Desktop with clever compact design

Dell's Alienware Aurora R5 gaming desktop takes up less space while offering a decent amount of expandability.
Dell's Alienware Aurora R5 gaming desktop takes up less space while offering a decent amount of expandability.PHOTO: DELL

Dell has taken more than four years to introduce a new version of its Alienware Aurora gaming desktop. But the cleverly designed Aurora R5 is worth waiting for.

For starters, its chassis is surprisingly compact. It is much shorter than a standard mid-tower gaming desktop, which means it takes up less space on your desk or floor.

Somehow, Dell still managed to fit two high-end graphics cards, such as Nvidia's latest GTX 1080, into the R5's compact chassis.

Being curious to find out how this was done, I unscrewed a lock at the back of the chassis and removed the side panel.

It was like looking at a jigsaw puzzle. Dell has cleverly packed all the hardware components to fully utilise the limited chassis space.

You do not need a screwdriver to change or upgrade any parts. And there are even expansion options for additional storage drives.

Unusually, the power supply unit (PSU) of the R5 is not found at the top or bottom of the chassis.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $4,999

    PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-6700K (4GHz)

    GRAPHICS: 2 x Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 8GB GDDR5X

    STORAGE: 512GB SSD + 1TB HDD

    RAM: 32GB

    CONNECTIVITY: 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-A, 7 x USB 3.0, 6 x USB 2.0, 7 x DisplayPort, 2 x HDMI, 2 x DVI, Gigabit Ethernet, headphone and microphone jacks


    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 2/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

Instead, the PSU is in the middle and held in place by a rotating arm that swings out to reveal the liquid-cooled Intel Core i7 processor that powers this computer.

The two graphics cards are not equipped with liquid-cooled systems, but their fans are relatively quiet.

Compared with other Alienware computers, the R5 looks nondescript. The front facade looks like any modern desktop PC, with Alienware's glowing alien-head logo the only eye-catching feature.

The R5 comes with a slim optical drive, though I was slightly disappointed that it is a DVD drive instead of a Blu-ray drive. Upgrading to a Blu-ray drive costs an extra $98.

A handle at the rear lets you carry this desktop PC around, though it is not that light (around 15kg).

The side panels each comes with three thin LED strips. You can adjust the LED lighting, as well as monitor and control the R5's internal cooling fans, using the preloaded Alienware Command Center app.

With its high-end specs, the Aurora R5 ranks among the best gaming desktop PCs I have tested this year. It scored around 183 frames per second (fps) in Crysis 3 at Very High setting and at 1,920 x 1,080 pixels.

The R5 also managed 155 fps in Doom at Ultra setting. These results are almost identical to the Asus ROG GT51CA, which has a similar configuration, and show that the R5 is clearly ready for virtual reality (VR) games.

For those on a tighter budget, the Aurora is available from $2,199. The starter configuration has an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive. But it should still provide very decent gaming performance, thanks to its GTX 1070 graphics card.

At $4,999, the Alienware Aurora R5 is more expensive than the Asus ROG GT51CA ($4,498). However, the R5 takes up less space while offering a decent amount of expandability. Its clever tool-free chassis design also makes it easy for users to upgrade or swop parts in the future.

• Verdict: An excellent gaming desktop that stands out with a clever, compact chassis design.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2016, with the headline 'Desktop with clever compact design'. Print Edition | Subscribe