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CES 2020 | Dell Alienware UFO is a Nintendo Switch running Windows 10

Dell Alienware wants to make its own Nintendo Switch running Windows 10
Dell Alienware wants to make its own Nintendo Switch running Windows 10
The Alienware prototype, codenamed "UFO", is a portable 8-inch FHD tablet with detachable controllers designed to play PC games locally while on the go. If you ever wanted a Switch but with PC games instead of Nintendo games, then this concept might tickle your fancy.
Allen Ngo, 🇩🇪

CES is a great time for showing off not just products ready for launch, but also proof of concepts. As a first for Dell in Las Vegas, the manufacturer will be displaying three products in their early development stages to gauge user feedback and interest before further investment. These units may not see the light of day or they may even be rebooted as completely different products altogether depending on market trends, but having the chance to play around with unfinished designs is definitely a rare opportunity we didn't want to miss.

Dell Alienware handheld connected to a 65 W USB Type-C Dell docking station and an external monitor in mirror mode
Dell Alienware handheld connected to a 65 W USB Type-C Dell docking station and an external monitor in mirror mode

So, what is the Dell Alienware UFO handheld?

Of the three concepts Dell has on show this year, the handheld Alienware PC is probably the most intriguing and off-the-wall. Called the UFO, the device is essentially a Windows 10 PC crammed into a Nintendo Switch chassis. It even carries detachable "Joy Cons" that communicate to the main display portion via RF. Users can mirror or extend the display via USB Type-C or play PC titles locally while on-the-go.

The rear of the Alienware handheld has a large stand for propping up the unit similar to the Switch. But unlike the Switch, Dell's version is much sturdier and it can allow for multiple angles as well. Despite being larger and with noticeably louder fan noise than the Nintendo, the UFO is lighter than it looks and more comfortable to grip because of its larger controls.

Ready-to-play prototype unit running F1 2019 directly off Steam
Ready-to-play prototype unit running F1 2019 directly off Steam
Large rear stand makes the puny stand on the Nintendo Switch look like a cheap knockoff
Large rear stand makes the puny stand on the Nintendo Switch look like a cheap knockoff
RGB LED rings around the joysticks can change colors depending on what is occurring onscreen or during gameplay. Low life, for example, can cause the lights to flash red
RGB LED rings around the joysticks can change colors depending on what is occurring onscreen or during gameplay. Low life, for example, can cause the lights to flash red
Back of the "Joy Con" shows a button to detach the controller
Back of the "Joy Con" shows a button to detach the controller

What are the specifications?

Dell isn't ready to share any specifics as to what will power the handheld especially since the project is still a work-in-progress. Its current dimensions and weight will almost surely change over time as well. Nonetheless, we can deduce what Dell is targeting based on our time with the unit on show. The entire kit was connected to a standard Dell USB Type-C docking station providing 65 W of power to the handheld. According to one of the engineers, the current iteration does not utilize an Intel Core H CPU or even a GeForce GPU. Thus, our best guess is a high-end Intel Ice Lake CPU or a Ryzen and Radeon RX Vega 10 equivalent. The latest Razer Blade Stealth with Ice Lake, for example, is powered by a 65 W AC adapter.

The demo unit was running F1 2019 at seemingly smooth frame rates albeit at low settings with plenty of noticeable aliasing on the external monitor. Based on our benchmark experience with the title, these results are most indicative of an Ice Lake Iris Plus GPU or a GeForce MX250 equivalent.

"Joy Cons" detached showing the main touchscreen portion.
"Joy Cons" detached showing the main touchscreen portion.
There are actually two USB Type-C ports - one on the bottom and one on top
There are actually two USB Type-C ports - one on the bottom and one on top
Cooling will be a bigger priority compared to the Switch as evident by the larger ventilation grilles
Cooling will be a bigger priority compared to the Switch as evident by the larger ventilation grilles
A large fan can be seen underneath the signature Alienware honeycomb grilles
A large fan can be seen underneath the signature Alienware honeycomb grilles

Why develop an Alienware handheld?

Manufacturers like Razer have dipped their toes in Switch-like Android gaming devices in the past with little to no success. Still, Dell says there is demand for a handheld Windows 10 gaming PC based on its own research and focus groups. Such a product can potentially appeal to hardcore PC gamers who may find the typical pay-to-win smartphone games or Nintendo games unattractive.

Right "Joy Con" controller. There are no rails unlike on the Switch controllers - you simply snap the controller on and off
Right "Joy Con" controller. There are no rails unlike on the Switch controllers - you simply snap the controller on and off
The Alienware controllers have fewer buttons than on the Switch, but they are larger with bigger joysticks for a more comfortable grip
The Alienware controllers have fewer buttons than on the Switch, but they are larger with bigger joysticks for a more comfortable grip
The Alienware system has its own version of the Switch Charging Grip for connecting the two "Joy Cons" into a controller
The Alienware system has its own version of the Switch Charging Grip for connecting the two "Joy Cons" into a controller
Our early impressions indicate that Dell is aiming for the feel and grip of an XBox controller
Our early impressions indicate that Dell is aiming for the feel and grip of an XBox controller

Does an Alienware handheld gaming PC make any sense?

This is the million-dollar question and the main reason why Dell is unveiling the proof-of-concept at CES. Will gamers eat up an Ice Lake-powered handheld Windows PC the same way they've accepted the Nvidia Tegra-powered Nintendo Switch?

In our opinion, we think it's too tough of a sell unless if Dell can price it right against the Switch and shrink the bezels. The system is quite large for a handheld and the advent of game streaming services Nvidia GeForce Now, Microsoft XCloud, Playstation Remote Play, and Steam Remote Play can render the Alienware handheld pointless. For example, you can pair an XBox controller to your smartphone and stream your Steam library to accomplish what Dell is trying to do locally with this prototype. Alienware products have a tendency to be overpriced at launch which would make the proposed handheld even less attractive. If Dell can promise the performance of a Core i7 Ultrabook with Thunderbolt 3 docking options in this small of a form factor, however, then it might be a niche worth exploring.

Of course, Dell isn't fully committed to a consumer-ready version just yet. Now is the time to let Dell know how you feel about the concept of a handheld Windows PC, what your wish list of features may be, or if it's even worth their time and resources.

Target prices and launch dates are still unknown. Dell isn't even sure what accessories or docks should be included in the packaging yet
Target prices and launch dates are still unknown. Dell isn't even sure what accessories or docks should be included in the packaging yet
The Alienware handheld can become much more versatile should Dell decide to integrate Thunderbolt 3 connectivity
The Alienware handheld can become much more versatile should Dell decide to integrate Thunderbolt 3 connectivity
Same familiar polycarbonate chassis materials as the Alienware m15/m17 and Area-51m
Same familiar polycarbonate chassis materials as the Alienware m15/m17 and Area-51m
The thick side bezels will need to be smaller for easier carrying and traveling
The thick side bezels will need to be smaller for easier carrying and traveling
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2019 12 > Dell Alienware UFO is a Nintendo Switch running Windows 10
Allen Ngo, 2020-01- 6 (Update: 2020-01- 6)
Allen Ngo
Allen Ngo - US Editor in Chief
After graduating with a B.S. in environmental hydrodynamics from the University of California, I studied reactor physics to become licensed by the U.S. NRC to operate nuclear reactors. There's a striking level of appreciation you gain for everyday consumer electronics after working with modern nuclear reactivity systems astonishingly powered by computers from the 80s. When I'm not managing day-to-day activities and US review articles on Notebookcheck, you can catch me following the eSports scene and the latest gaming news.