PC gaming brand Alienware is shipping its first-ever console to buyers, making a play for the living room and competing against Sony and Microsoft with the Alpha, a Windows PC in console form.
With a pedigreed like Alienware’s, a move into the console market is significant (the other new product is the Steam Machine, due in 2015), especially for PC gamers interested in a move over to their big screen. To help that move, the Alpha has an interface that works with an Xbox 360 controller, a GeForce GTX 860M graphics cards, a Core i3 processor, and 4GB RAM with a 500GB hard drive – all contained in a black box noticeably smaller than the PS4 or Xbox One. Notably, games are downloaded via Steam and so forth, not bought as discs.
However, these are just the specs right out of the box. One of the most important traits the Alpha carries over from the PC gaming world is ability to be easily upgraded, at least as far as software is concerned. The shipped product is essentially (ironically) still in an alpha phase: Alienware is promising plenty of future updates and the ability to upgrade the system to improve speed, performance, boot time, and more.
The Alpha will be a bit limited when it comes to downloading the latest games. While it can handle most of the Steam catalog, it may have difficult chugging through the new releases, at least for now. Players will also have to bounce back and forth between desktop devices like a mouse and controller to complete some of the installation and launching procedures.
For those who really want to invest in the console, other upgrades are available to help the Alpha tackle those new releases. $549 will get you the basic model and the 360 controller. Paying $699 will give you more memory and storage, $799 will add in a faster i5 CPU, and $899 will give you an i7 processor: High prices, but PC players are familiar with that game.