Alienware X51 R2 Gaming Desktop System
Some say desktop computers are fading into a thing of the past, personally I prefer them over a laptop or tablet any day of the week. Laptops and tablets certainly have their place in today's on-the-go lifestyle we lead. In fact I'm typing this while sitting in a hotel room on a business trip on my laptop. Obviously there are some advantages to them, but desktop systems are my preferred system any day of the week. Dollar for dollar desktop systems offer more bang for the buck than a laptop, but laptops offer portability though you sacrifice performance. If you haven't guessed already, today we are looking at a full blown desktop system from Alienware, the X51 R2. The Alienware X51 desktop starts at only $699 but the sky is the limit as the X51 is fully customizable. The $699 is powered by an Intel Core i3-4130 while the version we have on-hand today is powered by an Intel Core i5-4430. The Intel i5-4430 Alienware x51 starts out slightly higher at $854, though the processor isn't the only upgrade with this version. Alienware didn't stop at an i5 version, there is also an X51 with an Intel Core i7-4770 that starts out at $1079.
The Alienware X51 R2 that we have on hand today is the Intel Core i5-4430 edition mentioned above that starts out at $854. Ours was sent to us with a few minor upgrades, most notably the graphics card. The Alienware X51 R2 that was sent to us came loaded with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670. The drives in our Alienware X51 have also been upgraded. Instead of a DVD writer, we have a slot loading blueray player, our hard drive was also a step up from the standard configuration, we had a two terabyte Seagate Barracuda (P/N ST2000DM001) as opposed to the basic one terabyte drive. It drove the price up by nearly $500 having these improvements, up to $1349.00, but if you're a gamer they will certainly be worth it.
Once the Alienware X51 R2 was fired up, this is the desktop background that is the default. The only items on the desktop are the recycle bin, Alienware Command Center, and the My PC Information icon.
The Alienware X51 R2 has the ability to change the lighting on the chassis. To do this we simply had to open up the Alienware Command center and make the adjustments that we wanted. All three of the areas, left side, right side and Alien eyes can be adjusted independently, or you can use a predetermined profile.
We fired up the Alien Blood profile and all of the lighting changed to a neon green. This may be a little cheesy to some, but it can be disabled if you don't like it. The Alienware Command Center will also give access to the AlienFusion and AlienAdrenaline. AlienFusion let's us toggle through the various power plans, Balanced, High Performance, as well as creating custom plans. The AlienAdrenaline application will create custom environments within the system, you can set the AlienAdrenaline app to change the graphics properties when you open a game, or open additional programs like a VOIP, or media player.
The Alienware X51 R2 that we received had an Intel Core i5-4430 at its' heart. The Intel Core i5-4430 is a 4-core/4thread processor and has a standard clock speed of 3.0GHz. Under a lightly threaded load the Intel Core i5-4430 has a maximum turbo speed of 3.2GHz.
In addition to the Intel Core i5-4430 under the hood, we also have a power house of a graphics card. The Alienware X51 R2 came with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 2GB graphics card.
The Intel Z87 chipset and Intel Core i5-4430's Intel HD Graphics 4600 can be utilized in conjunction with the GeForce GTX 670 when using the Lucid Technology. What's great about using both graphics technologies in the Alienware X51 R2 with Lucid is the ability to use Intel features like Quick Sync that are exclusive to the Intel graphics.
One thing that has been a concern in the past is the amount of bloatware that has come in prebuilt systems like the Alienware X51 R2. I was happy to see that there wasn't an excessive amount of software that came pre-installed. Aside from the Alienware utilities like AlienAutopsy and AlienRespawn, we have a trial version of Microsoft Office and CyberLink PowerDVD 9.6.
The Window Experience Index is by no means the end all benchmark. It does give us an insight into what may be the weak link in the chain. In the case of the Alienware X51 R2, everything was pretty solid. The Intel Core i5-4430 scored 7.5, the Samsung 8GB 1600MHz memory kit scored 7.7, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 scored 7.9, all very solid scores. The weak link was the primary hard disk. The Seagate Barracuda 2TB drive is a great drive, but it scored only 5.9 out of a maximum of 7.9, the WEI is only as high as the lowest score which means that the Windows Experience Index for the Alienware X51 R2 is only 5.9.
Alienware X51 R2 Retail Packaging and Bundle
The retail packaging for the Alienware X51 R2 Desktop system is pretty generic, at least about the specific detials of what's inside. The only identifying mark is the Alienware name and logo at the bottom of each of the sides.
Opening up the shipping box we are presented with a couple of smaller boxes that house and protect the bundle.
Opening up the first of the boxes we can see the documentation that comes with the Alienware X51 R2 desktop gaming system.
The bubble wrapped item within this particular box is the receiver for the XBOX 360 controller that was included with the system.
