Review: Alienware Alpha. Discount Alienware Alpha
Alienware Alpha is a small-sized desktop (around 20 x 20 x 5cm) that you can hook up to your TV and enjoy all of your regular Steam PC games on a wider display and by using a regular Xbox controller.
The Alpha comes at four price points, with the model we tested being the highest available. While Alienware is forthcoming about most of the specs, it’s been coy on the GPU, which is a customized Nvidia GTX 860M. The high-end Alpha packs an Intel Core i7-4765T processor with 8GB of DDR3 memory and—sadly but not unexpectedly at this price point—a 2TB mechanical hard drive. It’s possible to swap in an SSD, but in doing so you’d be sacrificing one of the Alpha’s strongest selling points: its price. While the drive’s speed is unlikely to bother the device’s target market—those used to Xbox 360 or Xbox One loading times—it’s likely to rub those used to SSD speeds the wrong way.
As for that GPU, well, according to our benchmarks it’s similar to the GTX 860M with 2GB GDDR5. We tested it up against the recent Acer Aspire V 15 Nitro gaming laptop—which also packs a GTX 860M—and saw comparable performance, with the Alpha edging slightly ahead in games like Metro: Last Light, GRID 2 and BioShock Infinite. Those gaming framerates are fairly impressive, especially given that the Alpha is significantly cheaper than the aforementioned Acer. Metro: Last Light, for example, ran at a pinch above 60fps at 1080p on Medium settings, though jack the settings any higher and you’ll immediately encounter performance drops. Basically, it runs as well and looks a bit better than the Xbox One and PS4 versions of the game.
And that’s the thing: the Alpha is basically a laptop gaming PC in a discreet, 20 x 20cm box. It doesn’t get as hot as a laptop, with the GPU temperature sitting around 79 degrees celsius, nor is it any louder than an Xbox 360, though the fan did kick into gear during heated moments in Metro: Last Light. Its main components (CPU, memory and hard drive) are replaceable, except for that custom GPU hardwired to the motherboard. Significant memory upgrades will be a hassle, since there are only two slots here, but if you’re a serial upgrader you’ll probably want to steer clear of the Alpha anyway, despite the unit’s innards being a simple four screw affair.
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