Dell Alienware X51, SFF PC Gaming Refined

Internal Tear Down and Components

Looking at the size of the Alienware X51, you'd think the company had to resort to notebook components to get the job done in such tight quarters.  However, the X51 is a case study in mechanical design engineering, when it comes to layout, thermal performance and acoustics.

Dual slot graphics - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 555 with a spare PCIe Power connector available

We expected to see a single slot graphics card in this machine but Alienware managed to stuff a dual-slot cooler graphics card design right on top of the 3.5-inch hard drive.  The card plugs into a single PCIe X16 slot on the motherboard via a riser card adapter and there are no other available slots for expansion. The squirrel cage style fan design in this card pushes warm air out the back plate of the card, so it doesn't end up warming the interior. Also, surprisingly, this GeForce GTX 555 only ramped up to about 76ºC under full load when testing and was only mildly audible at that point.   In fact, when idling, the system can barely be heard.  You literally have to lean your ear up to it, unless the room you're in is very quiet.  Under heavy duty gaming, the system isn't much noisier than your average game console actually, which is pretty darn quiet, considering how much more raw compute horsepower the X51 has.

Speaking of which, if you wanted to ramp your gaming performance up even more in the future, there is a spare 6-pin PCIe power connector available inside the X51, though you've only got another 100-115 Watts or so to play with, in terms of power budget, so long as you chose Alienware's 330 Watt PSU option.  Since the X51 sports a cool, calm and collected Intel Core i5-2320 quad-core CPU, only a half-height CPU cooler is required.  Its fan pulls warm air off the heatsink and up through the fan shroud (top left shot) and then out the back of the chassis.

You can also see WD's rather snappy 1 Terabyte Caviar Blue drive here.  This is a 7200RPM, 32MB cache, 6Gbps SATA hard drive that puts up some respectable numbers as you'll see on the benchmark pages ahead. Also visible are a pair of DDR3 DIMM sockets, populated with a pair of 4GB DDR3-1333 sticks, sans heat spreaders.  The X51 doesn't push the envelope of DDR3 clock speeds so heatspreaders are simply not needed.  Not to mention memory bandwidth is not an issue for this system, as you'll note in our test numbers as well.  If you look closely, just behind the silver heat sink, you can see the 802.11n WiFi radio nestled in a mezzanine style card socket.  Finally, about the only component in the system, besides the mini-ITX motherboard, that is actually a small form factor product, would be the slim DVD/CD RW combo drive the rides just above the ATX power connector on the motherboard.  This is a slot load optical drive that accepts media in through a thin slot on the front side of the X51.

Enough of the geek grope and ogling.  What do you say we put it all back together, run some numbers and game it up?

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