If you can remember months ago, Steam Machines were being developed and tested. Dell and Alienware were slated to develop a SteamOS-based console, but decided to also make a standalone console as well. The Alienware Alpha is said console, but it is closer related to a small form factor PC than the PS4 and Xbox One. It was announced earlier that pre-ordered Alphas are landing in living rooms today.
There are 4 models of Alpha, each in their own price bracket with varying degrees of parts. Starting from $550, the Alpha comes with an i3-4130T, a dual core processor clocked at 2.9Ghz, a custom Nvidia 2GB GTX 860M GPU, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, and a 500GB HDD. In the next price bracket of $699, you get double the RAM to 8GB, and double the storage to 1TB, but the CPU and GPU don’t change.
At $799, the Alpha comes with an i5-4590T, which has a base clock of 2.0Ghz and boost clock to 3.0Ghz, but keeps the same components as the $699 model. The highest priced SKU, $899, packs in an i7-4765T, a which has the same base and boost clock as the i5, as well as a 2TB HDD, and 2GB of DDR5 RAM, in addition to the 8GB of DDR3 RAM.
All models have wireless AC, Bluetooth. 4 USB ports (2 in front, 2 in back), and connections for HDMI, Ethernet, and optical cables.
Dell did something interesting, and made the CPU and RAM upgradeable, but not the GPU, which stays at an 860M for all SKUs. Dell says the 2GB modified 860M will be able to play games at 1080p. At what settings, we have no idea. The 860M has been surpassed by the 970M and 980M, but is significantly cheaper to work with the the latest Maxwell GPUs. This is rather unfortunate, since upgrading to a 970M or 980M would be a very interesting way to keep the console up to par with games.
The machine boots to a custom Alpha-UI to be used in hand with a controller (the console ships with an Xbox 360 wired controller), but the ability to open the console with Steam Big Picture or to the Windows desktop is also available. This allows the Alpha to be used as a console, desktop, or combination of both.