New PC Part V: Let’s Give Alienware a Shot

Update on the second ASUS ROG G20… fine for a day or two, and then epic failure. Again. It’s been replaced. Here’s the story…

The blinking video issue that I described in my last entry came back the night I made the “Part IV” blog post. Throughout the night it kept getting worse and worse. I used a utility called “DDU” to boot in to safe mode and completely remove everything nVidia from the machine. I then reinstalled drivers that were one version old to see if that fixed the problem. It didn’t. DDU again, and installed drivers 3 versions old. Still no luck. 4 versions old, 5 versions old. Gave up.

I’m fairly certain it was a driver issue. When in safe mode and after removing all of the nVidia drivers, the system would power the card using a generic Microsoft video driver. When in this state there were no blinks, at all. No 3 strikes when it comes to technology. I put it in the box and took it, my second ROG G20, back to the store.

I debated on building my own PC, and then debated on giving the Alienware a try – the one I talked about in my last post, which was a bit more expensive than the ROG. Sure, it was bigger, and it was more expensive, but it was sexy, had more expansion both internally and externally, and unlike building my own PC, I wouldn’t have to worry about one individual part not working and having to mail it back for a return/replacement. There are some good things still to be said about brick and mortar resellers – namely the ability to return something and get a replacement quickly if it doesn’t work.

I also thought about building my own machine, so I decided to sum up identical specs from Newegg as what came in the $1499 Alienware. Said and done, before shipping – which I may have been able to get for free – total parts came out to $1428, and that was assuming only $100 spent for a case and $200 spent on a motherboard. All other parts were the identical parts that came in the Alienware, down to manufacturer/model. Realistically my ideal motherboard would have been in the $250-$300 range given the models I was eyeing, and I also really love the Phanteks Evolv mid tower, which is $179. See how fast you can get yourself in to trouble?

I figured bang-for-buck (somehow, and you wouldn’t have thought it), the Alienware was the better deal. Plus, if it had issues like the two ASUS’, I could just return it and be out nothing but gas and time.

A couple other things I liked about the Alienware too, over the ROG.

The ROG has space for one 2.5″ HD and comes with no SSD. The Alienware has a 3.5″ HD spot (currently populated with a 1TB drive), as well as two 2.5″ drive slots and an NVME slot, the NVME slot having 256GB of storage out of the box. This means a few things… First, 2.5″ drives don’t offer capacities as high as 3.5″, and are more expensive per GB. Second, I can add/upgrade storage drives without wiping my OS, since the OS is on NVME and I still have 3 open drive slots. Third, I had two 1TB 2.5″ drives sitting at home that I could upgrade the unit with for no cost.

The ROG does have a single M.2 slot, but it’s buried and requires much disassembly. Each component of the Alienware is serviceable with the side panel off and the power supply swung out (it’s on a hinge). No scary removal of ribbon cables to get to things.

The Alienware has 4 DDR4 slots and uses standard desktop RAM. The ROG has two DDR4 slots and uses SO-DIMMs. This also means more expandability in a cheaper form factor.

The Alienware uses a standard ATX power supply, whereas the ROG uses an external proprietary power supply. A pair of them actually – one for the video card and one for the rest of the PC. People who bought the ROG G20s based on the 700 series nVidia cards, I found out, aren’t able to upgrade their cards to the 10 series cards now due to lack of power available from that external PSU, and thus a new (expensive) external PSU must be purchased.

The Alienware also supports a second graphics card in SLI. This means if I felt it necessary, eventually I could throw another 1070 inside with no additional fuss.

Lastly, and I didn’t realize this until I got home and actually got the thing up and running, the Alienware uses 120mm fans instead of smaller 30mm fans, so it’s VASTLY more quiet than the ROG was.

My largest concern, and I mentioned this on the previous blog post, was size. I was afraid the Alienware wasn’t going to fit on my desk. I’m glad to report that it does fit – only just. I would equate it to a medium-to-large sized mid tower, but slightly narrower. The pictures make it look a lot larger than it actually is. It’s not as tiny as the ROG, but it does contain proper fans and an internal power supply, so that adds to the size. Still, it does fit on my desk, and it’s working well.

I’m still in the process of getting software installed and games downloaded, so I can’t comment on performance yet. I haven’t experienced any issues though with the hardware, and I must say that having the OS on an NVME means this thing is MUCH faster in normal tasks, like opening applications and things like that. For that I’m very happy.

Expect an update when I get everything settled down. I’m really looking forward to testing this thing out.

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