Some people are just not interested in PCs, believing them to be a simple means to an end. The idea of building a PC or choosing its components can be intimidating for a large number of PC users and gamers. This is where systems like the Alienware Aurora R14 Ryzen Edition come in. They avoid the hassle of buying a PC.
Building your own machine will provide better value for money, higher performance or both. But not everyone wants the trouble or has the necessary knowledge to do so. Buyers of these systems care about the games, and not so much about the PC running them. The idea is that you buy it, take it home, plug it in and within minutes it’s ready to use. No messing around with drivers or troubleshooting. Dell offers after-sales technical support and peace of mind which is appealing.
I got my hands on an Alienware Aurora R14 Ryzen Edition. Is it fast? Yes. Can it play games better than a console can? Most likely. Can it be used for things other than gaming? Absolutely yes. Is it reasonable? Well, that might be the hard part.
At full price, the answer would be no, but Dell often offers deep discounts across the range, and if you can get your hands on one when it’s cheap, Alienware systems can offer surprisingly good value for money.
The Aurora R14 Ryzen Edition still has an unmistakable Alienware theme. It has that rounded UFO-like influence that leaves you in no doubt that it’s a powerful gaming PC. Its curves will appeal to many who are turned off by some of the cluttered or angular case designs. In my opinion, it offers a good mix of sensational good looks while retaining a touch of subtlety.
Our system came with a high spec, starting with an AMD Ryzen 9 5900X 12-core/24-thread processor. It is joined by a custom Dell RTX 3080 10GB graphics card. Some users will want a Radeon option if it was on offer, but at least in Australia the graphics card options are Nvidia only.
As configured, this sample retails for a very hefty $4,999, but at the time of writing it was on sale for $3,999. Still a high price, but 20% is 20% off.
This configuration comes with 32GB of DDR4-3200 memory. In our test system, it was Kingston’s Fury memory. I normally expect boring Dell green PCB memory so this is nice to see. Storage includes a 512GB Samsung PM9A1 PCIe 4.0 SSD and a 1TB 3.5-inch HDD. The small hard drive is hardly worth including. For an extra $50 or so, Dell could have bumped it up to 4TB. Of course, maybe you already have an external HDD, in which case you can connect it to one of the many USB ports on the front or back.
If the high specs (and cost) of this system turn you off, Dell offers lower-spec machines with Ryzen 7 5800X processors and graphics cards, including an RTX 3070 or RTX 3060 Ti. They are worth considering if you have a 1920×1080 or 2560×1440 monitor, in which case you don’t need the grunt of a 3080. If you have a 4K monitor or TV, the 3080 will be your best bet.
Like just about any other Dell system, there are many proprietary components. The motherboard is a custom design, with many custom connectors and component locations. The cooling fins are on the small side, but the system has reasonably good airflow, and unless you hit the CPU at full load for long periods of time, they run fine.
The RTX 3080 is also a custom Dell unit, but in our testing it’s a bit dull, but it will perform about as well as any other 3080 fan.
Aurora R14 Ryzen Edition specifications
PROCESSOR: AMD Ryzen 9 5900X
Cooling: Alienware Cryo-Tech liquid cooling
Main board chipset: B550
Memory: 32 GB (2x 16 GB) DDR4-3200
Graphics: GeForce RTX 3080 10GB
Storage: 512 GB NVMe SSD and 1 TB 3.5 inch HDD
Power: 750W PSU
Warranty: 1 year prepaid RTB
Price: AU$4,999 (opens in a new tab)
The 5900X is a powerful CPU, and it requires good cooling to perform at its best. That’s one of the disappointments here. An all-in-one cooler of 120 mm is sufficient for a 5900X at best. It’s not as demanding a CPU as the Intel 12900K is, but if you’re going to drop this kind of money on a system, a 240mm AIO would be more appropriate. Hopefully Dell will learn from this when the 13th generation Aurora and Ryzen 7000 series models launch later this year.
Upgradability is not a strength of Alienware systems. Unfortunately, unlike some of the other Alienware systems we’ve reviewed, the R14 Ryzen Edition doesn’t have a secondary M.2 slot. Since the included 512GB SSD is on the small side, you’ll need to clone it or add a SATA SSD if you want extra storage for a larger game library.
You will also be limited when it comes to upgrading the cooling. Dell uses a non-standard mount for the cooler, which means AM4 coolers cannot be used. That said, the chance that anyone will upgrade the cooling is unlikely, and with AMD’s AM4 socket nearing the end of its life, there won’t be many CPU upgrade options anyway.
The connectivity options of the Aurora R14 Ryzen Edition are good. Around the back there are eight USB ports with four USB 2.0, two USB 3.0 5Gbps and two 10Gbps Type-C ports. They are joined by three more 5 Gbps ports and a 10 Gbps Type-C port up front. Not bad.
