In terms of its exterior design and aesthetics, the X51 definitely borrows more than a few cues from popular current game console designs. Whether you consider the X51 in light of the Xbox 360 or PS3, it's easy to see that the Dell Alienware design team intended this machine to drop right into the same footprint with very similar living room appeal. And the similarities don't stop at just the skins.
Alienware's AlienFX custom lighting adorns the side panels of this toaster-sized machine. These panels can assume a myriad of hues that you can select in the AlienFX Command Center control software that comes pre-loaded on the machine. Alienware was also smart to keep the glossy trimmings down to a minimum, with only the front face of the system sporting a signature angular midnight black grill. With a pair of USB 2.0 ports, headphone and microphone jacks and a slot-load combo DVD/CD RW drive up front, the X51 is somewhat understated for an Alienware rig, though its glowing alien head logo tips you about what's inside this little beast. The front logo is also customizable in terms of lighting effects, like the side panels are, via the AlienFX software. One notable missing feature we would have liked to see carved into the front panel would be an SD card slot, though you could just hang one off a USB port of course.
The back side of the X51 system sports a surprising array of ports and features; pretty much anything you'd want to connect this system to in a desktop environment or perhaps in the entertainment center, just to piss off that aging Xbox 360 a little bit. The HDMI port off the integrated graphics of Intel's Sandy Bridge Core i5 processor is there, though if you're up for some big screen gaming, you're better off using the mini-HDMI connector on the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 555 graphics card, which by the way is a full dual-slot affair that exhausts outside the X51's classy little chassis.
From there you also get copious amounts of USB connectivity, with four USB 2.0 ports and two USB 3.0 SuperSpeed ports offering a 5Gbps signaling rate connection for up to 10x the performance when connected to a USB 3.0 compatible device. There are also integrated 7.1 surround sound ports, driven by Realtek integrated HD audio, as well as optical SPDIF and coaxial SPDIF ports. Finally, integrated Gigabit Ethernet connectivity (one port) comes via a Realtek PCIe Gigabit Ethernet controller.
The external AC adapter PSU for the X51 that we received is a massive 330 Watt brick, though a 240 Watt PSU is standard. We'd suggest going with the upgraded 330 Watt brick you see here, for the extra headroom, should you wish to upgrade a bit down the road. Speaking of which, let's give you a look at some X51 alien guts.