Alienware X51 R3 Review: Console-Sized Gaming PC Gets Skylake Infusion

Alienware X51 R3 Design And Layout

Back in the old school days, before Dell acquired the boutique system builder, Alienware system designs were considered over-the-top by some folks. Especially their chassis designs were an either you love it or hate it sort of thing. However, these days, Alienware is striking a more subdued but still sleek and stylish design approach, with slightly menacing and sharp angles, blacked-out color schemes and that familiar alien head logo, with its bulbous alien eyes, lit up in whatever hue you choose in the AlienFX lighting control panel. The notable exception might be Alienware's full-sized Area-51 killer gaming desktop (which you definitely should check out if you haven't yet): its chassis design is pretty rad and might take a minority of folks some getting used to, but we gave it big props for true innovation and what we consider to be hella-good looks.

This little X51 R3 fellow is rather simply stated, however, and should appeal the mainstream user as well, while blending in rather easily in the typical living room or man-cave (or lady den) environment.

Alienware X51 R3 Light Side

Alienware X51 R3 Front IO

Alienware X51 R3 Rear IO

A single illuminated power button in the front turns on the X51 R3 and there is no shortage of IO features on the machine, especially when you consider its size. At slightly over a foot tall and less than 4 inches wide, the machine is a tightly-packed 12 pound slab of the latest technologies. You get a total of six USB 3.0 ports (two on the front panel and four on the rear), two USB 2.0 ports, a Gig-E port, one full-sized HDMI port, 3 DisplayPorts, one DVI-D port, audio in and out ports with optical output and Dell's graphics dock port for an external Alienware Graphics Amplifier, if you must have some additional oomph (more on this shortly).

Alienware X51 R3 Top Venting

Alienware X51 R3 No Lights

Venting is actually part of the design aesthetic in various areas of the X51 R3's chassis design. On top of the system there's a plastic mesh grill that lets warm air vent out, and the rear of the chassis has a similar though more utilitarian design, since it's not seen as much. On the bottom front of the case, underneath the lighted Alienware logo, there's a mesh intake vent, which also adds to the look of the machine. The case material itself is a high density polycarbonate material with a flat black finish. It feels solid and well put together, with tight tolerances, fit and finish, though perhaps not quite as sturdy (but just as premium) as some of the metal chassis SFF designs out there like Falcon Northwest's Tiki systems.  Interestingly, though there's a lot of venting going on with the X51 R3, the machine doesn't radiate a ton of heat even under load, with the current high-end config we tested.

Part of the reason for the X51 R3's cool as a cucumber ways might be because of its on-board liquid cooling, which we'll look at next.

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