Image Credits: Tom's Hardware
Alienware has shown off a prototype handheld PC gaming device at CES 2020. They’ve currently dubbed their concept device as the Concept UFO, billing it as their vision for the future of handheld gaming.
The Concept UFO is a prototype handheld gaming system using a Windows 10 operating system. It features an 8 inch, 1200p resolution display unit and two magnetic, detachable controllers attachments. The device is encased in anodized aluminum, and aesthetically resembles the company’s Area-51m laptop–what the company dubbed, in 2019, the world’s most powerful gaming laptop.
We’d be remiss if we ignored how eerily familiar the device looks, as it draws immediate and obvious comparisons to Nintendo’s Switch hybrid gaming console. Unlike the Switch, however, this is a device that won’t be supported by Nintendo’s massively successful library of first-party titles, leaving us to wonder who the device is being marketed toward.
This isn’t the first time a product has been billed as the future of handheld PC gaming. Crowdfunded devices like the Smach Z and the GPD WIN 2 beat Alienware to the punch, albeit after a bit of development issues. In fact, even Razer gave the market an earnest go with their Razer Edge Pro device from 2013 (which released shortly before Nvidia’s original Nvidia Shield device).
Mind you, Alienware’s new device looks sleeker and more modern, and is backed by Alienware’s parent company Dell, the third largest PC vendor and first largest computer monitor supplier in the world. This doesn’t seem to be the paltry attempts of old, and it’s clear a lot of forethought has gone into constructing this device.
Still, Alienware hasn’t discussed how it will solve the problems that typically plague these sorts of devices, such as poor battery life, balancing heat dampening with CPU and GPU power, and finding a market for the device. (It’d be silly to think the Nintendo Switch, including its 720p portable mode and weaker-than-standard CPU/GPU, wasn’t designed with these limitations in mind.)
With the exception of Nintendo’s handhelds, most handheld gaming devices have historically failed to find substantial commercial success, and with smartphones and tablets dominating the handheld gaming landscape, the market has only become more competitive. Still, Alienware seems confident that they’ve achieved alchemy this time.
The device does look the part, to be certain. The Concept UFO features a USB Type-C and headset jack atop the display unit, a foldable kick stand (which is greatly improved upon versus the Switch’s rather flimsy version), and comes with a Switch-like bridge to attach the controllers to once detached from the device itself.
No word on the specs powering the Concept UFO just yet, but when they are released, it should serve as something of an oracle for how the device can be expected to perform as we head into a new generation of gaming–especially with the creeping costs of PC GPUs raising the stakes for any attempted handheld gaming PC.
There is also the issue of how the device will seek to handle the every growing list of PC distribution platforms & storefronts. From major players like Steam, Epic Games store, and Xbox Game Pass to smaller, developer-centric stores like GOG, Uplay, Origin, Bethesda, Blizzard, and more, the ongoing splintering of the PC gaming market will pose some challenges in designing the device’s UI and OS functionality.
The fact is, this is still a concept device, and we’re getting an early peek behind the curtain. Sure, there are many questions that still need answering and many obstacles to overcome on the path to making the Concept UFO a successful handheld gaming competitor, but Alienware has the knowhow, the financial backing, and the raw talent to make it happen. They’ve also still got time to gauge public reaction and make necessary changes, which is likely what this CES 2020 showing was all about.
We can’t fault them for trying to bring this dream to life, and we’d be lying if we said we hadn’t always wanted a proper implementation of just such a device. Check back often for more updates on where Alienware goes from here, and be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Oh, and check out this announcement video from Alienware’s Twitter: