Hands on: Alienware Concept UFO Review

PC gaming meets the Nintendo Switch in this potentially game-changing concept device

First Impressions

The Alienware Concept UFO is a very exciting prototype, giving a PC gaming system the portable strengths of the Nintendo Switch. But with so many uncertainties, it’s far too early to say whether this will be a real game-changer.

Key Specifications

  • 8-inch 1920×1200 display
  • Unknown specs
  • Ports: Headphone jack, 2x USB-C

What is the Alienware Concept UFO?

The Alienware Concept UFO is – as its title suggests – a concept device from PC gaming brand Alienware that may or may not become available to the public at a later date. This product is so left field from what Alienware usually produces that the company wants to gauge the excitement and interest in the prototype before committing to an official launch. 

But what actually is the Alienware Concept UFO? The most simple way to describe it, is a gaming PC in Nintendo Switch form. This is a handheld gaming device that runs Windows 10 – full-fat Windows 10 at that – so you can access all your PC game libraries from Steam, Epic Games Store and so on. This also means the portable isn’t restricted to gaming, but can be used as a regular portable computer, just as long as you attach an external keyboard. 

Of course, this is still very much a concept rather than a consumer-ready device. Alienware remains tight-lipped on specs, and a retail price hasn’t even been decided on, but the idea of being able to play PC games on Switch-esque portable is certainly an exciting premise. 

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Alienware Concept UFO

Alienware Concept UFO price – How much will it cost?

The Alienware Concept UFO is just a prototype for now, so not only does it not have a price attached to it, but it’s not even guaranteed to become available to buy.

If it does eventually launch, it is likely to be very expensive, with Dell suggesting it will have “gaming notebook specs”. Alienware’s traditional gaming laptops usually cost well over £1000, so the same could apply here, making it incredibly more expensive than the Nintendo Switch, PS4 or Xbox One.

Alienware Concept UFO release date – When will it launch?

The Alienware Concept UFO doesn’t have an official release date, and may never have one. This is currently just a concept device, as Dell plans to judge the public’s response and feedback before committing to a launch.

If the reception is good, and Dell do ultimately decide to move forwards with the Alienware Concept UFO, you’ll still have to wait a long time for it to arrive.

Alienware Concept UFO

Hands on: Alienware Concept UFO review

In December 2019, Dell flew me out to get a hands-on time with a number of the products it plans to unveil at CES 2020. Among those new products were refreshes to the Dell XPS 13 and Latitude line-ups, as well as a slew of new monitors. The most exciting device, however, was easily the Alienware Concept UFO. 

The Alienware Concept UFO is essentially a gaming tablet device with two detachable controllers. This design allows for three different play methods: handheld mode, kickstand mode and hooked up to a television via USB-C cable. Sound familiar? Yup, it’s impossible not to make comparisons to the Nintendo Switch. 

The Alienware Concept UFO can’t mimic the Switch with every play style though, as the detachable controllers lack their own power supply in order to be used independently – they need to be connected to either the tablet or the bundled bridge connector, which sees the controllers turn into a traditional gamepad. 

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Alienware Concept UFO

The buttons are all satisfyingly clicky, and have the same layout as – you guessed it – the Switch, with an analogue stick on either side, a D-pad and four forward-facing buttons which look as if they’ve been plucked off an Xbox One pad. 

There are also four shoulder buttons, with the back triggers seeing a lot travel, which makes them ideal for first-person shooters and the like. They felt comfortable under my index fingers as I squeezed down to accelerate my F1 race car. 

Despite the many similarities, it would be a disservice to call the Alienware Concept UFO a mere Switch clone capable of playing PC games. This is a very different beast which will appeal to a very different market. 

Firstly, Concept UFO is likely going to be more powerful than the Switch. Dell refused to comment on specs – which are probably not even finalised – but did say it will offer a “gaming notebook level performance”. At its CES 2020 presentation, Dell did confirm the Concept UFO uses an Intel Core 10th Generation chip, although it’s unclear whether that will be an Ice Lake or Comet Lake variant. 

