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As much as we like piecing together formidable desktop systems crammed full of high end hardware, the future of PC gaming for many mainstream users may lie in more compact setups. Certainly there's been a push to get PC players out of a dank basement and into the living room with Steam Machines and similar console-sized PCs. However, Dell's Alienware division is hoping to take things to the next level with its pint sized Alpha R2 system, an ultra small form factor (SFF) gaming desktop. We have to use the world "desktop" carefully here because the Alpha R2, like its predecessor, is more of a "shelf-top" or "set-top" system. It's only slightly larger than one of Intel's square-shaped Next Unit... Read more...
The Alienware brand is as venerable a name as any in the gaming space. As Alienware celebrates over twenty years in business, its computers have become instantly recognizable thanks to distinctive, out-of-this-world styling, and science-fiction references. Dell purchased Alienware in 2006 to complement its own competing line of XPS-branded gaming machines. However, Dell has kept a largely hands-off approach, allowing Alienware to grow its own business and continue meeting consumer's expectations. So far, it has served both brands well. Alienware currently maintains three desktop families from the small-form factor Alpha to the monstrous Area-51. The subject of today's alien autopsy: the new Aurora... Read more...
DirectX 12 is gaining momentum with both game developers and hardware manufacturers, and as a result, gamers as well. The Windows 10 enabled, low-level API is being adopted in more and more titles, with both legacy and cutting-edge game engines now taking advantage of it. Using an ASUS STRIX Radeon R9 Fury graphics card, along with a few other more mid-range GPUs, we cooked up a performance analysis shootout of sorts. Here, we'll pit DX12 against DX11, using a variety of today's popular game titles that leverage the new API, so we can see what performance looks like and if there are significant, tangible gains. This isn't intended to show which GPU manufacturer or GPU architectures have a performance... Read more...
ASUS takes gaming seriously. So seriously, in fact, that it has two sub-brands dedicated to hardware for gamers. One is the Republic of Gamers (ROG), a brand ASUS created in 2006 to designate products that deliver "innovative hardcore PC performance," and the other is Strix, a more recent creation that's taken from the ancient Roman and Greek word for owl. No, we're not kidding. "Strix means the keenest hearing and sharpest eyesight. Strix means feeling your environment so that you detect and react to the slightest movement. Strix means survival on the very edge of instinct. Strix is in your blood, as it is in ours," ASUS explains. Though the two brands exist separate from one another, ASUS has... Read more...
PC enthusiasts and hardcore gamers are passionate about their hardware. We all lust after expensive, high-performance CPUs, GPUs, monstrous RAM kits, and ultra-fast solid state storage devices. But for many of us, top of the line PC components may be overkill, and in some situations, a more mainstream rig will do just fine. That’s the crux of the message AMD has been trying to get across for quite some time with its mainstream APU line-up. Sure, you could build a high-performance rig with a top of the line processor and beefy discrete GPU, but why spend the money if you don’t have to? To that end, the company has been reaching out to some eSports teams and pro gamers in an effort to show that... Read more...
You could almost hear the collective groan from the enthusiast community when Dell announced it had purchased Alienware, in what now feels like 100 years ago. It has actually been just shy of a decade since Dell took ownership, and rather than let the Alienware brand wither into irrelevance like some other boutique vendors that were later absorbed by major OEMs (Voodoo who?), Dell's gaming gear division has continued to thrive and innovate with the help of the company's deeper resources. If we're being totally honest (as we always are), passionate consumers come out of the woodwork whenever the Alienware name is invoked. Some are rational and offer up observational criticism or praise, as well... Read more...
Dell's Alienware Steam Machine is under the microscope today. In partnership with several leading PC makers, Valve has finally taken their often-talked about Steam Machine with custom SteamOS to market, promising the depth and precision of PC gaming driven by a purpose-built operating system, that offers a standardized platform similar to a tried and true "just push play" console gaming experience.The Alienware Steam Machine seems like just the thing for PC gamers looking for a simpler way to game without a lot of fuss and configuration. What’s a Steam Machine, you ask? The Steam Machine is a PC-based set top box that functions as a dedicated portal into the Steam digital marketplace, where players... Read more...
