Alienware X51 R2 Small Form Factor Game PC, Haswell-Infused

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Performance Summary & Conclusion

Performance Summary: We were already big fans of Dell's original Alienware X51, and with the CPU upgrade to Haswell and GPU bump to an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 graphics card without an increase in physical size, all we can do is tip our hat at the system builder and offer, "well played." Indeed, the X51 R2 played well through our benchmarks at a clip that was, on occasion, more than three times faster than the original. In the majority of cases, it was about twice as fast. In PCMark 7, for example, the X51 R2 scored 6,310 versus last year's score of 3.048.

Intel's Haswell architecture has landed, and Dell was quick to abduct the new platform to drive its higher end Alienware X51 R2 configurations, such as the one we reviewed here. Haswell's a great fit for the X51 R2, providing a big performance boost over last year's edition without negatively affecting the system's power footprint, noise, or physical size. On that last point, the X51 R2 continues to be a marvel in case design. Dell's Alienware team hit a home run with this small form factor (SFF) chassis, which is small enough to take residence in a living room setting, yet capable of housing components that can push pixels around like a traditional gaming desktop; not to mention the ability to upgrade a few components down the road possibly, if you so choose.

Home theater PCs have been around for a long time, but only recently have SFF systems begun asserting themselves as legitimate gaming boxes and/or console replacements. Valve is fully on the board with the movement, hence its Big Picture mode for Steam, and the X51 R2 is more than happy to play along. Compared to last year's model, the GeForce GTX 670 in this year's refresh provides a big performance bump in today's top titles, and we were even able to extract playable framerates in some games on a 30-inch monitor running at 2560x1600. That bodes well for a system that's going to spend the majority of its time pushing pixels on Full HD 1080p displays (providing you actually plop it in your living room).

Another thing we like about the X51 R2 is its aggressive looks, though beauty is in the eye of the beholder. For those who don't find the system attractive, the saving grace for Dell is that it's a compact system that can easily be tucked out of sight. Alternately, you can draw attention to the system by playing around with the customizable LED lighting.

The only real negative is the price tag. At $1,849 as configured, the system is much more expensive than a dedicated game console. That said, there's a saving grace in that you can do more with a PC than you can on a console, but if all you're doing is playing games, price comes into play.

For those who can afford it as we tested it, the Alienware X51 R2 delivers a premium gaming experience in a compact design that's both stylish and well-suited for the living room. You can also of course configure a less expensive build-out on the Dell Alienware site. Job well done, team AW.

  • Small in size, big on power
  • Fast storage
  • Aggressive styling
  • Strong gaming performance, even at 2560x1600 in some instances
  • Customizable lighting effects
  • Works wonderfully with Steam's Big Picture mode
  • Low power consumption
  • Slightly limited upgrade path
  • Mediocre keyboard and mouse

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