Alienware Aurora R13 Review | CNN stressed

Alienware Aurora has long been a favorite in the world of gaming PCs, and with good reason. It has an attractive design filled with RGB lighting, offers plenty of advanced game muscle and, in particular, it is a breeze to upgrade with new components over time. The latest Aurora R13 does not rotate too much with this formula, but it does offer some notable upgrades – especially in the form of Intel’s new 12th generation processors for even faster everyday performance.

So, is it worth it, and can it hold up to the best gaming PCs out there? The Aurora R13 is definitely a great investment – especially if you trick it out with a top-end graphics card and processor – and it requires just as much space in your gaming area. Here are my thoughts after several weeks of playing and working with this futuristic giant.

A great all-round game drive

Alienware Aurora R13 is an attractive, powerful and easy to upgrade gaming PC with many configuration options for different types of gamers.

Who, what and how

Who is it for: Aurora R13 is for PC gamers who want a lot of configuration options – and the flexibility to upgrade components without having to deal with a ton of tools. It is also ideal for people who have a decent amount of space under or over the desk, because this is big.
What you need to know: Alienware Aurora R13 is Dell’s latest flagship gaming PC, with stylish design with customizable RGB lighting and support for the latest Intel processors and Nvidia and AMD graphics cards. Its great excellent feature is upgrade options, since you can easily open the system and replace most parts without tools.
How it compares: Aurora is by far the most powerful gaming PC we have tested yet, offering a big leap over the previous generation of machines and even surpassing similarly configured rivals as the MSI Aegis RS on gaming tests. It is also one of the easiest to upgrade, thanks to the intuitive tool-free design. Alienware’s system is among the more attractive and understated we’ve tested, but it’s also one of the largest and will not fit into your setup as easily as a compact alternative like the Corsair One.

A design that is both futuristic and discreet

Mike Andronico / CNN

The Alienware Aurora R13’s design is underrated for a gaming PC, but that does not mean it will not turn its head. The desk’s elegant white ovulation design looks like a mysterious pod falling out of a spaceship, just waiting to unleash something dangerous inside. Fortunately, all you will find there are some pretty powerful computer components.

Aurora requires a good amount of space at 20 inches high and 9 inches wide, but it looks good to do so. My eyes were immediately drawn to the thin strip of RGB light in front, which is supported by the subtle yet fascinating buzz of the backlit fan visible right behind it. You can choose a translucent side window that lets you see even more of the PC’s glowing inside, but I found that the clean, white solid panels on our assessment unit fit my home office particularly well.

No matter how much RGB lighting you actually want to see, you have many ways to customize it, thanks to the excellent Alienware Command Center app. The system’s power button, front-facing ring and fan can be customized individually or as a group, whether you want them all in a solid color or switch between a range of cool effects that allow them to pulsate in and out in different hues. I was particularly attracted to the Rainbow Wave effect, which pumps out the color of an Easter basket that in an attractive way rides around the front strip of the system. Despite the sheer amount of options, I found the Command Center easy to use, and I set up my own custom color profiles in minutes.

Many gates and easy upgrade

Mike Andronico / CNN

Appearance is of course only part of the equation, and the latest Aurora delivers just as much when it comes to connectivity and expansion options. You get a healthy amount of ports for connecting accessories, starting with three USB-A ports, a USB-C port and a headphone jack on the front. Considering that my current crop of keyboards, mice, webcams and headsets still uses a mix of the two USB standards, I appreciate having easy access to both.

You’ll find a much wider range of connections on the back, including a total of four USB-A ports (two of which are the newer, faster USB 3.2 standard), two USB-C ports, an Ethernet connector for wired internet and a complete selection of audio connectors to connect to your optional speakers. The system’s Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 graphics card has its standard three DisplayPorts and single HDMI ports, giving you plenty of freedom to connect multiple monitors.

Mike Andronico / CNN

The Aurora line has long been known for its easy upgrade, and that is still the case on the R13 model. After removing a hand screw quickly, I was able to pull a lever on the back of the machine and easily slide off the side panel, gaining instant access to the PC’s internal components – no tools needed. You can replace and upgrade the system’s graphics card, memory, and storage without lifting a screwdriver, although you will need to remove some tools if you want to mess with the processor and power supply. This is a great advantage for people who want the flexibility to upgrade their desktop over time, but who are intimidated by the idea of ​​disassembling a computer.

Mike Andronico / CNN

The latest Alienware Aurora can be equipped with the latest and greatest game components. As such, it’s no surprise that our suppressed review device – which includes a 12th generation Intel Core i7 processor, 32GB of memory and an Nvidia RTX 3080 graphics card – is one of the most powerful gaming PCs I’ve tested.

