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Alienware banks on VR with new Aurora desktop

Engadget Engadget 13/06/2016 Steve Dent

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Alienware's last Aurora, the R4, is most (in)famous for the "ALX" option, which adds fins that flip open when the machine gets hot. Dell has relaunched the model as the Alienware Aurora Desktop, which sadly lacks that geeky option. In exchange, you get a smaller, tool-less mid-tower that retains the minimalist gaming design flare that the original was known for. It also packs a punch with powerful CPU options and optional dual graphics cards, including NVIDIA's latest GeForce GTX 1080.

Folks that build their own PCs may poo-poo such a machine, but many gamers and multimedia artists are more comfortable letting someone else do the assembly. Also, Dell is targeting the brand new VR market with the machine, and those folks -- who may suddenly realize they need a powerful PC -- likely want something ready-to-go. With the GTX 1080 option, it'll support up to three 4K displays, making it more than capable of handling the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift headsets.

Depending on how you equip it, it should fill both niches. You can order it with any sixth-gen Core Intel chip (including the insane $1,723 Core i7 Extreme Edition), up to 64GB of DDR4 RAM and a 1TB M.2 PCIe SSD with 2GB of RAID HDD storage. If you think all that might get a bit hot in a mid-tower case, Alienware has a liquid-cooled option. All of that starts at $799, though it'll certainly be several times more if you load it up with top end gear.

If you just want the best and hang the cost, Alienware has refreshed its Area-51 desktop model. It retains the frankly insane triangular design of the original, which is supposed to cycle air from front to back in order to keep components cool. The main update is support for Intel's so-called sixth-generation Broadwell-E Core processors, including the 10-core, i7-6950X Extreme Edition, which, as we mentioned, costs a cool $1,723.

That machine also supports 64GB of DDR4 RAM and high-end M.2 SSD disk options, but also gives you the option for three graphics cards, including NVIDIA's GeForce GTX1080. So, if you want 10 CPU cores and three insane graphics cards (but don't want to build a PC yourself), that's an option -- just give your credit card company a heads-up, because you'll be spending north of $5,000.

Another new Alienware offering is Alpha R2, the successor to the Alpha that was originally pitched as the world's first Steam Machine. As such, it's more like a supercharged console than a PC, but is in fact "smaller than an Xbox One," (at least for now) according to Dell. With support for the latest Intel Core CPUs, an NVIDIA GTX 960 with 4GB of DDR5 (or AMD Radeon equivalent) and an optional M.2 SSD and 16GB of RAM, it should solve the power problems of the original.

It's still not quite enough spec to power a VR headset (you need an NVIDIA GTX 970 or higher), but no worries -- you can now equip it with the Alienware Graphics Amplifier. That box lets you add any graphics card you want, including the GeForce GTX1080, to multiply the power. The Alpha starts at $599, but again, for any kind of an enthusiast configuration, you'll need to pay a lot more. The graphics amplifier alone, for instance, runs $300, let alone the price of the card.

Rounding out the new E3 lineup is another formidable-sounding model, the Alienware 13 OLED notebook that starts at $1,299. Dell first teased it at CES in January, but is now launching the device. The most striking part of it is the screen, a 2,560 x 1,440 OLED screen with a 1 millisecond response time, the company's fastest ever. A close second is the striking case, built from carbon-fiber, anodized aluminum and copper. Other parts follow that high-end theme, including the Intel Core i7-6500U CPU, optional NVIDIA GTX 965M graphics card, M.2 512GB (max) SSD storage and Klipsch certified and tuned speakers.

Each of these interesting devices has its own niche, so we'll try to get our hand on them at E3 over the next week. They're all available starting June 14th at Alienware's online site or Best Buy.

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