Alienware MJ-12 7550a

Alienware MJ-12 7550a

Pros: Extremely fast, feature-laden

Cons: Expensive, consumes too much power when idle

Price: $4,613

Performance: A

Features: A

Value: C+

C (idle), A (active)

If biggest were best, the MJ-12 7550a would win hands down. Sitting on the test bench with the other systems, it towered over them. One of the reasons for this is the excellent cooling system in the MJ-12. Before Alienware started marketing systems to government, they were an all-gaming company. And in gaming, heat kills.

To compensate, there's a large intake fan on the front of the box, which is visible when you open the front panel. This draws in cool air and filters it through the system before drawing the air across several heat sinks and expelling it out the back. And overall, the system is extremely quiet. According to Alienware, the PC has Level 1 Acoustic Dampening, which reduces the noise from a standard case by 20 percent. Whatever the case, this monster of a system was the quietest we tested.

It turns out a good cooling system is necessary here. The system's 550-watt power supply sucks in a lot more juice than other systems in the review. Sitting idle, it consumed an average of 151 watts per second, compared to 83 watts for the most efficient system. However, the MJ-12 is so fast it actually takes less time'and therefore less power'to perform application tasks. It took only 57 watts to open a 5,000-data-point Excel chart, the most efficient in the review. In short, this workhorse is designed for use'think visualization or engineering'not sitting idle on an office desktop.

In terms of performance, the MJ-12 was second fastest in the review, despite the 'slowest' CPU clock speed of the lot. The 2.6-GHz AMD Opteron 285 64-bit dual-core processor blew through the GCN/Alterion benchmarks with a score of 9,392. It did come to us with 2GB of 400-MHz, dual-channel DDR SDRAM, which definitely gave it a leg up.

Why else did this beast have a price tag of $4,613? For one thing, it came with a 300GB RAID Level 0 storage system, which was especially speedy because it comprised two 150GB Serial ATA drives spinning at an incredible 10,000 RPMs. If that wasn't enough, our review unit came with a second hard drive that Alienware calls a 'storage drive.' The storage drive was a 250GB SATA drive spinning at 7,200 RPM with an 8MB cache.

Are you going to lay down $4,613 for a desktop (and if you are, write and tell us)? Probably not. The MJ-12 is for the niche high-end market. However, if some of Alienware's design touches interest you, less powerful systems in the lineup start at $1,840.

Alienware Corp., Miami, (800) 254-3692, www.alienware.com

About the Authors

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.

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