If the former, then there’s a chance the Alienware Concept UFO won’t feature a dedicated GPU, and will instead rely on the processor’s integrated graphics. This would limit the performance power of the device, as testing with the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1’s Ice Lake chip showed it struggled to run modern AAA games even with game settings lowered.

However, with Dell refusing to talk specs right now, there’s still every chance this portable will feature a dedicated GPU, with the likes Nvidia’s 16 Series or AMD’s 5500 series graphics cards a potentially good fit. 

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Alienware Concept UFO

Such performance power would be a game-changer for the handheld market, but also comes at a cost. The Alienware Concept UFO is significantly bigger than the Switch, rocking an 8-inch screen opposed to Ninty’s 6.2-inch panel. This makes the Alienware Concept UFO less ideal for pulling out of a bag and playing at a bus stop. 

Holding it, the Concept UFO did feel a tad clunky when wrapping my hands around the sides, but it’s something I could definitely get used to. It’s obviously heavier than a Switch, but not to the extent it would ever strain my hands or arms after extended use. 

With all this in mind, I don’t see the Concept UFO being a portable to accompany me on commutes. This feels like a device to play while sat on the living room sofa or over at a friend/parent’s house, similar to how you’d use a gaming laptop. 

Alienware Concept UFO

There’s an obvious benefit to having a bigger display, affording those blockbuster titles more screen space on which to dazzle. Dell revealed the resolution is capped to 1920 x 1200, which sees the Alienware Concept UFO capable of presenting games in Full HD. Alienware refused to confirm whether the screen has a higher refresh rate than 60Hz, but it would be an important factor for appealing to competitive gamers. 

How did the games look on screen? Good. Dell purposefully chose two fast-moving games in Mortal Kombat 11 and F1 2019 to demonstrate how great games look on the Concept UFO. But when I connected the device to an external monitor via USB-C and saw the picture blown up to fit the larger screen size, I did notice the image quality became noticeably pixelated. 

The process of hooking the Alienware Concept UFO to an external monitor is very easy at least. You don’t need a docking station, just a USB-C cable to link the two. This does mean you won’t be able to link up old monitors or TVs that don’t feature a USB-C port though, unless you use a hub as a go-between. 

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Alienware Concept UFO

Understandably, the Concept UFO device lacks a USB-A port, so you’ll also need a USB hub in order to link up most wired peripherals. If you do want to connect a keyboard or mouse to the Concept UFO, you’re far better off going wireless with Bluetooth. And let’s be honest, this portable is more suited to games that don’t require a keyboard and mouse setup. 

While the Alienware Concept UFO is clearly designed for gaming, it’s actually a lot more versatile than the likes of the Switch. Featuring full-fat Windows 10, this device is capable of anything a standard clam-shell laptop is.

It may not be the ideal device for typing up essays since you’ll need to hook up a keyboard, but I can definitely see it being a worthwhile option for watching Netflix, YouTube or even accessing Google Stadia. It almost feels like a gamified Surface Go, especially with the pull out kickstand on the rear.

Should you buy the Alienware Concept UFO?

Sadly, you can’t buy the Alienware Concept UFO – at least for now. Dell will garner the public’s response to this handheld device before deciding to take the plunge and launch it. 

The good news is that this is a very similar situation to the Alienware 55 OLED Gaming Monitor, which Dell initially revealed as a concept during CES 2019, and then went on to officially launch later in the year. Dell did make a few tweaks to the massive monitor in that time though, which suggests the Concept UFO may too undergo changes if it does eventually become available to the public. 

With so many uncertainties in play – including price, specs and battery life – it’s impossible to say whether this will be worth the buy. What I can say is the Alienware Concept UFO is a very exciting device which scratches an itch no other current device can. 

Early verdict

The Alienware Concept UFO is a very exciting prototype, giving a PC gaming system the portable strengths of the Nintendo Switch. But with so many uncertainties, it’s far too early to say whether this will be a real game-changer. 

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