Thu. Jun 1st, 2023
Review: Alienware Aurora proves that not all pre-built gaming PCs are terrible

Specifications at a glance: Alienware Aurora
Lowest Best As rated
Operating system Windows 10 Home 64-bit
Processor 6th generation Intel Core i3-6100 (dual-core, 3.7 GHz, 3 MB cache) 6th Generation Intel Core i7-6700K (Quad-core, 4.0 GHz, 8 MB cache) 6th Generation Intel Core i7-6700K (Quad-core, 4.0 GHz, 8 MB cache)
RAM 8GB DDR4 2133MHz (4GBx2) 16GB 2133MHz DDR4 (2x8GB) 16GB 2133MHz DDR4 (2x8GB)
GPU Nvidia GTX 950 2GB Nvidia GTX 1080 8GB Founders Edition Nvidia GTX 1080 8GB Founders Edition
HDD 1 TB (64 MB cache memory) 7,200 RPM SATA 6 Gb/s 1 TB (64 MB cache memory) 7,200 RPM SATA 6 Gb/s 256 GB Toshiba M.2 NVMe SSD, 1 TB (64 MB cache) 7,200 RPM SATA 6 Gb/s
PSU/cooling 460W PSU and air cooler 850W modular PSU and liquid cooler 850W modular PSU and liquid cooler
NETWORKS RJ-45 Killer Networks e2400 Ethernet, Intel 3165 1×1 802.11ac Wi-Fi Wireless LAN, Bluetooth 4.2
PORTS 7 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 6 x USB 2.0, 4 x DisplayPort, HDMI, optical output, headphone jack, microphone jack, 7.1 surround sound output
MATE Height: 472.52 mm (18.6 in), Depth: 360.5 mm (14.19 in), Width: 212 mm (8.35 in)
WEIGHT Average weight 14 kg (30 lbs)
GUARANTEE One year of premium support with Onsite
REMARK Dell’s prices can vary wildly thanks to the “instant savings”. The prices below include VAT.
PRICE £699 ($799) £1,679 ($1,949) £1,789 ($2,179)

You must hand it over to Alienware. Despite bearing the brunt of l33t game criticism since Dell’s 2006 acquisition – Alienware Machines to have tended to resemble something out of the 12-year-old high school’s sketchbook — the company has plowed through, making progressively slimmer laptops and desktops.

The latest, the stocky, mid-sized tower called Aurora, is the most sought-after Alienware machine to date. Taking cues from the company’s giant Area 51, the Aurora has a surprisingly compact form factor, understated (for Alienware, at least) aesthetics, and a price point that’s not far from DIY. It even has decent cooling performance.

When a tech-shy family member or newcomer to PC gaming asks for the first time in a long time if an Alienware desktop is worth it, you can finally say yes.

With a height of 472.52 mm (18.6 inches), a depth of only 360.5 mm (14.19 inches), and a width of 212 mm (8.35 inches), the Alienware Aurora is smaller and wider than the average gaming desktop. Which, given the shift to smaller systems that are equally at home in the living room as they are in an office or bedroom, isn’t a bad thing. Indeed, this is probably the first Alienware you can place in a living room, in plain sight, without receiving cold hard embarrassment from a loved one.

That’s partly thanks to the Aurora’s flat front panel, which is finished in tough matte black plastic at the top, with a non-threatening piano-black grille below. Older models were somehow rounder and more angular at the same time, leading to questionable aesthetics. That said, there’s still a glow-in-the-dark RGB LED alien-head on/off switch, but you can turn it off if you prefer a more subdued look.

The slimmer styling continues with the side panels, which have a soft gray finish, and the same tri-LED light bars that appear throughout the Alienware range. The panels aren’t flat and actually curve out of the front bezel somewhere, but they look good and neatly avoid the bulging effect that many PC cases of similar design suffer from. The left panel also features air intake vents for the graphics card(s) inside.

The top of the Aurora has the same glossy grille as the front, as well as a 120mm exhaust fan. If you opt for the all-in-one solution for liquid cooling, the radiator will be mounted here next to the fan. The asymmetrical top panel also houses a convenient carry handle, making it much easier to tote the Aurora to LAN parties (they’re still a thing, right?). And with an average weight of 14 kg (32 lbs), depending on configuration, it’s also just about possible to lift it with one hand.

Unfortunately, the reasonable weight comes at the expense of build materials: the entire external casing of the Aurora is made of plastic. It’s a good, solid quality plastic, but when so many other high-end desktops are built with premium materials like aluminum and glass, the plastic is a letdown. Indeed, when removed, the side panels make that awful hollow, rattling noise so reminiscent of pre-built PCs from the ’90s.

Yes, it is upgradeable

In any case, the side panels are easy to remove. While the Aurora may be a turnkey gaming PC, Alienware has made it easy to get into. At the back of the case is a plastic handle that, when pulled, ejects the vented side panel revealing a tightly packed interior and unique layout. Where most PCs have a power supply on the top or bottom, the Aurora saves space by placing the power supply above the motherboard. Just next to the handle on the side panel are two slide switches that unlock the PSU, allowing it to swing up and out of the case, with the cables still attached.

This gives you unobstructed access to the CPU cooler and socket, memory slots (there are four, two of which are populated by default), and PCIe slots. There’s room for two full-length graphics cards, although using two means giving up access to one of the smaller 4X slots. There’s an M.2 slot for PCIe-based NVMe storage like a Samsung 960 Pro, two 2.5-inch tool-less sleds for standard SSDs, and a single 3.5-inch hard drive bay, located just below the PSU located. These should provide enough storage options for most users, although it’s not a great setup for anyone looking to store large amounts of data.

The only thing you can’t do is replace the motherboard. It’s standard Dell’s own fare – though it seems close to mATX size – with little easy access. Cable management is good, though, with cables tied neatly into place along the sides of the bare steel body. This particular configuration comes with an 850W modular power supply, but Alienware will wire any additional cables you may need to the relevant positions. For example, there are spare SATA power connectors near the 2.5-inch bays, and an additional PCIe power connector should you wish to add another graphics card.

With such a unique configuration, you might be wondering how the Aurora handles airflow. The good news is that I didn’t experience any throttling issues despite the location of the PSU. The 120mm fan on the front draws in cool air, while the top-mounted radiator and fan draw air out of the case. Meanwhile, the (blower-like) graphics card sucks in cool air through the side panel grilles. There’s no removable fan filter on the grille, forcing you to lug the entire side panel to remove dust. I also wonder how well the Aurora would do with an air cooler (as in certain configurations) instead of the all-in-one. I guess overclocking is not an option.

By akfire1

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