The Alienware X51 is a seductively slim and solid desktop PC. It delivers strong performance for everyday tasks and can handle moderate gaming in its base configuration. Others configurations that beef up power, storage, memory, graphics, add a Blu-ray drive and more are available, but also add a bit to the bottom line.
Not your typical beast. Looking to all the world like a video game console, the Alienware X51 impresses critics with its value and its performance. Serious gamers will look past the base configuration to a more upscale lineup, and that's what most reviewers test. That configuration features goodies such as a 4th generation Intel Core i7 CPU, Nvidia GeForce GTX 670 discrete graphics (since replaced with the GeForce GTX 760 Ti with 2 GB of memory), 16 GB of RAM, a Blu-ray drive, a 256 GB solid-state drive and a 1 TB hard drive. Performance won't quite keep up with high-end systems, such as the Falcon Northwest FragBox (Est. $1,700 and up) -- at least in the $3,500-plus configurations that reviewers test -- but the Alienware X51 can play even tough games at HD resolutions and "very playable" frame rates, says HotHardware.com, which bestows the Alienware gaming computer with an Editors' Choice award.
Streamlined, modular, with plenty of ports. Sized to be not much larger than a gaming console, the Alienware X51 can feel as at home in a home entertainment system as it does on a desktop. Featuring a matte black case with glossy black and chrome accents, the X51 is attractive without being too flashy -- not counting the typical alien-like lighting accents and the alien face that rotates depending on the computer's orientation (either vertical or horizontal). You can open the case to access the internal components, but upgrade possibilities are limited as space is tight and there are no empty bays or slots (at least not in the configurations most testers test). Heat can be a problem in such a small system -- which is why relegating the power supply to an external brick isn't an awful idea. The fan is powerful -- and loud. Connectivity is robust and includes eight USB ports (six are USB 3.0), digital (optical) audio, seven-channel analog audio and more. Video connectivity will vary with the video card but an HDMI output is built in. The optical drive (DVD burner, Blu-ray player available with upgraded configurations) is slot loading. The computer comes bundled with a wireless keyboard and mouse, but most say that the standard set is no better than mundane.
Generally adequate. Dell, which owns Alienware, backs the X51 with a one-year limited warranty. There's free phone support access for in-warranty customers. If a hardware problem can't be resolved through DellConnect's remote diagnosis, there's home repair service throughout the warranty period. Relatively pricey extended service contracts are available as well. Dell's customer support centers have come under intense criticism in the past, but recent feedback reports that things have somewhat improved.
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.
HotHardware.com gives the Alienware X51 its Editors' Choice award. The configuration tested is pricey (around $1,850), but for those who can handle the cost, the X51 "delivers a premium gaming experience in a compact design that's both stylish and well-suited for the living room."
Review: Haswell-Infused Alienware X51 R2 SFF Game PC, Paul Lilly, June 13, 2013
2. Computer Shopper
ComputerShopper.com gives the Alienware X51 only a so-so rating, but its Good for Gaming designation. Matt Safford simultaneously likes the compact chassis but dings its small size, which limits expandability. Game performance is called good.
Review: Alienware X51 (2013) Review and Ratings, Matt Safford, Aug. 23, 2013
Matt Smith calls the Alienware a "quick, small and surprisingly affordable gaming PC." Loud fan noise and limited upgradability are the most noteworthy concerns.
Review: Dell Alienware X51 (2013) Review, Matt Smith, June 6, 2013
Each year, PCMag.com asks readers about their satisfaction with the computers they own. Dell, which owns Alienware, finishes in the middle of the pack in most categories.
Review: Readers' Choice Awards 2014: Laptop and Desktop PCs, Ben Gottesman, Feb. 11, 2014