Alienware doubles up, twice

Gaming PC manufacturer introduces world’s first consumer dual-CPU, dual-GPU system. First systems to appear in new “luxury” Alienware ALX line.

Today at E3, desktop, mobile, and professional PC manufacturer Alienware has unveiled a new desktop system capable of supporting two processors and two video cards. The new system will debut under Alienware’s new ALX, “Alienware Luxury Experience” line of high-performance PC systems.

Almost three years ago, back in 2001, Alienware started work on producing an AGP dual video card system. The company developed a working prototype in 2003 but decided to update the technology to support the upcoming PCI Express interface since video cards will switch over from AGP to the new PCI-E interface later this year. Alienware demonstrated the fruits of its labor at E3, where CEO Nelson Gonzales and CTO Humberto Organvidez demonstrated an alpha test system running two PCI-E Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra graphics cards.

Reminiscent of 3dfx’s Voodoo2 scan-line interleave (SLI) technology, Alienware’s “Video Array” technology allows two video cards to work together while running a game. Unlike 3dfx’s SLI, where the two video cards shared the workload by drawing alternating lines on the screen, the video cards in Alienware’s Video Array split the screen in two, with one card working on the top half and the second card working on the bottom. Load balancing software ensures that the workload is evenly split between the two cards in cases where graphics complexity in one half of the screen is greater than the other. Alienware isn’t ready to release benchmark numbers since the hardware is still in alpha, but the company expects a “50-percent-plus performance gain over traditional graphics solutions” when the system is ready for release.

Alienware’s Video Array technology will make its debut in a specially designed Alienware X2 motherboard. Manufactured by motherboard company Iwill Corporation, the X2 will feature dual PCI Express graphics ports, compatible with both Nvidia and ATI hardware, and will also have support for dual next-generation Intel Xeon processors and up to 8GB of DDR2 ECC memory. Alienware currently has no plans to license its technology to third-party manufacturers, and the X2 motherboard will not be available for purchase as a single component. The only way to get your hands on an X2 system will be to purchase a fully loaded X2 Alienware ALX PC.

Alienware's new ALX line of systems will be the first to feature X2 based systems. Unique features of the new ALX line include factory overclocked hardware; personal one-on-one attention from sales, support, and manufacturing; factory tours; games preinstalled, tweaked, and tested; aluminum briefcase; chrome-plated WASD keyboard keys; 24/7 tech support; and discounts on system upgrades.

ALX systems will also feature an “ultraquiet water-cooling solution.” The system we saw had water-cooling blocks for both CPUs and both video cards. Since the power requirements for a dual-CPU, dual-GPU system will be very high, expect X2 based ALX systems to ship with a massive power supply in the 800W range. Initial ALX systems available this June will be single-CPU, single-video-card solutions, but Alienware expects to offer X2-based systems in Q3 or Q4 of this year, with pricing yet to be determined.

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