Hands-on review: E3 2016: Alienware Aurora R5

This once, I’ll allow the cliche: PC gamers, rejoice – the Aurora has finally returned. After long last, Alienware has reissued its totable but powerful MicroATX gaming PC.

And, it’s got way more going for it than a whole new look.

This once, I’ll allow the cliche: PC gamers, rejoice – the Aurora has finally returned. After long last, Alienware has reissued its totable but powerful MicroATX gaming PC.

And, it’s got way more going for it than a whole new look.

Having the chance to see and feel the new rig a little while back, I can attest to this machine’s stark but understated design. Make no mistake, this is a gaming rig, but perhaps one that wouldn’t look gawdy beside your TV stand in the living room.

That’s not necessarily where Dell and Alienware solely have in mind for the Aurora R5, but where are you most likely to play with an HTC Vive? That’s what I thought.

Design

Keeping in trend with most boutique-built chassis these days, Alienware has supplied the intrepid virtual reality (VR) explorer with plenty of readily accessible ports topside: four USB 3.0 ports, a headphone jack and a microphone jack.

Those ports sit atop an asymmetric, miniature monolith – like some piece of alien technology found in the desert. Alienware has found a motif that works with the Area 51, and it’s sticking to it.

All of the usual AlienFX lighting tools are available to customize with a variety of colors and effects, and the Command Center software can control the system’s thermals. That’s neat, but it’s Alienware’s interior design work that needs to be commended.

Opening the side panel door and clicking a latch on the rear plate of the frame reveals that the power supply is contained inside a swing-out enclosure. This is what allows the Aurora to measure 8.3 x 14.1 x 18.6 inches (W x D x H) and contain room for two graphics cards in SLI or CrossFire configuration.

This seriously cool design trick also makes for rather easy upgrades and expansions, bolstered by three tool-less drive bays that can hold up to five storage drives (mostly SSD).

And, as you can see, you can expect some ace cable management from this rig out of the box.

Specs

This has to be one of Alienware’s most versatile gaming PCs yet: able to fulfill an entry level (the Aurora starts at $799, or about £559/AU$1,079) experience all the way up to the most stable VR and 4K (or even up to 12K – as in three 4K screens, Dell says) enjoyment with the latest components.

Alienware says that the R5 was aimed at upping the power profile while keeping the rig approachable in price. So, now you have support for up to 600W of dedicated graphics power and up to 120W of power for overclocking the CPU using liquid cooling that comes standard. (Using both would require a special, 850W power supply, however.)

As for graphics, the Aurora comes with Nvidia’s GTX 950 to start all the way up to dual GTX 1080 cards in SLI configuration, with AMD’s R9 370 as the sole option for the Red Team. Only Intel’s latest Skylake desktop processors are supported here, up to the Core i7-6700K on the Z170 chipset.

Rounding out the spec sheet are myriad storage options from a 1TB hard disk drive (HDD) at 7,200 rpm or a 256GB M.2 PCIe solid-state drive (SSD) and various combinations in between for as much as 2TB and 1TB of HDD and SSD space, respectively. Plus, it can up to 16GB of Kingston HyperX Fury DDR4 memory at 2,400MHz across four DIMMs.

And finally, with 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Gigabit Ethernet and a easy method of carrying it – seriously, I tried – this machine looks ready to party no matter the occasion.

Early verdict

Living in a one-bedroom apartment right now and moving into a home with a small, shared office, I’m looking at the Aurora R5 like the apes in the first scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey. OK, but seriously, it looks like Alienware’s Aurora update was well worth the wait.

The firm has accomplished quite a bit, this being its first chassis to offer tool-less graphics card upgrades as well as storage and memory. In fact, everything in the system is upgrade-able – even the Wi-Fi antenna.

This is an approachable gaming PC in both its easy expansion and price, and a powerful one in both the amount of components it can house and how it cools them (negative pressure, baby). I can’t wait to see just how the Aurora R5 performs in a full review, though it goes on sale June 14.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *