4K gaming seems to be the goal of this generation of hardware, whether you're talking about the new consoles or PC. Hitting this resolution isn't anything new, but the issue for years has been striking a stable enough frame rate that the resolution upgrade is worth the trouble. But now we're seeing 4K gaming monitors and TVs hitting 120Hz refresh rates and affordable GPUs powerful enough to support those numbers.
Processor: Intel Core 10th Gen i9 10900K
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 (24GB GDDR6X)
Memory: 64GB HyperX Fury DDR4-3200MHz
Storage: 2TB Kioxia M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD, 2TB Toshiba SATA HDD
Connectivity: 6 x USB 2.0, 2 x USB-C, 8 x USB 3.0, Bluetooth
OS: Windows 10 Home/Pro 64-Bit
Dimensions: 18.9 x 17 x 8.7 inches
Weight: 35 lbs
Warranty: 3 year
With high-end 4K gaming as the goal, Alienware decided to send us a fully specced out Aurora R11. An Intel Core i9-10900K CPU and Nvidia RTX 3090 are the centerpiece of this PC gaming battle station. Oh yeah, there's also 64GB of HyperX Fury DDR4-3200Mhz RAM.
Is this $4,300 system overkill? Of course it is. Will I turn down an opportunity to mess around with what Alienware calls the Benchmark Bruiser? Of course not.
The storage solution Alienware has gone with is a 2TB Kioxia M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD backed up by a 2TB Toshiba SATA HDD. There's plenty of storage for games and all sorts of media. Amazingly this isn't even the most expensive R11; for an extra $600, you can swap the RTX 3090 for dual 2080 Tis (via SLI) and double the RAM to 128GB. Unless you're trying to power a time machine, though, the current configuration is more than enough to handle whatever you throw at it.
And even then a pair of RTX 2080 Ti cards aren't going to get you the gaming performance that an RTX 3090 will in many cases, whether in standard gaming or with ray traced shinies front and center. Multi-GPU is dead, people.
Anyone picking up a next-gen console might be hearing a lot about NVMe SSDs and their crazy fast loading times. While pricey, the difference in speed between an SSD and HDD is pretty much night and day for big open world games. For example, in AC: Valhalla, it took me about 14 seconds to load into the game after I hit continue, which is in line with both the PS5 and Xbox Series X. Once you've experienced speedy load times, it's tough to go back.
Cinebench R20: 5840 (multi-core) 489 (single-core)
Geekbench 5: 10616
Shadow of the Tomb Raider (4K, Ultra, RTX on): 56 fps
Division 2 (4K, Ultra): 73 fps
Gears Tactics: (4K, Ultra): 97 fps
Far Cry New Dawn (4K, Ultra): 99 fps
Troy: Total War (4K, Ultra, Battle: 57 fps
Metro Exodus (4K, Ultra): 73 fps
Watch Dogs: Legion (4K, Ultra, Ray Trace) 32 fps
3DMark Fire Strike: 31419
3DMark Fire Strike Ultra: 11817
3DMark Time Spy: (GPU) 18230 , (CPU) 13261
3DMark Port Royal: 12052
PCMark 10 Express: 5851
The Aurora case has a love-it-or-hate-it design. It's a bold stylistic choice, and I think it's great when a company simply, unapologetically goes for it. I'm in the camp of believing the Aurora looks funky and fun and draws the eye of anyone who walks into the room, as a PC this decked out deserves to. It almost looks it fell off a cartoon spaceship—the RGB ring in the front panel even evokes an engine exhaust when it's fired up.
My only real issue with the case is the shape. The oblong design means that there's no flat surface on top of the system to rest anything on, like a controller, external hard drive, etc. Not a deal-breaker, just something I realize I've taken for granted on boxy PC cases.
The toolless access is still my favorite thing about the iteration of the Aurora. It makes upgrading a cinch, and the power supply is also accessible through a neat swing arm system.
The Aurora case is still one of my favorite designs, and I hope other companies get just as creative and funky with their pre-built systems. I also appreciate the Aurora R11's ridiculous number of ports—it has a combined total of 13 USB 3.0 ports and a couple of USB-C ports. For someone like me who has tons of devices like cameras, ring lights, and pc gaming/streaming nonsense, there's no such thing as too many USB ports.
I do have concerns about the cooling, though, considering how cramped everything is in there. The system includes a liquid cooler for the CPU, but I'm concerned more about the GPU and fear that the case's very loud (and very overworked) dual fans might not be enough to cut it. When the system gets going you can easily feel the heat radiating from the cutouts on the side of the Aurora. My testing showed that the GPU temps ran on the hotter side (though still acceptable) for an RTX 3090 under load, hitting around 80 degrees Celsius after running stress tests in 3D Mark. For reference, our Founder's Edition 3090 topped out at 70C when we reviewed it.
The RTX 3090 inside this PC is custom fit snugly for the Aurora. We noticed an issue with some other manufacturers trying to stuff stock RTX 30-series cards into existing PC cases that simply couldn't accommodate such big cards. This 3090 is shaved down a couple of inches in length, but I noticed zero effect on performance.
The RTX 3090 is the bulk of the system's cost, since the massive GPU retails for about $1500. It is interesting to note that Alienware offers the R11 with an RTX 2080 Ti for $900 less and dual 2080 Ti cards (via SLI) for an extra hundred bucks. The performance gains of dual 2080 Ti's are so marginal, though, it's not worth the cost or the trouble. In this case, at least, more money doesn't mean better performance.
The Core i9-10900K is an impressive CPU, and when you pair that with the 64GB RAM, you've got yourself a decent workstation. Its Geekbench 5 score of 10616 beating out the fully specced Origin Millennium we reviewed a while back, along with a Cinebench R20 score of 5734 against the Millennium's score of 4645.
The Benchmark Bruiser lives up to its name with some impressive gaming performance too. This is a true 4K gaming rig. 4K, 120Hz gaming is possible if you're willing to spend the money—though if you're even considering picking up this beast, chances are you're also eyeing or already own a fancy new monitor or TV suited for this generation of 4K gaming.
The Nvidia RTX 3090 is no doubt a hell of a GPU. As you can see from our benchmarks and testing numbers above, the RTX 3090 can easily hit an average of 60+ FPS on our list of games in 4K on their highest graphical presets.
Yes, these numbers are all pretty high. But it's worth keeping in mind that they're only a fraction higher than what you can get on an RTX 3080 for nearly half this card's price.
I get it: This system is meant to be overkill. But unless you're using GPU intensive creative programs, you really won't be unlocking the RTX 3090's full potential. If you aren't rendering video or working on 3D animation, you're better off sticking with an RTX 3080 rather than spending the extra money for gains of 2-5% FPS in most games. Yes, it is technically the most powerful card out there, but the RTX 3080 is the best graphics card for gaming right now, and will be for the foreseeable future.
Just for fun, I even checked out how well Watch Dogs Legion ran at 4K on Ultra with ray tracing cranked up to the max. The new Watch Dogs has been notoriously hard to run and also has some technical issues. On the Aurora R11, I got an average of 32fps with ray tracing on and around 58 fps with ray tracing off.
On the Xbox Series X and PS5 consoles, Watch Dogs can be played at 4K at 30fps, though those versions are definitely not running on the equivalent of the PC's Ultra preset. The fact that the Aurora R11 hits 4K/30 with ray tracing cranked up is still an impressive feat. I'm dying to see how this rig handles Cyberpunk 2077, because if I don't get to see a sexy ray-traced Keanu Reeves in 4K, what is even the point of surviving 2020?
The Aurora R11 offers a range of configs that ordinary people can afford. We've all been there when shopping for a system—you click on the most expensive parts and wonder how long you can get away with not paying rent before you settle on something you can actually afford. I like this build because of the excessive performance, and it weirdly fulfills that 'what if' fantasy. But the Aurora R11 is a unique system, regardless of which config you go for.
I do think it's time for another case redesign with better cooling options for these new, power-hungry cards, however, and to be able to fit the stock 30-series GPUs without modification.
Unless you're someone like me who gets a cheap (er, expensive) thrill out of knowing your system can outperform anything on the market, you may want to stick with an RTX 3080 config. It's simply a better frames-per-dollar value. I can't believe it was only a few months ago that I had a $5000 extreme rig with a RTX 2080 Super that seemed impossible to top. Now I've tested a system that costs nearly $1000 less but still outclasses that PC's performance by a large margin.