The mutant offspring of a console and PC: Alienware X51 review


As the HD gaming platform of choice the PC continues to make the march from the study to the lounge. As a result more people are looking for a gaming PC that will fit inside their audio-visual storage cabinet. As we all know until the Tardis’s interior shrinking technologies debut sometime in 2020 this is impossible – gaming components are simply too big for such a tiny gap. That didn’t stop Alienware from trying though and the result is the X51.

This gaming box will easily fit into even the smallest slot under your TV measuring just a whisker larger than the PlayStation 3. There’s a catch though (isn’t there always?). The power supply is external and it’s about the size of a house brick. Good luck squeezing that onto the same shelf as the PC though it should fit underneath your AV unit easily enough thanks to the lengthy power cord.

Sliding the side of the case off reveals a remarkably efficient use of the internal space; there’s not a cubic centimetre wasted. Most impressive is the use of a PCI-E riser to mount the video card 90 degrees off axis helping to keep the case thinner. The lack of space also means you’ll be limited when it comes time to upgrade with your upgrade options further constrained by the meagre 240W rating of the PSU. Thankfully there’s a 330W brick available; with this in place it’s possible to squeeze a GeForce GTX 560 Ti in (sadly Alienware doesn’t offer this as an option).

It’s an upgrade you’ll want to make sooner rather than later as the two default GPU buying options aren’t exactly exciting. You’re limited to either an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 545 or GTX 555 and neither has the grunt to run many of today’s games in HD with all the bells and whistles. Thankfully the CPU options are much more powerful with the i7-2600 configuration perfect for today’s games but the GPU will still hold you back. During our testing we were able to get a smooth 60fps in Skyrim and Saints Row: The Third but only by running at medium settings. Battlefield 3 fared worse with 64 players dragging the frame rate down into the 30s despite the middle-of-the-road graphics options selected. It’s fine for low-detail games such as MMOs but if you want to see the very best in PC graphics installing a GTX 560 Ti will be a must.

Obviously a custom designed box like this isn’t going to come cheap; the price ranges between $1299 and $1699 depending on your configuration. Throw in the extra video card and you’re looking at almost two grand for a mid-range PC. For those with money to burn but the opposite in living space it’s a very slick package that’ll make your games look noticeably better than console. But if you don’t mind seeing a mini-tower next to your TV it’s possible to build a much more powerful machine for half the price.

Available from Alienware retailing for $1699.
APC rating: 7/10