Alienware Alpha: Noble Concept, but Falls Flat

alienware-alpha-1920 With all the talk about Steamboxes and comfy living room PC gaming in the last few years, it’s no surprise  so many different companies have started to do their own take on the small form factor market while Valve continues to piddle their thumbs over release dates. The Alpha is longtime boutique builder Alienware’s take on that very same market and device. The company tried to take the compactness and user interface of a console, and blend it with the performance a desktop can give. What we’re left with is an interesting kind of fusion between desktop performance, console ubiquity, with an absolutely tiny and portable form factor. While definitely no “console killer”, it has a couple of neat ideas that definitely warrant some praise, even if not everything is up to snuff just yet.

The Hardware

alienware-3b Under the hood, the baseline Alpha sports a 2.9 Ghz Core i3-4130T, 4 GB of RAM, a 500 GB mechanical hard drive, and an Nvidia Geforce GTX 860M. Surprisingly, the case of the device itself is relatively easy to open access to Individual components, and, again to everyone’s surprise, the CPU can be swapped out and upgraded at any time. All systems also come with a wireless Xbox 360 controller included in the purchase. The mobile  GPU inside the Alpha uses Nvidia’s power efficient Maxwell architecture, and is surprisingly as fast as the ever popular Geforce GTX 750 Ti.  It’s most definitely not the fastest GPU on the market, but it’s  enough to keep up in most games, and performs better than either current gen console. The mechanical hard drive included with the system is a notorious bottleneck however, leading to massive delays in doing simpler things like switching between Alpha UI and Windows, or even just starting the computer. Upgrading to a solid state drive alleviates all these hiccups, but that’s extra cash that could’ve gone towards something else.

RELATED LINK: Something else that money could have been spent on !

The Softwarealienware-alpha-ui-carousel-1

One of the most unique features of the Alienware Alpha is the Alpha UI, which is a custom made shell for Windows 8 designed to emulate the  layout of a console’s UI. The interface can be loaded at system boot up, and can be toggled between standard windows 8 as long as it’s activated.Alpha UI allows for navigation using a controller as well as direct access to Steam’s Big Picture Mode, which further adds to the console like experience . A nice little cosmetic bit is AlienFX, which allows you to change the colors and properties of the system’s backlights  through software. z15-01-alpha-aliencommand-interface

Value: Is It Worth It?

Alienware sells four different models of the Alpha. For each, the majority of the internals stay the same aside from CPU model, RAM, and hard drive space. You start to encounter diminishing returns as you pick the more expensive models for a number of reasons. Herein lies one of my biggest gripes with the system, and the point where my love for it  faded. Alpha Purchase Options This device is built for gaming. Despite that very obviously stated purpose, there are no options for a GPU upgrade whatsoever. For people unaware, a faster GPU is much more important for games than the CPU is. Completely restricting the possibility to upgrade it makes sense from a thermal design standpoint, as the GPU itself has to fit a certain thermal threshold to prevent components from throttling in such a tiny form factor, but really? The Alpha’s current $499 base price is due to sales as well, as the traditional price is $549. At anything above that baseline price, I simply cannot recommend it. At $499, it’s a great value. you get a nice performing computer in an excellently sized package, as well as a full installation of windows, a wireless Xbox 360 keyboard and the antenna to hook it in. After that $549 base price, a self-built computer’s value becomes glaringly evident. It’s a real shame, because there’s a lot to like with the baseline Alpha. For the size it’s a great performer, and the Alpha UI and included controller are nice additions. However, if your focus is gaming with a small PC and you intended to go for one of the more expensive models, you can build substantially faster Mini ITX computers for the same price as the higher end models. The baseline configuration seems like it’d be a great gift for a teen interested in PC gaming but afraid of building a PC their self. Otherwise, your money may be spent better elsewhere.

Topic Blogs Review

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Site: Tom’s Hardware

Editor-in-chief: Fritz Nelson

URL: http://www.tomshardware.com/

Brief description:  A long running and well respected site for news coverage and reviews. It boasts a great forum community, in-depth hardware testing methods, and timely reporting.

Why I like this site: I read news on computer parts a lot from tons of different websites, and Tom’s Hardware has been one of the most reliable sites when it comes to information regarding the subject. They’ve got tons of charts and data when it comes to reviewing things like graphics cards and CPUs, almost dizzyingly so. I’d be lying if I said a few of my PC upgrade purchasing decisions weren’t influenced by their reviews.

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Site: Engadget

Editor-in-chief: Michael Gorman

URL: http://www.engadget.com/

Brief description:  The beautifully designed site layout complements the site’s (usually) well written articles. Engadget covers a plethora of tech topics, from vehicle advancements, to computer parts and even a bit of gaming talk.

