The New, Fully Liquid Cooled Alienware Area-51 R5 - Locked And Loaded For Combat
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:
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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…