Is an Alienware Aurora PC Worth the Cost?
The seven-year-old Toshiba laptop that was my workhorse suddenly gave up the ghost which gave me just the excuse I needed to buy that Alienware desktop that I’ve always wanted. I always wanted something that I could play intense gaming on, even if I didn’t really need it, plus I wanted something that won’t be outdated within the next several years. Alienware has always been at the cutting-edge of technology, and although the desktops can become pricey, I knew I could find something that would fit into my budget. I finally decided on a customized Aurora R8, but was it worth it?
The Alienware is lightning fast at loading software like games due to its SSD bootup drive. It excels in its ability to play graphic intense games and software, such as video editing software. It is more expensive than most other PCs in this class but the difference in quality and performance makes it a worthwhile option.
Why did I decide to buy an Alienware Aurora? This seemed to be more of a lower priced gaming PC than other Alienware PCs, and while it was a little more expensive than most comparable PCs of other brands, especially after I added my upgrades at the Alienware website, I still thought it was worth it. Part of the added expense, in my humble opinion, is that Alienware does not cut corners like some other manufactures do, resulting in lower prices but lower quality too.
I’ve built PCs in the past, and while I really enjoyed doing that, I just didn’t want to mess with building one up from scratch this time, plus there just wasn’t enough of a price differential to encourage me. Besides, the Alienware came with technical support and a warranty, something which I appreciate, especially the automated updates that the Alienware software provides. Add to that the fact that I could do just as good of a job customizing the PC at the Alienware website as I could if I built one, and the fact that after a little research I discovered how easy it is to upgrade one, tipped the scales in favor of buying one instead of building one from scratch. Plus, no stress!
This PC came with a 9th generation Intel i7 processor that has 16 GB of RAM. I looked at the i9 processors, but it just didn’t seem worth the extra cost to me. The intel processor is an 8 core/8 thread processor with 128 MB cache as opposed to the 8 core/16 thread processing power of the i9, but for many applications that is not a factor. The extra processing power just didn’t seem like it was worth an extra $350, sometimes you pay too much of a premium for the latest and greatest stuff, so I saved money for something else instead.
I went with a 512GB SSD boot disk and a 2TB 7200 RPM drive for data storage. The SSD drive is a little small for my use since I download lots for games from STEAM that will quickly eat up that drive space. I didn’t worry about that since my Toshiba had a 1TB SSD that I planned to install and use for my game drive, plus I had another 2TB 7200 RPM drive that I could install as well.
The hard drives were as easy to install as the videos on YouTube said they would be. I removed the screw in the handle, lifted it up and the side panel popped loose and was easy to remove. The drive bays were at the bottom and the plastic mounting trays were easy to remove too. They were totally screwless, all you need to do is slide the drive in and pop it into place.
Due to the configuration of my 7200 RPM SATA drive I had to mount it upside so the right-angled cable supplied with the PC would work, but as I learned, mounting hard drives upside down nowadays is not a problem. The only thing that slowed me down was that I had to supply my own SATA cables, which I had to run out and buy. After that I simply reinstalled the drive bays, slid the cover back into place, then locked the handle and installed the retaining screw, and I was done. Since these drives had already been in use the PC recognized them right away and voila, I had added 3TB of storage in about 20 minutes (not counting the time I had to run out and buy the SATA cables).
Games now load lighting fast. Stellaris, a game that took a good couple of minutes to load on my old laptop loaded in an amazing 7 seconds! Great for an impatient guy like me. I can run any game I have with the highest graphics settings possible and so far have noticed no stutter of any kind in the video.
While I’m on the subject of games this PC has one really great feature that solves a pet peeve of mine that I’ve had forever. I have a two monitor set-up and whenever I scroll to the right while playing a game the cursor naturally runs over to the next screen if I move it too far, and I end up not scrolling at all. With this PC, if I shut off the right monitor, it reverts to a single monitor display automatically, I don’t need to disconnect the video cable from the monitor like I did with my old set-up, and the open apps don’t move to the active screen like they do when I disconnect the video cable. Very nice feature!
And while I’m on the subject of dual monitors I decided to test the capability of the video card when it came to three monitors. I hooked up two 24-inch monitors and one 27-inch monitor and was very happy with the results. No degradation in performance or image quality. Nice!
Related Article: What’s a Good Gaming Monitor?
Which leads me into the graphics card. The vast majority of gaming problems come from a graphics card that just can’t handle all the action, so I used the money I saved to upgrade my video card to an NVIDIA Force RTX 2080 OC with 8 GB GDDR6. For the type of PC gaming I do, which is mostly strategy games like Stellaris, it seemed like the perfect balance between price and performance. In a really intense graphics game like Rise of the Tomb Raider, if you run the game at 4K resolution, it might stumble a little bit, but until I run into issues like that (which I haven’t) I’ll be perfectly happy with the graphics card I have. Add to that the 16 Gb of RAM (DDR4, 2666MHz for those of you who are interested), which is upgradeable to 32 Gb, and I have one dynamite machine that powers anything I throw at it, and will continue to do that for the next several years.
Another thing I seemed to always be running short of is USB ports so I made sure that would not be a problem with my next system. This system has 13 USB ports in all, plus six different types of audio outputs.
For me, playing with the PC lighting is fun too. Using the Alienware Command Center software, lighting can be turned off or on for selected lighting segments and the Alien Head, which is the on/off button for the PC. For now, I’ve settled on a red theme since that’s one of my favorite colors. It makes the alien guy look pretty evil.
I saw a lot of comparable PCs out there for a cheaper price but when I dug into them it seems as though they cut corners. For example, a lot of them offered a 600W power supply, but from what I gathered that’s not a high enough wattage to allow some of the PC components to operate at 100% efficiency, such as the video card. With scarce power the video card throttles back because it just doesn’t get enough power to run at 100% capacity. It might not be a problem for all video cards, but it is something to consider. I also know that running a power supply at maximum capacity will wear it out quickly, so I wanted to avoid that since even in this PC replacing the power supply is a major job. I decided it was worth the extra expense to buy a PC with an 850-watt power supply, which is what Alienware offered.
All-in-all, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed gaming on it, plus my video editing is faster than ever. This is a PC I would definitely buy again and it was definitely worth the cost, it’s already convinced me that I need a laptop to match it (which I now have)!
Read even more about the Alienware PC and what computer specs to look for when buying a new PC at out Computer Resource Page.