Alienware Aurora R16 Review: Thinking Inside the Box (Updated)

Alienware Aurora R16
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

Tom's Hardware Verdict

The Alienware Aurora R16's boxy redesign is safe, but small enough to fit on a desk. While the system comes at a decent price, Alienware continues to use proprietary parts that make it hard to upgrade in the future.


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    Smaller chassis than previous versions

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    Lots of ports on the front

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    Decent pricing for pre-built market


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    Still using proprietary motherboard and server-style power supply

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    Fans can run loud while gaming

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    Chassis design may be too safe for some

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Editor's Note: We have updated this review to feature a second configuration of the Alienware Aurora R16, with a 14th Gen Intel Core i9-14900KF and Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090. Comparisons have been placed throughout, but the score has not changed. 

Love or hate the prebuilt scene, Alienware's design, with hints of spaceships and future tech have always stood out, bringing a bit of sci-fi to the traditional black boxes you can grab off of a store shelf. With the Alienware Aurora R16 ($1,299.99 to start, $1,999 and $3,499 as tested), Dell's gaming arm has opted for a more conservative — albeit familiar — approach, keeping the RGB lighting but moving towards a more compact black mid-tower.

But looks are only skin deep. While the redesign changes airflow a bit and makes the R16 easier to fit on your desk, the internal design is still largely the same as past Alienwares, limiting upgrade opportunities if you're using the desktop to get into the PC building hobby.

The specs aren't bad for the price (in the land of prebuilts, anyway, and you could easily spend far more for similar specs, especially if you want to jump up a level in terms of graphics). But higher-end configurations are still pricey, though not as much as similar configurations from the previous generation.

If you're an Alienware loyalist or want a small mid-tower, this offering will fit for those who prefer to buy rather than build. It has plenty of ports and the difference in size is noticeable.

Design of the Alienware Aurora R16

The external design of the Alienware Aurora R16 is the biggest change in this generation. Gone is the sci-fi inspired spaceship design for something that looks more like a traditional computer. While the internal volume of the case hasn't changed, at 25.2 liters, the desktop is 40% smaller.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

All of this is to say, the Aurora R16 looks more like a desktop PC than previous versions; It's rectangular with rounded corners. There's still an alien schtick, including the oval RGB light from its laptops being moved to the left side of the front panel to serve as an air intake. There's still exhaust out of the top and a mix of intake and exhaust vents on the glass side panel, an idea that debuted on the Alienware Aurora R15 last year (and, frankly, isn't a great aesthetic choice. If you're gonna have a glass window, let me see the whole PC!).

Unlike previous Auroras, the R16 only comes in "basalt" black. The new size, at 18.05 x 16.5 x 7.76 inches is far easier to sit on a desk than the previous generation. Beyond being smaller, Alienware claims that the new design makes the desktop 20% quieter and lets it run 7% cooler. This did not keep me from seriously noticing the noise as I ran our Metro Exodus stress test, in which the fans noticeably whirred the entire time.

This black box does have a few flourishes. The power button is an RGB Alien logo (some things don't change), and there's a cutout in the front for some ports. The left side features a clear window (on some models) and the RGB light ring that doubles as air intake.Though it faces away from you most of the time, I think the oval on the rear side of the case should also light up to add some panache. I also note a lack of lighting inside the PC - only the rear case fan brings any RGB lighting inside the chassis.

While the air still largely exhausts out the top, Alienware claims that this new chassis has a larger surface for exhaust (probably because it's not rounded and covered in excess plastic). But for the most part, this system really is lacking for flair compared to Alienware's prior desktops. One might even call it safe. I'm fine with safe, personally; I prefer practicality and will be spending most of my time looking at the display, anyway. But several of my colleagues looked at this desktop and thought it was boring compared to Alienware's previous designs.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

There are four fans in the system: one in the front (that's what pulls air through the RGB ring), one in the rear, and, on our model, two on the 240 mm liquid cooler (the larger cooler was also introduced on the R15). I'd like to see another fan in the front for more intake.

