A Closer Look At Alienware's Concept UFO Switch-Like PC Gaming Device
Hands-On With The Alienware Concept UFO
Alienware and Dell are always at CES 2020, and this year they came with something that caught our eye: the Concept UFO. It's essentially a Nintendo Switch for PC gaming. While it's only a prototype, we were able to test it out playing a few games like Mortal Kombat 11 and F1 2019 and tried out some of its Switch-like features.
The Alienware Concept UFO runs as a Windows 10 PC and is powered by an Intel 10th-generation processor. It sports an 8-inch touchscreen, and during our demo time, games were running at 720p resolution. Similar to the Switch, the UFO comes with a docking station that connects through USB-C and lets you use TVs and monitors with HDMI. Performance and fan noise left a bit to be desired, but it's ergonomically sound if you're fine with bigger handheld devices.
We take a deeper look at the Alienware Concept UFO in this gallery and examine it from different angles for detailed breakdown of our hands-on experience. And for more on CES 2020, you can check out our stories below:
Screen Size, Resolution, Ergonomics
With an 8-inch screen, the Alienware Concept UFO is quite large in comparison to the Nintendo Switch, and feels almost like using a compact tablet with controllers attached to the sides. That's not to say it wasn't comfortable to use, though. The two ends of the controller felt closer to a standard gamepad, giving you a full grip of the device.
Propping Up The UFO
Behind the UFO is a ramp-like backplate that detaches from the top and acts as a kickstand to let you prop it up. What's nice about it is that it uses what feels like a hydraulic system so you can set it to any angle you want, and it's sturdy enough to hold in place without seeming flimsy.
Docking The UFO
The Concept UFO also features a sleek-looking dock where you drop the system onto a USB-C input that charges it and allows for HDMI output to external displays.
Outputting To External Displays
This is a better look at how docking the UFO system works. It didn't shut the screen off however and simply duplicated the display onto a monitor. However, we believe that you can set it to only display to a specific monitor (or even go into dual screen mode) since this is essentially a Windows 10 PC.
Staying Slim As A Switch
Despite the Concept UFO being a PC, it still maintains a very slim profile. Here's a side shot of the system with the controllers detached and sitting in the dock.
Ports And Features
Atop the system is a USB-C port, 3.5mm audio jack, volume buttons, and the power button. You may also notice a few small vents on the left side. This is also another look at how thin the Concept UFO is.
A Closer Look At The Dock
Here's a backside view of the UFO docked, and you can see an HDMI cable, a power cable, and what we believe to be a USB-C cable connected to the controller bridge coming out of it (though the specifics are obscured). The back of the system itself has three hex-shaped vents for its cooling system, too. From our experience, its fan(s) can get very loud, even in an environment with lots of ambient noise.
What The UFO Controller Is Like
This is what the Concept UFO controller looks like when connected to the bridge, which charges via USB-C. The analog sticks feel smooth and consistent in terms of resistance, though the face buttons and d-pad could be improved. The bottom-right button is a sort of home button that opens up the Xbox Game Bar.
The UFO Bridge, Like A Switch Grip
Here's a backside look at the controller bridge; you see the latches that hold the two ends together, the power button, and a Bluetooth connection button (which is how the controllers bridge communicates with the system).
Triggers, Shoulder Buttons, And Other Features
The top-side of the controller bridge shows its battery life and has volume control. As for the triggers and should buttons, they feel smooth to press down though the triggers don't have much range of motion for pressure-sensitive inputs.
Buttons And Analog Sticks
Here's a closer look at the right analog stick and face buttons, which follow the conventional Xbox-style designations.
Managing Your Game Library
We also had a look at how the Concept UFO would manage your game library. Similar to the Switch interface, your games would come up as large icons lined up horizontally. Alienware said it's trying integrate launching games from different storefronts like Steam and Epic Games. When booting up games from the UFO's system, we would get Steam notifications, meaning its directly connected to your Steam library, making for easier access.
It's impressive that Alienware and Dell were giving hands-on demonstrations with a prototype of the Concept UFO at CES 2020. While some of the designs and functions work as intended, and mimic some of the better aspects of the Nintendo Switch, there are still plenty of questions that need to be addressed if this were to be an actual product made available. Performance is questionable at times, especially with Mortal Kombat 11 considering the lower-end of graphics settings that were used during the demo. Fans were very loud as well and battery life is still up in the air (though it was stated that around three hours is the target range). If this were to come out, pricing would be the biggest question as Alienware products aren't exactly affordable.
Again, there is no planned release date or confirmation as to whether it'll come out or not, but it's an interesting concept and an exciting thing to test out at the show. For more on what came out of CES, be sure to check out all our coverage from CES 2020 and our sister site CNET for a broader look at the future of tech.