Why I like this site: When I was first starting to get into tech, Engadget was referred to me by a friend. It immediately became a favorite site. They don’t cover much for computer parts outside of the massive releases like the Nvidia’s Titan cards, but their coverage on companies like Apple and Tesla has been generally great. Their laptop reviews are really useful as well.

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Site: Anandtech

Editor-in-chief: Ryan Smith

URL: http://www.anandtech.com/

Brief description:  Out of the three sites I’ve listed, this is without a doubt the most professional. Anandtech is filled to the brim with information on computer tech. The site even has an in-depth benchmarking and comparisons tool for all sorts of computer hardware, as well as mobile devices.

Why I like this site: Anandtech is the site I turn to when I want to read about press conferences, or need to compare hardware. The site doesn’t update nearly as frequently as some others, but when it does it gets some nice topics. I’ll admit there has been the occasional random cheap and shoddy item review  that makes me wonder if they’re just trying to fill their post quota for the day, but the majority of the time they’ve got great and informative articles.

 

Live Tweeting: Exam Jam

My “coverage” of the Exam Jam last week. Fewer posts than I would have liked thanks to internet issues while at the event.

Nvidia’s Geforce GTX Titan X: Powerful Performance at a Price

About a week ago, NVidia (NASDAQ: NVDA) released their behemoth Geforce Titan X on the market. Armed with 3072 CUDA cores, an insane 12 gigabytes of VRAM and a 384-bit memory bus, NVidia’s new GPU is hoping to continue the company’s trend of delivering top tier performance and efficiency with their Maxwell architecture. However, like the past three Titan GPUs released before it, this performance comes with a rather hefty price tag.

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In the past, NVidia has marketed their Titan cards as being capable of both work and play. While delivering amazing performance in games, these graphics cards have always carried with them a hefty amount of VRAM along with a higher bandwidth bus than their predecessors in the same GPU family. Along with that, they included unhindered compute performance for programmers and users needing to do intense 3D rendering and other heavy tasks. While some consumers may argue that the $1000 asking price is far too high for a gaming GPU, others believe it serves a nice bridge for those wanting the great gaming performance of a GeForce card along with the compute potential of a significantly more expensive Quadro card.

Now that’s all good and well, but how does it actually perform? The short answer: Pretty damn fast.

PERFORMANCE

On paper, the Titan X appears to be around 25-30% faster than the company’s previous flagship GTX 980. In practice, that seems to be rather true. When it comes to pure single-GPU performance, the card floors its competitors handily with power to spare. While the memory bus seems low for the sheer amount of VRAM is has—384-bit compared to the 512-bit bus on AMD’s (NASDAQ: AMD) 4GB R9 290 and R9 290X—it makes up for it in raw power. The card pushes pixels like no other, resulting in a hefty 40-50% increase in performance over AMD’s flagship R9 290X at resolutions under 4K.

BF4 1440p

from Anandtech’s in-depth review

The numbers don’t lie. NVidia’s latest GPU absolutely flies, but that should be expected at such a high price point. Titans are notoriously expensive and this card is no exception. The R9 295X2—which is two of AMD’s flagship R9 290X GPUs running Crossfire on a single card— is about $300-$400 cheaper while offering similar, if not slightly better performance. Then again, the card also sucks a significant amount of juice from the wall along with taking up much more space inside of a computer’s case (unless you’re using a Powercolor Devil 13 version, that is).

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Powercolor’s Devil 13 is the only R9 295X2 available that doesn’t come with a bulky hybrid water cooler

POWER

Speaking of power, considering all the horsepower that comes along with it, the GTX Titan X surprisingly isn’t too power hungry. Under heavy load it manages just over 300 watts on average, which is about as much as a 290X and amazing for a card with twice the performance of it. While some may argue it’s high compared to other offerings, many don’t realize that we as consumers have finally reached a point where, regardless of what single GPU we get, all have low power requirements. At this point, calling a single-GPU card “power hungry” is strictly relative.

Titan X Power

Benchmark results from techspot.com

For the sheer amount of hardware crammed into the Titan X, the results are crazy.

Overclocking

Hand in hand with power consumption comes everyone’s favorite question: how well can it overclock?

With every big graphics card or CPU release comes power users practically falling over themselves to see who can crank out the highest performance numbers. Nvidia’s Maxwell architecture has proven itself to be amazing when it comes to overclocking, with users reaching an extra 300-400+ Mhz easily in an age where 30-40 Mhz increases are the norm. The Titan X, while not able to reach such extremes as a GTX 980 or 970, can still manage a hefty 1400 Mhz boost clock from its 1000 Mhz base. This results in a pretty significant increase in average frame rates in some games.

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However, the added power strain from this starts to bring to spotlight an issue that I’m sure more and more people are starting to notice over the course of Maxwell’s lifetime; initial power usage numbers may see low, but when put under actual strain, the  wattage increases significantly.