Below everything else is the power brick for the Alienware X51 R2. This particular power brick carries the Dell part number of Y90RR, or the model number DA330PM111. This power brick has a rated output of 19.5 Volts at 16.5 Amps, or 330 Watts.
In addition to the power supply and XBox connector we saw above, the Alienware X51 R2 included an Alienware mouse, keyboard, and a Microsoft Xbox 360 controller.
Alienware X51 R2 External Features
The Alienware X51 is a nice looking rig. The side panel of the X51 is simplistic, though it can be flashy. The section in the center of panel can be illuminated in a variety of colors, it's controlled through the Alien Command center application within the Windows operating system. There are times I like a little bit of 'Bling' to my system, other (more frequently) I prefer less, and the X51 from Alienware handles that without an issue for me.
The Alienware X51 R2 keeps everything stylish but not overstated. The front of the X51 chassis features a gloss black finish with almost nothing but the essentials. Up top we have the power button, on the left we have the slot loading optical drive while on the right we have a pair of SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports and the 3.5mm head phone jacks. At the bottom we have the trademark Alien head, the eyes can be set to glow to match the side panels or their own independent color.
The top of the Alienware X51 R2 chassis is slotted to allow for the necessary airflow to keep the Intel Core i5 4430 processor cool.
The bottom of the Alienware X51 chassis is designed similar to the top with regards to providing the necessary airflow, though here we are working on keeping the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 breathing. At each of the corners of the Alienware X51 R2 we can find a rubber foot that will prevent the X51 from sliding around on your desk.
The back panel of the Alienware X51 R2 is pretty common by today's standards. The I/O panel features four SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports, two HiSpeed USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, Coaxial and optical SPDIF out, HDMI and the usual six 3.5mm audio jacks. Towards the bottom of the X51 chassis we can find the pair of DVI ports, HDMI, and DisplayPort that is featured on the included NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670. Just to the left of the GTX 670 we can make out the plug for the system power. The back panel that doesn't feature some sort of I/O is a mesh to aid in the system breathing during those long gaming sessions you're bound to have with the Alienware X51.
The opposing side panel is quite similar to the first side panel, though there is one distinct difference. There is some alien scripting up top. As with the other side, the light panel can be adjusted to match the other side and eyes, or done on its own.
Inside the Alienware X51 R2 Gaming System
Removing the side panel from the Alienware X51 R2 is as simple as removing a single screw. Once that's done the side panel slides forward a bit and its loose, be careful though, there is a single wire that connects the panel light to the chassis.
With the side panel removed we can see that Dell didn't leave much room that's not utilized in the Alienware X51 R2. Even the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 had to be repositioned to fit inside the chassis!
Once the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 is out of the way we can find the Seagate Barracuda 2TB (P/N ST2000DM01) hard drive is tucked underneath it.
The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 is an unbranded reference card, in fact the only way we know it's a GTX 670 is through GPUz.
The Alienware X51 R2 features 8GB of DDR3 Samsung memory (P/N M378B5173BHO-CKO) running in dual channel. As the system is configured it is running that memory at 11,11,11,28,1T timings, which is what the DIMMs are spec'd out at.
Alienware X51 R2 CPU & Synthetic Benchmarks
Firing up the latest iteration of Futuremark's 3DMark, the Alienware X51 R2 had a solid performance with an overall score of 5252. The Physics score which relies heavily on the Intel Core i56-4430 was solid with a score of 6027 while the graphics score hit 6062.
In PCMark 8 the Alienware X51 R2 hit a score of 4817 and a casual gaming performance of 89.3 frames per second. The Alienware X51 R2 is certainly capable of more than casual gaming with the powerhouse NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 under the hood!
The Alienware X51 R2 desktop system was able to score 5.13 points in the CPU test of Cinebench R11.5 and 1.43 points in the single core CPU benchmark.
The Alienware X51 gaming system had a solid score of 451 cb across all the cores and 126cb on the single core CPU benchmark.
The Alienware X51 R2 desktop system runs 8GB of DDR3 memory at 1600MHz with 11,11,11,28,1T timings. Looking at the performance results in SiSoftware Sandra 2013 SP5 the system is running spot on. The Aggregate memory performance is solid at just over 18.5GB/s.
The Alienware X51 R2 saw an aggregate native performance of 58.16GOPS in the SiSoftware Sandra Processor Arithmetic benchmark.
The Alienware X51 R2 Sandra Multimedia benchmark gave us an Aggregate Multi-Media Native performance of 242.1 MPix/s.
The SiSoftware Sandra 2013 SP5 Cryptographic score of the Alienware X51 R2 was 4.08GB/s.
In the Encryption Algorithm Benchmark that comes inside TrueCrypt we found an AES mean score of 2.6 GB/s
In the x254 HD Video Encoding benchmark the Alienware X51 was able to render the first pass at 48.75 frames per second and the second, more processor intensive pass at 11.64 frames per second.
