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Alienware talks to us about their upcoming Windows living room PC, the Alpha

Our interview with Alienware's General Manager discussing the Alpha

While game consoles like Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Xbox One have found their way into hundreds of millions of homes to be connected to televisions, it's been a challenge for the PC industry to offer a product that's designed to connect to a big screen TV and be used in a living room setting. A year ago, Valve announced a plan to launch its own Linux-based operating system, SteamOS, that was designed to be used in small living room PCs to play native Linux games and to stream PC games from their Steam service.

While Valve announced earlier this year plans to team up with a number of third party PC OEMS for a SteamOS hardware launch later in 2014, the company later revealed those plans have been pushed back to sometime in 2015. However, one of those SteamOS partners, Alienware, decided to go ahead and launch their SteamOS machine this year as a Windows 8.1 PC, the Alienware Alpha. While it may use Microsoft's latest operating system, the team at Alienware (which Dell acquired in 2006) are also developing their own UI that will allow owners to use the Alpha as a gaming PC with an included Xbox 360 controller, with no requirement to use the Windows 8.1 desktop.

To learn more about the upcoming Alienware Alpha, which is currently available for pre-order for shipment in November, we got Alienware's General Manager Frank Azor to take some of our questions. He also offered us some thoughts on the PC gaming industry in general, tells us if Alienware will ever launch a gaming-themed tablet, and more.

First, It's been a year since Dell became a private company once again. How has this change affected the Alienware division, if there have been any effects at all?

"It's been great. It is ironic coming from a private company at Alienware, being acquired by a large multi-national public company (at the time) Dell and now going back to being a private company. Dell has been executing the quickest that I have ever seen since my time here, we are becoming more and more agile every day and I dare say more Alienware-like :). It's a really exciting time to be part of this company."

The Alienware Alpha began as one of the PCs made to run Valve's SteamOS but will now be released as a Windows 8.1-based PC with your own UI. Why did you think it was important to release the PC now and not wait for SteamOS and its controller to officially launch?

"We have been working closely with Valve to help define and build our vision for enabling gamers to play their PC games in the living room. Alienware has actually been building solutions for the living room for years with some of our previous HTPC products and then recently with the Alienware X51. Valve decided that their best course of action was to hold off on SteamOS and the Steam Gamepad until it provided their intended experience. We commend them for their decision and continue to work closely with them on the readying of Steam OS and the Steam Gamepad.

The Alienware Alpha was ready and our customers told us that they wanted a purpose-built solution to play their favorite PC titles in their living room. We couldn't think of a good reason not to deliver, so we did. All of the main elements were ready; we have a great product in the Alpha that was purpose-built for the living room, we have plenty of content on Steam including over 3,500 games, 500 gamepad supported games and over 250 local multiplayer games, we have a great Living room GUI in Steam Big Picture and we have a very popular and successful gamepad with the Xbox 360 wireless gamepad. What was left for us to solve was making Windows 8.1 a console-like experience which we showed for the first time a few weeks ago referred to as the Alpha UI."

alienware

Do you still believe that Valve is making a good move in launching the Linux-based SteamOS and its own controller in a bid to launch living room gaming PCs?

"Absolutely. The two pieces that have been really missing for PC gamers who want to play their titles in the living room are an operating system that is designed for a 10-foot experience and a controller that is compatible with games that may have been originally designed for a keyboard and mouse. Valve is solving both of these issues and that is incredibly difficult to accomplish. In the meantime, customers that have been begging for the perfect gaming capable PC for their TV will find a solution in the Alienware Alpha being offered today.

The Alpha UI was designed to give gamers the option to choose what platform they want to play their games on and enable a user to have a great living room experience. If users want to use their Alpha system as a standard Windows desktop PC with a keyboard and mouse they can elect to do so easily from the Alpha UI, if they want to use it as a console and only play gamepad games with it then can easily do that as well. Keyboard and mouse are optional with the Alpha, no other gaming PC is delivering that.

Users can choose to install SteamOS on their Alienware Alpha when it's released and some users may even decide that they want to install the SteamOS beta and we say more power to them. We want gamers to game the way they want to. The Alpha is all about giving our customers the choices they want to make."

The living room is a place where many companies, including Dell and Alienware, have tried to develop and released PCs with limited success. Why do you believe the Alienware Alpha will succeed when the others have not been as successful?

"Our customers have been asking us for a better solution to play their PC games in the living room for years. We've seen great success with the Alienware X51, which provides gamers with high-performance gaming for any room in the house and ultimate upgradeability. We took the lessons learned from the X51 and past systems, along with our customers feedback and put it to use when we began developing the Alpha. The technology has reached a point where we could provide the sweet spot in performance, design, form-factor, acoustics, thermals and price for the perfect gaming device to connect to your TV. Thanks to Steam and game developers the quantity and quality of titles available through Steam has grown exponentially, making it easier than ever to get great titles instantly on your PC. Steam's library of Gamepad supported and local multiplayer supported games has also exploded making the desire for a product like the Alpha more evident than ever. Our investments with the Alpha UI in making the Alpha experience fully navigable without the need for a keyboard and mouse coupled with Steam Big Picture mode will finally provide the solution gamers need."

Is it important for the PC industry to get devices like the Alienware Alpha into the living room in general and if so why?

"It is incredibly important, especially for all of the indie game developers out there who now have the resources and opportunity to share their amazing titles with an audience like they never have before. That's one of the main reasons we designed the Alpha, console gamers don't currently have the opportunity to experience a whole catalog of amazing titles developed by the independent developer community. Valve has made amazing progress with programs like Greenlight that highlight and give these developers the means and platform to be discovered and the Alpha is the perfect system for gamers to experience these games in their living room."

alpha UI

The Alienware Alpha will still use Valve's Big Picture mode on Steam combined with its own UI. How will this work for the owner of the PC and will he or she never have to see the Windows 8.1 Start screen or desktop while using the Alpha?

"The Alienware Alpha is designed to be configured and controlled using nothing but the bundled Xbox 360 gamepad without seeing the Windows desktop. Gamers will be able to set the basic configuration for common settings like audio sources or resolution and then jump into Steam Big Picture Mode to access their games. Once initially configured, the Alpha can even be set to boot directly into Steam Big Picture Mode if the user prefers. At the same time if users want to access the Windows environment and use Alpha as a standard desktop PC they will be given the option to do so by simply connecting a keyboard and mouse. The Alpha is basically a 2 in 1 product, you get a great desktop gaming PC and an amazing gaming console all in one.

We will not stop any user from using their Alienware Alpha in "Windows mode." We're all about choice and there are some awesome new peripherals like Roccat's Sova lapboard that users may want to use in their living rooms. Gamers can also play any games that aren't distributed through Steam. In which case, they would need to install and launch the game just as they would on any Windows PC. They can even set those titles to launch through Steam if they want to access them without entering into the Windows environment in the future.

Our team and Valve has been working through and testing thousands of titles to ensure that there are no surprises when accessing them through the Alpha. We're working hard to identify and work with the game developers and Valve to resolve any issues we uncover."

alpha ui

Alienware is also still launching more conventional gaming PCs such as the upcoming Alienware 13 laptop, but we have yet to see a gaming tablet from the division. Is a gaming PC tablet something that Alienware would like to release at some point in the future?

"Some websites have been testing games on Dell's current tablets with surprising results. We don't have any plans to launch a gaming tablet at this time but we would definitely consider it if it is something that our customers ask us for."

Let's talk about the gaming PC industry in general. Now that the Wii U, Xbox One and PS4 are out, where do you and Alienware see the industry moving in the future in terms of PC hardware and software services and will they be able to compete with those consoles in terms of pricing and features?

"It's important to note that the Alienware Alpha wasn't designed to compete with the traditional consoles. Gamers already have great solutions to play games like Call of Duty or Battlefield in their living rooms. The Alienware Alpha was designed to offer PC gamers the choice to play their collection of titles including their entire back catalog on Steam and enjoy them with their friends and family in the living room. Few of us want to play great games like Gauntlet, BroForce and Knight Squad with 3 other people on a 24" monitor, those games and about 250 others like it on Steam are best played on a big screen TV with friends. The Alpha was also designed to give gamers the opportunity to play the huge catalog of amazing indie titles that they don't have access to with the other consoles. The PC based indie game developers are thrilled, they finally have a PC console to design to.

