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This Nintendo Switch Clone Is Causing An Uproar

It looks like the Nintendo Switch may have some competition. Dell has unveiled the Concept UFO, a prototype for a new Alienware handheld gaming PC.

The Concept UFO's layout will look very familiar to Switch users. The handheld features a central screen and controllers that slide into place on either side. Similar to the Switch Joy-Con, these controllers can also be removed from the central unit and connected to a bridge device to create a full-size controller. The accompanying kickstand allows for play in tabletop mode and the device can also output to an external display. You can even use a mouse and keyboard as you would with any other PC.

While the Concept UFO's 8-inch screen distinguishes it from the Switch, it's impossible to deny the similarities between the two hybrids, despite Dell VP of gaming Vivian Lien and show host Aisha Tyler's careful avoidance of the comparison during Dell's CES presentation in Las Vegas. Dell seems to be selling this as an innovative concept originated by the Alienware team, but the internet isn't buying it.

"It's got two hours of battery life. Alienware reinvented the Sega Genesis Nomad for a new generation," wrote one commenter. "I can't wait to play one of them Alien Nintendos," quipped another. "Nintendo has a patent on the concept of a tablet system with controllers that can either be attached to a system or removed and used to form a separate controller. This thing is not surviving the inevitable lawsuit from Nintendo in it's current form factor," pointed out a third.

In Dell's defense, the Nintendo Switch does not have the power to run AAA PC games, at least not in a manner that meets the high standards and expectations of that market. The Concept UFO prototype outputs at 1920x1200 resolution and includes a 10th-gen Intel Core processor, WiFi, Bluetooth, and Thunderbolt. It might outperform its rival, though, the Switch could still come out on top. Developers, after all, build games specifically for the hardware. The Concept UFO would not have the same advantage, at least not in its current iteration.

While many were quick to point to the UFO as a blatant Switch knockoff, others expressed their excitement about the potential of a handheld PC.

"A Nintendo Switch that plays my Steam, Humble, and GOG libraries would maybe be my favorite thing," commented one gamer. "The switch form factor is so amazing, I would love it if it became a standard platform targeted by different manufacturers," echoed another.

According to Dell's Glen Robson, the Concept UFO team has already invested hundreds, possibly even thousands, of hours into fine-tuning the design and ergonomics of the handheld's controllers. This will come as welcome news to Switch users who have found the system's own controllers lacking, even painful to deal with for extended periods of time. 

"We've spent the last few months testing and enhancing the buttons, the weight, all to strike a perfect balance between performance, ultra-mobility and battery life," wrote Robson in an update on Dell's website.

Price and performance will decide the Concept UFO's fate. Gaming laptops have earned a checkered reputation for their poor battery life, with most lasting less than two hours when disconnected from the power adapter. The latest version of the Nintendo Switch offers 4.5 to 9 hours of play between charges. Unless the UFO can offer a similar wireless experience, it will struggle to find its footing in the handheld market.

The Concept UFO's bulk and hardware raise some other red flags. According to Bill Thomas of TechRadar, the UFO is both large and heavy, weighing in at a minimum of two pounds. Thanks to the RGB lighting and advanced PC components, including an undoubtedly impressive cooling system, the system will likely cost a pretty penny. This leads to an important question: who is Dell even targeting with this idea? 

The higher price tag demanded by the Concept UFO's sophisticated hardware will probably prevent it from becoming a direct competitor to the Nintendo Switch. Even if it manages to outperform the console, it won't provide the same experience you'd find on a gaming desktop. If you've got the cash and you're willing to sacrifice quality to access an extensive library of Windows games on the go, then the Concept UFO could be for you.

It's important to note that, as a prototype, the Concept UFO is not for sale and will likely go through several rounds of revision before release. Assuming Dell avoids a costly encounter with Nintendo's lawyers.