The Alienware Aurora R13 is a monster on paper. It’s the kind of office you dream of building, the kind you put together on PC Case Gear before reluctantly closing the tab.
It comes in a few basic flavors, priced between $3,700 and $5,500. But you can customize it with even higher quality parts. The unit Dell sent me for this review was worth nearly $8,000. It’s a parcel money for a gaming PC. That’s way more than I’ve ever spent on a rig in my life. So what exactly does an $8,000 prefab get you?
Phenomenal cosmic power
The good thing is that this is an absurdly powerful machine. With a 12th Gen i9 firing between 3.2 and 5.2 GHz, you’ll never run out of CPU grunt. My model came with a 16GB RTX 3090 (no longer available from the Alienware store now, probably due to card demand) and 32GB of 4400MHz DDR5 RAM. Also on board: a 1TB NVMe m.2 drive for lightning-fast load times. It all works on a solid ASUS Z690 series board. With such high-end base specs, it’s really hard to go wrong.
A PC with that kind of power runs anything and runs it well. None, but the higher benchmarks brought the machine down to the bottom. I didn’t have a 4K monitor handy to run these benchmarks on, so what we’re looking at here is Battlefield V Bench tested ultra at 1440p resolution. See for yourself:
It wasn’t until the benchmark relied entirely on the CPU that the frame rate properly faltered, but even that is in line with expected results.
I first ran it through the TimeSpy demo and as expected the Aurora R13 passed with flying colors. The TimeSpy Extreme demo delivered an expected bench similarly.
They are wide benches, yes, but you can see a lot more of them here. HotHardware ran a series of full benches to give you a clear idea of where the machine is.
What did all this material bring me? Games set to the highest settings possible were able to pull 60 solid frames regardless of game. Once uncapped, things started to get a bit more variable. Most games would hover between 90 and 120 frames, but couldn’t maintain a solid pace unless locked hard.
Beyond that, the rest of where the Aurora R13 succeeds is all function and aesthetics. The look of the case is striking and certainly unique, but it also opens quite easily for upgrades and maintenance. It also has a well-matched RGB lighting array with several tasteful presets. It’s that the lights are slightly diffused, making them a bit more elegant than your more traditional retina-burning RGB. It’s a design that clearly has streamers with the popular blue and purple vaporwave aesthetic in mind.
The hardest part of this review was saying goodbye to that RTX 3090 when we sent the unit back to Dell. For a while I thought that a prefab like the Aurora R13 might be the safest way to get that particular card, but even that is no longer a possibility.
So where does the Alienware Aurora R13 falter?
The first thing you’ll notice about the Aurora R13, the second you turn it on, is that it’s loud. Don’t be fooled by the marketing on the Alienware website. Although the system contains a liquid cooler for its processor, it does not contain system-wide liquid cooling. This means that most of the cooling for the tower is provided by fans, and what a racket they make. When the fans rev up, the Aurora R13 screeches like a jet engine. Screaming fans, thankfully, are unsupported and only really illuminate when the system is under load. This is definitely something streamers should consider. The fans are so loud that they can be picked up by the mic, depending on your noise gate settings. That this system has fans is rather surprising. For $8,000, you can easily build a PC with similar specs and include system-wide liquid cooling that would make it quiet. The Aurora R13 Is use a liquid cooler for the CPU, but not for the rest of the system.
My other main bug is that the system included the aforementioned 1TB NVMe m.2 drive paired with a 2TB 7200 rpm hard drive. That’s right, not an SSD. A hard disc. A hard drive in the year of our lord 2022. In terms of speed, it’s like pairing the 2022 Ferrari F1 car with a Datsun 120Y. Placing them next to each other only makes the hard drive even slower than it actually is. Again, I wonder if the machine is worth $8000, then why doesn’t Dell include at least one transistor? Most modern games are now designed with SSD load times in mind, which just puts them back in place. I would suggest installing games exclusively on the NVMe drive and reserving the hard drive for personal, non-essential files only.
Luckily, solid states are cheap and relatively plentiful these days, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to replace the hard drive if you want to.
This brings me to my final bugbear: power outages. I kept the Alienware Aurora R13 a little longer than expected, which opened the door to idiosyncrasies I might not otherwise have encountered. Having the machine on for that extra time was a problem where when the machine was under a particularly heavy load it would just cut the power and restart. I was able to reproduce this on many games. When the electricity consumption reached a certain threshold, the PC cut out like a circuit breaker. The Aurora R13 uses a 750W power supply, which should theoretically produce more than enough juice to run the desk at full tilt. This may mean that the problem lies further afield and could be confined to the review unit sent to me. Your experience may vary. Interested in hearing from the owners on this one.
The Alienware Aurora R13 is a powerful and customizable gaming desktop for anyone who would rather buy a pre-built machine than build one themselves. It’s a striking desk piece designed for streamers who want a cool tower to put in the background of their shot, but it’s so loud it can be picked up by the mic. The spec, whichever model you choose, is more than enough to play most modern games at higher settings, and if you spend the extra cash upgrading it, you’ll have a box that should last you the best part of five or six years before you even start to get the long tooth.