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Alienware Alpha Review

Combining the UI of a gaming console with the power of a PC, the Alienware Alpha is a force to be reckoned with.

Gaming Performance

As a gaming desktop, the Alpha’s custom Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M GPU with 2GB of VRAM punches above its weight. When I put the Alpha through its paces on Hyperion's moon in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, the console kept pace as I dispatched angry mobs of disgruntled miners with my trusty laser and whip. Orange-red explosions heralded the beginning of the end of my foes as they were launched into the airless vacuum of space.

Averaging 68 fps at 1080p, the action was seamless and gratifying. However, if I quickly performed a 360-degree turn, I noticed some tearing as the GPU worked to render everything to match my moves.

In addition to higher resolutions, the Alpha also offers quieter fans. In my time with the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Alpha, I noticed that the One sounded like a small turbine. The PS4 was somewhat quieter, but the Alpha sounded like a whisper by comparison.

On BioShock Infinite, the Alpha averaged 97 fps at 1080p on low settings, which is less than the 149 fps delivered by the pricier $1,199 Lenovo Erazer x510's Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 GPU. It was enough, however, to edge out the even more expensive $1,449 MSI AG220 (Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M GPU), which scored 94 fps. The average desktop gets 89 fps.

When effects were set to high, the Alpha and AG220 remained closely matched, at 43 and 42 fps, respectively. The x510 beat out both systems with a frame rate of 64 fps. The desktop average is 53 fps.

During the resource-intensive Metro: Last Light, the Alpha hit a playable 54 fps at 1080p on low. However, it wasn't enough to top the AG220 or the x510, which obtained 66 and 94 fps, respectively. The desktop average is 72 fps, but we run this game mainly on gaming desktops. At the highest settings, the Alpha's frame rate dropped to 16 fps, which is below the Tom's Guide playability threshold. The AG220 notched 12 fps while the x510 hit 23 fps — also both unplayable.

Unlike traditional consoles, the Alpha can play games in 4K, so gamers can get the most out of their QHD televisions and monitors. However, it can’t play them with all the eye candy turned on. At a resolution of 3840 x 2160, the Alpha managed just 45 fps in World of Warcraft with the settings on Good. Cranking up the effects to Max dropped it to an unplayable 27 fps. On Metro: Last Light, the Alpha eked out just 22 fps on low settings.

On the synthetic benchmark 3DMark Fire Strike, the Alpha delivered 3,501, which is more than double the desktop average (1,374). However, this wasn't enough to conquer the MSI or the Lenovo, which notched 3,674 and 5,366, respectively.