There are no heatsinks or shields here. The RAM, SSD and Wi-Fi are unprotected, and you can even make out all of the labels and barcodes just by looking through the clear side panel. Nevermind keeping components cooler — it would make the whole system look better aesthetically to add that.

On the RTX 4090 version, you see more cables through the windows, thanks to the more complex power connector attached to the power-hungry graphics card.

The Aurora has shed some mass since we reviewed the previous model, the R15. That one was bigger on all sides at 20.8 x 20.1 x 8.86 inches. Lenovo's Legion Tower 7i (Gen 8), a more conventional box, is 19.37 x 18.27 x  8.31 inches, which is still bigger than the R16 but not tremendously. Maingear's MG-1 is 19 x 16.88 x 8.13 inches.

Alienware Aurora R16 Specifications

Swipe to scroll horizontally
ProcessorIntel Core i7-13700FIntel Core i9-14900KF
MotherboardAlienware 0RF96M (Intel Z690)Alienware 0RF96M (Intel Z690)
Memory32GB SK Hynix (16 x 2) DDR5-5600 RAM32GB Samsung (16 x 2) DDR5-5600 RAM
GraphicsOEM GeForce RTX 4070 (12GB GDDR6, 2,475 MHz boost clock)OEM GeForce RTX 4090 (24GB GDDR6, 2,520 MHz boost clock)
StorageSamsung PM9A1 1TB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD2x SK Hynix PC801 1TB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD
NetworkingIntel Wi-Fi 6E AX210, Bluetooth 5.3Killer Wi-Fi 6E AX1675x, Bluetooth 5.3
Front Ports3.5 mm headphone jack, 3x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C3.5 mm headphone jack, 3x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C
Rear Ports (Motherboard)Ethernet, 4x USB 2.0 Type-A, 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 Type-C, Line in, Line Out, Mic in, SPDIF, audio portsEthernet, 4x USB 2.0 Type-A, 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 Type-C, Line in, Line Out, Mic in, SPDIF, audio ports
Video Output (GPU)HDMI, 3x DisplayPortHDMI, 3x DisplayPort
Power Supply1,000-watt Platinum1,000-watt Platinum
Cooling2x 120 mm case fans, 240 mm CPU all-in-one liquid cooler2x 120 mm case fans, 240 mm CPU all-in-one liquid cooler
Operating SystemWindows 11 ProWindows 11 Pro
Dimensions18.05 x 16.5 x 7.76 inches (458.4 x 418 x 197 mm)18.05 x 16.5 x 7.76 inches (458.4 x 418 x 197 mm)
Price as Configured$1,999.99$3,499.99

Ports and Upgradeability on the Alienware Aurora R16

While the change may be dramatic on the outside, less has changed here than I would like. Alienware is still using a proprietary motherboard that severely hampers major upgrade options down the line. While most people buying a pre-built just want something that will run their games now, those using it as a springboard into the greater hobby won't be able to keep using this PC with new processors once the Intel LGA1700 socket is outdated.

Alienware has offered myriad reasons for its board design over the years. The ports are on the top and bottom, and the I/O board is physically attached, which helps eliminate some wires. That may help Alienware build the PC, but isn't great for future-proofing it. Alienware does like to boast about 12-phase voltage regulation on its boards, however, and I can't blame it for that.

The four front ports are in a small indent. They include a 3.5 mm headphone jack, a generous two USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports, and a single USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port.

On the back, the ports are largely attached to the motherboard. Those include four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports, two USB Type-C ports (one Gen 2, the other Gen 2x2), an Ethernet jack, and your usual audio, microphone and SPDIF ports.

