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Alienware Area 51 Prebuilt vs. DIY PC Ultimate Showdown & Comparison

Okay, to start off there were a few inspirations for this build guide. This guide, which showed a much lower end system showdown of either a DIY PC vs. a prebuilt, and this forum post because the friend of the poster things that you can only get the best performance for buying an Alienware 51. So with that out of the way, let's get onto the builds!

EDIT: There is an older version of this guide, which has some small edits with pricing & waterblock amounts. Thanks to yot001 for showing what I ended up doing wrong. Anyways, onto clarification!

Clarification:

Actually, before we start, I need to address something. The Alienware was set up with whatever Dell recommended, and at their highest end system. This means that certain parts will be in the build compared to whatever anyone else could set it up to. Minus software, the 51 is configured with every "recommended part" possible.

The Builds:

DIY PC:

Team DIY / Price breakdown by merchant

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant

Type Item Price
CPU Intel Core i7-5820K 3.3GHz 6-Core Processor $378.38 @ B&H
CPU Block EKWB Supremacy EVO X99 Acetal Nickel $77.99 @ EKWB
Motherboard MSI X99A SLI PLUS ATX LGA2011-3 Motherboard $193.98 @ Newegg
Memory G.Skill Ripjaws V Series 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4-2400 Memory $64.88 @ OutletPC
Memory G.Skill Ripjaws V Series 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4-2400 Memory $64.88 @ OutletPC
Memory G.Skill Ripjaws V Series 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4-2400 Memory $64.88 @ OutletPC
Memory G.Skill Ripjaws V Series 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4-2400 Memory $64.88 @ OutletPC
Storage Samsung 850 EVO-Series 500GB 2.5" Solid State Drive $149.45 @ OutletPC
Storage Western Digital BLACK SERIES 4TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive $196.99 @ Amazon
Video Card EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB ACX 2.0+ Video Card (3-Way SLI) $619.99 @ Amazon
Video Card EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB ACX 2.0+ Video Card (3-Way SLI) $619.99 @ Amazon
Video Card EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB ACX 2.0+ Video Card (3-Way SLI) $619.99 @ Amazon
Case Cooler Master MasterCase Pro 5 ATX Mid Tower Case $125.46 @ Amazon
Power Supply EVGA SuperNOVA P2 1600W 80+ Platinum Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply $352.47 @ Amazon
Case Fan Corsair Air Series AF140 Quiet Edition 67.8 CFM 140mm Fan $17.48 @ OutletPC
Case Fan Corsair Air Series SP120 Quiet Edition 37.9 CFM 120mm Fan $16.88 @ OutletPC
Case Fan Corsair Air Series SP120 Quiet Edition (2-Pack) 37.9 CFM 120mm Fans $26.32 @ Amazon
Case Fan Corsair Air Series SP120 Quiet Edition (2-Pack) 37.9 CFM 120mm Fans $26.32 @ Amazon
Radiator EKWB Coolstream PE 360 (Front Mounted Rad) $79.99 @ EKWB
Radiator EKWB Coolstream PE 240 (Top Mounted Rad) $61.99 @ EKWB
GPU Blocks EKWB Titan X Nickel Acetal Waterblock 3x $377.97 @ EKWB
GPU Backplates EKWB Titan X Backplate Acetal (Black) 3x $104.97 @ EKWB
Pump EKWB XRES 100 Revo D5 $149.99 @ EKWB
Reservoir EKWB RES X3 250 $62.99 @ EKWB
Dye Mayhems Green Non Stain Dye $8.95 @ Mayhems.uk
Compression Fittings Primochill Rigid Compression Fittings (Satin Black) $77.95 @ Primochill
GPU Adapters Bitspower Multi Link Adapter (GPU Adapters) (Satin Black) $23.00 @ PerformancePC's
Tubing Primochill Rigid PETG Tubing 12pk. $29.95 @ Primochill
Prices include shipping, taxes, rebates, and discounts
Total (before mail-in rebates) $4668.96
Mail-in rebates -$10.00
Total $4658.96
Generated by PCPartPicker 2016-04-17 01:51 EDT-0400

