Alienware’s Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 (starts at $1,079; $2,577 as tested) is the company’s flagship AMD-CPU-based gaming desktop. Fully customizable with AMD’s groundbreaking Ryzen 5000 “Renoir” CPUs and your choice of AMD or Nvidia graphics, it can be anything from an entry-level esports tower to a 4K screamer. Though our topped-out tester’s performance leaves no room for complaint, its plastic build quality and loud cooling fans miss the mark. At least the R10’s competitive pricing softens the blow. Provided its sci-fi visuals aren’t too otherworldly for you, this Alienware is still a solid, safe choice for a mid-tower gaming rig, though the Corsair Vengeance i7200 remains our top pick in this price range.
Close Encounters of the Alienware Kind
Sci-fi movie buffs looking for a piece of the action will find one with the Aurora Ryzen Edition R10. Its bulbous looks are distinctly Alienware—there’s nary a straight edge to be found. The tower could easily fit in a futuristic movie set.
Naturally, the Aurora’s radical look foregoes universal appeal. Parent company Dell’s XPS Desktop tower is more conventional, though it’s unavailable with AMD processors or the very fastest graphics cards.
My review unit sported Alienware’s Dark Side of the Moon color scheme; the mainly white Lunar Light chassis, a $30 upcharge, adorned the Ryzen-based Aurora the last time we reviewed it, in late 2019. The tower is physically unchanged since then.
The Aurora has less lighting than might be expected from an Alienware tower. The Dark Side of the Moon chassis has just a two-zone front panel with an illuminated ring and an alien-head logo. Lunar Light adopters get a third lighting zone (the vertical Alienware text on the right panel). Lighting colors and patterns are customizable in the Alienware Command Center app, pictured here…
The 34-liter case is large for a mid-tower, at 18.9 by 8.8 by 17 inches (HWD). Everything is plastic apart from its metal internal frame. Competitors like the HP Omen 30L and the Corsair Vengeance i7200 feel of much higher quality, swathed in aluminum and tempered glass. Alienware is one of the few premium gaming brands not to offer see-through case windows.
Inside: Not Much to Look At, But Plenty Serviceable
Getting inside the Aurora entails removing a screw at the back, then pulling the release lever for the left panel. I found replacing the panel unnecessarily difficult; you have to line up the bottom clips precisely.
The interior looks crowded but is quite serviceable. The front 3.5-inch bay and the two bottom 2.5-inch bays are easy to access. Toolless caddies simplify drive swaps.
The power supply is rated for 1,000 watts in this configuration, an upgrade from the base model’s 550 watts. It swings outward on an arm for access to the graphics card and four DDR4 memory slots. The B550 chipset ATX motherboard has one M.2 solid-state drive slot in its lower right corner.
Practicality aside, the interior’s unattractive bare steel and multicolored wires would be unacceptable in a tower this expensive if not for its lack of case windows. As such, the only times you’ll see inside are while performing upgrades or cleaning dust. As a minor knock, the Aurora lacks removable dust filters.
The Alienware’s air intake comes from the power supply fan and another fan behind the front panel. The eight-core Ryzen 7 5800X processor is liquid-cooled by a 120mm top-mounted radiator. There’s one rear fan for exhaust. Intriguingly, the AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT graphics card in my unit sends much of its exhaust through a perforation in the left panel.
Alas, fan noise is one of the Aurora’s pitfalls. The fans seemed to be always running and became even noisier while I was gaming. This is less likely to be a problem in a large area, but in a smaller room where the sound can bounce off walls, I found myself reaching for a headset.
Beyond the customizable lighting, the front panel offers three USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports (the bottommost with Powershare, capable of charging devices when the tower is turned off), a USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C port (also with Powershare), and separate headphone and microphone jacks. Oddly, a headset jack (headphone/microphone combo) is missing.
On the motherboard you’ll find 10 USB-A ports (one version 3.2 Gen 2, three version 3.2 Gen 1, and, for reasons that escape me, six legacy USB 2.0) and one USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 port. Audio jacks are plentiful—microphone, line-in, line-out, coaxial and digital SPDIF, plus side, center, and rear surround.
The Radeon RX 6800 XT offers one HDMI and three DisplayPort video outputs, typical outputs for a high-end, double-slot card these days.
It’s possible to add more connectivity using the empty PCIe x4 slots. Fortunately, the antennas for the Aurora’s wireless card are built into the chassis instead of sticking out. My model’s Killer AX1650x card supports Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.
Beam Me Up: Benchmarking the Ryzen 5000 Aurora
The $2,577 Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 seen here is mightily equipped for 4K gaming with an octo-core Ryzen 7 5800X (3.8GHz base, up to 4.7GHz boost), a 16GB Radeon RX 6800 XT card, 32GB of dual-channel DDR4 memory, a 1TB NVMe SSD for its Windows 10 Home operating system, and a 2TB hard drive. Something Alienware doesn’t offer in the Aurora as I type this are PCI Express 4.0 solid-state drives, although it’s advertised to support them. PCIe 4.0 drives should have been part of the technology refresh to take full advantage of AMD’s latest platform.