The price point of Alpha is a little misleading on the surface. Alpha starts at $549 and comes bundled with an Xbox 360 gamepad. While that seems like a more expensive product than an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 there are a lot of factors to consider:

  • Steam games are much less expensive on average than traditional console games
  • The library of games is exponentially larger on Steam and you can play your back catalog of games you've previously purchased
  • There are no subscription costs to access the Steam network and play games online
  • The Alpha comes bundled with 9 games, 3 of which have already been announced, traditional consoles don't come with any at their entry price points
  • You can use your existing Xbox 360 gamepads rather than having to buy a whole new set of gamepads
  • You can upgrade several components in it yourself including the hard drive, memory, CPU and WiFi card
  • Ohh and it's also a fully featured Windows based PC if you chose to use it as such basically giving you 2 products for the price of 1"

alpha UI

Microsoft has announced DirectX 12, but it may not launch for a while. Based on your knowledge, will it be a huge step up for PC game graphics when it is fully released?

"The demos during Siggraph look good but the rest I'm sworn to secrecy on therefore I have to direct you to Microsoft :). Sorry."

In your opinion, will a cloud-based streaming game service ever really take off and offer as good of an experience compared to playing PC games on a local hard drive?

"Only time will tell. Right now, the infrastructure isn't in place for a majority of gamers and it will take a while for the performance and latency to meet the expectations of enthusiast, hardcore and competitive gamers. In a competitive Counter Strike, LoL, DOTA2, WOT match, milliseconds mean life and death."

Finally, is there anything else you wish to say about Alienware Alpha and its upcoming launch?

"We are taking preorders now for our initial production build of the Alpha and units will begin shipping to customers in November. We have a very limited number of units we are going to be able to deliver before the end of this year so if you're interested put your pre-order in now at www.alienware.com. I've never been more proud of a product from Alienware as I am of the Alpha. It's an amazing piece of hardware and software, you're going to love it!"

We would like to thank Frank for taking the time to answer our questions!

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Reader comments

Alienware talks to us about their upcoming Windows living room PC, the Alpha

97 Comments

Yes, but building your own PC comes with its own risk, including yourself having to put it together and be responsible for the warranty process.  Alienware can build a better PC @ $549 when its mass produced than you can on your own since you're not buying components in bulk.  Of course, the possibility of big markup is always present since we only know the price and not the hardware being included.  Even still, this product isn't marketed towards the hardcore gaming PC customer, but those that like the media PC or Xbox model that don't have the chops or confidence to build their own rig.  I'd consider one of these for my living room if it's a capable machine.  If it can't do 1080p gaming on a majority of games then I'm not as likely to jump in to this since my XB1 will run many of the newer games at full-HD resolution for $399 and will see many of these high-profile PC titles released in the Xbox Games store.

I'm not so sure... at least here in NZ, Alienware seems to be more expensive than same performance machine built from of-the-shelve parts. In addition, one never knows about the quality of individual components, as you are buying Alienware brand, not individual components' brand; you don't really know what motherboard, RAM... is inside. And... with a bit of a care, you can get all major parts with 3 years warranty by default, so there's some peace of mind. Solid brands - Gigabyte, Asus, Silverstone, WD, Seagate... have number of motherboards, graphics cards, HDDs, power supplies with 3 or even more years of warranty. Solid RAM - Kingston, G-Skill... often comes with lifetime warranty. And it doesn't even have to be highest high-end part, extended warranty is default for many mid-range, even low mid-range parts from quality brands. You might get lesser warranty on minors - DVD/BD drive, keyboard, mouse... but even those can be found with extended warranty, if you don't insist on cheapest parts.

What I usually do is try to get all bits from the same shop. That way, if something goes wrong and I cannot determine on my own, at least I can avoid one shop pointing finger at the other one. If I cannot reliably confirm what is causing a problem, I can take the whole PC to shop and let them swap a few things until they find what is the culprit.

But I must admit, I cannot remember when was the last time I had genuine hardware problem. Parts, in general, seem to have constantly improving quality/reliability over the years.

