New computer being ordered tomorrow. You make the call!

Alienware or Dell XPS?

I configed the same system with each and it’s the same price essentially. Course with Alienware you get the funky case and video cooling system.


Hmm. Not sure. Have you taken a look at any others, like Falcon Northwest?


Configed a Falcon and it was about $100 more than the Dell. Course components are likely better.

I have a $100 off coupon for Dell also, in addition to their current specials (free shipping, $100 off).

In my experience, Falcon NW’s support is topnotch.

Another interesting one is VoodooPC, but they tend to be pricey.

The game boutiques are all pricey. You might skip Dell if only to preserve the option of mobo/powersupply upgrades.

What Brad said. Those Dell power supplies are a bitch. Plus, Alienware cases are nicer. You’re wasting your money if you don’t get it in yellow, though.

Falcon makes really good machines. My in-laws got one of the pre-configured Talon systems, and for the price, it’s a great system.

I have a Dell laptop and love it, but when it came time to get a new desktop, I built my own. Saved a good chunk of change, and got exactly the system I wanted.

Ditto to Ben: I built my first system, with a great deal of trepidation, for an article this past year. It was much easier than I expected, and I doubt I’d ever buy a system again. It’s not neccessarily cheaper, but you get precisely what you want for every component, and when it comes time to upgrade you can easily do it yourself, whether it involves the memory, video, CPU, MB, etc. And there’s just a good feeling about having done it yourself.

I have purchased a number of Dells, notebook and desktop, and been pretty happy with them. A couple of caveats: they do tend to come with quirks that make them a bear to upgrade. And it’s difficult to order them without some components if they don’t have what you really want - e.g., I didn’t like their video offering, but they refused to sell me a system without a video card. Ditto on the sound card.

If those are the only choices, the Alienware.

But wouldn’t you rather put one together yourself? If you purchase the right parts, it’s easier to put together a PC than it is to construct certain Lego designs.

I’ll second what Jeff said. Hey Jeff I used that article you did last year on “The newbie guide to building your first machine.” Thank you so very much as the article kicked ass!


If you want to upgrade later I would go with the Alienware, Voodoo or NW-Falcon. There upgrade policies are top notch, and the extra $100-200 is well worth it. Dell isn’t bad either, but upgrading the system will be a pain in the ass. I had a Dell 600 mhz. and I was shit out of luck when it came time to upgrade. New Motherboard - Nope! New Power Supply- Nope! New Processor- Well I could go up to 1 ghz but that was it. Oh… and if you use any other components besides Dell, then forget about support. If that component was bought at Best Buy and you tell Dell, then forget about it. Tec support will not help you unless the product was bought from Dell.

I had my Dell 600 mhz for 2+ years and experienced ZERO problems. upgrading the computer though was a different story.


I agree with the folks above. Given the choice, I’d go with Alienware.

I also build my own systems, but it’s not quite as simple as Roger makes it out to be (lately, anyway) – particularly with the new 875 or 865 motherboard chipsets. It appears the new technology is causing strangeness between some DDR and mobos. The greatest problem seems to be with 3200 flavor of DDR, but only in 512 meg sticks; the 256 ones don’t seem to cause such problems.

Another example: MSI’s BIOS is currently a mess with the new chipsets and Gigabytes motherboards have six DIMM slots, but only the first slot in each bank can take double-sided DDR. All the others require single-sided.

If you were to build your own system, especially for the first time, I suggest a lot of research of the components. I only mention this because it sounds like you want the latest and greatest tech.

Build your own. It’s much cheaper, and more satisfying. Companies like Dell rely on consumer ignorance to make their money. They’ll tout a 3Ghz processor but iron over the fact they’ve skimped on the rest, bottlenecking the system. Companies like Falcon and Alienware rely on their desirability factor, they put together very good systems, but they sure do make you pay for the privilege. If you’ve got the inclination to do the research, which isn’t hard, you’ll save yourself a packet. Plus putting a PC together these days is easier than assembling Ikea furniture.


Thanks for the kind words. That article was a lot of fun to write - it actually took about 10 times longer to take the photos than to build the computer.

One thing I will add - I would have never been able to put the system I built for the article (it was my first build) had I not spent a lot of time reading the GigaByte forum on The Gigabyte manual was pretty worthless if you weren’t already an experienced builder, but the folks on the forums at were very helpful with jumper and bios settings and the “tricks”.

I second the “Build your own” sentiment. I like Dell quite a bit, they assemble pretty good machines, but they are very pricey. Alienware is a company that relies on hype and eliteness, and you pay for it.

Yes, build your own. It can be half as expensive, plus you’ll feel more comfortable doing upgrades rather than taking it into a shop. If you simply love those cases the companies make, buy the case and the power supply, but get all the parts yourself, set aside a Saturday to get it done.

I’d go with “build your own” as well. The only thing I’d suggest you avoid is seating the processor on the motherboard.

I’ve been dorking around with computers for 10 years and the only thing that ever made me sweat was trying to get the Athlon on the tiny Athlon target without stabbing a huge hole through the motherboard with the tiny screwdriver I had to use.

Buy the preinstalled combo instead.

I would respectfully disagree with the build your own component here. Unless you have time to do it. Alienware especially has come down in price enough it’s pretty close to doing it yourself. A friend just bought one and the alienware was far cheaper than the dell. The thing to remember is what do you do if you have problems. If you build it, you first have to figure out the problem, then deal with where you bought that individual component.

I have to say build your own. Build it because it’s fun and you’ll know your computer better than anyone else. I haven’t compared anything lately, but I just don’t believe you can actually build one for less than half what a dealer can offer a prebuilt. If you do build your own, you’ll probably have better parts than a dealer can offer. (Maybe people are suggesting purchasing low quality parts for a home built? If so, don’t do that.)

I’ve actually built a few boxes and here are three big downsides:

  1. Takes a lot of building time. You’ll need at least one day (and that’s an eight hour day if everything goes well). Until you get the OS installed and everything running smoothly, it could a very long time if you have problems.

  2. Takes a lot of research time. You’ll need to do a lot of reading and make a lot of lists. When you’re done, you’ll want to run it past some friends for last minute corrections, which will also require a lot of research. This information is also one of the big value adds of home built.

  3. Hard to troubleshoot problem parts. If this is your first machine or first machine of this type, troubleshooting a problem part can be a pain. You can mitigate the risk here by using a vendor that preassembles and tests parts for a fee. In fact, this is a good strategy regardeless (see point #1).

In 15 years of buying computers I never once got even a smidgeon of useful assistance from any system vendor when I had trouble.

Dell included.