The new Alienware X51 - don't worry if you have never heard of Alienware, it's part of Dell - packs a full-fat gaming PC into a very small box. In fact it’s only fractionally larger than a PlayStation 3 and at 5.5Kg barely any heavier. Ideal then for putting in the lounge and connecting to your HD TV as a media and gaming machine and for chucking in a backpack and heading to a LAN party for a night of beer, pizza and hard-core gaming.
Squeezed into that box you get an Intel Core i7 processor - cheaper versions of the X51 feature i5 and i3 chips - a 1TB HDD, NVIDIA graphics and 8GB of RAM. Chuck Alienware an extra £90 and it will replace the DVD-RW drive with a Blu-ray player.
Alienware kit has never been for the shy or retiring and the X51’s LED lights and rotating alien head logo means it’s no exception. It’s well made though and more importantly for something likely to spend its time hooked up to the HD telly in your lounge, it’s pretty quiet.
Along with the optical drive the front hosts a pair of USB 2.0 sockets and the 3.5mm headphone and microphone sockets. Round the back you’ll find a mini HDMI 1.4 port connected to the GPU and a full sized one connected to the motherboard as well as two DVI ports.
There are also another four USB 2.0 slots, two USB 3.0 ports, an Ethernet socket, analogue jacks for a 7.1 surround sound speaker system and coaxial digital and toslink optical audio outputs.
My review machine was powered by an Intel Core i7-3770 quad-core processor clocked at 3.4GHz, with 8GB of RAM to play about it. That is a set-up that packs quite a punch and the X51 goes like the clappers when doing basic computer stuff.
And you don’t need to worry about the electricity bill because X51 comes with NVIDIA’s Optimus system. This forces basic tasks like web browsing to use the integrated Intel graphics while the GTX555 is brought into action when games are loaded. Clever stuff.
Does it work as a gaming rig? Oh yes. Even running 1080p output I got some pretty impressive frame rates on Battlefield 3 and Crysis 2 and when I couldn't get the optimal 60fps a quick fiddle with the games’ settings always got me back up without doing too much visual damage.
As for downsides, well the power brick is a truly colossal thing, a side effect of the externalisation of the PSU needed to keep the X51 so small and the bundled keyboard and mouse are a bit crummy. Frankly I’d prefer the option not to have the latter and save a few quid.
A small, stylish and powerful all-round PC with some serious gaming clout the Alienware X51 is highly desirable. The small box means it won't dominate the living room but it has more than enough capacity to handle the latest games and the price ain’t bad either.
MyDadRocks Rating: 8/10
Operating System : Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Processor : Intel Core i7-3770 (3.40GHz)
Memory : 8GB DDR3 SDRAM at 1600MHz
Hard Drive : 1TB, 7,200rpm
Wireless Connectivity: 802.11n WiFi
Price: £899 as tested
Review by Brian Keyes