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Alienware Aurora review: A gaming PC that lacks ambition

Tim Danton
15 Aug 2018
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
1,879
inc VAT

A solid gaming system for those who want the reassurance of a big name, but it lacks ambition

Pros 
DVD writer a bonus
A cheaper option for those on a budget
Cons 
More like a corporate PC than a gaming beast
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The familiar Alienware head may glow from the front of the case, but this is no in-your-face gaming PC. Activate “Blackout” mode in the AlienFX settings and all the lights switch off, leaving an ordinary-looking system in its wake. If you seek disco-style RGB strobe lighting, go elsewhere.

There are other hints that this is a pedigree gaming PC. The carry handle built into the top; its chiselled profile; and all the powerful hardware that’s packed within.


Alienware Aurora review: Specification and performance

Intel’s unlocked Core i7-8700K takes top billing; Dell supplies the processor at its standard speeds, but you can use the Alienware overclocking controls to tweak it. There are two overclocked profiles – the more aggressive one boosts clock speeds to 4.6GHz, but our air-cooled system proved unstable at that point. It was happier with a more gentle boost to 4.5GHz.

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This had a notable effect on benchmark scores. While the Aurora scored 204 in our tests at standard settings, it jumped to 216 with the overclocks in place. To put that in perspective, it meant our sample video was rescaled from 4K to 1080p in 8mins 11secs instead of 8mins 44secs. A respectable improvement.

It’s gaming where such tweaking really makes sense, though, and with our review machine shipping with an 8GB GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card this system is built for play. Pre-overclock, it romped to 83fps in Metro: Last Light Redux at 1080p with settings set to the max. That rose a modest 2fps with overclocking. It was a more telling story in Dirt: Showdown, however, where it jumped from 117pfs at 1080p, Ultra settings, to 127fps.

These overclocks do cause temperatures to rise inside the case and the noise jumps a fraction too, but don’t imagine that this is a noisy machine. The whine of its fans blend into the background once you put some music on, only making themselves known when the CPU is pushed to its limits.

Alienware Aurora review: Design

Still, to put the Aurora into perspective compared to “proper” gaming systems, you only need to look at Scan's Vengeance Ti. I’m not just talking about its results in our benchmarks, although these speak for themselves. I’m also talking about the scope for upgrades and enhancements.

For instance, the grey sides of the Aurora are plastic to the tempered glass of the Scan, and once you take the side panel off you’re greeted with a sight more at home in a corporate PC than one aimed at hardcore gamers. Yes, it’s nice to see two tool-less caddies at the bottom for adding disks, and it’s also clever how the panel containing the power supply swings aside to reveal the motherboard. This makes it easy to add extra cards or upgrade the memory, with three sockets free. However, all that soulless grey steel and exposed wires make it feel a poor cousin to the Scan.

In fairness, this isn’t Alienware’s top-end system. The fearsome Alienware Area-51, which starts at £1,749, fulfils that brief. Instead, the Aurora is for those on a smaller budget – its bottom-end model includes a Core i3-8100 and Radeon RX 560 for £749 – and who aren’t after all-out power.

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But this does leave me wondering why anyone would buy this rather than a custom-made model from a British company, be that Scan, Chillblast, PC Specialist or anyone else. Is it for a sense of security? Perhaps. You only get a year’s warranty with the Aurora, but it’s on-site cover. Value? It’s certainly always worth haggling with Dell’s representatives online, and looking out for its occasional discounts, but assuming you’ll pay the full amount that Dell quoted us for this system, that’s still £200 more than the Palicomp Intel i7 Nebula.

Buy now from Dell

Alienware Aurora review: Verdict

It’s nice to see three top-mounted USB 3.1 ports on the front of the chassis, for easy access if you place it below your desk. It’s also forward-thinking to include a USB Type-C port, while Alienware neatly integrates a DVD writer below the backlit alien head. These are all design flourishes beyond British companies, which must rely on chassis provided by third-party manufacturers.

There’s much that Dell gets right with the Alienware Aurora, but ultimately it’s a pimped-up version of a standard desktop. If I were buying a gaming PC at this price, I’d choose British.