Alienware Alpha R2 Review: Big Screen Gaming In A Little Package

Alpha R2 Software, Vital Signs, 4K HD Video Playback

Each Alpha R2 is pre-loaded with Windows 10 Home 64-bit. You can upgrade to Windows 10 Pro 64-bit for a $50 up-charge, though it's only available on the flagship configuration we reviewed here. Oddly enough, Dell lists this as a "recommended" upgrade, a notion we disagree with—there's not much reason for gamers to consider the Pro version unless they specifically need certain business-class features not available in the Home SKU. You can read about the differences between Windows 10 Home and Pro here.

Alienware Alpha R2 Desktop

This is what it looks like when you first boot into Windows on an Alpha R2. As Dell's premier gaming division with boutique roots, Alienware doesn't litter its systems with third-party trialware and other bloat that can rob a PC of its full performance potential. Instead you get a clean desktop with a custom wallpaper, as shown above. The only extra software bits you'll find, other than the ones included with Windows 10, is Alienware's own software utility.

AlienFX AlienFusion
Alienware AlienFX (left) and AlienFusion (right)

AlienAdrenaline Alienware HDMI-In
Alienware AlienAdrenaline (left) and HDMI-In (right)

Alienware's included utility lets you customize the lighting scheme on your Alpha R2, which is separated into two zones—one for the alien head logo that serves as the power button and another for the triangled corner section. Each can be configured independently of one another or synced with the same color and lighting effect.

The utility also has sections for viewing and configuring your PC's power management scheme (it's a fancier front-end than the one that's built into Windows), monitoring performance, linking action sequences to specific programs (loading your VoIP software when firing up Rust, for example), and setting up a hotkey to toggle the HDMI 2.0 input. Overall there's nothing super advanced taking place, and the menu system is easy to navigate.

Alienware Alpha R2 HWiNFO64
HWiNFO64 CPU, GPU, Mainboard, and Memory Info

For whatever reason, CPU-Z had trouble identifying the CPU in our test system, pegging it as an Intel Core i7-6600T. That's wrong—as HWiNFO64 was correctly able to identify, the CPU inside the top-end Alpha R2 is a Core i7-6700T. Not only is it faster clocked than the 6600T with four cores cruising along at 2.8GHz to 3.6GHz, but the 6700T also supports Hyper Threading. You'll also notice that this is a 35W chip, making it a manageable option for a system as compact as this one.

There's a full-fledged desktop-class GeForce GTX 960 GPU sitting inside the Alpha R2, not to be confused with the mobile 960M variant, and an 8GB module of DDR4 RAM in single-channel mode. You can't upgrade to dual-channel because there's only one SODIMM slot inside the Alpha R2.

Alienware Alpha R2 Suicide Squad Streaming 4K
Suicide Squad Movie Trailer - 4K Ultra HD Streaming Video Playback

The Alpha R2 isn't built for 4K gaming, not without attaching it an Alienware Graphics Amplifier, but we decided to see if it could handle 4K video playback from the web. It turns out that streaming 4K Ultra HD content to the Alpha R2 isn't a problem. Playing back a 4K trailer for Suicide Squad barely jostled the CPU into action, which ran at about 4-5 percent utilization. We did this wirelessly over the Alpha R2's built-in Wi-Fi while sitting in relative close proximity to our router, albeit separated by a couple of walls.

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