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Alienware Area-51 5300

Small Form Factor systems are continuing to grow in popularity, and rightly so, a well built SFF should in theory be more than capable in fulfilling all your computer needs with the minimum of noise and deskspace. We even published an editorial showing you how to create your own, however we know some of you don't either have time or the skills to do this and want a high end prebuilt system to your specifications .....

.... our last review of an Alienware system was the Area51m 7700 laptop several months ago. It was a mixed experience, with a rather uncomfortable combination of exceptional performance and less than stellar build quality. However Alienware are not a company to rest on their laurels and today have been generous enough to supply a wonderfully finished small form factor system, which they refer to as the "Area 51 5300"

The screen shots above are taken with intentional camera flash to show the high quality front fascia finish. As the more astute among you will realise already, this is a Shuttle chassis with some aftermarket styling by Alienware. It certainly looks the business.

The test system comprises the following hardware:

Alienware Area-51 5300:
P4 540 3.2ghz 1mb 800fsb LGA775 EJ
Alienware 1GB DDR 3200LL A2
Seagate Barracuda 160GB 8MB cache serial ATA with NCQ HD
NEC ND-3540 16x Dual Layer DVD±R/W Recorder
1.44mb Floppy Drive
Realtek Integrated Audio for 5300 systems
Nvidia BFG Geforce 6800 GT (overclocked) 256mb PCIe (77.77 Drivers) - 370 core / 1000mhz ram
Alienware Double sided Mouse Mat
Alienware Master CD
Microsoft Windows XP Home
Nero Express with Nero Vision Express software bundle
Cyberlink PowerDVD 8 Channel 7.1 XP
1 YR 24/7 Warranty

Additional Test Hardware (not supplied):
Dell 2405 24 inch LCD screen

Creative Alienware Zen Micro 5GB Black Mp3 Player
Black Intellimouse Explorer 4.0 USB
Logitech Black Internet Keyboard UK
Alienware T-Shirt XL Black UK

Starting with the exterior layout and finish, the front of the system is neatly designed with everything concealed behind various bezel's, above you can see the NEC DVD burner under the outer shell as well as the supplementary front connectivity ports at the bottom of the panel.

A small form factor case design has to be able to expel hot air, after all in a standard full sized tower case, heat rises to be removed by the power supply and any fans on the top of the case, an SFF has little chance for this as heat rises to flow horizontally over the components, therefore it is imperative that this excess heat can be quickly (and quietly removed).

The left and right sides both have large exhaust grills to aid the system cooling, on the left the grill is supplementary to the 6800 GT cooling while the right is next to the power supply. As would be expected in such a confined area, ensuring the flow of cool air is of the utmost importance. I will delve more indepth into this later in the article.

The rear of the chassis is certainly not wanting for connectivity, we have the power connector, parallel and serial, mouse, keyboard inputs, as well as USBx2, 100 LAN, audio connections (l/r front,. sub, center, l/r rear) and the dual DVI output from the 6800 GT graphics card. The 6800 GT is the highest specification card Alienware supply with the 5300, it is a wise choice having a lower power consumption than the ultra as well as being an all important single slot design, with the GT also being a 16 pipeline design it will be more than adequate to deal with some high resolution gaming sessions.



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