What good is having an ultra-powerful PC if you’re still connecting it to a dusty old monitor? We reckon doing so would be pretty silly. Good thing that alongside the new Alienware Area 51, Dell’s pulled the curtain back on its 34-inch Ultrasharp U3415W display then. It boasts a wider-than-widescreen 21:9 aspect ratio that’s paired with 3,440 x 1,440 lines of resolution (just under 4K’s 3,840 x 2,160) and a curved screen. Dell says that the monitor’s wide field of view mated with its curves will give gamers a leg up on the competition because, compared to flat monitors, less eye movement is needed to take advantage of the player’s peripheral vision. Intrigued to test that claim? You can do so come this December. We’re hoping that regardless of size, though, a curved screen doesn’t necessarily equate to an expensive screen — Dell hasn’t announced pricing for these displays just yet.
A few years ago, tablets were poised to replace laptops as the computing device of choice. That never happened, as we’ve largely stuck with laptops and phones as our daily drivers, with tablets relegated to a secondary role. If you don’t use a tablet that much, it certainly seems wise to avoid dropping a lot of cash on one. But a lower price often means compromises, and too many compromises means you won’t be using the tablet at all. To figure out how many corners you can cut when it comes to purchasing a sub-$200 tablet, we’ve gathered opinions from across the web, from our own reviews to the opinions of other trusted critics. Which cheap tablets balance performance and price to still deliver a good experience? When is it worth spending just a little bit more money? And which deals are too good to be true?
After a few years finding itself/getting a heavy-duty industrial makeover, Alienware’s well-respected (and, importantly, customizable) desktop gaming PC has returned. The Area-51 isn’t small, but it now has a new triangular… hexagonal… something-between-the-two design, intentionally hewn that way to maintain airflow and keep it cool, even when positioned against a wall. It’s certainly come a long way since the tower desktop days of 2011. Given its size, two of the corners have handles to lug it around with — we hope you can bicep-curl 45 pounds though, because that’s how much it weights. It also looks nothing like Alienware’s incoming Steam Machine. (Ironically, the new Area-51 chassis looks far more “Valve,” in a lot of ways.)
Inside that space-age shell, there’s support for up to three full-length graphics cards, Intel’s best and brightest Core i7 six- and eight-core Haswell-E CPUs — all overclockable and liquid-cooled. All the above is backed up with DDR4 RAM support. The early announcement unfortunately didn’t cover pricing or release dates, but expect to see the machine later this year. Oh, and the new model also has nine separate light-up zones for customization. Because customization is key to victory in Counter-Strike. (It isn’t).
AMD and Intel have been in a race to stuff their highest-end processors with as many cores as possible, and it appears that this one-upmanship isn’t about to end any time soon — much to your advantage. As Macworld UK notes, Intel is close to releasing a new range of Xeon E5 processors where more cores (and thus more parallel computing power) is par for the course. According to ChipLoco‘s leaked roadmap, even the lowest-spec chips start with six cores versus today’s four; the best model touts a whopping 18, which should help heavy-duty systems juggle a huge number of simultaneous workloads.
You may get to see this new Xeon in action, too. The new E5 is expected to launch on September 9th in Dell Precision workstations, and it’s also a direct upgrade to the chips used in the Mac Pro. Sadly, you likely won’t find an 18-core desktop in an Apple Store any time soon — that processor will be too hot and power-hungry — but it’s entirely possible that a 14-core Mac will show up. Whichever platform you prefer, you shouldn’t have to wait for much longer for a dream 4K video editing rig.
No gadget — besides a smartphone, maybe — is as crucial to a college student as the laptop. Regardless of your major, you’ll want a solid machine with a well-crafted keyboard to see you through term papers, class presentations and more. From a sub-$400 Chromebook to sleek models from Lenovo and Samsung, our roundup has something for everyone. Click through the gallery below to see all 11 picks, and don’t forget to check out the rest of our guide for other gadget recommendations.
When PC gaming juggernaut Valve announced its Steam Machines initiative in Fall 2013, it was unveiled as such:
“Entertainment is not a one-size-fits-all world. We want you to be able to choose the hardware that makes sense for you, so we are working with multiple partners to bring a variety of Steam gaming machines to market during 2014, all of them running SteamOS.”
Not long after, at CES 2014, Valve revealed a full line of Steam Machines from 14 different companies. Chief among them was Alienware, Dell’s gaming PC arm, which showed a teensy $550 box called the “Alpha.” Alienware was a standout not just due to name recognition, but because the company proposed a launch window for its “game console”. The Alpha won’t ship with any of the promises of the Steam Machines initiative: no Steam OS and no Steam Controller. Valve’s delayed both, but Alienware’s pushing on nonetheless with a fall launch.
