Alienware's Concept Nyx home streaming box and its Concept Polaris external GPU box have me confused. These are both ideas of products that have already existed for many years, in fact Alienware already had an external GPU box it shipped back in 2014, this just seems to have a different design. Either it's me just not getting it, or I'm not sure Alienware understands the concept of concept designs.
But it's a CES tradition to show off some new tech your designers have been working on in their spare time, tech that probably won't ever see the light of day. Razer's Project Valerie is always the one that comes to my mind, partly because the idea of having two extra fold-out screens attached to your laptop is plain nuts, but mostly because the prototype of its triple screen laptop vanished in a puff of logic when some light-fingered CES-goer wandered off with it. Alienware has always been one to bring the not-for-sale shinies to CES, too. Case in point, the Concept UFO handheld gaming PC from a few years ago.
If the Steam Deck does what Valve says it will do to the handheld gaming PC ecosystem, I wouldn't be surprised to see that one come out of mothballs and be unleashed to the public. For a price.
These new CES 2022 concepts, however, just leave me cold. The Concept Polaris basically looks like it's just Alienware's new eGPU caddy, using the same design notes as its Aurora PCs and modern gaming laptops. I mean, it looks great—all curvy and compact—but thematically not that different from other Thunderbolt-y eGPU boxes we've seen over the years.
To me, that's a preview not a 'concept'.
Requiring a pair of external AC adapters is kinda new though, I guess. It means you can save space inside because you don't have an SFF PSU in there taking up valuable space, and also means you can jam in super powerful GPUs, but it also means you then have two power bricks to deal with.
But it is still just an external GPU box, and nothing particularly mind-blowing.
Then there's Concept Nyx, which comes out blazing with the bold claim of smashing "space-time boundaries" though in actual fact just seems to be a local game streaming box. Something which you more than likely already have on a desktop near you; it's called a gaming PC.
Though apparently the Alienware concept is designed to deal with "one of the most common and frustrating problems—having multiple gamers under one roof competing for access to their favorite titles and totally crushing Wi-Fi bandwidth."
I mean, who hasn't heard that one a million times before?
"Then there’s the medium: if you’re playing on a PC and want to seamlessly switch to the TV, the very idea is a ridiculous fantasy.
"Or is it???"
Well, no it's not.
As Hope pointed out, there have been many solutions over the years to that particular issue, with Steam's own In-Home Streaming service one that will let you switch between your gaming rig and any device capable of hosting Steam or the Steam Link app.
Nvidia's GameStream is arguably the closest to Alienware's concept of a local game streaming box, using a GeForce GPU to stream directly to another laptop, PC, Android TV box, mobile phone, or tablet to pick up where you left off at your desk. That's how I've been playing my beloved Football Manager for years; hosted on my main rig, but then if I'm downstairs away from my desk I'll switch to my laptop without reloading or missing a beat.
The more interesting side of the Concept Nyx setup, however, is this idea of multiple users having access to separate accounts within one library, with apparently up to four players streaming from one Nyx box.
This is the more complicated bit, and also the part that Alienware says the least about. After all, it is just a concept, and you don't have to explain a concept.
Though it says it's going to be further developing Concept Nyx in the future, so we'll have to wait and see what tech it's using to split the GPU, CPU, and memory resources of its game streaming box to facilitate four users playing at the same time.
But still, I can't help but feel the raw concept of local game streaming isn't particularly ground-breaking in 2022, and in the end that leaves Alienware's CES prototype offerings feeling a little limp.
I want some innovation in my concepts, I want to see that'll-never-work ideas I've not seen before. I want product prototypes so left field they're in an entirely different field altogether, not something that we've been able to do for years but in a slightly snazzier suit.
So yeah, my verdict on Alienware's CES 2022 concepts? Must blue-sky-out-of-the-box-opposite-thinking-innovate harder.
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Dave has been gaming since the days of Zaxxon and Lady Bug on the Colecovision, and code books for the Commodore Vic 20 (Death Race 2000!). He built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 16, and finally finished bug-fixing the Cyrix-based system around a year later. When he dropped it out of the window. He first started writing for Official PlayStation Magazine and Xbox World many decades ago, then moved onto PC Format full-time, then PC Gamer, TechRadar, and T3 among others. Now he's back, writing about the nightmarish graphics card market, CPUs with more cores than sense, gaming laptops hotter than the sun, and SSDs more capacious than a Cybertruck.