The Alienware X51 is perhaps the most accessible computer the gaming expert has made yet. It's available from just £699 and its Xbox 360-apeing look won't seem too out of place in a lounge.
In pure gaming terms, the performance of the X51 will depend entirely on which spec you opt for. The entry-level £699 package gets you a 3.3 GHz Intel Core i3-2120 processor with an NVIDIA GeForce GT545 graphics card - along with 4GB RAM and a 1TB hard drive. Right up top is the i7-2600 model, with an NVIDIA GTX 555 card and 8GB RAM. At £949, its price is surprisingly sensible given quite how astronomical Alienware prices used to get back in the old days.
What's also inviting about the new X51 rig is that it doesn't look too outlandish. All the hallmarks of the Alienware range are here, but they've been toned down in order to give the case an easier going, more casual-friendly image. On each side of the case are light strips, and the embossed alien head logo on the front is also lit-up by an internal LED, but next to the full-size Aurora desktop - which looks like a snowplough steam train from the Judge Dredd universe - it's positively chilled.
Its front is glossy black plastic, with a strip of silver plastic trim up top. Its sides are textured matt black plastic, while the top is perforated with vent holes. Comparisons to the slimmer Xbox design are near-unavoidable, and were even made by Alienware at the computer's launch. The X51 is a little larger and a little heavier at 5.49kg, but they're otherwise aesthetically similar.
Front connectivity is kept fairly basic. There are two USB 2.0 ports, a 3.5mm headphone jack and a mic jack. The optical drive uses a slot-loading mechanism, and Alienware offers both DVD writer and Blu-ray editions of the X51. However, this is only an option on the i5 CPU model and above, raising the price floor to £888.99 (the Blu-ray/DVD writer combo is a £90 extra).
Around the back, the Alienware X51 supplies the meat of its connectivity. There are four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 sockets, an HDMI output, coaxial audio output, Gigabit Ethernet and a complement of 3.5mm surround audio outputs - all built into the case. There are also the connections supplied by the video card down below. A key benefit of the X51 is that while it's petite, its internals aren't on lockdown, so you can add RAM or swap out the video card fairly easily. We didn't get to see how you dismantle the case, but its panelled design appears fairly traditional aside from its size, we can't imagine it'd be too tricky.
The X51 offers 8,000 lighting combinations, apparently
It's the most accessible Alienware desktop yet, but is this a sensible expansion of the brand or a dilution of it? Either way, it's probably a sensible one given the shrinking interest in high-end PC graphics cards among many gamers. We'd argue that a Dell XPS-brand lifestyle system (Alienware is a Dell subsidiary) with a look closer to the Hi-Fi-inspired Antec Fusion case may be more desirable, but that's doubtless informed by what we'd rather plonk in our lounge.
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