Dell Alienware X51, SFF PC Gaming Refined - HotHardware

Dell Alienware X51, SFF PC Gaming Refined

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Dell's enthusiast gaming PC division has built a legacy on designing over-the-top desktops and notebooks, that push the boundaries of performance and style with an unmistakable design flair.  We've been pretty impressed with the Alienware systems we've looked at thus far, and though they tend to run a premium in terms of price, performance and design quality generally scale along with that higher price tag.

On the test track, Alienware notebooks have racked up some of the best performance numbers we've seen and the company's desktops rank right up there as well.  One shape the Aliens have never assumed previously, however, is the small form-factor desktop.  And let's be honest, systems in this weight class generally aren't known for their gaming prowess but usually serve as home theater or mainstream PCs.  The folks at Alienware have a different sort of vision for their next alien life form and if you weren't paying attention, you'd almost mistake it for a game console rather than a PC. But you're here at HH, so you're obviously paying attention. And so are we.

You could say the Alienware X51 gaming PC system got our attention when it hacked into our news channel not long ago.  So we decided to send a peaceful return transmission and allow it to touch down on a test pod in our lab.

But first, we interrupt this program to allow the Aliens a bit of air time in this hands-on demo. Then get set for the specifics, the benchmarks and our analysis.


Alienware X51 Small Form Factor Gaming PC
Specifications & Features
CPU:
Memory:
Graphics:
Storage:
Optical:
Operating System:
Ethernet LAN/Wireless:
Front Panel Ports:
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Power Supply:
Warranty:
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Core i5-2320 - 3GHz, 6MB Cache with Turbo Boost 2.0
8GB Dual Channel DDR-1333
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 555
Western Digital 1TB, 7200RPM, 32MB Cache, 6Gbps SATA
Slot-Loading Dual Layer DVD Burner (DVD±RW,CD-RW)
Windows 7 Home Premium X64
10/100/1000 Ethernet, DW1502 Wireless-N WLAN Half Mini-Card
2 x USB 2.0; Headphone and Mic
4 x USB 2.0; 2x USB 3.0; GbE LAN; Optical SPDIF; Audio inputs, HDMI
Integrated 7.1 surround sound
330 Watt External AC Adapter
1 Year Limited
$999 (as configured and tested)
Front-Height: 13.504"  (343mm)
Rear-Height: 12.54" (318.5mm)
Depth: 12.52" (318mm)
Width: 3.74" (95mm)
Starting Weight: 12.1 lbs (5.49 Kg)




The Alienware team played it smart configuring the X51.  If you're a gamer, you need a fair bit of CPU horsepower and clock speed to drive data requests to the primary graphics engine that ultimately works the magic of rendering shaders and pushing pixels to the screen. However, you darn sure better have a decent GPU at the ready, so Alienware's choice of NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 555 was spot-on.  The GeForce GTX 555 is a 288 CUDA core machine and while you may be lulled into thinking it's a midrange workhorse, it's actually no slouch, as you'll see in the benchmarks that follow.  Also, backing Intel's quad-core Core i5 CPU is 8GB of DDR3-1333 system memory and a fairly peppy 7200RPM 1TB WD hard drive.

Again however, the X51's component selection is a bit deceiving and perhaps underwhelming at first glance, so let's get a closer look at the hardware and go under the hood.

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If I read the spec's correctly the GTX 560 TI has a slightly higher power consumption requirements (170W, vs. 150W), and would appear the size would fit in that case. Just wonder if this is a reasonable assumption as an optional card, given the 330W brick PS.

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Mars1956:

If I read the spec's correctly the GTX 560 TI has a slightly higher power consumption requirements (170W, vs. 150W), and would appear the size would fit in that case. Just wonder if this is a reasonable assumption as an optional card, given the 330W brick PS.

Seems like a safe assumption to me. Go to their website and see what options they offer for it. That's the best card that they're offering on their website. You can get an i7-2600k in it though,......

 

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Very nice job of balancing power, performance and size! Congrats Alienware.

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man such awesome system in a very compact size case... I like that a lot. Carry it around to LAN party for example :) PWNAGE

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You're right, Dave. You get what you pay for: A small size PC with great gaming performance. It's still a little pricey for my tastes. I wonder how well it performs against similarly priced gaming laptops, which begs the question... Will my money be better spent getting a gaming laptop or an X51?

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Omegadoom13,

The X51's GTX 555 has about DOUBLE the CUDA cores than Alienware M14x's GT 555M. Which doesn't necessarily translate to double the performance, but close.

Likewise, the desktop i5 is going to be so much more powerful than a mobile i5.

You'd have to get a beefed up M17x R3 or the sort to have comparable performance as the $999 X51. A beefed up M17x R3 is about $1600-$1800.

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What I am most interested in finding out, is how future-proof this machine/chipset, the HM 61 is?

Since Ivy Bridge is coming out around next quarter, we could see 1) drop in price for current SB based systems 2) better power consumption in CPU and GPUs, which will make more use out of the 330W power block, and 3) Perhaps Dell and AW will update their M18x with a bigger power block which can be used with the X51?

15-30% performance increase is a lot, it is almost one third! (1/3). So, suppose the $999 system with Ivy Bridge will see a 30% performance increase, and as a trade-off you'll have to wait for 3 or 4 months, is it worth waiting for?

Since the upgradability/performance is limited on the X51 compared to full/mid sized towers like the Aurora, is it wise and advisable to wait for the inevitale X51 R2? (Maybe with a SD card slot and Blu-ray!)

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I also wonder how they'll sell most folks seem to be in the market for cheap, a few folks want quality but most of those build their own. I kinda wonder how long Alienware will continue to exist as a brand or HP's VooDoo line for the matter.

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For me this slcase and power supply is a copy of xbox :p....an external power supply like the one in the xbox ummmm nice idea, i didn't know you could do that....

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cowboyspace:
For me this slcase and power supply is a copy of xbox

It's nothing like an XBox except for being slim. Dell's been making slim PC's for years.This is a full fledged PC with much better capabilities than XBox has to offer.

The exterior power brick is nothing new either. That idea has been around for a long time.

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