To get into the system, you have to loosen a single screw on the back of the system, where a small handle can be used to pop off the glass side panel. (Once this is loosened the first time, you can really leave it that way, unless you plan to travel with the desktop). With the glass off, you can see a slight mess of cables that is obscured by the honeycomb-shaped cutouts on the glass, largely connecting the GPU to the power supply. 

Attached to the bottom fan is a plastic bracket that clips onto a metal piece attached to the GPU. Alienware tells me that this is to keep the GPU stable during shipping, and while you can remove it if you please, the company recommends leaving it there. (There's room for another fan at the front and I wish Alienware used it).

While that motherboard can't be replaced (and, likely, the CPU  on the 14th gen models), there is still access to the two RAM slots, the SSD, hard drive cage, and graphics card. The power supply, like previous Alienware desktops, appears to be one meant for servers, so that's yet another area that's not quite easy to upgrade. I do appreciate that there's an extra PCIe SSD slot to fill later with more storage.

To remove the back panel, you give it a good yank and it comes off. But there's just a bit of very clean wiring here. I will give the new design this: getting both side panels back on is far easier than it was on the previous spaceship versions.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Whether or not you like the Aurora's external design (I find it inoffensive), I think it's actually the internals that need an overhaul. I'm not asking Alienware to do what MSI or iBuypower or Maingear do and use nothing custom, but back in 2020 HP, one of Dell's biggest rivals, jumped to bog-standard, name-brand components for most of its Omen builds. Heck, HP even sells its cases separately. If HP can do it, so can Alienware, and when Alienware announced a redesign, I hoped it would also mean that there would be easier repairability and upgradeability. Sadly, that's not the case this time around.

Gaming and Graphics on the Alienware Aurora R16

We initially tested the Alienware Aurora R16 with an Intel Core i7-13700F and Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070, 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. We're updating this review with a more powerful configuration using a Core i9-14900KF, Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090, 32GB of RAM and a pair of 1 TB SSDs.

I took the cheaper Aurora R16 for a spin with Control, still to my mind one of the best PC games of the past few years. At 2560 x 1440 with DLSS on, using the high quality preset and high ray tracing preset, the game ran great. As I dodged Hiss soldiers in a computer lab in the Oldest House's communications department, catching fire that I returned by throwing office supplies with a kinetic charge, the game ran between 82 and 91 frames per second during heavy combat. While exploring, the game typically ran closer to 98 fps.  With the 14th Gen/RTX 4090 configuration, the game ran consistently over 100 fps — often as high as 120 fps, while exploring the Oldest House, In combat, it ran between 106 and 114 fps. 

We actually haven't seen another prebuilt pass through our labs with a 4070 yet — most vendors have opted for expensive, top-end RTX 4080 and 4090 GPUs. So here, we've compared the Aurora to one system that's more expensive and more powerful (the Lenovo Legion Tower 7i with a ​​Core i9-13900KF and RTX 4080) and one that's cheaper and weaker (the Maingear MG-1 Silver, with a Core i5-13400F and an RTX 4060), giving you an idea of what the first Aurora configurations in the United States offer between them. We've also added the more expensive configuration with the 14th Gen i9 and a 4090, and added the previous generation R15, with a 13th Gen i9 and 4090, for comparison's sake. But spoiler alert — the 14th Gen Intel chip doesn't make any truly significant strides in gaming over the 13th Gen one.

The RTX 4070-powered Aurora always came in the middle of its primary rivals in our testing. Don't think of these as a direct comparison, per se, but rather showing the differences between what's available on the market related to the Aurora. You may note that while the 4070 passed muster in 4K, the 4060 did not in several cases; You would need to lower the settings. 

On Shadow of the Tomb Raider's built-in benchmark on the Highest settings preset, the 13th Gen Aurora R16 ran at 161 frames per second at 1080p and 54 fps at 4K. The 14th Gen version, with the more powerful GPU, hit 257 fps at 1080p and 131 fps at 4K.