Alienware is one of the few major brands that offers a high-end AMD gaming desktop. Corsair is another with its $2,499 Vengeance a7200, though it has just 16GB of RAM and sticks with a GeForce RTX 3070. The Intel field includes Alienware’s own Aurora R11, which I priced at $3,309 online with a Core i9-10900K and GeForce RTX 3080. Adding that same card to my Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 brought it to just $2,871. I also found the HP Omen 30L for $2,989 on Amazon with a Core i9-10850K and GeForce RTX 3080. All in all, the Aurora I’m testing is more than competitively priced.
I only wish its standard warranty were longer than one year. Upgrading to two or three years of coverage is worthwhile on a tower this pricey. Dell offers monthly support subscriptions in case you don’t want to pay extra cash up front, though they can be more expensive in the long term. (For instance, the standalone two-year warranty is $195; the $9.79 monthly subscription would work out to $235 over the same period.)
If you’re on a budget, you might consider the $1,079 base model of the Aurora Ryzen Edition R10; its six-core Ryzen 5 5600X is promising, but the rest of its loadout—an anemic 3GB Radeon RX 5300, a paltry 8GB of memory, and an old-school 1TB hard drive instead of an SSD—make it just a tease. Moderate upgrades to a 6GB GeForce RTX 3060 Ti, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD plus 1TB hard drive combo bring it to $1,734. Factory customization is an important selling point for the Aurora.
For our benchmark tests, I compared the Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 to the gaming desktops listed below. They’re all heavy hitters with eight- or 10-core processors and top-shelf graphics. The only one that hasn’t been mentioned in this review already is the RoboCop-like MSI Aegis Ti5, which might be the only PC here to out-outrageous this one on design.
Dell doesn’t offer factory CPU overclocking on the Aurora Ryzen Edition R10. Manual overclocking is possible using the Alienware Command Center app, but I left all settings at their default values for our benchmarks. (Based on our overclocking experience with the Ryzen 5000 chips, expect minimal gains; these chips are pushed almost as far as they can go from the factory.)
Storage, Media, and CPU Tests
Our first benchmark is UL’s PCMark 10, an overall system performance assessment that simulates different real-world productivity and content-creation workflows. The Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 scored an exceptional 8,431 points, more than double what we consider a fine score and well above the MSI’s 7,566 points and the Dell XPS Tower’s 7,106 points. (There’s no bar chart since the other units failed to complete the test, which occasionally happens with high-end hardware. See more about how we test desktops.)
Next are two CPU-centric tests: Cinebench R15 stresses all available processor cores and threads while rendering a complex image, while in our Handbrake video editing test we see how long it takes to transcode a 12-minute 4K video down to 1080p.
Although its Ryzen 7 5800X has two fewer cores than its Core i9 competitors, the Aurora kept up fine, and blew away the eight-core Core i7 XPS. This matches what we’ve seen when reviewing these processors.
The final test in this section involves photo editing: We use an early 2018 release of Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud to apply 10 complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG image, timing each operation and adding up the total. This test is not as CPU-focused as Cinebench or Handbrake, bringing the performance of the storage subsystem, memory, and GPU into play.
The R10 did well here, just a few seconds off the pace.
Graphics and Gaming Tests
Our first two benchmarks in this section use gaming simulations to assess a system’s 3D performance. In UL’s 3DMark, we run two DirectX 11 tests, Sky Diver (lightweight, capable of running on integrated graphics) and Fire Strike (more demanding, for gaming PCs). Unigine Corp.’s Superposition uses a different rendering engine to produce and pan through a complex 3D scene.
Its Ryzen processor gave the Aurora R10 a huge advantage in the 3DMark tests; it even bested the GeForce RTX 3090-equipped Aurora R11. Realistically, however, the Superposition 1080p test shows that its Radeon RX 6800 XT is on par with the GeForce RTX 3080 GPU in the Corsair and MSI towers.
Our last tests involve real games. We use the built-in benchmarks in Far Cry 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider at three different screen resolutions; Far Cry 5 uses DirectX 11, while we flip the Lara Croft adventure to DirectX 12.
The story is similar; the Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 is on par with the Corsair and MSI towers and the Aurora R11 is barely leading. Its numbers are stellar for 4K gaming.
That said, these are just two games. If you plan to spend for a top-end GPU, read our full Radeon RX 6800 XT review to figure out if it’s a better choice for you than the GeForce RTX 3080.
High-End AMD Gaming With Compromise
The Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 is a great example of how well AMD’s latest platform performs, outshining Alienware’s own Intel-based Aurora R11 while costing less. That’s the definition of a win-win.
That said, this Alienware’s plastic construction doesn’t feel very premium, facing stiff competition from the aluminum and tempered-glass towers usually found in its lofty price range. Its cooling fans could also be quieter. But neither of those issues is a showstopper, especially if you’re after a unique look and AMD’s latest silicon. Competitively priced and factory-customizable, the Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 is a reasonable, if not outstanding, pick among high-end gaming mid-towers.
Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 (2021) Specs
|Processor||AMD Ryzen 7 5800X|
|Processor Speed||3.8 GHz|
|RAM (as Tested)||32 GB|
|Boot Drive Type||SSD|
|Boot Drive Capacity (as Tested)||1 TB|
|Secondary Drive Type||Hard Drive|
|Secondary Drive Capacity (as Tested)||2 TB|
|Graphics Card||AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT|
|Operating System||Windows 10 Home|