The Nintendo Switch ($ 299 at Walmart) has become something like the platonic ideal of gaming hardware. But what would happen if we could combine the switch format with the performance and versatility of PC games? Dell's Alienware Concept UFO prototype seems to do just that.
The basic idea is this: You start with a Windows 10 handheld ($ 143 at Walmart) Tablet, essentially a smaller version of a Microsoft Surface ($ 243 at Amazon)or another Windows board. But then you push two paddle-like controllers aside and suddenly you have something that looks and feels like a Nintendo Switch.
The very fact that it will be shown at the fairFair here in Las Vegas makes it unusual. Some companies like to come to CES with a truckload of concept pieces and prototypes and show exotic experiments that may or may not ever hit the shelves. Dell has long resisted such flagship behavior and instead relies on a steady stream of updated and updated XPS, Inspiron, Latitude, and Alienware laptops, desktops, and displays to fill CES.
However, all bets are closed this year, and Dell is showing a number of prototypes, including laptops with a flexible screen and two screens, as well as this handheld, dockable gaming PC.
There is a lot we don't know about the Concept UFO, and it may never be a product that is for sale. But compared to many other prototypes we've seen, this hardware looks and feels finished with a high level of gloss. So who knows?
However, Windows games run instead of switch games. This gives you access to a much larger library of titles from different developers that are available at non-Nintendo prices. During a hands-on game session before CES 2020 started, I played the (honestly not very good) PC game World War Z and found that it was surprisingly playable on this hardware.
The Concept UFO can stand on a stand (yes, also like the switch). The paddle controllers can be connected to a small central unit to create a gamepad with a normal appearance.
You can also output the signal on a larger display and use the UFO as a small desktop.
What exactly is in the Concept UFO? How much will it cost? When will it be available? We have no answer to these questions, but that fits a concept piece or prototype.
So yes, there are unanswered questions. At a time when alternative game types – from subscription services like Apple Arcade to streaming platforms like Google Stadia – are challenging the dominance of game consoles and traditional gaming PCs, it's important that we all break out of our comfort zones and do it try new things.