CES is generally for one of two things: companies showing off consumer gadgets that will go on sale later in the year, or far out devices that will attempt to shape how things gets made in the future. And with its Concept UFO, Concept Ori, and Concept Duet, it looks like Dell has some big ideas for the latter.
At first glance, Project UFO looks like a big white Nintendo Switch, complete with two removable controllers, a folding kickstand, and a port for display out. But inside, it’s a PC through and through including support for a still undecided x86 CPU, a traditional desktop UI, and potentially way better performance – not to mention a way bigger screen and nifty RGB lighting.
But UFO’s real killer feature is that behind Alienware’s custom game launcher, it runs a full-blown version of Windows 10, so you’ll have access to practically any modern PC game store like Steam or GOG, all the streaming service like Project xCloud, and decades worth of older PC games or even emulators and consoles ROMs.
And while the Concept UFO is far from finished – it doesn’t have an expected price or release date – Alienware’s portable PC-based game console had no trouble playing modern AAA titles like Mortal Kombat 11. Additionally, alongside its detachable controllers and companion dock Alienware made for CES, Alienware said it’s also toying around with making some kind of keyboard dock that would allow the UFO to transform into a traditional laptop too. That would mean regardless of whether you prefer a gamepad or a mouse and keyboard for certain games, the UFO would have you covered.
For me, the idea behind the Concept UFO is tantalising, because if Alienware pulls it off right, this thing could be the perfect all-in-one game playing machine – especially now that Microsoft, Sony, and even Google are getting into game streaming. There’s a good chance the UFO will get access to modern console exclusives too.
Here are Dell’s two laptop concepts: Concept Ori (left), and Concept Duet (right).
Here’s where the Duet’s Bluetooth keyboard hides when not in use.
On the flipside, when it comes to getting work done, Dell’s Project Duet and Project Ori are like two recipes for creating the same meal: one big and sturdy, and the other a bit more bite-sized. The Duet is the more straightforward of the pair, offering identical 15-inch or so displays on top and bottom, with the lower screen situation being where a traditional laptop’s keyboard and touchpad would be.
For video editors, having two displays while on the would be a dream, allowing you to keep your timeline and various assets on the bottom, while still getting a full view of your footage on top. And thanks to a magnetic detachable Bluetooth keyboard, you’ll still have access to all your standard shortcuts, or just some nice physical keys when you need to bang out an email.
But what excites me the most about the Project Duet are all the situations we haven’t thought of yet, simply because we are so entrenched the typical one screen plus keyboard paradigm. By turning the Duet sideways, suddenly you get a giant book with pages way more expressive than paper can ever be. Or you could fold the thing into tent mode for some dual-screen local multiplayer gaming. The possibilities are endless (or at least double that of a normal laptop).
While Concept Ori’s flexible OLED screen did display some colour shift from side to side, it did not have a crease in the middle like the Galaxy Fold.
Clearly, Concept Ori’s hinge could use some additional refinement.
Meanwhile, Concept Ori – which is short for origami – takes what’s so great about the Galaxy Fold’s flexible OLED screen and supersizes it, offering a display that can unfold fully when you need it, or bent in half for use like a regular notebook. Now I do admit that the Ori is a bit thick and it feels way less stable than the rigid, aluminium-bodied Project Duet. But again, these are concepts, so it’s not really worth getting worked up about a couple awkward angles. And with a few rough edges, all three are both functional and aspirational at the same time.
But for me, perhaps the biggest tease is that because Dell rarely shows off its concept devices – particularly not at CES – these machines aren’t simply some one-off mockups that will disappear in a week never to be seen again. So while Dell wouldn’t provide any concrete specs or even a possible timeline for their release, Dell has clearly put some serious thought and effort into getting this far, and I can’t wait until they become something we might be able to take home.
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