Meet Alienware's Alpha console, a Steam Machine without SteamOS (for now)


Here's what you'll find under the hood of the base $550 Alienware Alpha console:

That's pretty competitive for $550, especially considering the console's unique design and included gamepad. It's no wonder Azor recently said that this will be Alienware's least profitable computer ever. You'll also be able to configure the Alpha with options including Core i5 and i7 processors, 8GB of RAM, and 1TB or 2TB hard drives.

After a brouhaha erupted earlier this year about the Alpha's alleged lack of upgradability, I asked Azor whether or not the system will be upgradeable.

"Alpha is fully upgradeable, other than the graphics chip," he replied. "You can change the hard drive, the memory, the CPU, even the wireless card if you wanted to. All of those things are fully upgradeable, but if you really want a product that was design for easy upgrades, you'd get the X51 or the Aurora that we offer.... When we designed the Alpha, we were going after a really small and tight form factor that met the sound requirements of a console in the living room, that met the thermals and the type of environment the Alpha's intended to go into. So while it is upgradeable, and it isn't necessarily going to be hard [to upgrade], it won't be as simple as our other machines are."

The custom graphics processor, however, is soldered to the board and cannot be replaced. Designed around Nvidia's supremely energy-efficient Maxwell architecture, the chip allows the Alienware Alpha to offer performance comparable to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, according to Azor, but in a smaller box that consumes less power than either of the big consoles. Alas, he refused to match the chip's capabilities to any of Nvidia's current retail graphics cards offerings, calling it too unique a beast for a clean comparison.

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