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Dell Alienware Area 51 Price Comparison To Custom-Built Gaming PC
Nov 30, 2014Computer HardwareComments (2)
This is a comparison of the Dell Alienware Area-51 Windows gaming PC to a custom-built gaming PC with equivalent performance and function. Prices were gathered using PCPartPicker.

  • Prices are from Jan 7, 2015 and will become outdated as time moves on.
  • Prices are from US merchants and may not be available in other countries.

Alienware Area 51

Alienware Area-51

After a brief hiatus, the Alienware Area-51 gaming PC is back on Dell's website. The 2014 model comes with a unique triangular-shaped case that has excellent cooling and many well-thought-out features, including port access and portability (full case features & specs).

The Area-51 starts at $1,699.00 and has four upgrade tiers as well as individual configuration options. In its base model form, the Area-51 is equipped poorly. The Radeon R9 270 2GB GPU and 8GB of memory are mid-range components and not suitable for a high-end comparison. They're very unbalanced compared to the CPU.

For a good comparison I configured the Area-51 with a GeForce GTX 980, 16GB of memory, and the 128GB SSD + 2TB HDD combo. This brought the price to $2,549.00 and includes these primary components:

  • Core i7-5820K 6-Core 3.3 GHz (3.8 GHz turbo)
  • GeForce GTX 980 4GB
  • 16GB Quad-channel Memory (4x4GB)
  • 128GB SSD + 2TB HDD

View the complete specs here as configured (first column).

Custom-Built PC Equivalent

Using PCPartPicker, here is a gaming PC that is equivalent to the Area-51 in performance and function.

CPUIntel Core i7-5820K 6-Core$389.99
CPU CoolerCorsair H60 54.0 CFM Liquid$59.98
MotherboardASRock X99 Extreme3 ATX LGA2011-3$186.78
MemoryCrucial Ballistix Sport 16GB (4x4GB) DDR4-2400$239.99
StorageCrucial MX100 128GB 2.5" SSD$62.99
StorageSeagate 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM HDD$92.24
Video CardEVGA GeForce GTX 980 4GB ACX 2.0$549.99
CaseCorsair Carbide 400R$89.99
Power SupplyCorsair HX850 850W 80+ Gold Semi-Modular$149.99
Optical DriveSamsung DVD/CD Writer$14.98
Operating SystemMicrosoft Windows 8.1 64-bit$89.98
Network AdapterIntel 7260 802.11a/b/g/n/ac PCI-E$49.99
OtherFront Media Card Reader$14.99
PCPartPicker Part List
Prices include shipping where applicable

A Note About The Corsair Case
One of the Area-51's big selling points is its case. It has a very unique design and build that can't be replicated by any aftermarket case. The case I chose for this comparison is the Corsair Carbide 400R, which is a very high-quality tower case with all of the necessary functionality and excellent cooling options. Despite this, it may be noisier than the Area-51 and will lack the unique design features that set the Area-51 apart from other PCs. The Area-51 really is a unique PC, so if you desire its design and features, you likely will not be satisfied by any other normal PC case.

The custom-built PC with Corsair case comes to $560 less than the Area-51, which is enough money to build a complete separate budget gaming PC (for your little brother perhaps) or maybe a nice 1440p monitor.

Alienware Area-51$2,549.00
Custom-Built Mid-Tower$1,988.37

My Takeaway
I must admit, after doing this comparison I don't think the Area-51 is terribly overpriced for what you get. If the case design and Dell support are worth $600 to you, and you're okay with the limited GPU, SSD, and HDD choices, then the Area-51 is a good buy.

Things To Consider

Here are some other things to consider when comparing the Area-51 to a custom-built gaming PC:

Sales Tax
Dell charges tax where applicable, which will increase the price of the Area-51 by a couple hundred dollars depending on your state and county. Most custom-built vendors, such as Newegg and NCIXUS, do not charge tax unless you're in a state they operate in.

The biggest advantage of the custom-built PC comes from its customizability and not having to fit into one of Dell's tiered columns. You can make the PC to suit your needs and save money in the process. For example:
  • If you don't need WiFi, Bluetooth, or a media card reader, you can save around $65.
  • If you don't plan to ever utilize SLI, you can save around $50 by going with a lower wattage power supply.
  • If you already have an operating system, or plan to use Linux, you can save around $90 by not having to purchase Windows 8.1.
  • If you will be primarily gaming, you can save $100 to $200 by going with a Core i7-4790K, LGA 1150 motherboard, and DDR3 memory. This will have little to no effect on gaming frame rates.

Storage Options
Dell offers the Area-51 with a 128GB SSD + 2TB HDD combo, and on the higher tier a 256/512GB SSD + 4TB HDD combo. Unfortunately, you cannot choose any other combination of storage options. On a custom-built PC, you could choose any combination of SSD and HDD, or just go with an SSD. A single 512GB SSD will cost about the same as the 128GB SSD + 2TB HDD combo, and may be an excellent choice for someone that doesn't need a lot of storage space.

Wait Time
Dell usually takes a week or two before shipping, plus time in transit, especially if you have an uncommon configuration. With a custom-built PC, you will usually have your components within 3-5 business days.

Size & Weight
The Area-51 weighs 61 pounds and is 22.4" x 10.7" x 25.2" in dimensions (source). While it doesn't fill the entire space due to its triangular shape, it still takes up a very large footprint on any desk or floor space. The Corsair-based custom PC is 19.80" x 8.10" x 20.50" in dimensions and will weigh between 30 to 40 lbs once fully built. The Area-51 also does not have a large top surface if you like to set things on your case.
Comments (2)
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Burton Gavin   Mar 13, 2016
The thing that always gets left out of these estimates is the labor costs. A tech's time is usually billed at around $75 / hr. If you think your time is worth nothing I have a long list of people that'll hire you .... for nothing. And there's wRranty. Assemble it yourself and good luck with a warranty if you have component issues.
Cole Neves   Jan 06, 2015
Whoever wrote this article knows little to nothing about building PC's or PC's in general, terrible delivery. 1st mistake: The GTX 980 that you linked from Amazon in your opening paragraph is not the one that is shipped with the A-51, so it does not have the same specs. (ACX cooler was linked, and Reference 980 is the one that is shipped with the A-51) 2nd mistake: Implying that the cost listed in PCPP is the exact cost you'd be paying, False, PCPP does not always show the correct/actual/true cost (enthusiasts know this). Not everyone reading this article lives in the U.S. and shipping and taxes may/will apply. 3rd mistake: "Windows 8.1 64-bit" is not a part, bullet points do not depict all key components which make up the price of $2449.00. Looks like you copy and pasted around this whole article. 4th mistake: a "TOSHIBA" 2TB hardrive was chosen for a storage option in the build that is "equivalent?" in performance. This is supposed to be a high end machine not a Mcdonalds cash register. 5th: like I stated above you skimped out on your components, choosing the cheapest possible option for everything no matter what so this build instantly loses its credibility for being equivalent to the A-51, a Motherboard with 802.11ac or a card reader option were not given. lastly: You sealed your own deal, no PC is an equivalent to the A-51, simply because what makes the Area-51 the Area-51 is its case, its components all revolve around the case design which you must've failed to understand seeing as you linked the ACX 980 instead of the reference 980 with the blower. People are paying more for the case. A real comparable build can be made at the price of $2215.00 but WITHOUT the Alienware Area-51 case.