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

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Alpha R2 SunSpider, PCMark 8, ATTO Disk Performance

We run several tests to help us gauge a system’s ability to handle general compute tasks that range from light duty workloads (like web browsing and messaging) to more intensive tasks like audio encoding and video editing, for example. The following three benchmarks showcase a more every day computing usage model, with a bit of content creation mixed in as well

SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark
JavaScript Performance Testing
SunSpider is a well-known JavaScript benchmark. The test is designed for comparing browsers (and versions of the same browser) to each other while the system processes several Javascript routines. It’s worth pointing out that the browser itself that is used at the time of testing does have an impact on scores. In this case, we tested the new Alpha R2 with Microsoft Edge as part of our Windows 10 install.

Alienware Alpha R2 SunSpider

Alienware kicks off our benchmarking run with a first place photo finish, edging out Intel's Skull Canyon NUC for the top spot with a fast 70.3ms finish time. This is the best we've seen so far from a mini PC. Though we're splitting hairs at the top echelon here, compared to previous generation NUC systems, the Alpha R2 turned in a much improved score.

PCMark 8
Productivity and System-Level Benchmarking
Futuremark’s PCMark 8 runs the system through typical home and work computing activities and provides individual scores for certain task categories, rather than specific hardware subsystems. The Home test is just as it sounds: a collection of everyday tasks, including web browsing and video chatting and word processing. The Work test is more demanding and has business-oriented and well as office suite type app tests.

Alienware Alpha R2 PCMark 8

This time the Alienware Alpha R2 slipped to second place among the systems we compared it against. Perhaps most meaningful is how it compares to both the Skull Canyon NUC and the first generation Alpha, both of which scored several hundred points below the Alpha R2 in PCMark 8's Home Accelerated and Work Accelerated tests. That's impressive considering the system's single-channel 8GB memory configuration and mechanical hard disk drive.

Alienware Alpha R2 ATTO
HGST Travelstar 7K100 HTS721010A9E630 1TB HDD Performance

The obvious weak point of the Alpha R2 is its hard drive, a mechanical contraption from the Mesozoic era. Okay, HDDs aren't quite that old, and the HGST Travelstar that shipped inside our review unit sports a 7,200 RPM spindle speed. Nevertheless, compared to SSDs, and especially today's PCIe NVMe SSDs, an HDD feels like an unnecessary throwback, even for a mid-range gaming PC. Regardless, it does help keep cost in line and HGST does manufacture very reliable drives as well. 

You can see how the HDD performs in our ATTO results. On a more subjective basis, we frequently experienced delayed loading when firing up an application, and the system had a tough time keeping up with our multitasking when the HDD is busy reading and/or writing files. Of course, we've been spoiled by fast SSDs, so the disparity in performance is a bit more noticeable than it might be for the average person.

Lest we give the wrong impression, the HDD doesn't make the Alpha R2 slow per se (as evidenced in our PCMark 8 scores), it just prevents it from reaching its full performance potential in exchange for more storage space. If you can do without 1TB of storage, we recommend spending the money upgrading to an SSD.

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