Alienware Aurora R9 (Tech) Review — Living the dream
A few weeks ago I had the rare opportunity to experience how 1% of the elite of the PC Master Race live. You see, Alienware sent me a full complement of hardware sporting the new Legend Industrial Design language. You can read my reviews for the gorgeous curved 34-inch gaming monitor, the low profile mechanical keyboard, gaming mouse and 7.1 gaming headset.
At the last minute, Alienware then thought it would be cool to send me one of the new Aurora R9 desktop PCs that looks very much like an Alien artifact with its perfectly smooth lines, oblong face and distinctive light 0-ring on the front. My unit came with a 9th Gen Intel Core i9-9900K 8-core processor, 32 GB of HyperX Fury DDR4 RAM, 1TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD boot drive with 2TB SATA storage and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super.
The Aurora R9 by itself is mightily impressive but it’s when you combine all the pieces of hardware together that you get a desk setup that is the envy of any PC gamer. Taking the $4500 for the Aurora R9, $2300 for the curved monitor, and $600 more for the peripherals and you’ve got yourself a hell of a setup.
But, is it worth it?
Alienware Aurora R9 Review
Having worked in advertising, I always thought Alienware’s promotional materials for its new hardware was just great photoshop. So I was surprised when I got all the pieces sitting on my dining table. The Aurora R9 mated to a 34-inch curved monitor, all in Lunar White with synced AlienFX lighting are stunning to behold. Whoever is in charge of Alienware’s design division certainly deserves an award of some kind.
The newly designed Aurora R9 is also a lot bigger than I expected. The chassis flares outwards making the front look small when you look at it head-on. Turn it to its side and you quickly see how big it is. It’s 18.9-inches tall, 8.7-inches wide and 17-inches deep. It also weighs a ton, almost 18 kilos which is heavier than my 4-year-old.
The case has a total volume of 33.8 litres to house those beefy components and still have plenty of airflow for cooling. This is perfect since the Aurora is overclock ready. Two hexagonal vents line the left side of the chassis with one more on the rear top end. These give excellent airflow to the core components.
Like the monitor, Alienware breaks up the white finish with a flourish of black, one around the front O-ring and another at the back with backlit Alienware logotype. The front is shaped like an oblong O that is all black with a thinner pillar in the middle. This is where the backlit Alien head power button and some USB and Audio ports live. An LED light bar flows around the pillar and is similar to the one on the back of the 34in monitor and the new Alienware laptops.
At the back is an absurd number of ports for all manner of connections you can think of. This includes various USB types, SPDIF, Surround sound outputs, RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet and DisplayPort 1.2. Streamers and content creators will love this machine because of its wealth of ports. There are also two unique locks that allow you to open the case without fiddling with any screws.
Performance above expectations
The Aurora R9’s combination of eight-core processor, fast DDR4 RAM and SSD drive make it expeditious. Savvy owners can get even more performance by overclocking but I never found a reason to.
I ran my usual suite of synthetic benchmarks and oh my, the results were impressive. For comparison, I tested against the exceptional Alienware m17 R2. This beefy laptop matches the Aurora R9’s price and has an i9-9980HK processor, 16gb RAM, SSD drive and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 MaxQ.
The results are clear; the Aurora wins in all scenarios by at least 20%, sometimes even 40%. Putting benchmarks aside, in everyday use the Aurora handles tasks with ease. Multitasking is excellent thanks to the 32GB system memory that keeps everything ticking along. A billion tabs in Chrome don’t pose the typical challenge it does on the Alienware m17.
But, the amount of noise this thing makes when under even medium load surprised me. I am used to skinny laptops roaring but I never expected this much noise from a full-size tower. It’s certainly not a deal-breaker especially if you use headsets when gaming.
1440p gaming at full speed
Alienware says it designed the Aurora R9 for the kind of performance required by e-sports pros like Team Liquid. This means extremely high frame rates with no stuttering or lag.
I tested a variety of game genres – all at ultra settings with ray-tracing on where supported. I also used Alienware’s 34-inch ultrawide monitor in both native 1440p and 1080p resolutions. Finally, I turned off G-Sync so that the 2080 Super was free to go as fast as possible.
As you can see from the results above, the Aurora R9 came to slay. It’s impressive that almost every game in my test suite run at 1440p, ultra settings above 100FPS. And at 1080p, all games ran at absurdly fast, even with ray-tracing on which is perfect for competitive gaming.
Should you buy?
The Alienware Aurora R9 is a true representation of the Alienware brand. It offers exceptional gaming performance, top specs and it looks like nothing else. It’s big, bold and beautiful. Our review sample sells for about $4500 on Dell.com. It’s a lot of money. But you do get a hell of a gaming and content creation machine. Performance across work and play is through the roof and when you pair it with a great monitor, you’ll be in gaming Nirvana.
If the price is too high and you don’t care much for overclocking, you can get a cheaper spec model for as little as $2500. You get an i7 processor, a GTX 1660Ti, less memory and storage. But it will still be a great performer and the case allows for easy future upgrades.
There are plenty of options to play around with on Dell’s configurator. What’s more, the company often has great discounts where you can save some extra coin. Or, you can just build your own PC for about $1000 less but then, it wouldn’t be an Alienware, would it?
Alienware loaned PowerUp! the Alienware Aurora R9 for review.
Alienware Aurora R9 Review - Living the dream
Stunning design with great RGB lighting
Impressive performance in gaming and productivity
So many ports are great for connectivity
Screwless design and capacious case are great for upgrading
Gets a little too noisy under load