Alienware has over 20 years of history in the gaming arena. Since the release of their first Alpha machine at E3 in 2014, they have been focused on putting the gaming PC in the living room. The promise of the Alpha was that you could play all your games at affordable prices.
This year a new generation of the Alpha was released. The $699.99 version has a 6th generation Intel Core i3 processor, 8 GB memory, a 500GB hard drive and an AMD Radeon R9M470X GPU with 2 GB GDDR5. The $799.99 version has similar specs with an Intel Core i5 processor and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX960 GPU 4 GB GDDR5 graphics card. The $949.99 version ups the processor to an i7 and the hard drive to 1TB and sports the same NVIDIA card. Each version increases the cache and its speed. All the Alpha R2’s come with Windows 10 Home. They can also support an SSD and hard drive at the same time.
The video card is especially important since only the two more expensive versions have the NVIDIA GeForce card which is needed in order to support the Alienware Graphics Amplifier. This is a proprietary $199 add-on that allows you to add any standard desktop graphics card to provide graphics amplification. Some will find it nice to be able to purchase the base and add the graphic amplifier later. The stand-alone Alpha E2 does not support 4K video or virtual reality applications, but with the Graphics Amplifier, both 4K and VR are displayable so you get support for the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive.
The Alpha R2 is both small and good-looking. The shiny black rectangle-shaped device is 2.17” (55mm) high x 7.87” (200mm) wide x 7.87” (200mm) deep. It weighs in at just 4lbs (1.81 Kg.) The red backlit alien-head power button and lighted cropped corner give it an edgy look. The preinstalled AlienFX software allow you to customize the lighting as you can with most Alienware products. All-in-all, the device will look just as good in the living room as it will on a desktop.
There are two USB 3.0 ports on the front of the device, two USB 3.0 ports on the back and one USB 2.0 on the bottom. The back also has a proprietary port for the graphics amplifier and both HDMI-in and HDMI-out 2.0 ports. An optical audio out port rounds out the selection of ports on the back of the device.
Along with the computer unit, you get an Alienware multi-media keyboard and an Alienware optical mouse. Dell also offers upgraded keyboards and mice as well as a wide variety of monitors at decent prices.
The Alpha R2 has plenty of storage space, especially if you opt for the $949.99 version which has a 1 TB hard drive. If you like to tinker, the Alpha will accommodate you. You can open the R2 with a Phillips-head screwdriver to access the CPU and RAM and swap them out. Although you probably won’t need it, there are several YouTube videos by Alienware for additional help.
Alienware has a new interface called HiveMind. I love the name, but haven’t tried the interface yet. It was developed as a fully customizable interface that allows you access you access to Steam games, videos, images, and favorite programs in one place with a controller. Alienware has provided videos that will get you started with HiveMind.
Although the high-end Alpha R2 isn’t cheap, Alienware has succeeded at giving it a wealth of games to play at affordable prices. The Windows 10 Home operating system supports Xbox’s new Play Anywhere program which allow you to play traditional console games on this computer. The Xbox has approximately 600 current titles and also has backward compatibility for hundreds of older Xbox titles which can be found at bargain prices.
The R2 also supports Steam which currently has more than 3,500 titles. With the addition of the Graphics Amplifier the R2 can also play SteamVR titles which are proliferating at a steady rate.
When you are not gaming, the Alpha R2 also has a large catalog of multimedia apps so you can play music and watch as many videos as you like. Being a full Window 10 computer, you can also use the Alpha to get some work done. It looks like Alienware has succeeded in producing a stable all-around useful gaming computer. You can play just about any type of game you like including first-person shooting games, digital sports, real-time strategy games, and multiplayer online games. You can also listen to music, play videos, and even be productive. It’s all here for you.