator's muscular case houses its immense power. Lifting the mechanised armored face shield reveals the all-access interface for extreme gaming, complete with glowing red LEDs and claw-like optical-drive doors allowing for easy swap HDD bays. Aaron Jambrovic, Consumer Desktop Product Manager, Acer Computer Australia is delighted with the Predator’s new radical design: “It’s detailed, highly dynamic mechanical elements and cool lighting effects are a visual delight for tech-savvy gamers.”
The brand new Predator G7750 delivers a powerful five-hit combo for overclocking your FPS rate: The Intel® Core i7 processor Extreme Edition quad core, NVIDIA® SLI (3D Vision ready) or a 2-way ATI CrossFireX , Up to 12 GB of three-channel  DDR3 1066 MHz memory, Intel® Extreme Tuning Utility (IXTU) and an advanced liquid cooling system. The HDD cage allows for 8 TBs of storage space with four easy-swap SATA hard disks, up to 2 TB each. Jambrovic continues: “with the new Aspire Predator, gamers can enjoy a faster system bootup, quick application loading and lots of space for content creation and multimedia files. When you add on the Intel® Turbo Boost Technology and Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology combined with the Acer GD245HD, the G7750 provides for a stunning 3D gaming experience with killer performance.”
The two-part liquid cooling system maintains a low CPU and GPU core temperature for increased efficiency and longevity. DirectX® 11 with multi-threading reduces performance bottlenecks between the CPU and GPU, plus new image processing techniques give games an unrivalled realism. Dual LAN technology teams up a pair of Gigabit Ethernet connections for blazing file transfers, higher system performance via lower CPU utilization, and non-stop connectivity with failover support. The Logitech® G11/G15 gaming keyboard and G5/G9 gaming mouse options deliver high responsiveness and convenient macro keys to stay on top of the latest fast-action games.
You can hear the Predator G7750 roar with the Creative® THX® TruStudio PC, putting gamers in the middle of the action with omnipresent surround sound by connecting up to seven speakers or a set of headphones. The Creative® Sound Blaster® X-Fi Titanium sound card with EAX® 5.0 technology brings fully interactive 3D audio to PC gaming.

Alienware Aurora ALX

Being recognised and standing out from the crowd is half the battle of being successful when it comes to making gaming PCs and laptops. Alienware is a brand acutely aware of this and thus has always been known for its eye-catching machines, embossed with that now iconic alien head. However, its systems are always guaranteed to polarise opinions – for everyone that loves the over-the-top designs, there’s someone else who thinks they’re simply overpriced.

If there’s one company that knows about value though it’s Dell, the world-famous PC box shifter that has owned Alienware since 2006. For a long while Dell has offered its own line of XPS branded gaming machines alongside Alienware's systems, giving the impression that it didn’t really know what do with the Alienware brand. However, now Dell has repositioned XPS as a lifestyle brand, leaving Alienware to fly the gaming flag on its own. So, with the Dell DNA inside, has Alienware managed to crack the performance and value nut while maintaining its distinctive look?

The first thing that struck us as we unboxed the new Aurora ALX was its size. Previous Alienware systems were housed in outrageously large cases, and while that’s great, we don’t all have the space for a massive PC. In contrast the Aurora ALX is housed within a relatively normal-sized midi-tower case, with dimensions of 250 x 645 x 426mm (W x D x H). That’s not to say that the Aurora ALX is a shrinking violet, and at over 20kg you’ll know about it if you’re planning on lugging it around to LAN parties.

The look of the case, as ever, is what will grab your attention, the design mixing elements of the classic HR Giger Alien with a bit of Cylon Raider thrown in for good measure. The classic alien head sits at the top of the case – and very much looks like the power button. But don’t be fooled by this human-style thinking –it’s simply a release mechanism for the door that slides down on a pleasingly smooth mechanism to reveal three 5.25in external drive bays, one of which in our review system was filled with a DVD-rewriter.

Alienware is offering two flavours of this system, in the guise of the Aurora and Aurora ALX, alongside the more expensive and traditionally sized Area 51 models. Alienware likes to compare the ALX brand to the M badge that BMW gives to its high-performance cars – but we don’t believe that this is an analogy that quite works for reasons we’ll explain later.

The differences between the standard Aurora and the pimped out ALX are subtle, as many of the core components are the same. However, unlike the Aurora, you can select 1,600MHz DDR3 RAM for your Aurora ALX, rather than just 1,067MHz or 1,333MHz memory. It also has more customisable light zones and an LED that turns on automatically when you take off the case side. This is a great idea as it enables you to easily see inside your case when performaing maintenance or upgrades. While we’re all used to a light turning on when you open a car door, it’s the first time we’ve seen it in a PC, so expect to see this feature copied by many high end cases from here on in.

The key difference between the Aurora and Aurora ALX though is, literally, a stand-out feature. The Aurora ALX has a row of vents on the top of the case that lift up when you boot the PC. It makes the Aurora ALX look alive, with the opening gills of a monster as it draws breath, and visually, it’s undeniably impressive. Alienware supplies its own Command Centre software, which you can use to configure the vents to lift when the CPU hits a given temperature, much as the spoiler on a sports car lifts automatically when you hit a certain speed for increased stability.