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Walk into any IT related office today and mention to someone that you’ve got an Alienware system and there’s likely to be a chorus of “oooohhhh’s” from the techies before they start asking loads of questions about how good or fast your system is. There are very few manufacturers that get that reaction when you mention their systems so this itself is an achievement. We’ve tested Alienware kit in the past and its proved to be quite excellent in terms of components and very well designed overall and its for these reasons that the brand has a real aura about it…similar to that of “Supercar’s” to use an analogy from another market.


Whilst Alienware are great at producing high performance systems for the gaming and home markets as well as mobile parts these don’t meet the needs of everyone and that’s where today’s product comes in. The Alienware MJ-12 is a workstation system designed for tasks such as 3D modelling, Photoshop and even video editing. Think of the most demanding tasks you would throw at any designer or developer and you pretty much have the work Alienware have build this system to handle.

Packaging and Bundle

We noted in our review of the Aurora 7500 desktop system that the box Alienware used was massive, in-fact you could fit an adult person into it with plenty of spare room so when expecting the MJ-12 we were on the lookout for a similar size box. When it arrived though this wasn’t the case and the system was much more modestly sized (which is a good thing as much for us as our courier!). Opening the box (which was black, sturdy cardboard with the Alienware logo) we found the bundle of extras Alienware send out.

The bundle includes everything you need really. As our picture shows you receive a keyboard (Logitech) and a corded laser mouse (Alienware branded MS mouse) along with the power cable, user-guide and master CD. As a nice touch you also get a cool Alienware sticker and mouse-mat.

Overall this is a good bundle though we found the drivers on the software disc could have been newer. The actual components though were very good quality, especially the mouse which is one of the most comfortable available and works smoothly with the supplied mouse-mat.

Packaging was also well thought out with the main workstation suspended in foam and wrapped in polythene and the bundle boxed off separately.

The MJ-12

What becomes clear immediately when unpacking the workstation is that this is one sturdy piece of kit. With dimensions of 22in. x 17in. x 7in and a case made of heavy steel its going to take some effort to move or knock over the unit, even more so when you extend the feet which are on the base of the case. In comparison to other workstations such as the Dell Precision its not as tall however is a couple of inches longer.

The front of the case is quite plain though at the same time suitably stylish with a real industrial feel provided by the long grills. Also featured on the front is the Alienware Logo in silver. At the base of the front is a small hatch which clicks open to reveal some USB 2.0 and audio sockets.

Opening the door we find the usual set of drives with a dual layer NEC DVD writer and floppy drive. You can also see in the picture the USB and audio ports mentioned above. Between the drive and ports you can see the practical reason for the grills on the door. An 8cm intake fan. Power and reset buttons are located on the right of the front as are the IDE and power LEDS and door lock. Once of our small concerns with the design though involves the locking door mechanism.

Whilst the lock functions as it should due to the fact that the door is made of plastic (and is therefore bendable) it’s possible to open the door when locked, just enough to press the power and reset buttons. You certainly can’t use any drives however the point of a locking door should be that you can’t access any of the functions, not just some. Repositioning of the lock or making the door from metal would be ideal in future models.

Turning to the rear of the system we find the unit isn’t really lacking in connectors though there are not as many as you would expect on a standard desktop. The essentials are there such as your PS/2 and USB connectors as well as dual LAN sockets and a firewire connection taking this system’s complement up to 2 firewire sockets. As you move down you can see the audio ports and finally the only add-in card is the graphics card.

Opening the case is a fairly easy affair, just remove the screws on the back edge and open it up. Here’s what you find inside…

… As with all Alienware systems the MJ-12 is very tidy inside, care has been taken to ensure the cabling is as hidden away as possible which helps to keep the airflow at a maximum. Speaking of airflow, as well as the intake fan we mentioned earlier there is an exhaust fan on the rear of the case. It’s a 12cm model made by Antech and is almost completely silent.

The motherboard installed by Alienware is Manufactured by Tyan and is their K8WE and supports up to 2 Opteron CPU’s, 16gb of memory and 16x PCIe (2slots so SLI capable!). The chipset is Nvidia’s Nforce Professional 2200 and 2050 and Nvidias audio solution powers the motherboards 5.1 sound. As far as workstation boards go, Tyan make excellent and more importantly rock solid products and it’s good to see Alienware using this brand in their system.

 

 

 

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