• Alienware X51 review

    Alienware X51 review

  • Alienware X51 review
  • Alienware X51 review
  • Alienware X51 review
  • Alienware X51 review
  • Alienware X51 review
  • Alienware X31
  • Alienware X51
  • Alienware X51 review

    Alienware X51 review

  • Alienware X51 review

    Alienware X51 review

  • Alienware X51 review

    Alienware X51 review

  • Alienware X51 review

    Alienware X51 review

  • Alienware X51 review

    Alienware X51 review

  • Alienware X51 review

    Alienware X51 review

  • Alienware X31

    Alienware X31

  • Alienware X51

    Alienware X51

A couple of years ago Alienware’s X51 gaming PC had an easy ride. Both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 were long in the tooth, and it was child’s play for Alienware to assemble a gaming PC with lots more power.

Now the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have swaggered onto the scene, prompting Alienware to do a product refresh. So is the X51 still the most lounge-friendly gaming PC around? And is it a match for the new consoles?

READ MORE: Xbox One vs PS4

The most console-like computer around

Alienware X51 review

Alienware X51 review

We still really like the X51’s compact size and small footprint, and it looks good under a telly.

There are of course smaller computers out there, but the Alienware is about as compact as they get while still leaving space for chunky, powerful graphics cards and optical drives. It’s only fractionally bigger than the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, too, but its curvaceous design looks dated compared to the consoles’ newfound angularity.

Packing a powerful punch

Alienware X51 review

Alienware X51 review

All of that kit adds up to a rich gaming experience that is certainly on a par with the consoles. It runs Battlefield 4 with most of the settings pumped up, and it maintains a decent 25 frames per second on bechmarking favourite Metro: Last Light at its most intense.

It’s capable of 4K gaming, too, although you might want a bigger, Titan-toting rig if you're really serious about pushing those numbers of pixels around at silky smooth frame rates. And bear in mind that it looks very unlikely either of the new consoles will ever offer 4K gaming.

READ MORE: Here's why 4K TV is set to take over your living room

Watch the electricity bill

Alienware X51 review

Alienware X51 review

There’s a rather big disadvantage to the X51’s beefy components, especially the graphics card: they draw a heck of a lot of power. It idles happily at around 44 watts, but boot up a game and it drastically increases to 250 watts - 100 watts more than the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 under full load. It also gets loud, but not deafeningly so.

However, these are problems with the nature of PCs in general, and Alienware deserves kudos for creating a case that requires no cooling other than the CPU and graphics card heatsinks, and as a result this is still far quieter than your average gaming PC.

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Every expense spared on the accessories

Alienware X51 review

Alienware X51 review

Surprisingly Alienware still hasn’t fully embraced living room computing, which is a little odd given Steam’s leaps and bounds in becoming a TV-based gaming platform.

Here you get a mouse and keyboard chucked in, but they’re both wired and both pretty abysmal - the mouse especially is like something you’d find in a cereal packet. A remote control would be a great addition here, as would a game pad.

READ MORE: Hands-on with Valve's Steam Controller

A media hoarder

It still functions really well as a media-centric PC, though, and it includes HDMI, DVI and DisplayPort outputs for connecting to a variety of displays, with optical and digital coaxial for audio.

Alienware chucked in a 2TB hard drive for our sample (the base option is 1TB), and for an additional £100 you can add a Blu-Ray drive. It handles media utterly flawlessly, it’s nigh-on silent when doing so, and the variety of media services available for the PC - including naughty ones - only add to its versatility. Take that, Chromecast.

Steam Machine?

Alienware X31

Alienware X31

The X51 more than meets the minimum requirements for Valve’s gaming-dedicated Steam Machines, and its size and power make it perfect for HD gaming.

However, it might be worth waiting to take a look at Alienware and iBuyPower's upcoming Steam Machines if a lounge-friendly gaming PC tickles your fancy. These lack optical drives so they're even tinier than the X51, and in theory they'll be cheaper because they won’t need an extortionate Windows licence.

READ MORE: 12 Steam Machines detailed, fondled and photographed

Performance per pound

X51 configurations start at £599, but ours totalled £1,029. It’s expensive compared to consoles, but PC games are generally far cheaper and ardent gamers will save cash in the long run - especially if they don’t mind waiting for Steam’s sales. In computing terms a souped-up gaming PC for around a grand has to be admired, too, especially given the small form factor.

Alienware X51 (2014) verdict

Alienware X51

Alienware X51

Alienware hasn’t changed a huge amount about the X51, but this is still the computer to get if you’re not tempted by a console.

The wee size matched with powerful components make it perfectly suited to the living room, and in terms of performance it’s up there with the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, but with the added flexibility of the PC as a platform. Steam Machines are going to liven this market up, but right now the X51 is the best balance of performance and size in the PC world.

READ MORE: The Best Home Computers in the World right now

Stuff says... 

Alienware X51 (2014) review

It's not without its flaws, but the X51 remains the best balance of power and form currently available in PC land
Alienware X51 review

Alienware X51 review

from £599.00
Good Stuff 
Good components
Winning performance:size ratio
Fantastic for media
Bad Stuff 
Draws lots of power
A bit loud
Below-par accessories
power
0
design
0
Connectivity
0
quietness
0
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