updated 10:05 am EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Builder shows off revolutionary design for flagship computer, uses new Intel CPU
Alienware shocked the computer industry this week, when it announced the latest version of the flagship Area-51 computer. During the Intel panel on the future of PC gaming, General Manager Frank Azor unveiled the new computer on stage as one of the first gaming machines built with Intel's Haswell Extreme Edition processor and X99 chipset.
The new Area-51 computer looks very different than anything else on the market, sporting a triangular look that is meant to continue the unique design trend that the original Area-51 started. Speaking with Industrial Design Lead Josh Probst, the idea behind the new design was to keep it fundamental, but bring a weapon-like design. Probst added that development on the machine actually started around 3.5 years ago, with the team spitballing to come up with something new. The result was a new chassis that makes accessing the front and back of the machine easier than would be seen with typical cases.
Some of the other design elements aren't noticeable right away, such as the details in the panels and considerations for heat. The panels themselves are interchangeable on each side, allowing users to swap them at will. The center point also comes up 3mm on center, tying in with Alienware's established design ideology.
The doors are also opened by a lever release on the top of the case, below the carry handles that are said to handle five to six times the weight of the machine. The levers themselves are like a car hood release, but offer a solid feeling and strong springs. Consumers don't need to worry about the doors either when popped open, as they are designed in a way that they hold onto framework when tilted.
Cooling component heat presented a challenge for the company, but Alienware used a combination of fans and water cooling to keep the temperature down. Fans on the front pull air in at different angles, while the fan on the radiator forces it out the back. Because of the angles of the chassis, the air doesn't blow out and then get trapped against a wall or under a desk as often happens with traditional PCs.
Alienware added a gap between the second and third cards in an SLI configuration on the Area-51 in order to help reduce heat issues generated by the multi-card setups. Hard drives mounted other the other side of the motherboard tray stay cool because of the company's ducted and zoned airflow approach. Cody Norris of Alienware said a goal of the company was to "keep it cool and quiet as possible."
Other than the inclusion of the X99 and Haswell Extreme Edition processors, specifics of the machine, such as the motherboard, still aren't available. However, the company says that news should be coming soon, since the Area-51 is expected to release in October. Dell claims that the machine will have wide gamer appeal, and will be priced to be more affordable than expected. As part of the design, Alienware also wanted to allow for maximum upgradability, so many components are designed to be upgraded. Other internals like the 1500-watt power supply may be difficult to change, because of the way it is mounted.
Work is continuing on the Alpha, the company's PC gaming console. While it was announced as part of the SteamOS initiative, Alienware is releasing it as a Windows machine for now. Using a custom interface, the machine launches right into Steam Big Picture. Users can still roll out of it and use it as a normal machine as well, with a mouse and keyboard. In the future, when the official release of SteamOS occurs, users will be able to install Valve's brand of Linux. For now, the machine has already appeared online as a pre-order, but more news could be coming very soon. Previously, the console was said to be released in November.