And that is precisely what they are counting on too.

Getting everything ready to be plug and play is the goal,and while those who popaw this are used to building their own boxes,having a all in one solution will get more sales.

People who have been doing this for some time forget how daunting a task it is to set everything up and get it all configured properly for those who never have.

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Then use a console because that pc is going to be useless in a year or two and you will spend a lot of time tweaking settings.

he talks about how the games will be heavier and then you will have to upgrade it, if you can't upgrade it, you will not be able to keep playing, then you have to tweak settings and IF you don't know how to build a pc, you won't upgrade, and if you don't want to tweak, yeah, it will be useless because you won't play smooth. you are the one who apparently doesn't know what PC vs Consoles bring, a game released in 2014 will work fine in 2018 in xbox one. something you can't say the same about PC.
and the point it's not "build a PC" buying a non expensive laptop or pc, would be the same, you don't build but it doesn't mean in couple years you can keep playing the same games.

Lolz who says pc can't will not play heavy games!I am playing or at least played all the games with my Nvidia 9500gt since the last 5 years and it is still able to play many games.While the Xbox and ps3 gaming is coming to an end.Pc is a pc and it is the king and will be the king don't u forget that!And btw I forgot to mention that even my graphic card is older than the time I bought my pc and yet it plays everything flawlessly.

*Facepalm* let's say we have a PS4 and a PC with an R9 270x and a sweet i5 therefore the game released in 2014 will work on both with the PC getting a little bit of an advantage 2015 it'll still work like butter next year it'll be running 900p on PS4 while the PC will be running it at 1080p and high settings instead of ultra settings (assuming the PC owner has no idea how to overclock their GPU). Consoles software might be updating from time to time but not there hardware so it's igorance to say that if the PS4 and a PC running equivalent hardware that one of them is going to age while the other one won't.

There is no need to actually build your own custom PC... Any laptop would do, and every desktop PC card can output hdmi with just an extra cable... But this one has a "customized UI' whatever that means. All I see is a spartan dashboard.

True for basic function (web browsing, MS Office, etc.). But that's not a gaming rig. There is not a laptop on the planet with a serious gaming graphics card. Some of the high-end DELL XPS or Alienware machines manage to go beyond console power, but even they still aren't close to high-end desktop stations with dual video cards working in parallel and liquid cooled overclocked Core i7 Extremes. There is still nothing that comes even remotely close to a high-end PC for the most cutting edge experience.

If you want real 4K+ (multi-monitor) gaming with all options set to the max and still sport amazing framerates, your only option is a custom built gaming rig.

By the way, for $549, while I've not seen the tech specs, I'm pretty sure this Alienware system is not one either. A high-end Core i7 Extreme costs twice that. Good video cards are also out of that price range, and a great rig will have 2.

Not saying you need all that even to play the latest games, but for the hardcore PC gamer, there is no substitute.

Lenovo Y5xx dual graphics card etc. Amazing laptop for around 900-1000 and before one says "yeah but this is more than double the price of a console", I remind you that the only thing a console can do right is just being a multimedia device. Which in itself if you exclude gaming isn't such a huge deal. The game part, sure is important but on a console you get only particular types and relatively limited variety of content compared to a Windows PC. Overall not as rich, and most definitely not portable type of experience. Alienware and Origin, and XPS are a bit overpriced. Lenovo value for money is a sweet deal if you can afford it.

Just what I'm doing now.... but.... for those who are stuck between the idea of a HTPC or something like the Xbox One - a console like this might be alright.

But this is inexpensive, super nice and has small form factor. I might replace my custom built htpc with this. Just wish it had a spot for bluray drive.

Considering it's a full Windows 8 PC. Price isn't bad. Plus form factor looks nice. Wish Dell still had a Zino.

Compared to what?

$50 more than an Xbox One and for $50 you get way more vesatility.

Its also about 30 to 50% percent cheaper than most announced Steamboxes. As a matter of fact, one of those 'cheap' Steamboxes was the Alienware one. How many Steamboxes were announced at a sub $600 price tag? You can count them on one hand after a letting a wolf gnaw a couple of fingers off.

