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Alienware Aurora R6 – PC Review

Alienware Aurora R6 – PC Review

Alienware Aurora R6

Few computer companies attract attention like Dell’s gaming brand, and the new Alienware Aurora R6 is set to continue that tradition.

As usual, Alienware’s latest is a stunning machine, and plenty of hardware is crammed in alongside eye-catching design. But this PC costs £2,204 – can it possibly be worth it?

Alienware Aurora R6 PC Review – Design

The exterior is made from gunmetal aluminium, and the roof and front panel are covered with narrow, glossy slats – perfect for funnelling air towards two intake fans. The power button is a glowing Alienware logo, and both side panels have RGB LEDs that work with the AlienFX software and with games that have companion lighting.

The top has four USB 3 ports and two audio jacks, and the rear serves up ten USB ports, a USB 3.1 type-C connector and six audio jacks.

Alienware Aurora R6

The typical Alienware design is paired with some solid innovations. For starters, this machine has full-size components, but it’s smaller than most rigs: just 212mm wide, 361mm from front-to-back and 473mm tall. Other machines with this kind of specification tend to be full-size towers.

Dell has slotted the hardware inside by removing one thing that’s found in abundance inside today’s gaming desktops: air.

Instead of oxygen in the centre of this case, Dell has squeezed in the power supply. It’s a full-size unit, and it sits above the graphics card and in front of the CPU’s water-cooling block. Cleverly, it’s attached to a hinged bracket, which means it swings out of the way to allow for interior access.

The case is easy to open, with a single screw and a couple of plastic handles, and the simple access continues throughout – every part that can be removed has purple plastic tags attached, and no tools are required. It’s extremely sturdy, and there’s a small handle on the top of the system.

Swinging the sturdy metal power bracket out of the way reveals the rest of the innards. There’s an Alienware-branded water-cooling block on top of the processor, with two cables that extend upwards to a 120mm radiator secured in the rig’s roof.

Alienware Aurora R6

The bottom of the system serves up a single spare 2.5in bay that can be accessed without tools, there are three free memory slots, and room for a second GPU – but that’s it when it comes to upgrades.

That’s no surprise, because Dell has saved space in this machine by using a micro-ATX motherboard rather than a full-size ATX product. That cuts down on upgrade room, but that still makes sense – because Alienware’s machine is fundamentally different when compared to the full-size towers that we’re used to seeing.

Those more conventional desktops are built for upgrades, and with interiors designed to be shown off – but the Alienware is compact and fully-formed, with little provision for adding more parts or being frequently opened. And, because of that, the interior doesn’t look as good as most British-made desktops: Dell’s machine is a mess of cables, bare metal and plastic, with no good-looking motherboard, smart heatsinks, RGB LEDs or tidy wiring.

For those who are interested in this machine, that’s hardly a problem. Most Alienware buyers aren’t as fussed about cracking open their PCs to chop and change components, and that’s fine – there’s nothing wrong with buying a system that’ll work out of the box with the minimum of fuss.

Alienware Aurora R6 PC Review – Full Specification

CPU: 4GHz Intel Core i7-7700K overclocked to 4.4GHz
Memory: 16GB 2,400MHz DDR4
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 11GB
Motherboard: Alienware IPKBL-SC
Sound: On-board
Hard disk: 256GB Toshiba XG4 NVMe M.2 SSD; 1TB Seagate HDD
Ports: Front: 4 x USB 3, 2 x audio; rear: 6 x USB 3, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 4 x USB 2, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet, 6 x audio
Case: Alienware Aurora R6
Dimensions: (W x D x H): 212 x 361 x 473mm
Extras: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, 850W Dell PSU
Warranty: 1yr on-site

Alienware Aurora R6 PC Review – Components

Alienware Aurora R6

The Alienware we’ve reviewed has a typical high-end gaming specification. The GTX 1080 Ti arrives with 3,584 stream processors and a mighty 11GB of GDDR5X memory, which means it’s able to plough through 4K games and titles on the latest VR headsets.

It’s an Nvidia Founders’ Edition cards, though, which does mean that it’s running at its stock speeds. That puts it a step behind many other British firms that use overclocked cards as standard.

It’s a similar story with the processor. The Core i7-7700K is a solid quad-core chip with the Kaby Lake architecture, but it’s not the newest kid on the block these days – AMD Ryzen, Intel Skylake-X and the forthcoming Coffee Lake have all stolen its thunder.

In the Alienware its stock speed of 4GHz has been boosted to 4.4GHz but, again, that’s only middling – British-made machines are regularly overclocked far beyond that figure.

The processor is paired with 16GB of DDR4 memory. That’s fine on paper, but Dell has only included the bare minimum: a single stick with half as much multi-threaded bandwidth as a dual-channel system and a middling 2,400MHz speed.

