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Alienware Aurora R13 review: New look, classic muscle

The Alienware Aurora R13 is as sleek, stylish and powerful as its predecessors

Alienware Aurora R13 on desk
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Future)

Tom's Guide Verdict

Alienware's Aurora R13 sports a redesigned chassis that's easy to access and looks good on a desk. If you can afford a model with high-end components, it's an excellent gaming PC.

Pros

  • +

    Eye-catching new design

  • +

    Good performance for the price

  • +

    Plenty of ports and easy upgrades

  • +

    Stays quiet and cool

Cons

  • -

    Weak 4K performance vs. pricier PCs

  • -

    Underwhelming Alienware software

Alienware Aurora R13 specs (as reviewed)

Price: $2,979 as reviewed
Processor: Intel Core i7-12700KF
RAM: 32 GB
Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080
Storage: 2 TB SSD, 2 TB HDD
Accessories: None
Ports: USB-A, USB-C, 3.5 mm audio, Ethernet, DisplayPort, HDMI
Size: 20.8 x 20.1 x 8.86 inches
Weight: 27.1 - 34.2 pounds (depending on config)

The Alienware Aurora R13 ($1,300 to start, $2,979 as reviewed) is a special edition of the company's flagship series of Aurora gaming desktops. Released in October 2021 to mark Alienware's 25th birthday, the Aurora R13 features a redesigned chassis (the Legend 2.0) that's a little more laid-back than usual. 

The more angular design isn't just for looks. Alienware claims that it gives the case a bit more internal space and better airflow, which helps cut down on fan noise. And sure enough, our eye-catching Aurora R13 review unit stayed relatively quiet during hours and hours of 1080p gaming.

But when I cranked a few of the latest games up to 4K, with all the graphical settings maxed out, our Aurora R13's fans got quite a bit louder as it struggled to maintain a solid 60 frames per second. 

That's not unreasonable, given our unit's mid-range price. Alienware also sells the Aurora R13 in a variety of configurations, which include some truly beefy rigs, with liquid cooling that helps them run whisper-quiet. If you want an R13 that can run Cyberpunk 2077 in 4K at 60+ fps with all the settings cranked up, Alienware can build you one — but it will cost you.

Is the Aurora R13 worth it? Definitely, if you want one of the best gaming PCs on the market, and you like the Aurora's space-age aesthetic. In this Alienware Aurora R13 review I'll lay out why, based on our own hands-on testing.

Alienware Aurora R13 review: Price and availability

  • Loads of customization options
  • Expect to pay between $1,300 - $5,000+

The Alienware Aurora R13 is available for purchase right now via Dell's website (opens in new tab) in two colors: Lunar Light (white) and Dark Side of the Moon (black). 

You have a lot of freedom in how you customize your R13. You could end up paying as little as $1,300 for a low-end model, to well over $5,000 if you trick one out with all the best components, including liquid cooling and a top-of-the-line Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 Ti GPU. You can also pay extra for case niceties, such as a transparent removable side panel (instead of the standard opaque one) and a cable cover for the rear, which will help keep messy cables out of sight.

Alienware Aurora R13 on desk playing Death Stranding

(Image credit: Future)

Our Aurora R13 review unit is a little more modest, and lacks such cosmetic flourishes. It arrived packing a liquid-cooled Intel Core i7-12700KF CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 GPU, 32GB of RAM and two storage drives: a 2TB NVMe M.2 SSD and a 2TB 7,200 RPM HDD. If you were to buy the same machine direct from Alienware at the time of this review, you'd pay roughly $2,979. 

Alienware Aurora R13 review: Design

  • Redesigned case is roomy, quiet and stylish
  • Customizable RBG lighting is tasteful

The Aurora R13 is housed in Alienware's Legend 2.0 chassis. This design takes the familiar tubular case of earlier Aurora desktops and leans it back a bit, giving it a more angled oval face that slopes backward. The redesigned case measures roughly 20.8 x 20.1 x 8.86 inches and weighs between 27 and 35 pounds depending on how you configure it. This makes the R13 makes it just a smidge lighter than some previous Alienware gaming PCs (such as the Alienware Aurora R11, which weighed 39 pounds) in the old Legend chassis.

Alienware Aurora R13 on desk at an angle, with side panel removed to show innards

(Image credit: Future)

Inside, you'll find a tasteful amount of customizable RGB lighting, including a lightbar and a light on the rear fan so that you can see it spinning through the grille on the front of the case. It's eye-catching without being too gaudy, much like the Aurora R13 itself.

Alienware Aurora R13 viewed in profile

(Image credit: Future)

The redesigned chassis features a number of other design changes that are generally smart. However, the two stubby fins that now stick out from the top of the R13's backside have a tendency to scrape nearby walls and furniture when moving the case around. 