Any PC gamers who go on and on about building cheap gaming PCs quote outdated hardware and purposefully leave out auxillary costs. You might be able to build the base for around $300...but there are ALWAYS additional bits mot factored into build cost. We're also not talking about repurposed upgraded machines, but brand new out of the box. PC gamers are a disingenous lot with some small dick superiority agenda.

So what's left? PS4? Kinect less Xbox One? Last Gen system? A shitty Ouya?

$549 IS inexpensive and its BS to say otherwise

And that's just comparing to an HTPC, not a real gaming rig, which is going to start north of $1k, and may well break $2k or even $3k.

Yes, you absolutely can build a decent, mediocre PC for that. But if you want a high end gaming rig that beats everyone else's (because let's face it, it's partly about bragging rights at that point), you go with a high-end Core i7 (maybe even Core i7 Extreme, which itself could top $800), a good motherboard with slots for multiple video cards ($150+), 16GB+ RAM, dual high end video cards ($300+ each), dual 500GB SSD in RAID0 ($250 each), etc. To overclock the CPU, you might further go with a liquid-cooled case ($150+). Anyway, these things add up.

If you want performance you'll get better gaming performance with an i5 and you would only need one or two 780Ti's if you're doing close to a 4k resolution but you'll have to deal with microstutter.
You don't need to RAID SSDs and you would save more money just getting a 120GB SSD for your OS and games that need it and then RAID two 1TB HDD for like $80.
You can build a great gaming system for no more than $900 and a retarded flashy gaming PC for $1100+

I've been in this game for a long time, people always say they know how to build gaming systems but don't know what will save you money and give you better performance like the i7 vs i5.. They just throw money at the most expensive shit on newegg.

Definitely do NOT use an i5 for gaming. i7. I'm partly with you on the SSD boot and standard HD for volume storage, but 120GB is not enough for OS and apps that require C drive install if you are a heavy user. Office 365, for example only installs OS partition. If your system supports hibernation, and has 16GB RAM, there's 16 GB off your SSD right there. I haven't priced video cards in a couple of years, but if you have a good multi-monitor config and want to run 60+ fps (must run much higher on average to avoid ever dropping below that) with all options maxed on the latest games, I'm pretty sure you're still spending a few hundred for that.

Look at the benchmarks i5 performance is better than i7 performance for gaming and unless you're a coder or heavy overclocker than an i7 is a big waste of money.

Also I haven't used hibernate since windows XP haha.. So I don't care for that one lol

I don't know what i5 your comparing with what i7, but the higher end i7's destroy the i5's in terms of performance. It is true that a power-sipping mobile i7 can be wimpier than a desktop power-hungry i5. Could that be what you are comparing?

While I personally don't overclock, that is a pretty standard function among gaming and performance system builders.

If you have "Hybrid Sleep" enabled in your Power settings (can't recall if this is on by default or not), then you have the hibernate file on your drive. If you lose power (assuming you have a UPS), hibernate allows your computer to gracefully save everything and power off, returning automatically to exactly where it was when the power comes back as if nothing ever happened (even unattended, if you have a good UPS). I'd recommend that for almost everyone, gamer and business user alike.

You obviously have no idea what it costs to build a decent silent Windows 8.1 HTPC that doesn't look like crap. Mine did cost around $800 + about 10 hours to figure out which sacrifices to make and select the right components. Funny enough Windows 8.1 alone adds a whopping 1/8th to the price...

I'm waiting for a newer version of the ZOTAC ZBOX Blu-ray 3D ID36 PLUS.

I have used this for years and it has found a renewed life in my living room since I installed Windows 8.1. Now I just need a version with a Core i5/i7 that keeps the blu-ray drive.

You think they'll actually make one? Checked their website and they didn't have any bluray products, only discontinued ones. What bluray software do you use? I use cyberlink but it's kinda junky. Might get an Xbox for bluray instead.

Becasue the Zotac runs a full copy of Windows, I can run the Plex Home Theatre. I just rip my DVDs and Blu-Rays to my server and then launch Plex.

I do have Cyberlink installed for the times when I want to watch the extra features on the disc or if someone brings a movie over that I don't already have.