This combination of processing and graphics muscles allowed me to play my favorite PC games at their absolute best without compromising on a smooth frame rate and immersing myself in the absolute highest visual settings. The frantic demonic killing action of Doom Eternal ran at 146 frames per second (fps) at 1440p resolution with all graphics settings maximum (for reference we consider at least 60 fps ideal), so I can easily jump and run around the battlefield while watching every bloody detail of my enemies. The decidedly more peaceful driving action of the Forza Horizon 5 was also excellent on Alienware’s PC, as I was able to recklessly drive around Mexico at upwards of 100 fps under similar graphics settings.

Processor

Graphics

Geekbench 5 multi-core performance

Shadow of the Tomb Raider (1080p, maximum settings)

Dirt 5 (1080p, max settings)

Alienware Aurora R13 Intel Core i7-12700KF Nvidia RTX 3080 15272 185 fps 114 fps
MSI Aegis RS Intel Core i7-11700K Nvidia RTX 3080 10348 170 fps 160 fps
Corsair One a200 AMD Ryzen 9 5900x Nvidia RTX 3080 11869 176 fps 157 fps
Origin Chronos AMD Ryzen 7 5800x Nvidia RTX 3070 9809 154 fps 121 fps

Aurora’s superior gaming performance in the real world was reflected in our benchmark tests, where it surpassed just about every gaming PC we’ve ever tested in most categories. The system delivered very high 185 fps on our Shadow of the Tomb Raider 1080p test, surpassing other RTX 3080-powered rivals such as the Corsair One a200 and MSI Aegis RS (our best gaming PC choice at the moment). Aurora just fell behind in the Dirt 5 reference with a score of 114 fps – it’s still more than high enough for reliable smooth play, but it follows MSI Aegis with a decent amount.

In terms of raw processing power, however, the Aurora R13 was in a class of its own. Alienware’s desktop is the first we’ve tested with Intel’s new 12th generation processors, and the benefits of having a system with the newer chip were immediately apparent on our tests. For example, the Aurora scored 15,272 on the Geekbench 5 overall performance test – which is about 32% better than the MSI Aegis we tested with an 11th generation Core i7 processor. Not surprisingly, all that power came in handy during daily use, and Aurora remained quiet whether I was juggling a lot of apps and Chrome tabs at work or tearing myself through PC games.

Mike Andronico / CNN

As with most gaming desktops, Alienware Aurora offers plenty of configuration options, and the cost and performance are highly dependent on how you set it up.

The system currently starts at $ 1,371, giving you a 12th generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB solid state drive (SSD), a 1TB hard drive and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Super graphics. It’s a decent configuration for playing modern 1080p games at medium to high settings, and you’ll still have room to add more powerful components when you’re ready.

You can increase to a $ 1,959 option if you want a Core i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, a 512 GB SSD and an Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti, the latter giving you the benefits of the Nvidia RTX series (including immersive beam lighting and some AI-powered performance benefits) at a reasonable price. You can also get a similar configuration with a more powerful RTX 3070 (ideal for gaming at 1440p, and in some cases 4K) for $ 2302.

For those who want to go all out, the highest option $ 4,360 gives you a super-powerful Core i9 processor, 64GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, a 1TB hard drive and an Nvidia RTX 3090. This is ideal for people who are willing to spend money on the best 4K gaming performance and plenty of storage space for games.

There are a few other configurations in the middle, and all can be customized upon purchase. Our $ 3,450 device is a great example of how you can trick the system into the higher end, with a Core i7 processor, a 2TB SSD, a 2TB hard drive and Nvidia RTX 3080 graphics. This gives you more than enough power for reliable 4K gaming, plus enough storage space to handle even the heaviest Steam libraries.

Other optional upgrades to the lower end configurations include a clear side panel, starting at $ 150, and liquid cooling, starting at $ 100. New to the Aurora R13 is a Cryo-Tech liquid cooling alternative, which Alienware says provides even better thermal performance while having exclusive RGB lighting features. And if AMD is more your thing, Aurora offers a wealth of AMD Radeon graphics card options, from the entry-level Radeon RX 6500 XT to the high-end RX 6900 XT.

Mike Andronico / CNN

The Alienware Aurora R13 ticks almost every box for a great gaming PC. It has an attractive and customizable design, and it supports the latest advanced components to play modern games at its absolute best. It is also a good long-term investment, with a design that even novice PC gamers can easily open to replace a more modern graphics card or increased storage space.

If you want to save money, the Lenovo Legion 5i starts at $ 1,199 – our favorite budget gaming PC – at a few hundred dollars less than the initial configuration of the Aurora, while it has similar specifications. And if space is an issue, the Corsair One a200 and Origin Chronos are both great compact (but expensive) options. But Aurora’s value and flexibility make it a great choice for most PC gamers, whether you want to trick it into immersive 4K games from the beginning or start small and work your way up over time.