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

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Alpha R2 Cinebench And 3DMark Performance

What we're most interested in from a system like the Alpha R2 is its graphics performance. To start things off, we fired up Cinebench, a professional 3D rendering benchmark that gives both the CPU and GPU a workout with content creation chores. After that we switched focused to gaming starting Futuremark's 3DMark suite.

Cinebench R11.5
3D Rendering on the CPU and GPU
Based on Maxon Cinema 4D software, this test uses a 3D scene and polygon and texture manipulation to assess GPU and CPU performance. We ran the Main Processor Performance (CPU) test, which builds a still scene containing about 2,000 objects, for a total polygon count above the 300,000 mark. Here we're focusing strictly on software rendering on the CPU and it's heavily taxing on this one aspect of system performance, both with multithreaded and single-threaded rendering.

Alienware Alpha R2 Cinebench CPU

Alienware Alpha R2 Cinebench OpenGL
The Alpha R2 and Skull Canyon NUC run neck and neck in single-core performance, the former wielding a Core i7-6700T processor clocked at 2.8GHz to 3.6GHz and the latter sporting a Core i7-6770HQ, also a quad-core part but clocked slightly slower at 2.6GHz to 3.5GHz. Side by side, the Core i7-6700T should be the better performer, yet the Alpha R2 trails the Skull Canyon NUC by a smidgen. Why is that? The Core i7-6700HQ might actually be running a tiny bit faster than the Core i7-6700T when all four cores are being utilized. Intel only lists the maximum Turbo frequency for just one core, not all four. As it turns out, the Core i7-6770HQ in the Skull Canyon NUC has a Turbo frequency of 3.2GHz when all four cores are loaded, versus 3GHz for the Core i7-6700T in the Alpha R2.

Either way, the Alpha R2's CPU performance in Cinebench landed right around where we expected it to. And on the graphics side, its GeForce GTX 960 blew past the crop of systems running integrated graphics, as well as the previous gen Alpha's GT 860M.

Futuremark 3DMark Fire Strike
Simulated Gaming Performance

Futuremark’s graphically intense 3DMark Fire Strike is designed specifically for gaming PCs. It has both Normal and Extreme modes: Standard runs at 1920x1080, while Extreme runs at 2560x1440 and is intended for high end gaming PCs.The benchmark uses tessellation, ambient occlusion, volume illumination, and a high quality depth of field filter. We tested the Alienware Alpha R2 on the Standard preset.

Alienware Alpha R2 3DMark

Here's the thing about the GeForce GTX 960. At this point in time, it's not an exciting GPU. The same goes for mini PCs—they're neat, but nothing to get bug-eyed over. Ah, but when you mash the two together, suddenly things change. As shown in 3DMark, Alpha R2 is a mini PC in size only and has the gaming chops of a true mid-range desktop.

What's also impressive is how far the Alpha has come. The Alpha R2 left its predecessor in the dust scoring nearly twice as high in 3DMark's Fire Strike test, while posting a graphics score that's nearly 53 percent higher. That's quite the leap.

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