Alienware has announced their new upcoming Alpha. This was their SteamBox but is now not. Confusing. So what is the Alienware Alpha? Well it is a small mini-PC running Windows 8 but with a SteamOS like UI on top to launch Steam games using a controller.
Except according to Alienware, not only is this device no longer their SteamOS machine, but it is not even a PC, but a Console.
We do not for a moment believe this computer can be called a console, sure you use a controller and it is designed to be used on a television with it’s 10-foot UI, a simple small design…. But hey, that would pretty much describe a Home Theatre PC. So if anything, it would be Jon here at RSS called his old Home Theatre PC, a PCC(PC Console Hybrid), in fact that computer was first designed by us back in 2006 which you can read more of here.
So the Alpha does blur the lines between consoles and PC’s more than ever before. After all, gaming consoles are not what they were 10 years ago when their internet capabilities were limited and video was pretty much DVD only. The Playstation 4 and Xbox One both come closer than any previous console to being Mini PC’s.
Heck you could even plug a keyboard into the PS3 if you wanted to, not that anyone ever did. That being said, the Dreamcast had a keyboard too but that was designed specifically for the system. The Gameboy had that printer attachment thing that nobody that I know ever purchased. So I guess actually, at what point does a console become a PC or vice versa?
Is the Alienware Alpha a console or PC then? If the lines are so blurred. Well, let us not some key points of what we think of when we think console and see which are shared by the Alpha:
Console compared to Alienware Alpha
|Closed Ecosystem||Nope. Windows, quite open|
|Designed for use on TV / Sofa||Yes|
|Non-upgradable||Yes, though not the GPU|
|All games for system will work||No, not all PC games will work|
|Has UI designed specifically for platform||Yes, custom overlay and Steam Big Picture|
|Cheaper than most PCs||Base model is more expensive than any console|
|Simple, easy to use||Yes, though depending on the user|
It is quite obvious above that the Alienware Alpha shares a great deal in common with game consoles. But being that it can be used for word processing, video editing, making websites, basically all tasks a computer would be used for, we will call it a PC.
Alienware Alpha or a Steam Box?
Okay, so the debate over whether the Alienware Alpha is a console or a PC is one that really will come down to opinion. What about the end consumers? Who is the Alienware Alpha aimed at?
There are right now many options for gaming. Easily more than ever before. Mobile phones, tablets, consoles, PCs, SteamBox’s, Smart TVs etc etc. How will the Alienware Alpha set itself apart from the Steam machines out there?
We are not just talking OEM steam machines but self built ones. In fact I am writing this on a Dell Vostro that I mostly use as a Steam Box to play games in a different room to the lounge either natively or by in-home streaming. Why an Alpha? Well for the asking price of $549.00, the Alpha is surprisingly cheap for what it has in comparison to many other PCs at that price. For that price you get a 4th gen Core i3 processor, 8GB of RAM, 2GB NVIDIA 860M GPU, Windows 8.1.
So for someone looking for an off the shelf PC on a reasonably low budget then the Alienware Alpha is certainly worth looking into. For someone with a gaming rig, probably not worthwhile unless you wanted a small computer for the living room.
As for console gamers, not so sure they will want to join the PC crowd with this machine.
This is why the Alienware Alpha may not be a success, it does not seem to fulfill a niché.