The slim Alienware X51 delivers decent gaming chops and great computing gusto in one snazzy console-size box. Hide the giant power brick that keeps it running cool and quiet and you'll find a lot to love.
Not your typical beast. Packing an Intel Ivy Bridge Core i3 processor, 6 GB of RAM, a NVIDIA GeForce GT 640 discrete graphic card, DVD burner and a 1 TB hard drive into a case hardly bigger than a gaming console, the Alienware X51 from Dell delivers more graphics and gaming grunt than a typical "cheap" desktop computer. Reviewers say that even this base configuration can deliver more power than gaming consoles and can plow through everyday computer tasks.
Serious gamers might be less impressed. However, you can step things up through a host of upgrades, and most reviewers look at a configuration that boasts an i5 processor and 8 GB of RAM. Those needing even more firepower can ratchet things up to an i7 processor, more robust graphics, 2 TB of storage and a Blu-ray reader/DVD burner.
The small size of the X51's case does entail a few compromises. There's no room to add a solid-state drive. If you want one, you'll have to customize post purchase and switch out the hard drive.
And then, there's a massive external power supply. You can upgrade the standard 240 watts to an even larger 330-watt brick. It's no thing of beauty but it does have the advantage of keeping the desktop cool and quiet under load.
Streamlined, modular, with plenty of ports. The sturdy black matte case has the extraterrestrial-themed Alienware exterior, with dark chrome accents and three color-customizable lighting zones. It's stocked with surround-sound and digital audio outputs, as well as one full-size HDMI port. Additional video outputs are available on the graphics card, and the X51 is capable of driving multiple monitors at one time. Other connectivity is robust as well with Wi-Fi and gigabit Ethernet networking, two USB 3.0 ports, and six USB 2.00 ports.
The compact design allows for a full-size discrete-graphics card but leaves essentially no room for internal expansion. There's one other drawback: No memory card reader, although you can attach one via a USB port. A stylized keyboard and mouse are included. Windows 7 remains standard, but Windows 8 can be selected as a no-charge upgrade.
Generally adequate. Dell backs the Alienware X51 with a one-year limited warranty. There's 24-7 phone support access, and "you also get to face the perils of Dell's call center support," says Joel Santo Domingo of PCMag.com. If a hardware problem can't be resolved through DellConnect's remote diagnosis, there's home repair service throughout the warranty. Relatively pricey extended service contracts are available as well.
Top-notch gaming value. Serious gamers will want to budget extra for some of the many available upgrades. But even in its base configuration, the Alienware X51 delivers an impressive bang for a reasonable buck.
Review Credibility: Excellent CNET tests an Alienware X51 configuration with an Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 555 graphics; though that specific configuration is no longer offered, similar systems are available. The X51 collects a 4-star score. Rich Brown writes he "can recommend it to anyone in the market for a mainstream gaming PC." The full-height graphics card makes this a "better gaming machine than any other slim tower we've tested."
Review: Alienware X51 Review, Rich Brown, Jan. 24, 2012
Review Credibility: Excellent Looking at the same step-up configuration as CNET, Joel Santo Domingo at PCMag.com finds the Alienware X51 merits 4 stars and an Editors' Choice award for entry-level gaming desktop PCs is "a great performer" on standard benchmark gaming tests and "held its own" on multimedia benchmark tests.
Review: Alienware X51, Joel Santo Domingo, Jan. 26, 2012
Review Credibility: Excellent An upgraded Alienware X51 (Intel Ivy Bridge Core i7 processor, 8 GB of RAM, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 555 graphics and Blu-ray drive) nabs a score of 8.5 out of 10. That's high for this demanding site. Sean Hollister notes that do-it-yourselfers could build less expensive gaming desktops but in pre-built systems even this pricer tested model is a "pretty decent deal."
Review: Alienware X51 Review, Sean Hollister, Feb. 3, 2012
Review Credibility: Excellent Dave Altavilla has "zero hesitation" in giving a Hot Hardware Editor's Choice award to a small but powerful Alienware X51 with Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 processing and 8 GB of RAM. "This thing has a Napoleon complex and we like that a lot." His only quibble is the lack of an SD card slot "though you could just hang one off a USB port".
Review: Dell Alienware X51, SFF PC Gaming Refined, Dave Altavilla, Feb. 1, 2012
Review Credibility: Excellent Although Dustin Sklavos reviews an Alienware X51 with Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 processing, 8 GB of RAM and a Blu-ray/DVD-RW combo drive, he says the base model is "certainly plenty for gaming" and "a heck of a product". However, due to the USB 3.0 ports inconvenient placement on the back of the box, it earns a Bronze Editor's Choice award, rather than Gold or Silver.
Review: Alienware X51: The Xbox With Teeth, Dustin Sklavos, Feb. 17, 2012
6. Computer Shopper
Review Credibility: Excellent An Alienware X51 with Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 processing, 8 GB of memory, and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 555 graphics hauls in 4 stars, and an Editors Choice and Good for Gaming awards. Matt Safford‘s only major complaint is the "very large external power brick."
Review: Alienware X51 Review and Ratings, Matt Safford, Jan. 26, 2012
7. PC World
Review Credibility: Excellent This Alienware X51 also sports an Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 555 discrete graphics. Although gaming performance "isn't exactly mind-blowing", it is "strong" and garners a rating of 4.5 stars. Nate Ralph's chief issue is the lack of a solid-state drive.
Review: Alienware X51 Review: The Little PC That Could, Nate Ralph, Feb. 6, 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good Mark Kyrnin offers 4 stars to a similarly stepped up Alienware X51 (Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 555 graphics). To offset the lack of internal upgradeability, he notes you can add high speed external storage "thanks to the two USB 3.0 ports."
Review: Alienware X51 Slim Gaming Desktop PC, Mark Kyrnin, Mar. 20, 2012