If you're a PC gamer or into enthusiast computing, how would you describe your ideal monitor? For many, it might go something like a 32 - 34-inch IPS panel with a high refresh rate of 100Hz plus, 4K resolution, along with NVIDIA G-SYNC or AMD FreeSync technology. And with displays this big, adding a slight curve might be high on your wish list as well. The good news is, with the recent advancements in display technologies, that "holy grail" set of specifications is beginning to take shape, as display manufacturers like Acer, ASUS, Samsung, Dell and others begin to build all this great new tech into bigger and better high-end displays. In fact, the new Acer Predator X34 series captures three out... Read more...
New processor architectures inevitably lead to a flurry of refreshed product lines from PC makers. That's how things have been playing out with Skylake, a "tock" in Intel's tick-tock design cadence and its 6th generation Core processor family. As usual, ASUS is on the bleeding edge with new Skylake systems ready to go, one of which is the ROG G752VT. The specific model ASUS sent us is the ROG G752VT-DH72, a slightly toned down update to the ROG G751JY-DB72 we reviewed back in September. Like that laptop, the G752VT falls into the desktop replacement category and takes aim at gamers with high-end hardware and, the coup de grâce, a 17.3-inch IPS panel supporting NVIDIA's G-Sync technology. If this... Read more...
Not long ago, Amazon announced a revamped Fire TV with a handful of new and upgraded features including 4K Ultra HD video support and Alexa functionality. Although the original Fire TV which we reviewed last year had voice capabilities, those voice controls were limited to searching for content and applications. With Alexa built in, the second-generation Fire TV now has additional features, such as the ability to provide sports scores, weather and traffic information, or play music. As you’ll recall from our review of the Amazon Echo, we were impressed by the Alexa functionality and its utility in our everyday lives. A few months later, Alexa is still a common name spoken in our household... Read more...
The last time we looked at Dell's Alienware X51 series of console-sized gaming PCs was back in mid-2013. Back then we were working with Intel's 4th generation Haswell Core Series processors and NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 600 series GPUs based on their Kepler graphics core. Our man Paul, frankly, was spouting off a bit wildly about aliens serving humans for dinner and, well, let's just say it made for interesting reading. But that was so 2013, and like anything in life, seasons change and architectures evolve. Paul is still nuttier than a fruit cake but that's a different story all together, so we'll just stay on task. The Alienware team has been relatively quiet for the past 18 - 24 months or so with... Read more...
Love it or hate it, Apple's MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lines have remained a watermark for which the majority of notebook manufacturers aspire to, whether it's enthusiast gaming companies like Razer with their Blade, or mainstream vendors like Dell via their outstanding XPS 13. Enter Asus. They've utilized their ZenBook line to satisfy a wide range of demographics and price points, but their UX501 -- with its "Pro" designation, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960m GPU, and 4K touchscreen display -- is a Zenbook aspiring to meet and exceed Apple's flagship notebook, and look stunning while doing it.  As you'll see, in many ways, it's mission accomplished...Laptops can be sexy additions to your... Read more...
In November, Amazon announced the latest addition to its hardware line-up, the Amazon Echo. The Echo smart speaker doubles as a digital assistant and home entertainment device. It’s an always-connected, always-available Siri or Cortana-like device designed for your home that can provide answers to common questions, play music, provide traffic updates, control your lights, read audiobooks, and much more. Because it’s tied to your Amazon account, the Echo can also be used to reorder products you’ve previously purchased from Amazon. Although the Echo was announced in November, it was available for purchase on an invite-only basis from Amazon. Seven months after it was announced, Amazon made its... Read more...
Dell's Alienware division has a knack for making a splash with PC system design, whether it's with their big, bad unapologetic notebooks, unique X51 small form-factor PCs, or their no-holds-barred Area-51 killer gaming rigs. In fact, for some folks, Alienware designs can be an either "you love it or hate it" affair. Full disclosure: personally, we tend to be cut from the former affectionate group of performance enthusiasts that generally favor Alienware's outside-the-box design efforts -- and oh boy, Alienware's recent redesign of the Area-51 is way outside the box.   In fact, it's not really even a box at all, it's what Dell's Alienware design team calls a "Triad" design.  With... Read more...
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