Gaming Performance

This is the real measure by which the Alienware X51 will be judged. Alienware seems to have tried to cram as much GPU power as possible into the X51, but I do have to wonder if AMD's (admittedly now outdated) Radeon HD 6850 might not have been a better choice. The HD 6850 certainly fits well within the X51's power envelope, but then again, the end user would lose the benefit of NVIDIA's Optimus power-saving technology. That said, the benefits of that technology on the desktop are a little bit foggier than they are in a notebook. It's really a tough call either way, depending upon your usage model.

Where our charts unfortunately are going to come up a bit short are in comparisons. Because we recently revamped our gaming benchmark suite, there's only one system we can compare the X51 to: the recently-reviewed AVADirect Silent Gaming PC. That isn't necessarily a fair fight, either, with AVADirect's system costing 2.5 times as much and enjoying a GeForce GTX 580. Still, one data point is better than none, but try to maintain perspective: Alienware is targeting 1080p gaming, but our desktop gaming suite is brutal, and the GTX 580 is roughly twice as powerful in hardware.

In case you missed it, note that again we're using the same selection of games as our laptop reviews, only we're running 1080p using our Mainstream and Enthusiast settings. Since we don't have all of the previously reviewed systems available, we've included the only 1080p Mainstream results we have right now in one chart.

Batman: Arkham City

Battlefield 3

DiRT 3

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Portal 2

Total War: Shogun 2

What's impressive is that the X51 actually posts fairly strong numbers in our gaming testing. Anti-aliasing is going to be out of the question in many cases (e.g. the Enthusiast results), but Alienware seems to have largely been successful in achieving what they set out to achieve: the GTX 555 version can definitely handle our Mainstream 1080p gaming suite.

Where things do get a little foggier is the Optimus support. Total War: Shogun 2 flat out refused to run while the IGP was enabled; we had to connect the monitor directly to the video card instead of the IGP's HDMI port to get the game to work. This bug was reported to NVIDIA and Alienware, and since the X51 uses standard NVIDIA drivers this should hopefully be fixed in the future.

We also discovered a minor hiccup in our testing suite involving the monitor we use for testing desktops: the Acer HN274H has a bug where it can incorrectly report the resolution it supports, regardless of HDMI, DVI, or VGA connection, and this bug reared its ugly head in Civilization V testing on both the X51 and on the AVADirect system. Unfortunately, despite working with NVIDIA on the issue, we didn't figure out it was the monitor until the X51 exhibited the same issue (refusing to benchmark at 1080p and knocking the resolution down to 1680x1050), so we don't have results for AVADirect's tower. That said, the X51 was able to produce over 30fps in Civilization V (34.7 at Enthusiast and 43.6 at Mainstream 1080p to be exact.)

System Performance Build, Heat, and Power Consumption
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  • swimtech - Saturday, February 18, 2012 - link

    That sounds like a great idea for a follow up article if they can hang on to the review unit for awhile longer. Seriously doubt the 100% OC though - 20% might be enough to get there for a better Battlefield 3 experience.
  • DanNeely - Friday, February 17, 2012 - link

    Alienware had to spec the PSU for a worst case load that's rather heavier than the AT load test. Probably intel burn test + furmark with all the monitor ports connected, the optical drive burning a disk, all the fans spinning at max speed, and tablets charging from every USB port.
  • Roland00Address - Friday, February 17, 2012 - link

    1) Video Card Power is limited to 150w according to dell
    2) Total System Power is limited to an external power brick (same one used in m18x). Dell makes a 240w version and a 330w version. You may only get the 240w version if you skimp out on the video card and processor. You can always buy the 330w power supply separately for $145
    3) The maximum length of the video card is 9 inches. This removes a reference 6870 since that card is 9.84 inches. You may be able to find a non reference 6870 which has a shorter board.

    A 7770 will fit, but it should provide similar enough performance to the geforce 555 (oem only) to be barely worth the trouble. The 7800 series on the other hand may actually work though.
  • Roland00Address - Friday, February 17, 2012 - link

    *wishes for a preview button*, but hey at least most of the spammers have gone away.
  • NicodemusMM - Friday, February 17, 2012 - link

    I've been seeing a new carriage in some of Dell's Optiplex models. It's essentially a plastic insert that fits into their 3.5" drive slots, but it holds two 2.5" drives. Such an option may be viable for this model. Simply use one SSD and one 7200 RPM 2.5" drive.

    I like the looks of this, but I hope their fan profile allows it to spin up a bit once users get it into their house and fill it with dog hair and tobacco tar. I do not look forward to calls on this model.
  • Robalov - Friday, February 17, 2012 - link

    That case is exactly what I want and have been looking for.

    Hopefully down the line, some of the cases will make it to ebay.

    The computer itself fills a hole for those wanting to game without lugging around a full tower, but it's a small market, I imagine this would get more sales as a HTPC if they marketed it as such.
  • Meaker10 - Friday, February 17, 2012 - link

    The main problem I see here is you can get a notebook with a built in 1080p screen, GTX570M and 2 hard drive slots (supporting raid0) for the same price!
  • Dustin Sklavos - Friday, February 17, 2012 - link

  • rpsgc - Friday, February 17, 2012 - link

    The only notebooks around 1000 USD I can find all have a GTX 560M at best.
  • kevith - Friday, February 17, 2012 - link

    That´s the only thing I was looking for throughout reading this review: Can you find these features at the same price in a laptop, and: You can´t.

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