Wired networking duties are handled by a Realtek RTL8125BD 2.5G Ethernet controller. There is Wi-Fi 6 for wireless connectivity. There are no obvious antennas, but in my testing signal weakness wasn’t an issue.
As we’ve seen with some other Aurora systems, the standard six analog ports and the S/PDIF ports are joined by a coaxial port. If you have an older A/V amplifier or receiver, you can use the coax output with it.
Overall, the R13 comes with a comprehensive set of connectivity options. I feel it’s important for a system like this to have plenty of front and rear USB ports so a user can plug in chargers, headsets, external hard drives and flash drives without having to buy a hub. A $5,000 system should be user-friendly, and the Aurora R14 Ryzen Edition is.
A system that costs AU$5000 has to work, and thankfully it does! Let’s start with a look at overall system performance.
With a spec that includes a 5900X and RTX 3080, I expected this system to perform very well, and it does.
We see that the high core count of the 5900X allows it to excel at video encoding and rendering tasks. If you use your PC for things like this, the 5900X will reward you with strong performance.
Hitman’s CPU test is an outlier. It seems like it prefers fewer threads, for example the 5800X3D to Aftershock Ultracore was much faster.
Finally, we see the weakness of the R14’s 120mm AIO cooler. 89°C isn’t extreme for a modern CPU, but it’s higher than I’d like, and running for extended periods in the 80s makes the fan ramp right up. It is not vacuum cleaner high, but it is an example of how a 120 mm cooler is insufficient for this class of CPU. Not good enough Dell.
Now let’s see how the Aurora R14 Ryzen Editions RTX 3080 handles games.
Synthetic and 1440p gaming performance
The RTX 3080 is a familiar quantity at this point in its life. If you’re going to pair the R14 system with a high refresh rate 2560 x 1440 display, you need the grunt that a 3080 can deliver. You can expect high frame rates in just about every game you care to mention, especially if it supports DLSS.
If you plan on gaming at 1440p, you can expect beautifully smooth and stutter-free gaming with this R14 Ryzen Edition configuration. Pair it with an adaptive sync game screen and you’ll have a smile on your face.
4K gaming performance
When you get to 4K resolution things get more difficult, but there’s nothing to worry about. Remember that we are talking about an RTX 3080 here. There are very few cards on the market that can compete with it. Nevertheless, all the games tested ran above 60 fps, which is the threshold for smooth gameplay.
Cyberpunk 2077 is an exception, although nothing can run it at 4K with all the options turned up. Even next-gen flagship graphics cards will struggle. Don’t feel bad if you have to fall back on high resolution ray tracing. You’ll get a big frame rate increase with little loss of fidelity.
Don’t forget that a console won’t run 4K above 60 fps at high settings either. A system like the R14 Ryzen Edition can be expensive, but it’s what’s needed to play the latest titles at high settings. Gaming on a large screen with a powerful PC is extremely immersive.
I think it’s important to convey the fact that not everyone looks at a PC through the eyes of an enthusiast. It’s certainly true that you can build your own PC that’s either cheaper or faster, but PC gaming is an inclusive hobby. Just because someone doesn’t know a megabyte from a megahertz doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy everything PC gaming has to offer. And that’s why there will always be a market for systems like the Alienware Aurora R14 Ryzen Edition.
The Aurora line of PCs do a job, and do it well. This spec, with its 5900X CPU, RTX 3080 and 32GB of RAM means it’s a high-end PC by any standard. It looks good, it has good connectivity, but the lack of upgrade potential counts against it. The use of a 120mm cooler doesn’t make sense, and I’m not happy with the inclusion of just one PCIe M.2 slot. Even if Dell made just these two obvious changes, this system would rise a notch or two.
At full price, I can’t recommend the R14 Ryzen Edition, but if you can get it when it’s on sale, it becomes more compelling. However, it is important to get the specification properly balanced. A system with a CPU like 12600K or 5800X with an RTX 3070 or 3070 Ti will provide much better gaming value. That would lower the requirements for the small 120mm cooler as well.
Personally, I wouldn’t buy an Alienware system, but I’m an enthusiast who wants to build my own rigs. If you’re not, and you can deal with its shortcomings, the R14 Ryzen Edition will deliver very good gaming performance. All of these CPU cores will excel at multi-threaded tasks, and it’s a pretty system too.
If you care more about the game than the PC running them, the Alienware Aurora R14 Ryzen Edition is well worth a look, but you’ll have to wait until it’s available with one of the frequent discounts. There are other options out there from the likes of HP or Aftershock and they are definitely worth a look as well. But the Dell brand name is a big name, and it carries weight on its own, so by all means, buy one if it appeals to you.
If your system delivers the performance you want, with a simple setup and unique aesthetic, while offering the real value of big name after sales and technical support, few options can compete. At the end of the day, the goal is to enjoy your gameplay. This Alienware will deliver that.