Alienware Aurora R13 review: Ports and upgradability

  • Plethora of ports available
  • Case is easy to open and work in

The Aurora R13 offers a healthy selection of ports, which should keep you from experiencing any headaches when hooking up your favorite gaming gear. 

Up front, you get a headphone jack and a vertical array of USB-C ports: 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1, 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 with PowerShare and another USB 3.2 Gen 1 port with PowerShare. This means that the ports can deliver power to connected devices, even when the PC is switched off.

Alienware Aurora R13 sitting on desk viewed head on, showing port array on front of case

(Image credit: Future)

Around the back, you find a port smorgasbord. There's a quartet of classic USB-A 2.0 ports, as well two USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports. You also get two more USB-C ports with varying max speeds: a 10Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 2 port and a 20Gbps USB 3.2 2x2.

If you want to get inside the case to fiddle with components or upgrade something, Alienware has made the process pretty painless.

There's also a slew of audio jacks that are well-suited to setting up a surround sound system for your rig. You get rear, side and center/subwoofer output ports, as well as line in and line out, a microphone in, and two SPDIF digital outputs: one for coax cables and the other for Toslink cables. 

Of course, no gaming PC would be complete without an Ethernet jack, and the Aurora R13 sports one (an RJ-45 Killer E3100). This way, you can enjoy a wired connection for all your online gaming.

(Image credit: Future)

If you want to get inside the case to fiddle with components or upgrade something, Alienware has made the process pretty painless. Unscrew one key screw on the back of the R13 and the side panel unlocks, allowing you to remove the panel and get at the PC's innards. 

(Image credit: Future)

The Aurora R13 we reviewed is roomy enough to make getting inside and mucking around a breeze. The RAM and storage are pretty easy to get at, but you'll need to move a bracket or two in order to get to the GPU or power supply. The front of the PC is also pretty easy to remove, though you'll need to wrestle with a few screws if, for some reason, you want to remove the top of the Aurora R13.

Alienware Aurora R13 review: Gaming performance

  • Excellent 1080p gaming machine
  • 4K performance is decent but lags behind more expensive PCs

I spent many happy hours playing games in 1080p at buttery-smooth framerates with all the graphics settings maxed out.

Our Alienware Aurora R13 review unit ran just about every game I tested on it beautifully, as long as they were running at sub-4K resolutions. I spent many happy hours playing games such as Cyberpunk 2077, Death Stranding, Total War: Warhammer II and Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous in 1080p at buttery smooth framerates, with all the graphics settings maxed out.

However, when I cranked the resolution of those games up to 4K, I saw the performance drop below 60 fps in a few games. Cyberpunk 2077 was the biggest offender here, as I saw performance drop to below 20 fps regularly while playing in 4K with all settings maxed.

Alienware Aurora R13 sitting on desk connected to Acer Predator monitor, with Cyberpunk 2077 playing onscreen

(Image credit: Future)

When we ran the Aurora R13 through our gauntlet of game benchmarks, we saw impressive performance that nevertheless lags a bit behind other high-end gaming PCs. The Origin PC Millennium (2022) (i9-12900K, GeForce RTX 3080 Ti, 32GB RAM) and the Corsair One i300 (i9-12900K, GeForce RTX 3080 Ti, 64GB RAM), two top-of-the-line machines we've recently tested, generally performed better.

However, the Origin and Corsair configurations that we tested cost roughly $5,000 apiece, so it's not too surprising they outperformed our just-under-$3,000 Aurora R13. When you compare the R13's performance against the more competitively priced $1,900 Acer Predator Orion 3000 (Intel Core i7-11700F, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070, 16GB RAM), you see performance gains of 10-50 fps.

Here's a look at how the Aurora R13's performance stacks up against them in a few top games running at maximum settings:

Corsair One i300 (fps, 1080p/4k)Origin PC Millennium (fps, 1080p/4k)Alienware Aurora R13 (fps, 1080p/4k)Acer Predator Orion 3000 (fps, 1080p/4K)
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla122/70115/62106/5684/44
Dirt 5175/68171/92154/81116/61
Far Cry 6143/82112/67104/6272/46
Grand Theft Auto V181/66178/67171/56129/42

Our Aurora R13 review unit had no trouble delivering impressive performance at 1080p. But when we cranked the resolution up to 4K, it started to struggle with achieving rock-solid 60 fps in games such as Grand Theft Auto V and Assassin's Creed Valhalla. While the R13 is a great gaming PC for playing pretty much anything at 1080p, or even 1440p, you'll need to pay for a much beefier rig if you want to play the latest and greatest in 4K.