It’s a similar situation with storage. The Toshiba XG4 SSD is fine, but its 256GB capacity and NVMe pace will be bettered elsewhere, either with more space or faster speeds. There’s a 1TB hard disk – fine, but hardly groundbreaking.

And then, finally, there’s the motherboard. Alienware’s own model has the requisite memory slots, SATA ports and its second PCI-Express x16 socket, but that’s it – there’s none of the aesthetic design, smart heatsinks or extra features that you’ll find on a more conventional desktop. There’s Killer Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11ac wireless, but that’s hardly unusual among high-end games machines.

Alienware Aurora R6

The default warranty lasts for a year and offers on-site service, which is standard for consumer technology but poor when compared to other PCs – most British companies offer between three and five years of coverage with varying levels of parts and labour support.

It’s all solid, but it can all be bettered elsewhere. The Scan 3XS Vengeance Ti has an overclocked i7-7700K, a GTX 1080 Ti, dual-channel memory and an ATX motherboard inside a case with better features. That machine is larger, but it also has a better warranty than the Alienware – and it’s £100 cheaper.

It’s hardly a unique situation. The CyberPower Infinity X77 Titanium includes an overclocked 7700K processor and GTX 1080 Ti graphics card alongside dual-channel memory and an ATX motherboard for £1,999. The Chillblast Fusion Portal has the familiar combination of Core i7-7700K and GTX 1080 Ti with better memory and a faster SSD – and it’s mini-ITX, too, so it’s small. It comes with a five-year warranty, and it’s £100 cheaper than Dell’s rig.

As ever, Dell’s machine doesn’t stack up well to British rivals. But, as ever, Dell offers plenty of customisation. Seven Aurora base models are available: the cheapest is £849 and relies on a Core i5 processor and AMD Radeon RX 560 graphics card, while the priciest is a £3,399 monster with the i7-7700K, two GTX 1080 Ti graphics cards, a 1TB SSD and 32GB of memory.

All of these rigs can be customised with graphics upgrades, memory tweaks and storage additions, but they’re hardly cheap. The warranty can be improved, too, but you’ll have to pay £100 for a second year of support.

Alienware Aurora R6 PC Review – Performance

The Alienware is not slow, but it does lag behind other PCs that have more considered specifications and better overclocking.

Take the stock-speed GTX 1080 Ti graphics card. Its 3D Mark Fire Strike score of 19,408 is reasonable, but it’s 1,000 points behind machines with overclocked GPUs, better processors and dual-channel memory. It’s the same story in the Cinebench OpenGL test, where the Alienware’s score of 152.2fps is about ten frames behind other systems.

That lesser GPU performance means that this machine falls behind at the toughest level. When running at 4K its Shadow of Mordor benchmark the Alienware’s 49fps minimum is fine – but some systems can be up to ten frames better. It was a frame behind most GTX 1080 Ti rigs in Fallout 4, and a couple of frames slower in Crysis 3.

Our results table demonstrates that the Alienware is consistently a little slower than rivals at 3,840 x 2,160. It’s not a terminal problem, and this machine will still handle games at 4K and on VR headsets – but this is not the rig to buy if games performance is a priority. Rest assured that it’ll run anything at 1080p and 1440p, too.

We’ve compared the Alienware to machines like the PC Specialist LS-Surge and Scan 3XS Carbon Aura – PCs that cost more than the Alienware because of their high-end design, but offer comparable performance because of their reliance on the overclocked Core i7 processors and GTX 1080 Ti graphics card.

We observed similar results in processor benchmarks, no doubt because of the modest overclock and single-channel memory. Its Geekbench single-core score of 5,076 is up to 1,000 points behind i7-7700K systems with better overclocking and DDR, and the multi-threaded gap was even larger.

Once again, this isn’t a system that will struggle with any application but, once again, other PCs are noticeably quicker.

At least we didn’t have any thermal issues. It remained reliably quiet, and its CPU and GPU peak temperatures of 76°C and 72°C are great.

Alienware Aurora R6 PC Review – Conclusion

Alienware Aurora R6

The latest Aurora machine is, in many ways, a typical Alienware – which means it’s got lots of style and not enough substance.

It looks superb on the outside, but the interior is underwhelming – not a concern if you’re not bothered about upgrading, but an issue if you’d like something that’s better-looking and more versatile.

In benchmarks, this machine is undoubtedly fast, but machines from less well-known firms are quicker. That’s not the only area where British builds are better: they’ll have better storage, superior motherboards and longer, more comprehensive warranties.

The Alienware Aurora R6 is fast and capable, but other machines offer more bang-per-buck in terms of performance, features and coverage – to a certain extent you’re paying for the Alienware branding and miniaturisation as well as the core components.

If you’re bothered about getting the best framerates or a more versatile machine, then look elsewhere – but if you’re keen on a big brand name, a simpler experience and a smaller chassis, then the Aurora is worth consideration.

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Alienware Aurora R6

About Author

Mike Jennings

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