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Alienware Alpha Caught Running Windows 8.1

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 10 comments

Not too long ago I said that given the Steam Machine controller won't be ready for retail until sometime in 2015, hardware partners will likely release their solutions in 2014 anyway without the controller and the Steam Machine stamp of approval. Alienware is one company that has done just that -- the Alienware Alpha "console" PC.

The Alienware reps I spoke with this week at E3 2014 said that Alpha was supposed to be the company's Steam Machine solution. But due to the delay, and with Valve's blessing, the company decided to release the console anyway. "We're very proud of it," one rep told me.

To get an idea of how small and light this portable PC is, take a look at the black (and original) Nintendo Wii console. Both units feel like they weigh the same. Even more, both also look similar in size save for Alienware's logo and the illuminated angular cutout. According to the reps, Alpha is slightly larger in size.

For the uninitiated, Alienware said that its "Alpha" console will ship sometime later this year with a base price of $549. For that price, which is slightly higher than the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, customers will get an Intel Core i3 "Haswell" processor, 4 GB of RAM (up to 8 GB), a custom Nvidia "Maxwell" GPU with 2 GB of VRAM, and a 500 GB SATA 3 hard drive (up to 1 TB).

Also included in the Alpha console is Wireless AC and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity (up to dual-band), Gigabit Ethernet, two USB 2.0 ports and two USB 3.0 ports. Other specs include optical audio out, HDMI output, and HDMI input so that the console can sit between your cable box and an HDTV. This console will ship with one Xbox 360 controller, but owners will be able to use the Xbox One controller now that the drivers are available for the Windows platform. The Alienware reps noted that owners can still use a mouse and keyboard if desired.

Given that the machine runs Windows 8.1, you won't see any signs of Microsoft's platform on the Alpha unit. Instead, the company has done an excellent job in creating the Steam client experience with a custom GUI. Still, that doesn't mean you can't get access to the core Windows platform; that will be possible for advanced users. The Alienware reps pointed out that Windows 8.1 just isn't an ideal interface for a desktop experience. What I saw was still in its early stage, so expect something extremely streamlined when the console ships later this year.

The good news despite all the "console" talk is that this former Steam Machine is easily upgradable. On the bottom are four screws for removing the lid from the base. While they didn't show me the inside, the reps said that Alpha owners will be able to upgrade the processor, the RAM and the hard drive. The only thing you can't upgrade is the graphics, which is soldered to the motherboard.

"This thing right here is about as powerful as the laptop's sold outside," one rep said, referring to the Alienware laptops on display in the booth. "Well not the [Alienware] 18 because it's a beast."

The company had a good number of Alpha kiosks set up in the booth, one of which ran the Gauntlet remake. The controllers were hooked up via USB (don't panic; wireless is supported), and allowed three other onlookers to jump in and take part in the action. The game was rather awesome, but so was the machine running it in 1080p.

In addition to the Alienware Alpha, a ROCCAT rep was at the booth showcasing a mouse and keyboard combo platter with built-in wrist and mouse pads. The prototype was interesting, but I pointed out that it doesn't cater to left-handed gamers. The rep said that they may make the unit modular so you can move the mouse portion over to the left side.

Add your comment Display 10 Comments.
  • 9 Hide
    WithoutWeakness , June 16, 2014 8:40 AM
    What a click-bait title. Alienware wasn't "caught" doing anything. They were very clear at E3 that SteamOS is still in beta and are releasing the Aplha running Windows for the time being in order to get production rolling and get units out the door. They were also clear that their support team is open to helping Alpha customers to install the SteamOS beta on the machines after purchase and that doing so will not void the warranty.
  • 0 Hide
    SteelCity1981 , June 16, 2014 8:43 AM
    "Alienware reps pointed out that Windows 8.1 just isn't an ideal interface for a desktop experience"

    lol this is such a recurring thing with Windows 8.x
  • 6 Hide
    koss64 , June 16, 2014 10:17 AM
    Does Tom's have reporters or persons who just regurgitate press releases and anything PR persons say? Because I cant understand how a "reporter" can have an Alienware representative in font of them and they make a stamen about Windows not being the ideal platform for a desktop experience and not ask the simple question why? As a reporter you don't let persons get away which such blanket statements without some clarification,it leaves the reader the impression that for whatever reasons they can think of Windows 8.1 is just a rubbish platform and that is that.This isn't journalism its clickbait and PR for any non Microsoft company that sponsored this article.
  • 0 Hide
    dextermat , June 16, 2014 1:39 PM
    just another console for peasant :p 
  • 1 Hide
    dovah-chan , June 16, 2014 3:55 PM
    Hey guys here is a $500 sub-par PC in the size of a console! I-Its not like you just couldn't build an ITX system for the same amount and have much better specs than a "maxwell" GPU (probably a 750 or 750 Ti as TMSC is still not ready) and an i3. (probably a mobile CPU variant)

    Also you can't upgrade your graphics card (kinda the most important component to upgrade for a gaming PC) Enjoy guys and best of wishes from Alienware!!1!
  • 1 Hide
    wikiwikiwhat , June 16, 2014 9:21 PM
    "Windows 8.1 just isn't an ideal interface for a desktop experience"

    This has me so enraged. Not sure who I am more mad at, the "reps", Toms Hardware, or Kevin Parrish who didn't even garner a response to them as to why they would come up with something so stupid to say.
  • 1 Hide
    sc14s , June 16, 2014 9:45 PM
    Quote:
    What a click-bait title. Alienware wasn't "caught" doing anything. They were very clear at E3 that SteamOS is still in beta and are releasing the Aplha running Windows for the time being in order to get production rolling and get units out the door. They were also clear that their support team is open to helping Alpha customers to install the SteamOS beta on the machines after purchase and that doing so will not void the warranty.

    Yeah.. i wish i could downvote the article based on the title alone.
  • 0 Hide
    Haravikk , June 17, 2014 3:07 AM
    I'm pretty interested in this, but I'll have to wait for UK prices; far too many great sound systems come across to the UK with well above the 20% VAT markup, making them a much less appealing prospect.

    But while I'm optimistic for Valve's Steam Machines, I'd pretty much just be installing either Windows 8 or my existing Windows 7 license onto one anyway for better compatibility until SteamOS gains momentum, so Alienware switching to Windows 8.1 now doesn't really change anything for me. All I want is decent hardware in a console sized package, and this looks like it could be it, if the UK pricing isn't insane of course.
  • 1 Hide
    jalek , June 17, 2014 4:31 AM
    This is a Steam client? There are a lot of old and indie games on Steam that still won't run on 8.1, sometimes it's just the Steam version that seems to be a problem.

    Current games do well though and does anyone really pay attention to the OS a console type device runs?
  • 1 Hide
    Exia00 , June 17, 2014 1:06 PM
    it's just a PC that you can't upgrade for future games
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