Alienware X51 Review - Performance and conclusion Review

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Alienware X51 – Performance

The Core i7-6700K processor delivered some excellent results at its default 3.9GHz clock frequency. In Geekbench, the multi-core result of 16,533 still outclasses the older Core i7-4790K at its 4.4GHz Turbo frequency, although the lower clock speed means a worse single-core result of 4,177. Nevertheless, expect superb performance in CPU-bound tasks such as video encoding.
 
The PM951 offered better performance in CrystalDiskMark than Samsung quotes on its web page, with 1,500MB/sec read speeds and 330MB/sec write. These results are good, but write speeds are lower than you’d achieve with a normal 2.5-inch SSD, so this drive really isn’t quite as impressive as you might hope from a PCI Express 3.0 device.

Alienware X51
 
You’re probably most interested in the gaming performance of the X51, however, and here it puts in a reasonable showing.
 
GTX 960 configuration

I first tried a fairly up-to-date game, Grand Theft Auto V, at its default video quality settings. There’s no simple way to choose between Medium, High or Ultra detail, but these settings were restricted by the 2GB of video memory, with many of the advanced visual settings disabled. The X51 managed fine at 1080p, putting in an average frame rate of 50fps. Raising that to 1440p dropped this to 39fps, while at 4K it could muster only 25fps. Note that, with additional graphical detail, these frame rates would be much lower.
 
In Middle-earth: Shadow Of Mordor, with the Ultra graphics quality setting, the game managed a minimum frame rate of 32fps, with an average of 44.95fps at 1080p well within playable limits. But at 1440p this dropped to a minimum frame rate of 24fps, and an average frame rate of 31fps, which isn’t playable without stuttering or dropping the detail setting.
 
In BioShock Infinite at 1080p with Ultra detail, the X51 clocked an average result of 71fps, with 37fps minimum. Again, though, at 1440p it couldn’t quite stay above 30fps, with an average frame rate of 46fps, but a minimum of 27fps.

Internal temperatures look quite good. Idling around 36 degrees, this went up to 76 degrees after 20 minutes of Prime95 testing, maximising the CPU resources.
 
Noise output was particularly low. I recorded 41dB when idle and 44dB during the Unigine 3D benchmark. Again, with Prime95 running and the CPU fans at full pelt, it went to 47dB, with a noticeable hum but no helicopter-like piercing sound.

GTX 970 configuration

Our second review unit, upgraded to an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970, performed significantly better. In Shadow of Mordor we saw an average frame rate of 68.6fps, a big improvement reflected across our selection of benchmarked games.

With a GTX 970 on board, Alienware is now marketing the X51 as a VR-ready PC, and it certainly delivers in this regard. Games such as EVE: Vakyrie and Project CARS both perform well, although the latter did have to have its settings dropped to lower detail in order to play the game smoothly with a full grid of cars in stormy weather.

This isn’t unexpected; the GTX 970 is the bare minimum when it comes to both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive VR games. If you’re only going to be playing some of the more casual titles and experiences then you’ll be fine, but otherwise you should probably look to spend a little more on a PC kitted out with a higher-performance GPU.

What you gain in graphics power you lose in processing performance in order to keep the cost under £1,000. Still, the Intel Core i5-6400 is a powerful processor that won’t prove a bottleneck when playing games, so unless you’re going to be rendering video on a regular basis, this will suit you just fine.
 
Alienware X51

Should I buy the Alienware X51?

Benchmark results show that the X51 absolutely nails 1080p gaming, and with the GTX 970 on board (which I would recommend over the GTX 960) it’s a capable VR rig.

It’s also one of the smaller VR-ready PCs you can buy off the shelf right now, which is a big mark in its favour. However, it’s still quite expensive, whichever way you look at it. You pay a premium for compact size, which for many won’t be worth it.

Verdict

It’s expensive for what it is, but the Alienware X51 is a reliable and compact gaming PC that’s ready for VR.

Score