Alienware Alpha Intel-Powered SFF Gaming PC: Consoles Beware

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Introduction and Specifications

Valve’s Steam Machine was all the rage at CES 2014 in Las Vegas, but as we enter 2015, the SteamOS gaming platform (and Valve’s tantalizing Steam Controller) are still works in progress. SteamOS hasn’t been written off, but Dell, which was one of the first PC makers to build a custom console-sized system for SteamOS, isn’t waiting around. Its Alienware gaming brand launched the Alienware Alpha, which is meant to be your next (or your first) living room gaming PC.

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The Alienware Alpha plugs the holes left by Valve with Microsoft hardware and software and a simple 10-ft UI developed in house. Instead of shipping with a Steam Controller, for example, the Alpha features an Xbox 360 wireless controller. The 10-foot user interface, which would have been handled by SteamOS, comes courtesy of Dell’s custom Alpha UI. And that software, in turn, runs on Windows 8.1. Of course, you can choose to boot directly to Windows 8.1 if you wish. You can also boot to Steam Big Picture mode, which is Valve’s existing platform for navigating Steam on your TV.

Here's a quick look at the system in action before we dive in deeper on the pages ahead...


Alienware Alpha SFF Gaming PC
Specifications & Features
Processor
Intel Core i3-4130T Dual-Core processor (3M Cache, 2.9GHz)

Operating System
Windows 8.1 64 Bit, English, Exclusive Alienware Alpha Console Interface

Warranty
1 Year Alienware Limited Hardware Warranty

Video Card
NVIDIA GeForce GTX GPU 2GB GDDR5

Memory
4GB DDR3L 1600MHz Memory

Hard Drive
500GB SATA 6Gb/s

Game Controller
Xbox 360 Wireless Controller (Black) with USB adapter

Power Supply
130W (External)

Wireless
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160 1x1 + Bluetooth 4.0

Ports
External Chassis Connections
2x USB 2.0 (Front)
2x USB 3.0 (Back)
1x RJ45 GbE
1x HDMI-Out 1.4a
1x HDMI-In
1x optical audio out (Toslink)
1x DC in

Internal Chassis Connections
1x USB 2.0 – Tool-less access via bottom door

Price - $499 - $899 (direct): Find The Alienware Alpha Starting at $499
@ Amazon
Processor
Intel Core i3-4130T Dual-Core processor (3M Cache, 2.9GHz)

Operating System
Windows 8.1 64 Bit, English, Exclusive Alienware Alpha Console Interface

Warranty
1 Year Alienware Limited Hardware Warranty

Video Card
NVIDIA GeForce GTX GPU 2GB GDDR5

Memory
4GB DDR3L 1600MHz Memory

Hard Drive
500GB SATA 6Gb/s

Game Controller
Xbox 360 Wireless Controller (Black) with USB adapter

Power Supply
130W (External)

Wireless
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160 1x1 + Bluetooth 4.0

Ports
External Chassis Connections
2x USB 2.0 (Front)
2x USB 3.0 (Back)
1x RJ45 GbE
1x HDMI-Out 1.4a

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Prices on the various Alpha models currently available range from $549 to $899. That’s pricey for a console competitor, but on the low end for a gaming PC. The processor selection includes Intel Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 CPUs (our review system features a Core i3-4130T) but only 8GB of memory, and that’s at the high end. Our review unit has 4GB of memory and a 500GB SATA hard drive.

Graphics chops are a must, of course. The Alpha relies on an Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M GPU with 2GB of GDDR5 memory. The space constraints in a system like this mean that a high-end graphics processor is out of the question.

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We like a good logo. This is the Alienware Alpha's power button. It's backlit blue in this photo, but you can pick whatever color you want.

Due to the system’s small size, the port selection is fairly light: three USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, optical audio, an HDMI-in port, and an HDMI-out port. On the connectivity side, the Alpha is in good shape, sporting a gigabit Ethernet port and Intel’s Dual Band Wireless-AC 7265/Bluetooth 4.0 adapter.
Tags:  Dell, SFF, Gaming, PC, Alpha, Alienware

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