Alienware Aurora R9 Quick Review: A Quirky, Powerful Gaming Machine
February 11, 2020 Andrew Cheng

Pre-built desktop systems are often overlooked in favour of building a PC from scratch, but some folks don’t have the time or experience to do so. If you’re simply not interested to get a custom rig, here’s a desktop for your consideration: the Alienware Aurora R9.

Sporting a quirky design, powerful hardware, and reasonably good (not to mention easy) upgradability, the Aurora R9 is quite an impressive pre-built desktop system. But is it worth its premium asking price? That’s what we’re here to find out.

What It Is

ProcessorIntel Core i7-9700K octa-core (3.6GHz with Turbo Boost up to 4.9GHz, 12MB cache), liquid cooling
GPUNvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super 8GB GDDR6 VRAM
RAM16GB HyperX Fury DDR4 2666MHz
Storage512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD
Dimensions481.6 (H) x 222.8 (W) x 431.9 (L) mm
1x Headphone / line out
1x Microphone / line in
1x Type-C USB 3.1 Gen 1
3x Type-A USB 3.1 Gen 1

1x Type-C USB 3.1 Gen 2
1x Type-A USB 3.1 Gen 2
3x Type-A USB 3.1 Gen 1
5x Type-A USB 2.0
1x DisplayPort 1.2 output
1x RJ-45 Killer E2500 Gigabit Ethernet
1x SPDIF digital output TOSLINK
1x SPDIF digital output coax
1x Microphone in
1x Line in
1x Line out
1x Centre / subwoofer output
1x Rear surround output
1x Side surround output

The Aurora R9 we received for this review comes with a Core i7-9700K processor – complete with liquid cooling – and a beefy RTX 2080 Super GPU. Thanks to these two key hardware, practically every AAA game runs incredibly well on this machine. If there’s any shortcoming, it would be the machine’s 16GB RAM, though this can be easily upgraded by end users.

The Good Stuff

Obviously, the performance of the Aurora R9 is the highlight of this machine. I ran a number of graphically demanding games at 1440p to see just what the R9 is capable of, and I’m really impressed with the results. Of course, all of the games below were tested with maxed out graphics settings.

Games (Max settings @ 1440p)Average FPS
Witcher 3 (HairWorks disabled)94.61
Borderlands 3 (DX11)63.74
Fortnite (DX11)117.53
Apex Legends122.58

Not many machines can run these games at such high frame rates, and the Aurora R9 managed to deliver this level of performance without even breaking a sweat. Thanks to the liquid cooling system, the CPU’s temperature was kept in check extremely well. In prolonged gaming sessions, I never see the processor go past 55°C, though the GPU did get quite toasty at around 80°C.

That being said, it’s worth noting that I tested the Aurora R9’s thermals in an air-conditioned room. Needless to say, expect the system temperatures to be higher in other room conditions.

System noise of the Aurora R9 is pretty good too. With the thermal plan set to balanced, it’s almost whisper quiet when I’m not gaming. Naturally, setting the thermal plan to performance does make the fans quite audible, especially in extended gaming sessions. However, they are by no means unbearably loud, and that’s great.

Besides that, upgrading certain components of the Aurora R9 is relatively easy, and it’s equally effortless to get inside the system. All I have to do is just remove one screw, and…that’s it. The side panel can then be removed, and pushing on a couple of tabs unlocks the PSU door, which swings out to reveal the components.

Once you’re here, you can easily add more storage drives, swap the GPU, or even install more RAM. If you ever want to mess with the CPU and PSU, you’d need a screwdriver. Not many pre-built desktop systems allow this kind of upgradability, so it’s great to see that this is possible with the Aurora R9.

Last but certainly not least is the design of this gaming desktop. Unlike other products in this segment, the Aurora R9 actually looks quite understated and minimalist. In fact, the only RGB lighting is at the front of this “Dark Side of the Moon” colourway. As expected, the colour of the RGB strip and Alienware logo are both customisable from the Alienware Command Centre software.

The Bad Stuff

While some may be fond of the Aurora R9’s minimalist design, I imagine there are also folks that think otherwise. Personally, I’m not too keen with the system’s aesthetics. The quirky design language doesn’t appeal to me, and it would’ve been great if the side panel had a window to peek into the system’s powerful hardware. Basically, like a conventional gaming PC.

Granted, the inner components of the Aurora R9 don’t look particularly…well, eye-catching. That’s usually the case with pre-built desktops anyway, which is one of the reasons why I prefer to build my own machine. I have the freedom to choose individual parts that suit my design preferences, among other things.

And that brings me to the next point: the Aurora R9 doesn’t offer particularly good value for money in comparison to a custom gaming PC. This highest-end configuration costs a whopping RM11,398.99 from Dell’s online store; building a custom PC with the same hardware would easily cost RM2,000 less.

That’s not really a surprise, of course. Pre-built desktop systems are often more costly than custom gaming machines, though you do (usually) get better after-sales service and easier warranty claim with the former.

Is It Worth It?

Well, that’s not an easy question to answer. If you don’t want to deal with the headache of building your own PC, troubleshooting issues whenever they crop up, and you don’t mind paying the extra money, then yes, the Alienware Aurora R9 is worth it.

But if you don’t want to spend more than what’s “necessary” to get the same level of performance, and you’re comfortable with either building your own PC or let a retailer do it for you, then the Aurora R9 isn’t exactly the best option. It can be a hassle going down this route, but it can also be a rewarding experience.

That is not to say the Aurora R9 is not a good product. It certainly is for what it is: a powerful pre-built gaming desktop with a minimalist design and room for easy upgrades. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Aurora R9, especially when I’m gaming at over 100 frames per second with maxed out graphics settings.