Alienware Prebuilt

Team Alienware / Price breakdown by merchant

Type Item Price
CPU Intel Core i7-5930K 3.5GHz 6-Core Processor $578.99 @ B&H
CPU Cooler Corsair H55 57.0 CFM Liquid CPU Cooler $49.99 @ Newegg
Motherboard MSI X99A SLI PLUS ATX LGA2011-3 Motherboard $193.98 @ Newegg
Memory Kingston HyperX Fury Black 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4-2133 Memory $64.49 @ Newegg
Memory Kingston HyperX Fury Black 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4-2133 Memory $64.49 @ Newegg
Storage Samsung 850 Pro Series 512GB 2.5" Solid State Drive $212.19 @ Amazon
Storage Western Digital Green 4TB 3.5" 5900RPM Internal Hard Drive $135.99 @ B&H
Video Card EVGA GeForce GTX Titan X 12GB Superclocked Video Card (3-Way SLI) $1023.99 @ B&H
Video Card EVGA GeForce GTX Titan X 12GB Superclocked Video Card (3-Way SLI) $1023.99 @ B&H
Video Card EVGA GeForce GTX Titan X 12GB Superclocked Video Card (3-Way SLI) $1023.99 @ B&H
Power Supply Alienware Area 51 1500W PSU
Case Alienware Area 51 Case
Prices include shipping, taxes, rebates, and discounts
Total (before mail-in rebates) $4392.09
Mail-in rebates -$20.00
Total $6058.99 (From Dell's Website)
Generated by PCPartPicker 2016-04-09 12:24 EDT-0400

And with that out of the way, let's get onto the parts!

Partlist & Comparison:

CPU: Intel i7 5820k vs Intel i7 5930k

DIY's 5820k vs Alienware's 5930k

Out of the box, the Area 51 comes with a 5930k installed, which is great and all. There is only 2 issues. 1. 5930k is a really bad deal compared to the 5820k 2. It's overclocked only to 4.0 GHz, and good luck trying to get it any higher
Both CPU's have 6 cores, the same amount of cache, and with stock speeds, only a .2 Ghz difference. Not much. And saying both CPU's are allowed to overclock, the only issue is cooling, which I will explain a little later. Really the 5930k is a terrible deal compared to the 5820k, almost as bad as the 5960x. Luckily they don't recommend the chip, so

Winner for CPU Round: DIY. Reason, Price


CPU Cooler: EKWB Supremacy EVO X99 vs. Corsair H55

DIY's Watercooling Loop vs. Alienware Single Fan Cooler

EKWB Supremacy EVO? What's that doing here?

Well if you know anything about watercooling, you'd know that it's amazing at dissipating heat. And a custom watercooling loop is pretty much as extreme as it get's. So an extreme watercooling loop, vs. an 1 fan AIO cooler? Overclocks aren't going to go that far with the 5930k, while the 5820k in the DIY system has a lot more breathing room, for either lower temps at the same clock, or higher temps for higher performance. Sorry Alienware.
And if your defense for the Alienware is that "they're not going to overclock at all!" then you'd be wrong. Dell puts on a 4Ghz overclock with their CPU's, and if you're buying a PC with a overclockable chip and not overclocking, then something is wrong with your thinking.

Winner for CPU Cooler Round: DIY. Reason, Cooling Headroom


Motherboard: MSI SLI Plus X99 vs. Blue PCB Typical X99 Motherboard

DIY's MSI Motherboard vs. Strange Blue PCB Motherboard

Both motherboards are alright, they do their job as designed, have pretty good IO, and as long as you love blue you should be fine. I would knock off points for the Alienware motherboard only having 4 available sticks of RAM, but that's fine, and makes what little overclocking Dell could do easier. Both could just as be as unreliable as well, if anything goes on.

Winner for Motherboard Round: Draw


RAM: DIY's G.Skill Ripjaws V vs. Alienware's "HyperX" RAM

DIY's High Profile RAM vs. Alienware's LPX RAM

This would be a wash if it wasn't for the reason I was able to fix 64GB OF RAM INTO THE SYSTEM. Almost no one needs 64GB unless you're a video editor or animator or something like that. Really it was more of a "why not" choice, and there was so much headroom in the price it allowed me to do so. And also the upgrade of 16GB to 32GB on their site is just as expensive as the 64GB I was able to put in here. So you just paid $250 for 16GB of RAM. Not even Dominator Platinums are that expensive usually.

Winner of RAM Round: DIY. Reason, Amount of Available RAM / Price


Storage: SSD & HDD Combo vs. SSD & HDD Combo

DIY's 850 EVO & WD Black vs. Alienware's 850 PRO & WD Green

Well at least they knew what they were doing. Regardless, the Alienware setup is a little strange. A WD Green 4TB, for games probably, and a 512GB Samsung 850 PRO for everything else. The setup is fine, actually, other than the Pro being more expensive than it should be. and having to add $150 just for another 200GB or so. The problem is warranty. They offer up to 4 years of warranty for the whole system, for an extra $400. However, for warranty on the storage drives, it's completely a waste. The Green has a 2 year warranty if you'd buy it separately, while the 850 PRO is supposed to have a 10 YEAR WARRANTY. That's why you buy the Pro over the EVO, warranty length. Same goes for WD Black, 5 year warranty vs. a 2 year warranty.

