Gaming PC maker Alienware (opens in new tab) has launched a new desktop with a difference today. Unlike the hulking behemoths of the past, the new Alienware X51 (opens in new tab) is a small form factor machine, which arrives in a case roughly the size of an Xbox.
The X51 certainly looks the part. Its all corners and curves with a slot loading DVD drive and Alienware's trademark customisably LED lighting. Prices start at £699 (no US price has been confirmed yet) though, so what's inside, and is it powerful enough to take on its bigger brethren?
Small is clearly the new backlit alien head for the company, which brought out an 11inch laptop last year as an alternative to its usual unportable portables. With a rather slicker and (relatively) unassuming design, the X51 looks like it wants a home near a TV or a neat desk space.
There's three different specs currently available - £699, £849 and £949 – with a choice of Core i3, i5 or i7 processor accordingly. Each has a terabyte hard drive, no SSD and 4GB or 8GB or RAM. You get an Alienware keyboard as part of the bundle, but no monitor or mouse.
So long as it runs quietly – which we'll have to wait to test it to see – it's a promising little box for a cramped desktop or to sit beside the TV.
The problem as far as I can see is that the X51 comes with either NVIDIA's GeForce GT 545 graphics in the cheaper model, or GTX 555 in the top end specs. The GPU is mounted in parallel with the motherboard. All components can be upgraded too. The GTX 555 is an OEM only card featuring 288 CUDA cores and a clockspeed of 776MHz. It's not a terrible card, and should be fine for single monitor gaming at medium settings, but it is the weakest part of the set up. The 545 has just 144 cores and is clocked at 870MHz, so is less powerful still.
To be fair to Alienware, it's a lot better than the Radeon HD 6630M found in a similarly priced Mac Mini (opens in new tab) ,
As luck would have it, I'm in the middle of putting together a similar type of system for a feature next issue. There is a price premium attached to smaller motherboards and specialist power supplies still, but I reckon you could build a slightly more powerful similar system (including operating system) for about £150 less. I'll be pitting the two against each other as soon as I get hold of the X51.(opens in new tab)