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Alienware Area 51 R5 Review: Liquid Cooled GPUs And Skylake-X Firepower

It’s evolving. Alienware’s Area-51 is back with new upgrades to accommodate Intel’s most demanding enthusiast CPU yet – the Core i9-7980XE. Sure, on the surface everything seems similar to previous iterations of the machine, but within something new courses through its veins.

The new Alienware Area-51 R5 arrives with liquid cooled GPUs for the first time since the brand was introduced. This is the natural next-step for one of the most powerful gaming desktops. Additional cooling should allow for more performance to be squeezed out of its already impressive hardware to tackle more demanding graphics workloads.

The Skylake-X flagship CPU inside is joined by twin NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080s in the unit sent over from Alienware. This is the only liquid cooled option currently offered, but perhaps it will extend its liquid cooling options to include dual GTX 1080 Ti configurations in the future. Liquid cooled GPUs are still relatively scarce, even in the DIY PC building space, so we are not surprised to see this introduced a peg down from the top-end to appeal to a wider market.

The Core i9-7980XE and SLI’d GTX 1080s are backed by 64GB of Quad Channel DDR4 memory clocking in at 2666MHz. This ridiculous amount of system memory is almost certain to keep this Area 51 humming, no matter how large your datasets may be. The storage side is equally important, and our Area 51 packs a 1-2 punch with a 1TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD from SK Hynix for the boot drive and core applications with a spacious 2TB 7200RPM SATA HDD from Seagate to hold other data. For the full spec list, check out the table below:

Alienware Area-51 R5
Specifications & Features
ProcessorIntel Core i9-7980XE (18-Core/36-Thread, 12MB Cache, 2.6GHz to 4.2GHz)
OSWindows 10 Pro 64-bit
Display34-inch Curved Gaming Monitor with GSync 120Hz
(Sold separately - $1,199)
Graphics2 x Liquid Cooled NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 in SLI
Storage1TB SK hynix PC401 NVMe SSD
2TB Seagate ST2000DM001 HDD
Memory64GB Quad-Channel DDR4-2666 MHz (4x16GB)
NetworkingDual Killer E2500 Gigabit Ethernet Ports
Killer 1535 802.11ac 2x2 WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1
Ports: Front4x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A (2x with Powershare)
1x Microphone Port
1x Headphone/Headset Port
Ports: Rear1x Rear accessibility lighting button
1x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C with 15W Powershare
1x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A
6x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A
2x USB 2.0 Type-A
2x RJ-45 Killer Networks E2500 Gigabit Ethernet Port
1x L/R Side Surround
1x SPDIF Digital Output (TOSLINK)
1x L/R Rear Surround
1x Center Channel/Subwoofer
1x Line-In
1x Front L/R/Headphone
Power SupplyAlienware 1500 Watt Multi-GPU Approved PSU with modular cabling (80 Plus Gold Efficiency)
Dimensions22.4 x 25.2 x 10.7 inches (56.9 x 63.9 x 27.3 cm)
WeightStarting at 61.73 pounds (28Kg)
Warranty1 Year Hardware Warranty with Onsite/In-Home Service after Remote Diagnosis
Price$6919.99 as configured - Find More @ Dell.Com

We will not spend much time detailing the appearance of the Area-51 as externally, it looks about the same as it ever has. It is still big, it is still bold, and it is still beautiful. Looks are subjective, of course, but there is no denying the Area-51’s iconic triad profile can still turn heads.

Alienware instead focused their revisions on the liquid cooling setup. Naturally, there are several ways to design a liquid cooling setup to incorporate GPU cooling. Many boutique builds, including Maingear’s gorgeous F131 for example, employ a combined-loop system which services both the CPU and GPUs. Alienware, however, has taken advantage of the Area-51’s titanic size to outfit the CPU and each GPU with its own dedicated cooling loop. This arrangement can help prioritize cooling as needed.

The GTX 1080’s here use a hybrid cooling approach. Yes, the GPU chip itself has a waterblock, but the rest of the graphics board is cooled with a traditional blower style fan. In fact, the Area-51’s liquid cooled GTX 1080s do not look like a stark departure from the reference GTX 1080 design if you disregard the tubing coming out the side.

It is a shame, in some ways, that Alienware maintains opaque side panels. The spacious interior could provide a unique canvas for otherworldly interior lighting, impeccable cable runs, and truly unique component layouts. Instead, we still find almost pedestrian green and blue PCB’s, a shiny-silver PSU, and a rat’s nest of cables. To some credit, many of the cables can be removed thanks to the fully modular power supply, but it all feels a bit unrefined in a $6,000-plus powerplant.

Maybe someday Alienware will bestow their flagship with curved tempered-glass side panels and boutique-worthy sculpted interiors, but for now we are content to keep the ship sealed and get to work…

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