Winner of Storage Round: DIY. Reason, Warranty Length


Graphics Cards: 980Ti's in 3Way SLI vs. 3 Titan X's in SLI

DIY's 980Ti's vs Alienware's Titan X's

If you don't know this already, the 980Ti's are based on the same GM 200 core that the Titan X's have, but at a much lower price. So let me just say this. The 980Ti's are next to each other, watercooled, with backplates and all of that. Overclocking city here we come!
And then the 3 Titan X's sandwiched together. They already run at their max 86 degree limit, so you're hindering them by having it like that. Yeah this is a clean sweep

Winner of GPU Round: DIY. Reason, Cooling & Pricing


Case: Coolermaster Mastercase 5 Pro vs. Alienware 51 Case

DIY's Modders Dream vs. Alienware Triangle Thing

While the Mastercase isn't the best case for watercooling, it's definitely better than the Alienware 51 case. 3 possible rads, room for fans, and great airflow in general, as well as a side panel. The Mastercase 5 Pro has handles on it to pick it up with you and go. Same goes for the Area 51. The Area 51 has positive pressure, while configured in the current way, the Mastercase has negative pressure. The Mastercase is modular, and modding is super easy. While even something as simple as a motherboard swap is near impossible because of the proprietary form factors. Another clear win.

Winner of Case Round, DIY. Reason, Modularity and Ease of Use.


Power Supply: EVGA P2 1600W vs Gray Unit 1500 W.

DIY's Top Of The Line Availible vs. Alienware's Gray Unit

This is another landslide. The pricing for a jump to 850W to 1500W for Alienware is $200. I mean, if it was a jump to a CX Corsair PSU to a EVGA P2 like this, then sure. But to get a proper PSU that's 850W, the jump is not that high. Not to mention the reliability, EVGA makes amazing PSU's that are pretty much the best of the best. While this is a gray unit, and I don't even know the 80+ rating whatsoever. It's "approved" by Dell, so at least that's one good thing.

Winner of PSU Round: DIY. Reason, Known Efficiency, Reliability, and Pricing.


Fans: Corsair SP & AF series vs. Normal Fans

DIY's Nice Looking Corsair fans vs. Random Dell fans

This is actually another draw. While the Corsair fans look absolutely stellar, you won't be able to see them much at all. While the fans in the Alienware, you don't see whatsoever. And if the fans are like any fans in the prebuilt space, they are usually industrial grade, which means super high RPM's (up to 4000 RPM). So it's either reduced airflow fans, or screaming fans that cool the rest of your system.

Winner of Fan Round: Draw


Extra's, Features, and Software

DIY's Custom Built vs. Alienware's Prebuilt

The recommendation for Windows is Windows 10 Pro for the Alienware. While not an issue, I doubt many people will be using the advantages of Pro anyways. While the DIY can pick any OS, from Windows 7, 8, 10, etc with ease. There is bloatware on the Alienware, while for the DIY it'll be a clean slate. Alienware pretty much recommends every terrible paid software (Office 2016, Norton, McAfee, etc.). Oh and have I told you yet this was all built with A WATERCOOLING LOOP INSIDE?!? Just roll the results.

Winner of Extra's, Features & Software: DIY. Reason, Controllability of What You Want.

Final Words & Results

I almost had hope for the Alienware. But it got completely destroyed in the competition, being edged out by a system with much better specs for a better price. Even though I could've slimmed it down, and have triple or even dual 980Ti's instead of Titan X's, the fact still stands that DIY is still the best option, even today.

Final Prices:

DIY System: $4342.69

Alienware: $6058.99

If you're interested, this was the site I used to compare. Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions leave them down below! Comments, critique, etc. is also welcome.

Compatibility: No issues or incompatibilities found.