That’s all to say one thing: While the Alpha is still a “Steam Machine” in size and horsepower, it isn’t a Steam Machine. The Alienware Alpha is a weird gaming PC.
Alienware held an event last week in New York City to show off the Alpha. We were given time to play games on the system, sure, but the focus of the event was on the custom operating system that Alienware’s built to get around the fact that Valve’s initiative isn’t ready.
According to Alienware, Valve president Gabe Newell sees the Alpha as the “ideal Steam Machine.” It’s hard to see how, at least at the moment: It runs Windows 8.1, it ships with an Xbox 360 wireless gamepad, and it requires a USB-based wireless dongle to make that gamepad function. Alpha is $550 — $50 more than the most expensive new game console — and it’s lacking in the horsepower department. Which GPU is inside? A “custom” NVIDIA Maxwell GTX. How about processing? Handled by an Intel i3.
In so many words, the Alpha is roughly as powerful as the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, only it costs more and is nowhere near as accessible.
THE ALPHA UI
In place of Steam OS, Alienware’s got a custom user interface that allows you to skip the Windows 8 desktop. It’s non-ironically called the “Alpha UI,” which is fitting given how vacuous it feels. We weren’t actually able to use it; instead, Alienware guided media through a slideshow of its features. Those features are sparse: play games, adjust a small handful of settings, and a button combination that helps players escape the pitfalls of playing PC games.
Ever go to play a Ubisoft game, only to have the UPlay dialog box pop up? Not such a big deal if you’re sitting right in front of your computer, keyboard and mouse in-hand, but quite a frustration if you’re playing a PC game using a gamepad from your couch. The Alpha gets around this issue by offering a kill command for offending software.
Ever play a Steam game that advertises “partial controller support?” Alienware reps say they’re working with Valve to test every single game and update all those listings. For now, however, workarounds like the kill prompt will have to do.
Let’s be clear: the Alpha is a system of workarounds. No Steam OS? Alienware built a bare bones OS to shepherd consumers from a Windows 8 experience to Steam’s living room-friendly Big Picture Mode. No Steam Controller? Alienware’s straight up buying Xbox 360 wireless gamepads and dongles to ship a controller with each Alpha.
Unfortunately for Alienware and folks excited for the Alpha, another word for “workaround” is compromise. Alienware says you’ll be able to upgrade to Steam OS and the Steam Controller whenever Valve’s got those ready. For now, though, the Alpha feels undercooked — a rushed product which serves Alienware’s bottom line and little else. We’re reserving full judgement until we’ve got a final unit this November when it ships to customers, but color us worried as of late Summer.
Edgar Alvarez contributed to this report.
Y’all remember the Alienware M11x, right? That compact, netbook-sized gaming laptop with the glowing keyboard that made it look like a spaceship? Anyway, Dell discontinued it back in 2012, only to release several big-screen machines the following year. Well, it looks like someone at the company saw the error of their ways: Dell just announced the Alienware 13, and while it’s not the brand’s smallest notebook ever, it’s definitely the smallest the company has put out in quite some time.
The machine won’t arrive until November, unfortunately, but for now, here’s what we know: This little guy will weigh in at 4.5 pounds — about two pounds lighter than the Alienware 14. It will also measure less than an inch thick, making it an obvious competitor to the super-thin Razer Blade. Similar to the Blade, which rocks a 3,200 x 1,800 touchscreen, the Alienware 13 will be offered with a 2,560 x 1,440 touch panel. Keep it mind, though, that it will actually come standard with 1,366 x 768 resolution. There will also be an in-between 1080p option, according to Dell. Neither of those will support touch, however — just something to consider as you’re going through all the configuration options online.
On the inside, it makes use of NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 860M GPU, and can be configured with either an SSD or a traditional hard drive. It will eventually rock Intel’s next-gen Broadwell CPUs too, just not at launch. Keep it mind that these are still full-voltage processors, so while the Alienware 13 might have a smaller footprint, you probably shouldn’t expect it to run any cooler. The battery, meanwhile, is rated for up to eight hours of video playback, though surely the runtime will drop once you’re playing games unplugged. No word on price yet, or even full spec options. Dell says it’ll reveal all that sometime… later, closer to when the machine goes on sale. Until then, enjoy the hands-on photos.
If you fancy nabbing new tech by leveraging your Bitcoin wallet, another online retailer has just joined the fray. CEO Michael Dell alerted the masses via Twitter that his company would begin accepting the digital currency, claiming that the outfit is “world’s largest ecommerce business” to do so. The device maker is partnering with Coinbase to power its transactions, and those looking to snag a new Alienware rig will earn a discount when forking over Bitcoin for payment.
[Photo credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images]
- Michael Dell (@MichaelDell) July 18, 2014