If they don't come out with a newer version by the time I starting getting 4k videos, I may have to build my own HTPC.

What software do u use to rip dvd/bluray? I used to rip my dvds but it was really annoying due to their security. Just noticed some nice fanless compact units by cyberpowerpc that look nice.

Re Hiswona,
Windows Media Center is the only software you can add a Ceton infinity 4 or 6 tuner card to replace your cable tv box and is an amazing DVR. Works on premium encrypted channels too. It costs little to add to a PC. It can be as little as a PC & TV or it can be a whole house system and serve a Home Theater.

Best Wishes

Am I the only one who sees Alienware as hedging their bets with this. I still don't get the point of Steam OS outside of Valve's head honcho trying to get more PC people on Linux and it might be Alienware sees it as a bit shaky. Seems to me most people who game on the PC and want to play in the living room have already linked their PC up to a TV by now.

I'd get a steam machine, I don't know how to build a pc, it's made to run steam games, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a category system like "this class steam machine can run this class game on steam" and that would be a whole lot better than the requirements system in place today, but only on SteamOS of course.

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then you aren't a real heavy gamer... because you know, not every games is released in crappy Steam label, new EA games are not, almost all mmorpgs are not, Blizzard games are not. etc etc.. you wouldn't even be able to play facebook games or emulators, something like ggpo or supercade...
and only because a game it's on Steam it doesn't mean it will be on SteamOS, so yeah, that explains everything why SteamOS would work for someone like you.

so, congratulations! *claps*

Thank you...

Gabe seems like he has a mighty case of butthurt with Microsoft and I am not in favor of pushing Linux as an alternative.    So I have zero interest in SteamOS.   If so many of my games weren't on Steam I would show them my middle finger and tell them to kiss off, but no....

Was wondering too....what is the point of making a Linux based OS when there are many games already on the windows platform....and as for the living room PC, I think people would rather build their PC and connect it to their tv. And the alien ware alpha with similar/lower specs to the Xbox one and ps4 is too expensive.

Its running windows 8.1 also if you wanted to you can upgrade even the HDD IF IT WORKS OUT for the Alpha using what's available especially the windows 8.1 there's no reason it can't set the standards for gaming

they should've used windows7 instead of windows 8. last time I tried it on my laptop I couldn't play my old games because of support errors. windows7 is still top if you're a pc gamer.

I have never found issues when playing games on windows 8, most games developed since XP work on it. From what I can tell (realistically) is that 8 is just 7 plus apps and 'features'. I think if you have windows 7 there's no need to upgrade to 8, but 8 certainly does run most games.

windows 8 is much lighter than win 7 and a lot faster. maybe you were trying to play dos games. i don't think they will be supported.

If MS would let Windows run XBox 360 and/or XBox One games, that would help ensure this Linux approach dies. Of course, I realize that MS has never done that because they had no need. On the contrary, by forcing game-playing Windows users to also buy an XBox, they make a lot more money and get an easier toe-hold in the living room. So they lose some living room customers to PS3/PS4, but still a net revenue win for MS. But if Steam starts siphoning off gamers to Linux, combined with the mobile losses, we see a scenario where MS is at risk of losing the home user altogether. Fortunately, MS has it within their power to put a stop to it by leveraging their XBox technology over to Windows.

Because Valve collectively doesn't want their business to be dependant Microsoft, another company they're unassociated with. I don't know why people here think that's such a terrible thing.

and why is it good about it? it would have made sense if they did that years ago.... but then, not all games are going to be available for it, other publishers like EA have now their own system so they wont be available either. you know Windows has the games, you could run all the Steam library.... you say "dependant Microsoft" but then, what is the point if gamers won't have all the stuff? or can't go and just play Starcraft or league of legends or something like that? is dual boot the solution? is having a second computer to do that?
again, it's not about "gabe hates Microsoft" but it's just a silly thing they came up with, limiting what gamers will play, of course some people probably like Steam too much to sacrifice, but for others like me, it doesn't bring anything if you can just plug your desktop or laptop to any tv, have a xbox controller or any other controller and be happy with it.... installing XBMC gives you a game to launch games from it, so you don't even need to be around windows, and windows 8 brings a nice HTPC like interface that doesn't make it too bad to launch apps and games either. so yeah, pointless is just a word to describe this OS that doesn't give gamers many games, compared to what you can get with a normal Windows machine.