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more images from anantech.com

A single Titan X can pull as much as  two GTX 980s in SLI. While it isn’t anywhere near the huge amounts of power something like the 295X2 can pull, it’s still pretty crazy.

Value and conclusion

Unless you’re a programmer or another type of power user who can take good advantage of the Titan X’s cuda rendering or an unheard of 12 gigs of RAM for a consumer grade GPU, I’ll have to say it’s better to pass on this model. Aside from the strange little fiasco that was the dual GPU Titan Z, every other Titan release has lead to something better/more affordable replacing it less than a few months after. It’d be best to wait for the inevitable GTX 980 Ti  to release, and spend your hard earned money there. $1000 is still much too steep of an asking price for a card that can and will be replaced and dethroned within weeks.

Know Your Audience: Content Summary and Outline

The publication I’ll be writing for will be Hardcenter, a made up site that focuses on computer hardware news and reviews.

Audience

The kind of reader that would view this site would be primarily college-aged young adults interested in computer building, as well as computer builders and enthusiasts in their mid 20s-early 30s. The kinds of readers to be expected would be people who want the latest news on upcoming CPUs, motherboards, graphics cards, power supplies, and PC cases. Someone searching for a new upgrade for their computer or who plans on building a PC from scratch would benefit from our reviews.

They’d be someone like this guy. Let’s name him “Dave.”

dave

Hello, Dave!

Purpose

The news this site reports is focused around information on performance, price, compatibility, and value. Price for performance is a major concern, as a big part of our coverage and reviews will deal with helping potential buyers find the best components for their money. CPU and graphics card reviews will focus on comparisons to other hardware, while products like displays will deal more with screen and build quality.

Competition

Sites that would be competing with this one include Tom’s Hardware, Anandtech, Techspot, WCCF Tech, Techpowerup, Engadget, and Kitguru. These sites vary in presentation and writing style, but all focus on similar topics. Techspot, Anandtech and Tom’s Hardware focus on more mature audiences and have a more professional style of presentation. WCCF Tech is the least professional out of the competition, with many of the writers displaying somewhat poor grammar along with plenty of click bait articles. Engadget is closest in theme to what Hardcenter is trying to be—that is, a very modern style site design with relatable post titles and content. Professionalism is kept, but it’s less daunting to begin to read compared to other sites.

Frequency

Posts will be made on a daily basis, with some days having multiple posts depending on what kind of news comes up. Posts will be regular enough that a reader will always have something to read on any given day.

Style

As for style, the site would follow the same standard AP guidelines as any other publication. There’s no real need to change that. The information will still get across, and the site will still keep the same casual-but-professional tone.

Information

The essentials to the information being presented boil down to the basics—technical specifications about the hardware being presented, power consumption, size, and relative performance compared to other products in the same category. The biggest obstacles may be explaining the meanings of some of the technical specs, like shader counts and ROPs with graphics cards or PPI for displays. However, the average reader base should either have a bit of prior knowledge concerning these things or would be willing to do some personal research on them.

 

Content Outline

I. Title

II. Introduction

  1. Announcement
  2. Background information

III. Body

  1. Performance
  2. Power Consumption
  3. Overclocking
  4. Value

IV. Conclusion

Acworth Headline Assignment

ACWORTH MAN TURNS SELF IN AFTER FAILED ROBBERY

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ACWORTH ROBBERIES END WITH A WHIMPER

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GOING OUT WITH NOTHING TO SHOW: ACWORTH MAN TURNS SELF IN AFTER FAILED ROBBERY

 

ACWORTH, Ga. – An Acworth man turned himself in to police Sunday night after robbing a Motel Six here and later attempting to mug a second victim on North Main Street. Howard E. Smithton, 54, a resident of the Gazebo Park apartments on Old Cowan Street in Acworth, entered the Motel Six, also on Cowan, at 8:50 p.m. Sunday night and demanded money. The clerk on duty, who said he knew Smithton, withheld his name for fear of his safety. He said he refused to give Smithton any money. A struggle ensued. Smithton overpowered the clerk, forced him to open the cash register and left with an undisclosed amount of cash, according to the clerk. Smithton then attempted a second burglary approximately one hour later on the 4800 block of North Main. Smithton demanded that the victim, 59-year-old Bob Wilson, a member of Acworth’s board of aldermen, give Smithton his wallet. Wilson said he refused and began beating Smithton over the head with a walking stick, which chased Smithton away. Smithton later turned himself in at Acworth police headquarters on Industrial Drive at approximately 10:30 p.m. He is being held on a $10,000 bond at the Acworth City Jail, according to Michael Rose, Acworth’s sheriff. The money from the Motel 6 has been returned, Rose said.