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Dell's Alienware Alpha 'PC console' ships today

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The "PC console" era doesn't officially begin until the arrival of the much-vaunted Steam Machines in 2015. But in the meantime, Dell today launched its own under-the-TV PC games machine.

The Alienware Alpha shipped out to customers today, with an entry price of $550, rising to $900. It comes with an Xbox 360 controller and uses its own user interface called Alpha-UI, designed around Steam Big Picture and controller-enabled PC games. It also comes with Windows 8.1, for those inclined.

The cheapest model is based around an Intel Core i3-4130T dual-core processor, a 2 GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M GPU, 4 GB of RAM and a 500 GB hard drive, making it a fairly basic machine, unsuited for the most demanding PC games, for which the more expensive models are designed.

Dell is offering a bundle of games, worth around $100, for those who pre-ordered or who buy the machine during its launch period.

"We've been working hard this past year to break the mold and develop a system that finally brings hundreds of Steam games, including some really fun indie titles, to TVs," said Alienware general manager Frank Azor. "The team and I are excited to finally deliver our vision for big screen gaming and give our fans a console that delivers true next-gen performance with the flexibility to choose how, what and where they want to play."