Alienware has recently launched a new line of its Aurora desktops, a range of very pretty, very expensive gaming PCs. And I just spent a week playing video games on one.
The Aurora R4, unlike the mildly surprising X51, sticks firmly to the company's brief of making high performance hardware at a relatively high cost to the consumer.
The unit I reviewed was kitted out with the following:
- Intel Core i7-3930K CPU @ 3.20GHz
- 16GB Ram
- 512GB SSD
- 2x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590s
WHAT'S IN THE BOX
Included alongside the actual desktop PC itself (and necessary software and documentation) in the kit I received were:
- Alienware TactX keyboard
- Alienware Optical Mouse (note: not a TactX)
- HDMI-DVI adapter
- Power cable
WHAT I TESTED
I installed three games on the system for testing. All were played on the highest graphics settings possible.
- Crysis 2 (DX11 patch & HD textures applied)
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (HD textures applied)
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
WHAT I LIKED
Looks. The R4 looks great. From the lighting (which can be adjusted to be more...subtle than marketing would have you belive) to the powerful shape of the unit, it looks every inch as expensive and powerful as it's claiming to be. Best part? The stupid "alien" font that the company puts in conspicuous places is consigned to small areas near the back.
Quality. Popping open the case reveals where at least some of your money went: the components and build quality of the internal hardware are top-shelf. Cables, leads, drives, everything looks like it rolled off Skynet's production floor.
Performance. Aside from a strangely lengthy system boot-up, the R4 destroyed all three games I threw at it, running at an almost constant 60fps (only dipping occasionally into the 50s in Crysis 2's cutscenes).
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE
Mouse. The mouse, an "Alienware optical mouse", was a cheap piece of crap. Really, it was like something you'd get at a thrift store. Compared to the quality of both the desktop and keyboard, and considering the costs involved, this was a disappointment. Seeing as the optical is the default inclusion with an Aurora R4, anyone interested in picking one of these up, either BYO or shell out for Alienware's TactX mouse.
Creaks and Crackles. There's no doubting the build quality of the inside of the R4. The outside, though, isn't everything you'd hope it would be. A sliding door covering the blu-ray drive clatters up and down rather cheaply, and the fancy "breathing" fins along the roof of the R4 — which seem unnecessary given the machine is already liquid-cooled — rattled a bit and also sounded cheap. While these sound like minor gripes, when you're paying this much money for a pre-built system, you expect quality everywhere, not just on the inside.
THE FINAL WORD
The Aurora series looks better than anything Alienware has ever released before. And the unit I reviewed, while admittedly one of the more top-end models, was everything I hoped it would be performance-wise. But it's still an Alienware desktop. It's still over-priced for what you're getting, and the flimsy aspects of its case aren't the kind of things you want from something at this end of the market.
Which in the end — and I know this sounds like a cop-out, but I like to think of it more as a constant truth — makes this your typical Alienware unit. Serious users will baulk at its overblown price tag, realising they can get better for less. This one's aimed more at those shorter on experience (and perhaps more endowed with a love for glowing PC cases) and who place a premium on the Alienware brand, because this is about as flagship as Alienware products can get.
Note: My review unit was supplied by Alienware Australia. A comparative system priced from Dell's US site would cost around $US3700.