Alienware X51 R3 Conclusion
Performance Summary: The Alienware X51 R3 performed admirably for its size and price point. Though in its stock configuration, with a GeForce GTX 960 on board, it trailed some of the beefier setups we had test data for, Dell's revamp of their console-sized X51 maintained playable frame rates even in leading-edge game titles like GTA V, Thief and Shadow of Mordor, all the way up to 1440p resolution with very high image quality settings. Plug in Alienware's Graphics Amplifier with the likes of a GeForce GTX Titan X and performance, with its Skylake quad-core CPU feeding the GPU beast, go off the hook. Speaking of which, due to its rather snappy Samsung PM951 SSD and in combination with its high clocked Skylake Core i7-6700K processor, the X51 R3 proved to be a very potent desktop machine in our general purpose computing benchmarks like PCMark 8, often times taking top honors.
Dell's Alienware X51 R3 Small Form Factor Gaming PC & Graphics Amp - Find it on Amazon
The new Alienware X51 R3, as we noted throughout this piece, has a number of innovations and upgrades that have been engineered into this revision of the system. The Alienware team realized they had to rework its design and system architecture significantly if they were to maintain the same system size and chassis design. In short, they've succeed on every front in this regard, offering a more powerful, more capable small form factor gaming PC that's every bit as quiet as its predecessor while consuming less power than the previous generation of X51 machines.
If you consider the X51 R3's performance versus some of the machines we pitted it against, it frankly wasn't a fair fight. Machines like the Digital Storm Bolt II and the Falcon Northwest Tiki offer much higher end graphics options but also cost a lot more at $3500 to $3800 respectively for the competitive configs we tested. Even still, these other offerings were able to hit the same relative small footprint as the X51 R3, though with arguably higher heat and noise output. That said, it's clear that the Dell Alienware team set out to build a more affordable SFF gaming rig that has respectable gaming chops, is easy to work on and looks great. To that extent, the all new Alienware X51 R3 is a solid value and worthy of consideration for your short list of short in size, but not in stature, game PCs.
For $1999 as tested here, it's a reasonably good value as well, though you can configure much lower cost setups at Alienware's site, all the way down to the $699 price point. For dorm room dwellers, the Alienware X51 R3 is a really nice option to consider as a capable back-to-school desktop with potent gaming muscle. The machine looks sleek, though it's minimalistic in its design cues, so it won't stick out like a sore thumb in cramped quarters. It's also power-efficient and quiet so it's not going to heat up smaller living spaces or emanate whiny fan noise to any significant degree. So yeah, your roommates wouldn't mind it and likely would be jonesing for it, as you chew through homework, and rip up the competition in the battle arena.
For everyone else, if you're looking for a small form factor gaming-capable system that integrates well in the living room or elsewhere in your humble abode or office, we're confident in recommending the Alienware X51 R3. And if you want to see what it can do with a bit more GPU horsepower under its hood (instead of externally), stick around. We're not done poking and prodding at this alien being, just yet.