Grand Theft Auto V (very high settings) is more CPU intensive. Here, the 13th Gen Aurora reached 147 fps at 1080p and 37 fps at 4K, while the 14th Gen model hit 186 fps at 1080p and 85 fps at 4K.

Meanwhile, Far Cry 6's benchmark on ultra settings ran at 108 fps at 1080p on the 13th Gen Aurora, while it dropped to 63 fps at 4K. The 14th Gen version with RTX 4090 hit 191 fps and 80 fps, respectively.

The Aurora with 13th Gen and a 4070 also ran Red Dead Redemption 2 (medium settings) at 108 fps at 1080p, but that game played at 33 fps at 4K. The 14th Gen/RTX 4090 Aurora hit 191 fps at FHD and 80 fps at 4K.

On Borderlands 3's built-in benchmark at the "badass" preset, the 13th Gen/RTX 4070 Aurora ran the game at 144 fps at 1080p and 52 fps at 4K. The 14th Gen/RTX 4090 model hit 261 fps at 1080p and 130 fps at 4K.

To stress test systems, we run the Metro Exodus 15 times at 1080p using the RTX preset, simulating about half an hour of gameplay. On the cheaper of the two Aurora R16 models we tested, the Core i7-13700F's eight performance cores averaged 4.69 GHz, while the eight efficiency cores ran at 3.53 GHz. The CPU package averaged 49.25 degrees Celsius. The RTX 4070 ran at 2,478 MHz and averaged 68.13 C. On the more expensive version, the Intel Core i9-14900KF's performance cores ran at 4.8 GHz, while the efficiency cores hit 3.82 GHz, and the CPU package measured 65.23 degrees Celsius. The RTX 4090 ran at 2,267.68 MHz and averaged 53.84 degrees Celsius.   

Productivity Performance on the Alienware Aurora R16

We also put the Core i7-13700F and Core i9-14900KF, each with 32GB of RAM through their paces in a series of productivity tests.

On Geekbench 6, a synthetic, CPU-heavy test, the Aurora earned a single-core score of 2,529 and a multi-core score of 16,687. Unsurprisingly, that's lower than the Core s i9-13900KF in the Legion and higher than the Core i5-13400F in the Maingear (these patterns will follow throughout). If you're only gaming, though, the Core i9 may be overkill. Speaking of Core i9, the i9-14900KF topped the chart at 2,910 and 18,933.

The 14th Gen Alienware had the fastest SSD of the bunch, copying 25GB of files at a rate of 1,923.65 MBps, just ahead of the Legion. It's a far superior SSD to the Maingear (489.65 MBps).

Intel's 14th Gen i9 actually came a few seconds behind the 13th Gen i9 in the Lenovo Legion transcoding a video from 4K to 1080p in Handbrake, but enough that I'd call it insignificant. They both beat the 13th Gen i7.

Software and Warranty on the Alienware Aurora R16

The most important piece of software preloaded on the machine is Alienware Command Center, now on version 6, which is also available on several Alienware (and Dell Gaming) laptops. It's gotten a nice fresh coat of paint and a new user interface, but most of the features are still the same. You get at-a-glance computer utilization stats (you can also see these in an overlay while gaming), overclocking controls and presets, a game library, and Dolby Atmos integration. For those who like their RGB lighting, there's AlienwareFX control in the app as well, which can adjust the lighting not just on the desktop, but also on connected Alienware peripherals and monitors.

While Command Center does a lot, Alienware still has more. None of it is as useful. My Alienware has warranty and system details, but also houses a bunch of simplistic how-tos and links you to Alienware's store to buy more gear. There's also Alienware Customer Connect, which exists to ask you to take surveys, as well as apps for updating your PC (this seems duplicative, Windows does this fine most of the time) and downloading digital content.

Alienware's reach has also extended into the Edge browser, with a folder of links to Alienware and Dell's website, as well as to McAfee Security.

