Alienware stole the show at CES 2020 with its Concept UFO: A powerful, portable Windows 10 gaming PC that essentially looks like a Nintendo Switch on steroids.
Like the Switch, the Concept UFO has detachable controllers, can be propped up on a table via kickstand, and can be connected to a display for big-screen gaming. But thanks to its bigger, higher-resolution screen and more powerful internals, the Concept UFO can theoretically play games like The Witcher 3 and Mortal Kombat 11 in full fidelity, without the graphical sacrifices that Switch ports often make.
The Concept UFO is just that -- a concept -- and may never see a commercial release. Still, given the obvious similarities between it and the Nintendo Switch, we thought it’d be fun to take a look at just how Alienware’s portable gaming beast compares to Nintendo’s beloved hybrid handheld.
Alienware Concept UFO vs. Nintendo Switch
|Row 0 - Cell 0||Alienware Concept UFO||Nintendo Switch|
|Display||8 inches, 1900 x 1200||6.2 inches, 1280 x 720|
|CPU||10th Gen Intel Core||Nvidia Tegra X1|
|Battery Life||TBD||Up to 9 hours|
As stated above, the Concept UFO really looks like a bigger, beastlier Nintendo Switch at first glance. Its 8-inch screen is flanked by a pair of detachable controllers that you can slide off and attach to a grip for use as a standalone gamepad. There’s even a Switch-like kickstand in the back so you can prop the UFO up for tabletop play.
Despite the obvious similarities to Nintendo’s console, the UFO stands out when it comes to aesthetics and ergonomics. The UFO’s Lunar White aluminum design echoes the look of Alienware’s gaming PCs, and even has a bit of custom backlighting around the analog sticks. But what really sets the UFO apart is how it feels to hold.
Alienware says it spent hundreds of hours perfecting the UFO’s large, curvy controls and full-size buttons and triggers so that they mimic the feel of an Xbox-style controller even in handheld mode. By comparison, the buttons on the Switch’s Joy-Con controllers are quite tiny, and lack deep rear triggers or a proper d-pad.
It’s worth noting that both devices are designed for TV play. The Switch achieves this via its included USB-C dock, while the UFO sports a Thunderbolt connection for connecting to supported displays.
Not all of the UFO’s specs are finalized or public, but it already one-ups the Switch in some obvious ways. For starters, its 8-inch, 1920 x 1200 screen trumps the Switch’s 6.2-inch, 1280 x 720 display in terms of size and resolution.
We don’t know much about the UFO’s guts beyond that it has some sort of 10th Gen Intel Core processor. What we do know is that titles like Mortal Kombat 11 and Rocket League looked much more crisp and fluid on the UFO than their relatively scaled-down counterparts on the Switch.
There’s also the question of battery life. The latest Nintendo Switch is rated to last between 4.5 to 9 hours depending on what you’re playing (we got about 5 hours of juice during Super Smash Bros. Ultimate).
Given the relatively low battery life of most premium gaming laptops we test, we wouldn’t expect the UFO to last more than a couple of hours on a charge. However, Alienware did tell us that the UFO’s larger design is meant to allow for a solid balance of performance and battery life.
Sure, the Alienware UFO can probably run performance circles around the Switch, but it can’t play Nintendo games. The best Switch games include some true must-have exclusives, including The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey and Pokemon Sword and Shield. The console’s 2,000-plus game library also includes plenty of indie and AAA titles, including Fortnite, The Witcher 3, Celeste, Stardew Valley and Skyrim.
Since the UFO is a full-fledged Windows 10 gaming PC, it can play the thousands upon thousands of PC games available across storefronts such as Steam, Origin, Epic Games Store and GOG. If it ever comes to market, the UFO’s library would certainly have an edge in terms of the sheer volume of games it can play, from 90s classics to modern hits like Control and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.
The Alienware Concept UFO is still just a concept, and if it ever becomes a real product, it’ll likely cost upwards of $1,000 compared to the relatively affordable $299 Switch. Still, a portable PC like the UFO could find a market with gamers who want to play titles such as The Witcher 3 and Gears 5 on the go without sacrificing much in the way of fidelity or performance.
The Switch already holds its own against the more powerful PS4 and Xbox One for two reasons: it has excellent games, and its versatile design is a joy to use in both handheld and TV modes. It’s hard to imagine a device like the UFO dethroning the Switch, but it would be neat to see a premium PC alternative arrive for folks who want the highest-end experience on the go (at least until we get the rumored Nintendo Switch Pro, that is).