At this year’s PAX Australia, we got to interview Alienware’s Director of Product Planning, Joe Olmsted on what new products the gaming company had to offer. At their booth this year, Alienware demonstrated their new Steam Machine, revised X51 Gaming PC, a new lineup of laptops featuring Intel Skylake processors and updates to the Alienware Alpha. We got to find out more from Joe about what was on-hand on the show floor.
Given that the Steam Machine uses an Alienware Alpha which has been on the market for the last year now, will there be a process/method available for existing owners who want to hop over to SteamOS?
If you’re an Alpha customer today, you already have one (a Steam Machine). The Steam controller will be available sometime in Q1 in Australia, the SteamOS will be available on November 10th. You can download it from the Valve site, put it on a USB key and switch over. Their key will erase the hard drive and make it a SteamOS hard drive, but at least you’re running the Steam Machine. Now, a more technical person would be able to figure out how to do a boot but there’s nothing keeping you from doing it – it’s the same hardware, all the drivers are built into SteamOS, even in the shipping distribution that they’re (Valve) going to have on the web. We’ll also have a how-to video for customers as well.
Seeing that the Alienware Alpha comes with an Xbox 360 controller, will the Steam Machine come with the Steam controller?
So in Australia, we’re going to ship the Steam controller when you buy a Steam Machine. If you want the Alpha with Windows, it will ship with a standard keyboard and mouse now. But you will be able to choose the Xbox controller – the Xbox One controller or the Xbox 360 controller, depends on what can be sourced locally in Australia.
With Skylake processors being rolled out across the laptop line, will this be a standard feature across all the builds or an upgradeable extra?
You will still be able to find inventory of Haswell-based 13″, 15″ and 17″ laptops at local retailers that may some lying around, but from our factory we only ship Skylake now. These processors now have dynamic overclocking as well. So what happens is when we build a thermal solution, we always build it for the worst case which is usually never actually achieved from the customer. So with dynamic overclocking, it constantly tries to fill up all that thermal headroom. Even using Word will be overclocked for you, not just gaming. Of course, you can turn that off. We also include K Processors now, the overclockable i7 on our 15″ and 17″ laptops as well.
What new UI features can users of the Alienware Alpha expect to see?
A very different interface. It’s called Alienware Hivemind, it’s built off the Kodi shell (what XBMC is based on), and it basically allows you to fully customise everything. The UI was designed to get you past Windows because Windows was not a controller interface. With Kodi which is powering Alienware Hivemind, you can get the entire Kodi library of apps so you can add Netflix, Spotify, Plex, YouTube and Twitch channels all into that environment. So it really expands from just this “get in, get past Windows, launch Steam” to “get in, get past Windows, launch Steam, launch Plex, launch Netflix, launch whatever”.
Joe explained to us after the interview that the new lineup of laptops feature Thunderbolt, USB 3.1 and HDMI 2.0 ports, with the desktop lineup only featuring USB 3.1 and HDMI 2.0 ports. Both lineups include support for PCIe-based storage. We also got to have an in-depth look into the revised Alienware X51 PC, which now features a closed-loop liquid cooling system as an option. This system was fully designed in-house by Alienware and exclusive to the X51 PC.
We thank Alienware for giving us this interview opportunity, and we thank Joe for his time to talk to us.