Windows 11 comes with its own bloat (or links to the Microsoft Store) in the Start Menu, including Spotify, WhatsApp, Prime Video, Netflix, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, and Sudoku.

Dell sells the Alienware Aurora R16 with a one-year warranty.

Alienware Aurora R16 Configurations

The Alienware Aurora R16's configurations cover a wide range of prices and performance. The starter version is $1,299.99 with a 13th Gen Intel Core i7-13700F, Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, a 500W Platinum-rated PSU and air cooling.

Our cheaper review system was almost identical, but bumped up to 32GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070, 1000W PSU and liquid cooling, with a $1,999.99 price tag. (This has increased by $100 in price since we reviewed it earlier this year.)

The R16 spans three generations of Intel CPUs. As an upgrade over the Core i7-13700F in some configurations, Alienware offers the 12th Gen Core i9-12900F as a $50 upcharge.

The more expensive version we tested has a top-of-the-line Intel Core i9-14900KF (unlike the 13th Gen chips, this one is unlocked), and an RTX 4090. Ours had 2TB of storage (two 1TB drives) and 32GB of RAM, for a grand total of $3,499.99. Parent company Dell told me this is cheaper than an equivalent R15 with a 13th Gen Gore i9, and that is true — while you'd get a slightly higher capacity PSU, the closest I could come spec-wise still cost $4,349.

Bottom Line

Anytime something iconic (or at least attention-grabbing) changes, it's bound to create some strong feelings. Me? I think I prefer Alienware's more compact, traditional mid-tower shape, even if it loses some of the brand's bombast and attitude. It's easier to fit on a desk, easier to open, and, for better or worse, looks more like other options on the market.

What Alienware didn't change was the internals. Most people who buy this, I imagine, just want a working gaming PC that's ready to play out of the box. Alienware delivers on that here. But with proprietary parts, including an oddly shaped motherboard and a server-style PSU, there's limited room for upgrades. For those who get the 1,000W power supply, I hope that will be enough for at least a couple of GPU upgrades. (Though if you get the RTX 4090 model, you should be OK there for a bit.) 

The design continues to have some pluses, including plenty of ports in the front so that you don't have to reach behind your PC. But it also doesn't do much for noise, at least to my ear.

This all adds up to an atypically safe redesign for Alienware. It's one that's functional and will work for those who simply want to buy a PC, boot up Steam or Epic Games and get started playing with powerful performance. But I hope Alienware's next design finally works on those internals, which are in dire need of a refresh.

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Andrew E. Freedman is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware focusing on laptops, desktops and gaming. He also keeps up with the latest news. A lover of all things gaming and tech, his previous work has shown up in Tom's Guide, Laptop Mag, Kotaku, PCMag and Complex, among others. Follow him on Threads @FreedmanAE and Mastodon

  • Sleepy_Hollowed
    It’s honestly pretty solid as long as you have it under a desk, or have noise cancelling headphones for playing.

    I actually really like the normal look to be honest.
  • PEnns
    Sleepy_Hollowed said:
    It’s honestly pretty solid as long as you have it under a desk, or have noise cancelling headphones for playing.

    I actually really like the normal look to be honest.
    It's good on paper (well, except for the noise for an almost $2000 PC!)) and then in a couple of years, you crash into the infamous Dell Wall!!

    You know, where everything is proprietary and will cost you a kidney (or enough for a new PC) to upgrade using Dell parts.
  • Sleepy_Hollowed
    PEnns said:
    It's good on paper (well, except for the noise for an almost $2000 PC!)) and then in a couple of years, you crash into the infamous Dell Wall!!

    You know, where everything is proprietary and will cost you a kidney (or enough for a new PC) to upgrade using Dell parts.
    Their replacement parts aren’t that bad, and I know they have support at least for 7 years to be honest, I’ve bought some decent replacement parts on laptops for OK prices.

    GPUs aside though, that’s a special case.
  • ilukey77
    Run and Run far away from anything alienware its over priced garbage ..
    because thats all you can do with it in the end throw it in the garbage !!

