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Alienware X51 (late 2012) review: Alienware X51 (late 2012)

While we fervently await the day when physics allows Alienware to cram in a more powerful GPU, the X51 stands tall as a great, space-conscious gaming rig that would work well at either your desk or in the lounge room.

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Craig Simms
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Craig Simms Special to CNET News

Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.

3 min read

The original X51 showed just how tightly a gaming PC can be built. Sure, you could always put together your own BitFenix Prodigy housed beastie if you need ultimate power, but for those short on time or needing something smaller, the X51 is an excellent solution.

alienware-x51_1.jpg
8.5

Alienware X51 (late 2012)

The Good

Space conscious gaming PC is small enough to go most places, but still packs a punch.

The Bad

No SSD options means people will have to go aftermarket.

The Bottom Line

While we fervently await the day when physics allows Alienware to cram in a more powerful GPU, the X51 stands tall as a great, space conscious gaming rig that would work well at either your desk or in the lounge room.

Since nothing's changed externally between revisions, you've still got a console-sized box, glowing sides and the trademark alien head logo. The case is happy to be laid down or upright, and expandability is good; two USB 2.0 at the front with another four at the back, two USB 3.0 ports, 5.1 analog sound, Wi-Fi, gigabit Ethernet, analog and optical SPDIF and either a DVD or Blu-ray drive, depending on what model you get.

What is new is the third generation Core processor inside, along with a GeForce GTX 660 in the top tier models. Alienware provided us with its second highest SKU — a Core i7 3770 with 8GB RAM, a GeForce GTX 660 and a 1TB hard drive. Frustratingly, Alienware doesn't provide the option to upgrade to SSD; you'll have to find somewhere to shove in your own after-market drive if you want to go down that route.

You do get a keyboard and mouse included, but these are functional at best and let down the package; gamers are going to want to shell out for something with a bit more class.

So is the new upgrade noticeable?

Application performance

Choose a benchmark: Handbrake | iTunes | Photoshop | Multimedia

Handbrake encoding (in seconds)

  • 147
    Alienware X51 late 2012 (Core i7 3770, 1TB HDD, 8GB RAM, GeForce GTX 660)
  • 153
    HP Touchsmart Envy 23 (Core i7 3770S, 2TB HDD, 16GB RAM, GeForce GT 630M)
  • 166
    Alienware X51 (Core i7 2600, 1TB HDD, 8GB RAM, GeForce GTX 555)

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)


While we can't compare the Photoshop results of the previous X51 (as we have moved from Photoshop CS5 to CS6 for benchmarking in that time), there is a marked benefit, especially in tests that use multiple cores.

Gaming performance

Batman: Arkham Asylum
Playable on:
VERY HIGH
settings
FPS
MaxAvgMin
20114998
1920x1080, 4x AA, Detail level: Very high, PhysX off.
Metro 2033
Playable on:
HIGH
settings
FPS
MaxAvgMin
125486
1920x1080, DirectX 10, MSAA 4x, Quality: High, PhysX off.
The Witcher 2
Playable on:
HIGH
settings
FPS
MaxAvgMin
534336
1920x1080, high spec.
Skyrim
Playable on:
VERY HIGH
settings
FPS
MaxAvgMin
1066549
1920x1080, ultra detail, FxAA

We require a 30fps minimum to deem something playable, except on Metro; regardless of the power we've thrown at it, we've always had ~9fps troughs creep their way in. Here, we refer to the average frame rate for guidance.

After reviewing laptops for so long, it's nice to see some desktop gaming performance, and the seemingly indomitable Witcher 2 test passed with relative ease.

Conclusion

While we fervently await the day when physics allows Alienware to cram in a more powerful GPU, the X51 stands tall as a great, space-conscious gaming rig that would work well at either your desk or in the lounge room.

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