Since the earliest days of video gaming, there’s been a divide between those who prefer the depth and customization of playing on a PC and those who prefer the simplicity of a dedicated gaming console. With the Alienware Alpha, Dell is looking to bridge that gap, delivering a gaming PC with the compact, stylish form and ease of use of a console.
The Alpha is available in five different models, ranging in price from $549.99 to $899.99, with the most expensive packing a powerful Intel i7 processor and 8GB of memory. No matter which one you choose, you’ll get a system that can compete with or outpace the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 when it comes to playing the latest big budget games in full 1080p. Plus, thanks to integration with the most popular PC gaming service, Steam, and a controller friendly UI, this powerhouse will feel right at home in your entertainment center.
Making PC gaming friendlier
One of the biggest barriers to PC gaming in the living room is the complexity of setting up and playing games. The keyboard and mouse are cumbersome to use on the couch, but the gamepad is a poor fit for most traditional interfaces. The Alpha’s UI, in contrast, makes it simple to access all your games and settings using the included Xbox 360 controller. When you absolutely need to have a mouse, Alienware has included a function to control a mouse cursor with the gamepad’s thumbsticks.
The Alpha also inherits all the strengths of PC gaming. Since it’s built on top of Windows 8.1, the system will support more than 3,000 games at launch. Any games you’ve already purchased through the popular Steam store will be instantly available, and any future hardware updates will inherently be backward-compatible with your whole library. You’ll never need to re-buy your games or pull out an outdated console again.
To Steam or not to Steam
The Alpha was originally intended to be part of the Steam Machines initiative, a program launched by game maker Valve to bring PC gaming into the living room. Last year, however, Valve delayed the launch of its innovative gamepad and custom operating system, leaving the Alpha to launch without either.
When the Steam OS and the new controller are finally ready this fall, Alienware will offer a second line of Alpha systems bundled with both updates while continuing to sell its current, Windows-powered version for customers who prefer it. Early adopters will be able to easily convert their Alpha into the Steam Machines version and take advantage of the platform’s laser-focus on delivering a streamlined gaming experience. However, since Steam OS is based on the less-popular Linux operating system, fewer games will be supported right off the bat. Both Valve and Alienware are working closely with developers, though, to ensure that library of titles expands quickly.
More than just games
One of the major advantages of the Alpha over a conventional gaming console is that it’s got a complete PC setup running behind the scenes. Switch to desktop mode and use it just like you would any other computer. That gives you full access to the widest range of applications out there, including your favorite Web browsers and entertainment streaming services.
In addition, the Alpha offers support for playback of 4K video, something the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have yet to implement. As Ultra HD content continues to become more ubiquitous, that could prove to be a major difference between Alienware’s system and traditional console offerings.