Component Selection Base Promo Shipping Tax Price Where
CPU Intel Core i7-5820K 3.3 GHz 6-Core Processor
Base
Promo
Shipping
Tax
Price
No Prices Available
Where
Buy
CPU Cooler EKWB Supre​macy EVO X​99 Acetal ​Nickel
Base
Promo
Shipping
Tax
Price
$77.99
Where
Motherboard MSI X99A SLI PLUS ATX LGA2011-3 Motherboard
Base
Promo
Shipping
Tax
Price
No Prices Available
Where
Buy
Memory G.Skill Ripjaws V Series 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) DDR4-2400 Memory
Base
$74.81
Promo
Shipping
Tax
Price
$74.81
Where
Buy
Memory G.Skill Ripjaws V Series 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) DDR4-2400 Memory
Base
$74.81
Promo
Shipping
Tax
Price
$74.81
Where
Buy
Memory G.Skill Ripjaws V Series 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) DDR4-2400 Memory
Base
$74.81
Promo
Shipping
Tax
Price
$74.81
Where
Buy
Memory G.Skill Ripjaws V Series 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) DDR4-2400 Memory
Base
$74.81
Promo
Shipping
Tax
Price
$74.81
Where
Buy
Storage Western Digital BLACK SERIES 4 TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive
Base
$209.99
Promo
Shipping
FREE
Tax
Price
$209.99
Where
Buy
Storage Samsung 850 EVO-Series 500 GB 2.5" Solid State Drive
Base
Promo
Shipping
Tax
Price
No Prices Available
Where
Buy
Video Card EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6 GB ACX 2.0+ Video Card
Base
Promo
Shipping
Tax
Price
No Prices Available
Where
Buy
Video Card EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6 GB ACX 2.0+ Video Card
Base
Promo
Shipping
Tax
Price
No Prices Available
Where
Buy
Video Card EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6 GB ACX 2.0+ Video Card
Base
Promo
Shipping
Tax
Price
No Prices Available
Where
Buy
Case Cooler Master MasterCase Pro 5 ATX Mid Tower Case
Base
Promo
Shipping
Tax
Price
No Prices Available
Where
Buy
Power Supply EVGA SuperNOVA P2 1600 W 80+ Platinum Certified Fully Modular ATX Power Supply
Base
$395.58
Promo
Shipping
Tax
Price
$395.58
Where
Buy
Case Fan Corsair Air Series AF140 Quiet Edition 67.8 CFM 140 mm Fan
Base
$19.98
Promo
Shipping
Tax
Price
$19.98
Where
Buy
Case Fan Corsair Air Series SP120 Quiet Edition 37.85 CFM 120 mm Fan
Base
$31.57
Promo
Shipping
FREE
Tax
Price
$31.57
Where
Buy
Case Fan Corsair Air Series SP120 Quiet Edition (2-Pack) 37.85 CFM 120 mm Fans
Base
$29.01
Promo
Shipping
$14.24
Tax
Price
$43.25
Where
Buy
Case Fan Corsair Air Series SP120 Quiet Edition (2-Pack) 37.85 CFM 120 mm Fans
Base
$29.01
Promo
Shipping
$14.24
Tax
Price
$43.25
Where
Buy

Custom

EKWB Cools​tream PE 3​60 (Front ​Mounted Ra​d)
Base
Promo
Shipping
Tax
Price
$79.99
Where

Custom

EKWB Cools​tream PE 2​40 (Top Mo​unted Rad)
Base
Promo
Shipping
Tax
Price
$61.99
Where

Custom

EKWB Titan​ X Backpla​te Acetal ​(Black) 3x
Base
Promo
Shipping
Tax
Price
$104.97
Where

Custom

EKWB Titan​ X Nickel ​Acetal Wat​erblock 3x
Base
Promo
Shipping
Tax
Price
$377.97
Where

Custom

EKWB XRES ​100 Revo D​5
Base
Promo
Shipping
Tax
Price
$149.99
Where

Custom

EKWB RES X​3 250
Base
Promo
Shipping
Tax
Price
$62.99
Where

Custom

Mayhems Gr​een Non St​ain Dye
Base
Promo
Shipping
Tax
Price
$8.95
Where

Custom

Primochill​ Rigid Com​pression F​ittings (S​atin Black​)
Base
Promo
Shipping
Tax
Price
$77.95
Where

Custom

Bitspower ​Multi Link​ Adapter (​GPU Adapte​rs) (Satin​ Black)
Base
Promo
Shipping
Tax
Price
$23.00
Where

Custom

Primochill​ Rigid PET​G Tubing 1​2pk.
Base
Promo
Shipping
Tax
Price
$29.95
Where
Base Total: $2070.12
Shipping: $28.48
Total: $2098.60
Buy From Amazon

* PCPartPicker may receive compensation for purchases made at participating retailers linked on this site. This compensation does not affect what products or prices are displayed, or the order of prices listed. Learn more here.

Compatibility Notes

  • Note:Some physical dimension restrictions cannot (yet) be automatically checked, such as cpu cooler / RAM clearance with modules using tall heat spreaders.

