We’ve had a lot of discussions about Alienware lately and as the owner or purchaser of many of their machines in the last five years, I have a lot of experience with them. I recently got an R12 from their Aurora line and I turned over the R5 from that line to my son last night. In doing so, we spent a little time inside the old computer.
What follows are photos from inside both the R12 and the R5. The R5 is five years old and we opened it to do a dusting which hadn’t been done in quite some time. I have never had one problem with the R5. It’s been upgraded to 24GB of RAM. Everything else is 100% stock. It’s been used heavily by myself and three teen boys over those five years. Rarely was it turned off.
First the R5… my son took these so the angles aren’t the best…
The pictures speak for themselves. Until I opened up the R5 again last night, I didn’t realize just how similar the designs are. All the components are current, but the design is essentially the same. Similar cooling. Similar positioning of components. The mechanical hard drive is sideways at the top front on both of them. You can see it with the light blue plastic in the first R12 photo. The swing out power supply covers the processor on both the R5 and R12. Fans at the top of the case and the front as well as on the power supply handle heat evacuation nicely.
If in the next five years I have problems with this computer, I will report it. I have had none so far with the R12 and expect none, same as three Auroras of the previous design we own have had none.
Unlike their laptops, I’ve used and owned a grand total of two Alienware desktops (currently using an R8) over the past seven years and I like them. They do get loud, but no major problems that weren’t fixed by customer support. If I could figure out how to put a 3080 in my R8, I would use it for a couple more years but buying a standalone card vs. an entire computer cost is pretty close these days.
Air cooling is not ideal as a result of the lack of clearance from the PSU. It’ll work, just will be slightly heat throttled, which you very well might never notice. The chassis is perfectly fine if you are water cooling the CPU. I’ve tinkered around in a Ryzen R10 with water cooling and it’s fine. I can understand that on a high end CPU that cooler and orientation is probably less than you would desire from a boutique build, but in practice it’s probably fine for most.
Pretty sure some folks have gotten other third party fans to put on there already. I looked into all that after seeing all the FUD on the way it’s set up. I was also much less concerned after I got inside my old machine with the same set up last night.
That is probably the most disappointing thing about the alienware. That CPU cooler is just not enough. It will be thermally limited. Like, they spend a lot of time (and likely money) on the outer case design, but get a stock cpu cooler? I feel like they could have done a bit better there.
But, my experience with Dell XPS desktops is that they are dang near bulletproof. My PC from 08 still boots, though it is slow as all heck now. And from the tear-downs I have seen the Alienware PCs are very similar to the Dell ones.
If I’m so thermally limited, how am I getting the standard number of FPS for a 3080 with my processor choice on this R12?
Sorry. I think a lot of this is simply hearsay and long term prejudice against the brand. It’s the same as “Nintendo is Kiddy”, M$, etc. It’s something everyone just wants to say because everyone else says it.
…and yet one video like the one that helped tick me off enough to make this post drives this narrative forward. People obviously follow that guy and think he’s the bee’s knees, and yet he’s just “dunking” on a design that’s been fine for multiple generations of products.
Well he’s right, it isn’t a great design. It’s just that none of that stuff, the hardcore tech stuff, matters very much. Every RTX3080 card performs identically, to within a fairly small margin. Cooling and power delivery don’t really matter very much. Same with CPUs, yes they’ll run a bit slower but not so you’d ever notice, as long as they’re within spec.
Dell has enough discounts and sales that Alienware is often still a pretty good value, even if you accept the criticisms. It is frustrating because it seems like it would not take much to really fix so much, using a cooler that cost just like 10 more dollars could go such long way, as well as just adding a few more holes for airflow in the case. Using LESS plastic to improve airflow might even save money. And there’s more than that spent on the plastic chrome case.
There’s a ton of YouTube videos about people making very minor modifications, spending like $20 dollars total, and really improving things a lot in a lot of scenarios. Luckily games are rarely CPU limited except for people with 240+ hz monitors. But the Alienware fan ramping drove me crazy in Adobe Premier.
The 120mm water cooler is pretty silly. It works fine but they only have to make something so space efficient because of arbitrary restrictions they created themselves. But I would actually kind of recommend getting it, if it’s not much more.