    I recommend building your own PC there are literally 1000s of videos on youtube on how to or buying a decent prebuild with parts you can upgrade !!

    I had a aurora r7 got to a point where all i could do is sell it or throw it away because i could only at best upgrade fans and certain gpu's everything else was proprietary parts forcing you with no upgradability !!!
  • 3R1K
    Admin said:
    The Alienware Aurora R16 is in a smaller, more streamlined box with plenty of ports and a decent price, but proprietary parts keep it from being an entry into true enthusiast PC gaming.

    Alienware Aurora R16 Review: Thinking Inside the Box : Read more
    I already ordered the Aurora R16 but finally cancelled because of the proprietary parts after reading some reviews. For me its fine to have a prebuild but I want tohave the possibility to repair or change my computer in the future.
  • ilukey77
    3R1K said:
    I already ordered the Aurora R16 but finally cancelled because of the proprietary parts after reading some reviews. For me its fine to have a prebuild but I want tohave the possibility to repair or change my computer in the future.
    not sure where your located but im sure there are some reputable pc shops that do custom builds with upgradable parts if you lack confidence in building your own ( not a dig but i see some peoples fears and understand it )
  • EyeScream
    I have been in the IT industry for 35 years and I have ALWAYS built my own machine. I honestly really kept in touch with all hardware and parts etc., researching the best and midrange and research all all that. However, at the ripe age I am now I just can't be bothered with piecing together another PC that essentially might work for the next 5 years well, but it's a pain. This time around I wanted something more small form factor and the R16 actually is a nice machine. It is optimized well and it's also visually appealing fast and quiet. It does gaming well. True: in a few years the video card might have to be changed and well that might be an issue. I figured as long as I get 2 or 3 good years out of a machine the price might be worth it.
    for under 2G's this machine is pretty decent and upgrading to a 4080 or 90 should not be an issue. I have had a lenovo p70 Zeon laptop 17+ inch 3840x2160 for 5 years and it runs as good as the day I got it. It''s perfect. So what is the downside. Well for me I don't have space requirements and I only play one game at a time that I like. A terabyte for me will last me a lifetime. This machine is actually incredible and I did not even have to build the damn thing.

    That matched with a Gigabyte M32U display, a NULEA trackball mouse, Viper Keyboard and Tactile Headset from corsair is incredible. Just wanted to give my 2cents and maybe that is what it is worth, but that machine is excellent.
  • Udyr
    I can build the same config with better and upgradeable parts, include a monitor, and I'd still have about $50 left for chewing gum.
  • dmylrea
    Udyr said:
    I can build the same config with better and upgradeable parts, include a monitor, and I'd still have about $50 left for chewing gum.
    Ever wonder why going to a restaurant costs more than going to the store, shopping for your food, taking it home, prepping the ingredients, cooking the meal and cleaning up afterwards? It's called convenience. You're opinion isn't some new, novel concept -- you CAN build it yourself if you wish. Many don't want to or can't. Life is full of prebuilt items that (guess what?) cost MORE than DIY. Prebuilt isn't for you.
  • dmylrea
    I never understand why reviewers and users assume that a prebuilt name-brand PC should be 100% upgradable with off-the-shelf parts? You can upgrade RAM, SSD, GPU, add more ports via cards, etc. You can't go buy a different brand MB or PS and fit it in? Why would you assume you could? Let's cap on Lexus for using a proprietary engine in their cars. Look at Apple -- you can't do a SINGLE THING to upgrade their Macs. Not RAM. Not SSD. Not GPU. Nothing. You can get parts after-warranty from Dell, and MAYBE even get the next gen MB if Dell keeps the chassis the same. After years go by and you want to upgrade, you're going to want a new PC that handles next-gen RAM, SSD, and GPU anyways. All you'd have left original is the case! Big deal. Stop complaining.