Dell Alienware X51, SFF PC Gaming Refined

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Introduction and Specifications

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
Operating System:
Ethernet LAN/Wireless:
Front Panel Ports:
Rear Panel Ports:
Power Supply:

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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