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Lifewire / Erika Rawes
Speedy 10th Gen Intel processor
Several customization options
Liquid or air cooling available
Exceptional build quality
High-end configurations are pricey
Puts out substantial heat
Noisy at times
With a 10th Gen Intel Core processor, optional liquid cooling, and dual NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti cards in the highest level model, the Alienware Aurora R11 is an absolute monster.
On paper, the Alienware Aurora R11 gaming PC looks like a winner. With a 10th generation Intel processor and a multitude of configuration options, the R11 lets you choose an up-to-date PC that fits in your price range now, and then upgrade later on. The Dell subsidiary's latest beast comes in six main configurations, ranging from a base model (priced at $930) all the way up to a top tier model that includes two graphics cards (priced at $4,956). I tested the Alienware Aurora R11 for two weeks, evaluating its design, performance, gameplay, audio, network performance, software, upgradability, and cooling. Is the Alienware Aurora R11 a worthwhile investment? Here’s my full review.
The Aurora R11 is extremely customizable, and you can choose exactly the components you want. You can select either a 10th Gen Core i5, i7, or i9 processor, and for graphics, you can get the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 SUPER if you go for the base model, or go all the way up to two (yes, two!) NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti cards in the highest tier model.
In some of the lower-tier models, you can opt for an AMD card. In the second tier, you can swap out an AMD Radeon RX 5700 (8GB GDDR6) graphics card for the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 (6GB GDDR6) at no additional cost. You can choose your chassis, liquid or air cooling, different wattages, single or dual drives, and different amounts and types of storage.
I tested the second-tier model with the 10th Gen Intel Core i7 10700F, the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 (6GB GDDR6), 16 GB of RAM, dual drives (256GB SSD + 1TB SATA), and the Dark Side of the Moon chassis with Low-Profile Smart Cooling CPU Heatsink and 550W Power Supply. The model I tested had air cooling, but you can get liquid cooling in this model for as little as $20 added to the base price.
While some gaming PC towers boast bold designs with transparent glass, RGB fans, and enough colors to make you feel like you’re at a rave, the Aurora R11 takes a much different design approach. The R11 is unassuming—not too flashy and not too loud. It's elegant and simple in appearance with subtle strips of lighting on the front trim of the oblong chassis. This looks like a computer for someone with refined taste, as opposed to a colorful spectacle.
The front is reminiscent of a jet engine, with a raised front panel surrounded by venting slots. The Aurora R11 is large, and takes up a significant amount of space when placed on top of a desk. Clocking in at 17 x 8.8 x 18.9 inches, this is a tower you’d want to place under your desk. I placed it under my desk, but used a lift to help keep the tower off of the floor.
The Aurora R11 comes in two different chassis color options: A lunar light chassis and a dark side of the moon chassis. The dark side of the moon chassis is all black, while the lunar light option is white with a black front panel. When you power on the R11, the RGB halo ring illuminates around the front panel, and the Alienware symbol lights up. The Alienware symbol doubles as the power button, and you can tune its color, tune how it blinks, and create Macros for specific games. I created a fun blinking Macro for Destiny 2, then quickly got distracted by it and got rid of it. You can, however, set a macro to dim things down while playing and amp it up other times.
There are ports galore on this rig. It has multiple USB ports, and it even has USB-C ports. One of the front USB ports has PowerShare, which is a nice feature for charging devices.
The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 (6GB GDDR6) has a base clock of 1,365 MHz. The card is OC ready though, so it’s built for overclocking. It supports a maximum resolution of up to 7680 x 4320. The card also supports VR, and multiple monitors (up to four).
The Aurora R11 doesn’t include a monitor in the package. I connected the R11 to the FreeSync and G-Sync compatible Asus VG245H gaming monitor, which is a 24-inch 1920 x 1080 monitor with a max refresh rate of 144 Hz. Colors displayed as expected, and the text was sharp and clear. Videos ran smoothly, and I didn’t encounter any issues whatsoever with the display quality, nor any of the video port connections.
I was impressed with the R11’s overall performance, especially considering the model I tested is one of the more affordable configurations. Boot times are fast, and it jumps around different applications at lightning speed. It scored admirably in benchmark testing, clocking a single-core score of 4403 and a multi-core score of 33335 on Geekbench 3. On PCMark 10, it scored a 6692, which was better than 92% of all results. It scored highest in essentials and digital content creation and slightly lower in productivity.
When I connected a hard drive to one of the fast USB ports, games loaded up with impressive efficiency. The Aurora R11 was able to handle pretty much anything I threw at it.
Boot times are fast, and it jumps around different applications at lightning speed.
Although the rig I tested is a lower level Alienware Aurora R11 model, this is by no means a lower level gaming desktop. I would say it’s an upper-to-mid range, as it deftly handled most games on the highest level settings. The first game I tested was Destiny 2, not the most graphically intensive game but no slouch either, and it can definitely lag on some machines during intense action sequences. With the vsync cap set at 60, I turned Destiny 2 up to its highest setting, and it ran at a solid 60 FPS throughout.
Next, I ran Far Cry 5, and the R11 rose to the occasion again. The R11 handled Far Cry 5’s internal benchmark and maintained lag-free gaming on the ultra settings (staying at least at 60 FPS). In fact, during the internal benchmark on ultra, it ran an average of 98 FPS, with a low of 72 and a high of 115.
