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Desktops

Alienware's latest X51 gaming PC amps up with liquid cooling, latest Intel chip

Besides the popular micro-desktop, Alienware's gaming laptop lineup is also being updated with new processors and some 4K screens.

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Dell

Alienware, Dell's in-house PC gaming brand, has announced updates to several of its systems at the annual PAX Prime gaming convention in Seattle, Washington. These gaming PCs, including one desktop and several laptops, are not getting new designs, but instead adding new features and component choices to existing products.

The Alienware X51 desktop is a small gaming desktop, already popular with competitive gamers who need to carry full-power systems to tournaments. Previously using Intel's fourth-generation of Core i-series CPUs, also known by the code name Haswell, the X51 is now jumping to Intel's new sixth-generation Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs, which are code-named Skylake.

For now, the only CPU choices are the Core i5 and Core i7 K-series CPUs, which were the very first high-end Skylake-generation chips released (more are expected to be announced at the September IFA technology trade show in Berlin). Also supported for the first time will be faster DDR4-rated RAM, a type of memory we'll see more frequently in Skylake-powered computers.

The new X51 will now also offer optional liquid cooling, which attaches a unit with a fan and heat-dissipating liquid in tubes to the motherboard and processor. That can allow components to be overclocked, or run past their rated speed, with less risk of damage.

The Alienware Graphics Amplifier Sarah Tew/CNET

Another new feature is support for the sold-separately Alienware Graphics Amplifier . That's an external metal box, just large enough to hold a single desktop graphics card. It connects to a compatible system via a proprietary port and cable. Previously, it only worked with the Alienware 13 gaming laptop, but now the special port the Amplifier requires will be built into X51 desktops as well. This will allow gamers to add a second, more powerful graphics card, although at the expense of portability.

Both the Graphics Amplifier and extra graphics cards will be sold separately. The Graphics Amplifier is currently $199 in the US, and graphics cards, such as the Nvidia GeForce GTX 980, can easily run $500 or more. The Skylake version of the X51 itself will start at $1,049 in the US (international prices were not yet available).

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The big-screen Alienware 17. Dell

Besides the X51 desktop, Alienware's 13-, 15- and 17-inch laptops are getting upgrades as well. The physical design of these laptops remains the same, but all three are adding dynamic overclocking for increased performance, some new graphics card options and the addition of a USB-C port, which also supports Thunderbolt 3 data (Thunderbolt is Intel's standard for the fast transfer of large amounts of data). Both the 15-inch and 17-inch models will have optional 4K-resolution displays (but no touchscreens).

New solid-state hard drives for these laptops will be faster, because they flow data through a PCIe connection, a faster connection also used by the SSDs in the current generation of MacBooks. The processors here are still current-gen ones for now, but once Intel officially announces sixth-generation Skylake CPUs for laptops in September, we expect that those chips will come to these systems as well.

All the new Alienware systems, which will come with Windows 10 preinstalled, are available to order now.

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