US PC builder, Alienware, has being creating dream systems aimed at gamers and video-editing specialists in the States since 1996. But as of last week, UK customers can also get a taste of the company's wares thanks to the launch of its manufacturing and sales operation in the Republic of Ireland.
General manager Michael Hynes explains that Alienware chose to specialise in PCs optimised for gaming, because "the owners were gamers, and found they couldn't buy the systems they needed anywhere".
To ensure that their systems meet the demanding needs of hardcore gamers, they only use the latest hardware, which is not more than three months old. They also test out all the cards, processors and motherboards to ensure that everything works together and leaves as much memory free to process complex game code as possible.
The firm also runs a 200-point checklist on every PC, including games benchmarking, to ensure that customers get the best performance. This checklist is shipped to the customer along with a personalised manual.
Another factor that sets Alienware PCs apart from the beige crowd is that they come in customised cases in flamboyant shades such as Cyborg Green and Martian Red — you could guess the target market from these names alone. The company also has plans to launch a new range of cases early next year.
The PCs all come with a one-year warranty as standard, but it is different from the norm according to Hynes because, if you send your faulty system back with a scratched or chipped case, Alienware will either retouch the paint job, or replace the case entirely.
Indeed if you opt for one of its extended warranties (£81 for two years or £126 for three), then if you send back a fried graphics card — due to a fault, of course, not obvious overclocking — then this will be swapped for the latest board along with the motherboard and RAM if necessary.
Alien Autopsy is another bonus that ships with Alienware PCs. It is software that monitors your system for errors, and reports back to tech support if it finds problems. The tech guys will then automatically email you to help resolve these issues.
You might expect these specialist systems to set you back a bit, — and Hynes admits that some professional video-editing systems can come in at £5,000-£6,000 — but Alienware's gaming PCs aren't too pricey. At time of writing a Hive-Mind PC with a 2.26GHz Pentium 4 processor, 256MB of RAM, 40GB hard drive, 64MB Radeon 9000 Pro graphics card and Audigy sound card, plus an all important free T-shirt and mouse mat, although minus a monitor, cost £967 ex VAT. This compares favourably with the £1,200 to £1,500 machines in PC Advisor's Power PCs chart where the prices include screens.
All the systems are built from scratch which means they can be customised. The company also sells gaming notebooks that are based on desktop components.