Alienware X51 review
A well-designed and striking living room PC to challenge consoles, but it treads a fine line on gaming power
Review Date: 26 Mar 2012
Reviewed By: Mike Jennings
Price when reviewed: £665 (£798 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
Dell’s Alienware brand produces enthusiast PCs that generally don’t try to compete on price with smaller bespoke builders. Its latest system, however, represents a change to that tactic. The X51 is a small-form-factor PC that takes Alienware’s gaming expertise and attempts to sell it to the living room masses.
It’s immediately clear that the X51 is designed to challenge consoles. It’s all glossy black plastic and sleek curves, and familiar Alienware touches can be spotted throughout. The stylised UFO on the front of the machine lights up and can be rotated to suit the PC’s orientation, just like the PS3 logo, and the side of the case is adorned with illuminated panels and otherworldly characters.
The X51 is small, too: it stretches 344mm lengthways, and it’s only 94mm wide, which means it will fit into spaces traditional PCs won’t. It also means Alienware’s designers have done a superb job in managing to cram in a fully functional gaming PC.
The bespoke motherboard, for instance, hosts the processor, DIMM sockets and most other key components, but there are two daughterboards – one for many of the internal connections and headers, the other handling links to the front panel and various lights. A separate board rises from the PCI Express x16 slot to rotate the graphics cards through 90 degrees, and the card is held in a sturdy metal caddy. The sizeable gap beneath it is partly left for air to reach the GPU, and partly to give Alienware somewhere to fit the 3.5in hard disk.
It’s a superb piece of compact design, with cables routed discreetly throughout, and care taken over component placement. Upgrade space is understandably at a premium: the DIMMs, processor and wireless card are easily accessible, but you only get the single graphics card slot and it takes some effort to extract the card itself or the hard disk from the metal frame. This PC isn’t meant for tinkering.
The living room case also means concessions on the core components. You get a 3GHz Intel Core i5-2320 and 8GB of RAM, which carried the X51 to a score of 0.87 in our application benchmarks. That’s nothing particularly special for a PC at this price – even the £599 Chillblast Fusion Elixir overclocked a Core i5-2500K to score 1.1.
If I had been the designer, I'd probably used Mobile Versions of the GPU and CPU for this type of design.Keep the thermals and power consumption in check whilst slimming down the internal component count to give more circulation space inside.
By Jaberwocky on 27 Mar 2012
Those weird daughterboards are very hot swap server like things! I suppose Dell is now really a server company. Hot swapping whilst gaming would be cool in the next one? I may then consider this box as an Alzheimer's research machine.
By ashane on 28 Mar 2012
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