Part List Price History

    Comments

    • 43 months ago
    • 3 points

    ******* copying me smh

    I saw the watercooling stuff for Team DIY and I was like, "Dell's gonna get whooped omg". You absolutely exploited Aleinware's weaknesses perfectly imo, which is why you get a thumbs up my friend.

    • 43 months ago
    • 2 points

    ;D

    There was another version about 20 *7 days ago, apparently I got some of the pricing wrong with waterblocks and what not. But thank you!

    • 43 months ago
    • 1 point

    There was another version about 20 days ago

    So it was I copying you!

    Sorry I didn't see it, you should've sent it to me ;)

    • 43 months ago
    • 1 point

    It's completely alright! The link was posted on the "Off Topic" section, so you must've missed it when I posted the topic.

    • 43 months ago
    • 2 points

    I like your case choice for this build. I love my Mastercase Pro 5.

    • 43 months ago
    • 2 points

    Thank you! It's a great midtower, and also has handles for easy travel (like the Area 51). I figured it was the most fitting case, not being too large while being transportable if you want to use it at a LAN, say

    • 43 months ago
    • 1 point

    I like the mastercase 5 but i really want the windowed version and you have to buy the pro version to get it and my budget is EXTREMELY tight at the moment so instead ive been going towards mITX stuff.

    • 43 months ago
    • 1 point

    you dident add ~ $100 for the windows 7/8/10 so you need to do it all again... no jk you talked at the "Extra's, Features, and Software" paragraph so it is fine.

    anyway the Alienware comes with a controller. Because the controller is wireless it launch Alienware's price/performance and it win the DIY PC at the comparison. gg, gl next time :)

    • 43 months ago
    • 1 point

    If you want a Xbox controller, you can get that for an extra $40 or whatever Xbox is selling them for nowdays.

    Pretty useful regardless. I just won't add that in, they lost anyways saying on their lower end offers you're paying for $100 to get one

    • 43 months ago
    • 1 point

    Power System Critique:

    32 GB or Ram is Fine: Saves $125 --- 2x 980 Ti's is a powerhouse without the 3rd: Saves $620 --- Hard Drive - Samsung 2T is a better buy: Saves $100 --- PSU - Way overboard with the adjustments above: Save $200 --- I look at it as over $1, 000 wasted if you built it yourself and $3, 000 wasted if you bought it from alienware. - --- But JMHO ---- thx for the info --- and yep - I like yours better :)

    • 43 months ago
    • 1 point

    Again, some of the stuff was there because why not :P
    I was actually planning on dual 980 Ti's, but there was such a price margin I decided to really go for some "really nice why not" things. While not the smartest build for the money, it still shows the example that doing DIY stuff saves you quite a lot of money.

    Regardless thank you!

    • 38 months ago
    • 1 point

    I love how DELL tries to be like apple with their success and all with the slogan Forget everything you know??????????? The hell???? Am I just supposed to dump all my PC knowledge and pay DELL $2000 for building it for me, and a quote on quote cool looking case????

    [comment deleted]
    • 43 months ago
    • 1 point

    For their warranty though, that's why people buy them

    [comment deleted]
    • 43 months ago
    • 1 point

    They never offer 5 or 10 years, usually only 2 year warranties (from what I've seen)

    [comment deleted by staff]
    • 43 months ago
    • 1 point

    Okay. And?

    Of course it's going to outperform the 5820k. The 6700k is a GAMING CPU, while the 5820k is a WORKSTATION CPU. It's a prosumer chip. If you're spending $4500 on a PC, you're NOT just gaming, that's ludacris.

    The advantages of the 6700k are:

    • Higher boost clock (overclocking makes this null)
    • Faster single core performance
    • New manufacturer process
    • Cheaper motherboards (kinda null too)

    Advantages of the 5820k are:

    • MUCH better multi core performance
    • Usually cheaper
    • Will be able to do things like Twitch streaming much better
    • More lanes for GPU's or other PCIE cards
    • More robust & rated for longer performance (especially the motherboards)

    I mean sure, you can get a 6700k. I knew this when crafting this build guide. But that's silly, because the 6700k is a terrible deal for the money, the i5 6500k performs NEARLY the same without overclocking, and overclocking makes it null. The 5820k, while a X99 chip, still holds it's ground, even if it seems bad on paper.

    Literally, you lose around 2 FPS in non-CPU intensive games with the 5820k stock, and you actually gain FPS compared to the 6700k with more CPU intensive games, and especially applications

    Sort

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