I feel like there has been a real lack of decent PC titles in the last few months (especially now that I’ve kicked my WoW habit) and that’s because there’s a lot riding on the back of Windows Vista and its snazzy new DirectX 10 capabilities. Once it’s out though we’re hopefully going to be inundated with great games – Crysis, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Age of Conan, UT 2007 and Quake Wars spring to mind – but you’ll likely need some new PC hardware to run it on any kind of decent setting. And fancy that, Alienware only has a range of snazzy new bits of hardware to get your game on – I checked out the booth at CES and had a quick chat with the product marketing manager, Marc Diana who confirmed the belief that “Vista will have a major impact on games and PC sales” and talked me through the new products.
First up was the Area-51 7500 desktop. Like most of Alienware’s machines, let’s say the design is, err, gamercentric. The cases are definitely a love it or hate it affair and I personally love the way you can program each of the eight or so case lights to show different colours or even shift when you get new email.
In terms of specs, it can all be tailored to personal preference of course, but by default it offers Intel Core 2 Duo processors, SLi graphics and the new NVIDIA 8800 cards (which support DirectX 10), Aegia’s PhysX system and DDR2 RAM up to 1066MHz – yep, that should just about handle Vista.
Desktops weren’t the only things on show though – Alienware had one of its trademark gigantic gaming laptops as well. The Area-51 m9750 comes in a new matte black design which at least looks a bit more subtle than some previous iterations. Inside there’s a dual GeForce 7950 SLi, Intel Core 2 Duo processors and space for up to 400GB of hard disks in RAID configuration.
It is also has a 17” LCD screen which adds significantly to the bulk. That does however mean that there’s a full sized keyboard on there, so at least you don’t end up with your hand cramped around tiny keys. Maybe that would help you pass it off as a work laptop… That’s if you’re happy lugging it around of course – it weighs in at a weighty 3.6kg (8lbs). Admittedly that’s pretty light for something that significantly out strips my desktop PC in terms of performance.
When asked how Alienware decides whether to go for an NVIDIA GPU or an ATI, an Intel or AMD processor on its new machines, Marc Diana replied: “Oh it’s all consumer and community drive – they decide what goes in”. That’s pretty encouraging, because there’s no one I would trust more than a bunch of very serious gamers to pick out what is going to work best in modern PC games. But I bet it must be a tough job getting a concrete decision out of the babble of l337 speak.
Finally, the new HD entertainment center, called Hangar18, was on show in the AMD booth. Alienware have released a few really smart Media Center machines in the past, with a far more living room orientated form factor than its other kit. The Hangar18 offers an AMD Athlon 64 X2 dual core processor, High Defintion DVR that supports 1080p, HDMI output, up to 4 tuners (2 x analogue, 2 x digital), built-in 1000w amp with subwoofer output, 1.5 terrabytes of storage, WiFi. And it comes with Vista Premium edition.
Given the difference between the US approach to HD and the UK’s own somewhat more half hearted affair, I’m not sure that we’ll actually see this product in its full glory over here, but y’know, we can still drool, there’s no shame in it.