Alienware Aurora R13 review: Overall performance

  • Plenty of power for just about any work task
  • Speedy SSD

The powerful components inside the Aurora R13 give it more than enough muscle to handle pretty much any work you need to do on it. Out of the box, I found the R13 quick to start up, quiet during daily use and more than capable of handling however many Chrome tabs, YouTube videos and other apps I decided to open in the background while playing games.

Alienware Aurora R13 sitting on desk with Death Stranding running onscreen

(Image credit: Future)

When we put it through our standard suite of benchmark tests, the Aurora R13 delivered great performance. It earned a score of 15,329 in the Geekbench 5.4 multicore CPU benchmark, which puts it just a bit behind the aforementioned Corsair One i300 (17,965) and Origin PC Millennium (18,096) gaming PCs. This slim performance gap seems almost impressive when you consider the Origin and Corsair PCs are nearly twice as expensive as the Aurora R13. 

Corsair One i300Origin PC MillenniumAlienware Aurora R13Acer Predator Orion 3000
Geekbench 5.417,96518,09615,3298,058
25 GB File Copy (MBps)3,0061,0231,894730
Handbrake (Minutes:Seconds)3:283:223:527:57

The Alienware Aurora's SSD is pretty speedy as well, which can be a godsend when you're moving game installs around. When we measured how quickly it transferred 25GB of multimedia files, the Aurora R13 achieved file transfer speeds of 1,894 MBps. That's pretty fast for a gaming PC, outperforming the Origin PC Millennium (1,023 MBps) and the Predator Orion 3000 (739 MBps), but not the Corsair One i300 (3,006 MBps). 

The Aurora R13 should also be pretty decent at photo/video editing, although it can't quite match the performance of more expensive rigs. When we had our R13 review unit transcode a 4K video down to 1080p using Handbrake, it did so in 3 minutes 52 seconds. That's fast, but not as fast as the Origin PC Millennium (3:22) or Corsair One i300 (3:28).

Alienware Aurora R13 review: Software

  • Almost no bloatware
  • Alienware Command Center app is great, everything else is a wash

Our Aurora R13 arrived with a pretty clean install of Windows 11, which is a nice touch. There are a few Dell/Alienware apps pre-installed, most of which you can safely ignore. 

(Image credit: Future)

The one that's actually useful is the Alienware Command Center, which you can use to customize a slew of settings. You can create custom RGB lighting patterns, manage your GPU overclock settings, modify cooling fan performance and adjust your audio settings. You can save all of these settings in distinct profiles, and you can even tie profiles and settings changes to specific games. This way, you can set your PC up to automatically increase the GPU overclock or change the lighting pattern whenever you launch Cyberpunk 2077, for example.

There's also an Alienware Mobile Connect app that lets you use your phone in conjunction with the PC. In theory, you can see and respond to text messages, make calls from the PC and more. However, during over a week of testing I was never able to get the app (running on an iPhone 12) to successfully link with our Aurora R13.

Alienware Aurora R13 review: Verdict

A judgment of the Aurora R13 is in large part a judgment of the new Legend 2.0 chassis, since so much of Alienware's business is based on building you a PC with the specific components you want. And after spending a couple of weeks working, playing and mucking around with our review unit, I can tell you that the Aurora R13's new look is a winner.

The redesigned chassis is easy to access, offers plenty of ports and has enough ventilation that even after gaming in 4K for hours, I noticed only a mild hum and a pleasant warmth emanating from the PC. Since the computer weighs up to 35 pounds, it's a bit hefty to move around (watch those fins) or plop on a desk. But if your desk can accommodate it, the space-age design and customizable RGB lighting are sure to turn heads.

If you can afford it, Alienware will fill the Aurora R13 with top-of-the-line components that make it a top-tier gaming PC. At nearly $3,000, our review unit is far from cheap, but it's powerful enough to play the latest and greatest games for years to come. Just don't expect blazing-fast framerates at 4K.

If you absolutely must have the best 4K PC gaming experience, expect to pay hundreds (if not thousands) more for beefier components — say, a Core i9 CPU and a GeForce RTX 3090.

If you don't like the look of the Aurora R13, or you're not happy with Alienware's component selection and shipping times, you could also try ordering a similarly specced Origin Millennium or Corsair One i300 PC. Both are eye-catching gaming PCs that you can trick out with top-tier components. If space is a concern, the i300 is significantly smaller and lighter than the Aurora R13. However, it offers fewer ports and is harder to open and upgrade due to its small size.

But if I had a few extra thousand dollars to throw down on a new gaming PC this year, the Alienware Aurora R13 would be a strong contender. With a compelling new design and as much muscle as you can afford, it's one of the best gaming PCs I've seen this year.

Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. He currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice.