Dell now shipping the Alienware Alpha "console" starting at $550

Alienware Steam Machine

This morning, Dell announced it is now shipping the Alienware Alpha, the company's all-in-one gaming "console" PC originally marketed as a Steam Machine earlier this year. The Alpha comes at four price points—$550, $700, $800, and $900—and ships with an Xbox 360 Wireless controller, given that Valve's Steam controller was delayed into 2015, just like the finalized SteamOS.

The low-end model features an Intel Core i3-4130T dual-core processor clocked up to 2.9 GHz, a customized 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M GPU, 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a 500GB internal hard drive. The $699 model doubles the memory and internal storage but keeps the other components the same.

The $799 model bumps the processor up to a quad-core i5-4590T clocked up to 3.0 GHz, while the top-end $899 SKU goes all out with an i7-4765T clocked to 3.0 and 2TB of internal storage. All four models sport Wireless AC and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, four USB ports—two 2.0 on the front and two 3.0 on the back—and connections for all your standard Ethernet, HDMI, and optical audio cables.

The console has been designed for easy upgradeability, allowing users to swap in a newer CPU or more RAM. The GPU, unfortunately, won't be upgradable. The Alpha's GPU is based off the Nvidia 860M, which is already outdated compared to Nvidia's 970M and 980M mobile GPUs released in October. The 860M should be more than capable of streaming, but it's not going to fare well against the most demanding games releasing in late 2014 and beyond. Alienware claims its overclocked 860M will be up to the task of 1080p gaming, but it's notably running on 2GB of GDDR5, unlike the 4GB Maxwell version in 860M-equipped gaming laptops. At $550, though, the Alpha is far more affordable than those laptops.

Out of the box, the machine loads up Alpha UI—a controller-minded interface designed by Alienware—but it can be configured to boot directly into Steam Big Picture mode or Windows 8.1. In other words, you can treat the Alpha like a standard desktop PC, a plug-and-play console, or something of a hybrid—whatever suits your fancy.

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