At Computex 2017 earlier this month, we heard a lot about the AMD Ryzen Threadripper and the Intel Core X i9, two superpowered processors built for gamers and streamers. This week at E3 in Los Angeles, those monsters are being put to good use. Dell is refreshing their triangular tower PC, the Alienware Area-51, and they’re making both companies’ latest processors available.
When we heard about the new processors at Computex, we got the picture that these aren’t meant simply for high-powered gaming or even VR — they’re more than powerful enough for that. Instead, the new processors and the new Area-51 are meant for pro (and aspiring pro) gamers who want to do it all — setting up a live, high-quality gameplay stream while video chatting and running games (even VR) at ultra settings. AMD and Intel have created processors with more cores to handle that kind of multitasking, and Dell is the first out of the gate to make use of them.
In fact, Dell will be the only company making use of Threadripper for now. While AMD will sell the processors by themselves to people building their own PCs, Dell has exclusive rights to premade Threadripper rigs for the rest of the year. So, if you’re not the DIY type, you’ll have to turn to Dell to get your hands on AMD’s new hotness. The good news is that Dell will be offering the top-flight 16-core, 32-thread Threadripper model, and it will be overclocked with liquid and fan cooling.
That actually tops the Intel options here. We heard about an 18-core, 36-thread Core X i9 at Computex, but that processor isn’t ready for prime time yet. Instead, the Area-51 tops out at a 10-core, 20-thread model with a locked 4.5 GHz clock speed, also with liquid and fan cooling.
But, the Intel configurations do have one advantage — Intel Optane memory. 16 GB or 32 GB Optane modules can be combined with large capacity HDDs to provide SSD-like speeds at HDD prices. We expect the AMD configurations to be somewhat more affordable, but configuring the Area-51 with a Core X i9 and Optane memory could make for a compelling deal.
On the GPU front, both Threadripper and Core X configurations can be combined with one or two GPUs from Nvidia’s 10-series or AMD’s 500-series, topping out at the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080Ti and the AMD Radeon RX580. Unfortunately, it looks like we won’t see configurations with AMD’s upcoming Vega GPUs, but the beauty of desktop PCs is that one or two of those can easily be swapped in after the fact. Actually, make that three — the new Threadripper and Core X motherboards have room for three GPUs, but the Area-51 can only be configured with three AMD GPUs.
The rigs can be configured with up to 64 GB of RAM, with different speeds available. There are also power supply options, although this will mostly depend on how many GPUs the Area-51 gets stocked with. Built in Gigabit ethernet and dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi ensure that the rig will be able to establish a good enough connection for all that gaming and streaming, provided you’ve got the internet service and router to match. Besides the Intel Optane storage options, the Area-51 can also get M.2 PCIe SSDs up to 1 TB, which can be combined with SATA HDDs up to 2 TB.
Dell expects to start shipping the Threadripper Area-51 configurations on July 27, with the Intel configurations expected later in the summer. They don’t have pricing finalized for either, but look, we’re going to level with you — these things are going to be real expensive. Those processors alone probably push $1,000, so I’d put the price at many thousands.
Check out more of our E3 2017 coverage right here!