The R11 handled fighting games with ease. I tested Tekken 7 on Ultra, and it ran it consistently at 58 to 59 FPS. I also decided to give A Total War Saga: Troy a try too. This ran on ultra settings with no issue at all, even in the largest battles. Zooming in and out was smooth and fast, and the game ran absolutely flawlessly.
There was only one game, Kingdom Come: Deliverance, where I saw the slightest bit of strain on the R11 on the highest settings. I noticed a bit of slow rendering, and the fan speed really kicked up. Even still, there was no stuttering or lagging, and Deliverance is notorious for not being particularly well optimized.
The R11 has its moments—I did notice that the fans ramped at times, and I noticed a bit more warm air coming from the system on a few occasions. Of course, there are bound to be some games out there that could push the R11 to its limits, but nothing seemed to stop this beast during any game I threw at it.
The R11 handled Far Cry 5’s internal benchmark, and it maintained lag-free gaming on the ultra settings.
The Aurora R11 is designed as a gaming PC, but you could absolutely use it for work. Since this PC has ample processing power and gaming-grade graphics, you could also use it for photo or video editing. The R11 includes a free keyboard and optical mouse, but you have to specifically indicate that you want those free options. Otherwise, you’ll just get the tower and power cord.
The R11 has a number of options for audio sources, including ports for connecting a microphone, headphones, and surround sound speakers. It even has an optical audio port. You should have no problem finding an audio solution that fits your needs. The R11 doesn’t include speakers in the box, but it does have integrated 7.1 channel audio (with SPDIF port).
The R11 includes the Dell Wireless DW1810 802.11ac Wireless card (Wi-Fi, Wireless LAN, and Bluetooth 5.0). For $20 added to the price, you can upgrade to the Killer AX1650 (2x2) 802.11ax Wireless Card and get Bluetooth 5.1 and Wi-Fi 6 capability.
The model I tested had the baseline Wi-Fi adapter without Wi-Fi 6, but still worked exceptionally well. In my home, my Wi-Fi speed maxes out at 400 Mbps. The R11 clocked a Wi-Fi speed of 320 Mbps, according to Ookla.
As long as you have a good router, the R11 will hold a great connection for gaming. I often have trouble with 5G networks in my house, but this adapter was rock solid, and I could maintain a stable 5G connection. Of course, you can also choose to hardwire and connect an Ethernet cable if you prefer.
Like most gaming PCs, the R11 runs on Windows 10 Home. You can opt for additional software like Microsoft Office and McAfee antivirus protection while you’re customizing the PC during purchase.
The R11 also includes Alienware Command Center, which is one of the more useful applications. This proprietary app allows you to tune and create custom profiles for different games and programs. You can create special light settings for the tower, view your temperature history, adjust thermal settings for your fan or liquid cooling, customize audio tuning settings, set up power schedules, and more. Gamers can also view overclock settings for their GPU.
Another application, Alienware Mobile Connect, lets you connect your PC to your mobile device. You can do things like a text from the application, make calls, access images and contacts, and mirror your screen.
The R11 comes in air cooled or liquid cooled configurations. I tested an air-cooled configuration. There’s a fan in the front that sucks air into the PC, and then there’s larger venting along the top and sides that helps push the air through the PC to cool down the processors. The fans are strategically placed for the optimal airflow, with a fan on the top that helps promote air circulation.
The R11 is not quite as easy to open as a chassis with an easy-remove glass side panel, but it still offers easy upgradability. The tower opens with a lock and latch system that releases the side panel. Once you remove the side panel, you can move the power supply out of the way so you can better access the internals.
This is a system that will be easy to keep up to date. There’s room inside of the R11 for additional drives, and the configuration I tested supports up two more 2.5-inch hard drives with the spaces empty and ready to go.
If you opt for the liquid-cooled unit, your upgrading options could be more limited simply because it might be more difficult to find compatible parts. That is, unless you plan to stick with Alienware gear over the long run.
The price of your R11 is going to vary widely depending on how much you want to put into it. You can get an Aurora R11 for under a grand though. The R11 configuration I tested retails for $1410, but it was $30 less because the test model included the lower tier chassis (without RGB lighting in the word “Alienware” along the side). For the lower tier models, the prices are reasonable, and you can upgrade the PC later on.
For the higher tier models, the prices are steep. The highest tier R11 costs just under five grand. For that price, many people would be happier building their own rig.
The HP Omen Obelisk has a clean design, with sharp lines and angles and a glass side panel. It’s very different from the R11’s oval-shaped jet engine style. The Obelisk comes in different configurations, and the lowest tier model is $900 (comparable to the lowest tier Aurora R11). The lowest tier Obelisk includes the AMD Ryzen5 3500 Processor and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 (6 GB), while the lowest tier Aurora includes a 10th gen Intel i5 processor and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 SUPER 4GB GDDR6. The Aurora R11 has 10th gen Intel processors in all of its configurations, and it offers the option for a much higher level system.
A powerhouse gaming PC with options galore.
The Aurora R11 could replace its predecessor as the best gaming desktop of the year.
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