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to have tried to cram as much GPU power as possible into the X51, but I do have to wonder if AMD's (admittedly now outdated) Radeon HD 6850 might not have been a better choice.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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  • ranilus - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    The advantage is the flexibility of where you can put the system. On the desk, right beside/behind the monitor, on the floor, in an entertainment center, etc.

    I had an Aurora. I was happy with the stock CPU and GPU, didn't feel the need to upgrade or overclock, or add SLI/CF or RAID 0. But that case, on man it wasn't just HUGE. It was HEAVY. I think it was 60lbs. I couldn't put it on the desktop. I couldn't fit it in my computer desk which had space for a computer tower, I could only put it beside the desk, and it was sort of in the way the whole time.

    There's always the want for simplicity, a neat desk-area, a clutter-free Feng-shui, and/or an aesthetically pleasing gaming room. The X51 achieves that, while also being relatively powerful.

    It is indeed just as you've said, you are obviously not the target audience. Really the system, and All-In-Ones, are for those who appreciates a holistic Chi.
    Reply
  • Coup27 - Friday, February 17, 2012 - link

    Nice review and a neat little system. What sets this apart is the custom design and build. On that front it is a shame there is only one photo of inside the unit itself and even that you cannot see past the side. Reply
  • Death666Angel - Friday, February 17, 2012 - link

    I like the clean built and the form factor and the relative power it packs. However, I'm a PC nerd and would never buy a complete PC unless I can save 100-200 bucks compared to the components used (which is impossible). Reply
  • Leyawiin - Saturday, February 18, 2012 - link

    I'm kind of intrigued by this tiny form factor and the relative power it has. I'm sure it would perform better than my mid-range PC (GTX 460 OC'd and X4 955 OC'd). Interesting... Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, February 18, 2012 - link

    CPU would be faster in some cases, yes, but the GPU? Overclocked GTX 460 is almost certainly going to outperform the GTX 555 (OEM). 460 has 336 cores at 1350MHz (stock), which works out to 907.2 GFLOPS (theoretical), and the 256-bit GDDR5 memory interface at 3600MHz (effective) gives you 115.2 GB/s of bandwidth -- that's assuming you have the 1GB version of the GTX 460; if not, you'd be sitting down at 86.4 GB/s.

    In comparison, the GTX 555 has 288 cores at 1553 MHz, which yields a theoretical 894.5 GFLOPS. It has a 192-bit memory interface running at 3828MHz, for 91.9GB/s of bandwidth. So, at stock the GTX 460 1GB card would have 1-2% more computations power and 25% more bandwidth, but you say your card is overclocked which would mean that however far you've overclocked basically translates directly into more computational power.
    Reply
  • Leyawiin - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    Ah, I'm not that familiar with the GTX 555 since its OEM and there are no reviews anywhere. I am playing Skyrim almost exclusively right now and its so CPU bound I was thinking that stronger CPU would have more of an impact. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    The 1.4 update should have alleviated a lot of the CPU-bound issues. At least, it seems to have done so on my PC. Plus you can also use the high resolution texture packs -- though with a 1GB card that might be asking too much. Reply
  • TareX - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    Extremely irrelevant, but I'm wondering when Anandtech will be reviewing the world's latest, fastest, most impressive handheld gaming machine coming out this week... Reply
  • AndySocial - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    I find it interesting that no reviewers ever seem to review the base model. It seems that would be enlightening. Many people are probably intrigued by the idea of a small system with ostensibly enough power to play current games on their HDTV (gotta love HDMI standardization across PC and TV usage). But, this review, like every other I've seen so far, won't tell them if the most-affordable system is worth buying. This is especially true when the X51 is using OEM-only video cards, so a typical user is not going to be able to find a lot of comparisons of other systems with the same specs. Reply

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