SO alienware releasing a windows 8.1 version with a custom UI, sounds smarter than promoting SteamOS like the ultimate gaming experience.

but of course we have our opinions, you probably love gabe and steam, I don't so we would never agree

I'm really pulling for this. Price and dedication to the product will be the biggest hurdle for me. If they can price it close to XB1 I think I might be sold. Also since its a just a PC I wonder if you can load things like Minecraft or my Origin collection? I hear why what people are saying about just building their own, but doesn't that apply to any game console?

They cant really go wrong nothing to loose they do well& produce top quality desktops & laptops over the years i think its the availability of being able to use the key ingredient Windows 8.1 that's my opinion as I've learnt from here everyone's opinion & thought's are different but with spec's like this
The basic Alpha will pack Windows 8.1 a Core i3 Haswell processor, 4GB of RAM, 500GB hard drive, dual-band 802.11ac 1×1 Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, HDMI out, gigabit Ethernet, 2 USB 3.0 ports and a custom-built NVIDIA GPU that uses Maxwell architecture and will have 2GB of dedicated RAM.
plus you can swap & changeCore i5 or i7 processors, 8GB of RAM, hard drives up to 2TB and 802.11ac 2×2 Wi-Fi.. if the funds are available.

You can build a better machine with the same money.

Buy last year 2nd hand parts and you'll get a machine twice as powerful.

As a long time fan of Alienware myself having owned a few of their 17x laptops I'm slightly interested in their concepts. Build quality from the them has always been more than impressive. But like others here have said, what's the difference from me just hooking up my PC (or laptop) to my TV? Which by the way I'm already doing. My only complaints when doing this at home is I previously would have to bring my wireless mouse and keyboard over to the couch. But I recently switched keyboard/mouse to a new Logitech "living room" keyboard which is smaller, thinner, lighter, illuminates and has a built in track pad. So that problem was solved.

Also curious why they chose the old 360 controllers. My guess is because no wireless solutions for the new Xbox1 controllers are available (yet?). Another issue is games like BF4. While they allow you to use a gamepad its still not perfect. They default bindings miss a lot of required buttons to never have to touch a keyboard. Those problems need to be sorted out 100%.

For now I'll stick with my Xbox1 and my occasional PC gaming at my own convenience and wait to see how these progress.

It certainly looks awesome. So long as it can run games at playable speeds at higher than 1080p resolutions I'm all for it, otherwise I'll just stick to my desktop for pc gaming, especially setting as when I'm sitting at my pc my screen takes up a greater field of vision than my tv based on distance anyway.

Yeah, I have dual 30" 2560x1600 displays. Sitting on the other side of my desk, the field of view is equivalent to a 100"+ TV screen on the wall of my den. To be fair, I haven't done any serious gaming in years (play on a PS3 sometimes with family, will eventually get an XBox One), but it's like getting a car with big engine -- it's nice to know you can, even if you don't race every other car on the road. :-)

And the dual huge monitors are awesome for work, which is what I really use them for.

After Dell bought Alienware the quality went downhill. I have replaced motherboards on my x17 3 times and had received boards that did not post, incorrect video cards, wrong video cards, dirty and damaged cards, an despite the company being an ISO 9000 certified company, they have some serious problems in quality control. I'll get a Clevo machine and have all the options I could ever want. Alienware is dead. The old company is now OriginPC still in Miami, not tx like Dell. Avoid Alienware like the plague.

Since I use Steam and Origin I see no use for Steam OS and being restricted to Linux games and streaming my Windows games. W8.1 all the way until W9.

I've been saying this is something that Microsoft should have implemented themselves. With actual support behind PC gaming, they could completely nullify Valve's attempt with the Steam Machines.

"No other gaming PC is delivering that" LOL... Just build a custom pc, connect it to your TV, have it load up steam on boot up (plus you can use a gampad mapped and use it as a mouse along with a virtual keyboard). Better still you can just xbmc and use that to load up at boot up... Which will do pretty much your games as was well as your other digital media.
Also... Generally all PC games are single player lol. No such thing as couch co-op, unless you use something like sandboxie to run multiple instances.

This foray into the living room is futile and just like the others before them wish em luck, they would have had a chance if Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft were not in that market.

I understand what you're getting at but this Console is on a different level we will just have to see but I think they will be ok

Microsoft already tried to bring the pc in he living room with windows media center and that was a failure. windows 8.1 isnt meant to use with a remote or controller. you cannot watch amazon prime or netflix without a mouse and keyboard.

Re Dexter505,
Window Media Center still exists and Integrators, Audiophiles, and everyday average people like me use Windows Media Center (WMC) everyday in custom home theaters, in whole house entertainment systems, and/or in one or several TVs all connected by WMC. You can get the WMC software free with the Pro version of Windows 7 or if you have Windows Pro 8.0 or 8.1 it costs just the $10 for the amazing software. Anyone who is comfortable installing software and a Tuner card in a PC can do it. Yes, this isn't for just anyone. You either need to set it up yourself or pay an Integrator to do it. The software really shines when paired with a Ceton Infinity 4 or 6 tuner card that replaces your cable tv box. The features are too many to mention but basically it is a media DVR on steroids that connects to your HD TV and all TVs in your home with a media extender. I use Xbox 360s on my other TVs.
Windows 8.1 OS is software and it can be used many different ways. We use remote controls for our Windows Media Center use. I understand that MS has connected the Xbox controller to the Windows 8.1 OS.
Anyone interested in an inexpensive whole house Media Center or just looking to get rid of cable tv box fees, should take a look.
Any gaming PC could easily, easily use WMC too.
Best Wishes.

Dude I know everything about WMC. All you say does not change the fact that it was a failure and Microsoft shutdown development a few years ago.

Isn't this essentially an Xbox designed for PC games? Forgive the ignorant response, but the Xbox One also has/runs Windows 8.1 (stripped down but still). Opinions from those more versed in this...

The XBox is not a PC. It does run a Windows variant, and on an x86-CPU (AMD Jaguar), but it's not at all a PC. Maybe someone else knows if it's possible to tear apart an XBox One, make some minor mods, and install Windows, but it's certainly not a standard or supported practice.

So without being able to install Windows, you can't install software. That's the main difference between a console and a PC in terms of product appeal -- freedom and flexibility to install what you want but a form factor and ease of use designed for desktop use (PC) vs simplicity of plug and play games with on a simple TV but with a much smaller set of options (console).

However, to your point, Alienware is betting that there is enough cross-over interest, they they can sell it sort of like a console that plays PC games and has the added benefit being a full PC too. Personally, I don't like it (unlike console games, hardcore PC games are best on a much more powerful PC than this toy), but I suspect there's a market for such devices.

There is no market for these products. 99% of consumers don't give a damn about PC gaming and/or Steam, and never will. PC gamers prefer to build their own PCs, and a large percentage of them already have PCs in their living room.

As someone who works as a PC Tech, I know that products like this will sell. People want Custom builds but are intimidated by the idea of doing it. This has the convenience of a custom build without any of the hassle, wrapped up in a burrito. From a business stand point, it's a great idea. I highly doubt it's aimed towards the hardcore guru's. It's probably more towards those who come from a background of consoles and want to play PC titles without having to change their ways. It's a brilliant idea.

normal consumers want something that is already out and has a big name out like a ps4 or xbox one. for the rest, if they wanted custom builds that bad, they would build their own

So if people wanted, they could play origin games? Because not every game they want to play is a steam game, like Battlefield and FIFA.

Dont know if this is possible, but it would be cool to see Xbox One have a feature to stream games from the PC. Seems to me like it would be feasible and especially since Alienware uses the Xbox controller. Obviously Steam would never officially support it though.

I built a PC several levels above current Gen consoles already which I have steam on. I won't be spending any more money on items or systems until we can game on 4k resolution easily at proper refresh rates or fps. Everything from now until then is pointless if you already can play what's out now.

Can I just install the UI on my Alienware M17x R4? I wouldn't buy a weaker machine than I have now, and my laptop sits right next to the tv so it's ideally located.