When it comes to boot times, the Alienware X51 R2 isn't the strongest contender. Perhaps I have become accustomed to running only SSD's, but our best boot time was 38.67 seconds while our slowest was nearly 51 seconds.
Alienware X51 R2 Desktop Gaming Benchmarks
Firing up the Bioshock Infinite benchmark we found that the Alienware X51 R2 was more than capable of handling the latest version of Bioshock. You can see from the settings that we aren't holding back and the X51 R2 was able to average over 81 frames per second at 1920 x 1080 and just under 117 frames per second at 1280x1024!
Hitman Absolution is a bit more demanding than Bioshock Infinite above. At 1920 x 1080 with the settings cranked up we were able to average 30.3 frames per second, at 1280 x 1024 our average improved to 40.8 frames per second. Obviously a little higher would be nice, but the game play was still smooth, lowering the image quality a bit would certainly increase the frame rate if you needed a bit higher fps.
Sleeping Dogs was no issue for the Alienware X51 R2, at 1920 x 1080 the system was able to average 41.8 frames per second and 62.2 frames per second at 1280 x 1024.
The Alienware X51 R2 didn't struggle with the latest iteration of Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. With the image quality set on Ultra, the system was able to average 78.7 frames per second at 1920 x 1080 and 107.3 frames per second at 1280 x 1024.
System Power Consumption
It was no surprise that the Alienware X51 R2 was pulling less power at the wall than our test system. The Alienware X51 R2 was sipping power at idle pulling only 44 Watts while the ECS Z87H3-A2X and Intel Core i7-4770K was pulling 64Watts. Loading up the CPU with AIDA64 Stress test the X51 system was pulling a peak of 94Watts while the ECS board was pulling 145Watts! Firing up 3DMark Firestrike and relying heavily on the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 the gap closes a bit but the Alienware X51 R2 still pulls 28 Watts less than the ECS Z87H3-A2X and Intel Core i7-4770K.
Final Thoughts & conclusion
Alienware didn't disappoint with the X51 R2 today. The X51 R2 is a small form factor system that is geared for those looking to save some space without sacrificing performance, I'm confident that they hit the mark! There are always a few features that I would like to see added and tweaked in the configuration options, but we'll get to those shortly. Overall I was extremely happy with the build as we got it, and I didn't have any issues using the X51 R2 today which is always a plus!
The only aspect about the Alienware X51 R2 that kinda drove me up a wall was the boot time. I'll admit that it has been quite a while since I have used a traditional platter style hard drive for the primary drive. SSD's are insanely fast compared to a hard drive like the Seagate Barracuda 2TB drive in the Alienware X51 R2, using an SSD would likely cut the boot time in half. Though SSD's do add some cost, but with the availability to configure the system you can pick and choose where to spend your hard earned money. The problem is, it's not an option from Alienware for the X51 R2 with the Intel Core i5-4430 like we had. It's an option for the i7-4770 version, but the only choice is a 256Gb SSD + 1TB HD which addes $350 to the cost. In my not so subtle opinion they need to offer a smaller SSD, say 120GB, or even a 20GB-32GB SSD to use with Intel Smart Response Technology (SSD Caching). Either way it would dramatically improve the responsiveness of the system.
When you're looking to save some space, a small form factor PC is great for that. The Alienware X51 R2 measures only 12.52" x 3.74" x 13.504"(318mm x 95mm x 343mm) (LxWxH) with a starting weight of 12.1 Lbs. Setting the Alienware X51 R2 up next to the soda can we can get a pretty good feel for the size of the system. It doesn't take up much room on the desk, which of course is the point of a small form factor PC like the X51.
Having a fourth generation Intel Core i5-4430 processor and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670under the hood there was no shortage of power. All of the benchmarks that we threw at the Alienware X51 R2 ran flawlessly. Obviously an Intel Core i7 processor would be a step up, but the Intel Core i5-4430 was able to run everything great, as well as shave a few bucks of the cost of the system.
The Alienware X51 R2 systems start as low as $699 for the basic model with an Intel Core i3 processor and can be configured to as much as $1800+ for the Intel Core i7-4770 processor and all the bells and whistles. The biggest advantage to configuring the system to your needs is that you can pick what you want to spend more money on, like storage or an SSD, or on the graphics capabilities with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670! It's entirely up to your needs and budget.
The entire X51 series is covered by a one year Alienware Basic support plan. The basic support plan gives you access to one year of In-home service after a remote diagnosis from an Alienware expert technician. For an added cost though, you can extend the coverage for as much as four years of Alienware enhanced support. In addition to the basic plan details above, the enhanced support includes 24/7 access to dedicated Alienware advanced support technicians.
- 1 Year Alienware Basic Support - Included in Price
- 1 Year Alienware Enhanced Support - $69.00
- 2 Year Alienware Enhanced Support - $149.00
- 3 Year Alienware Enhanced Support - $219.00
- 4 Year Alienware Enhanced Support - $279.00
If you're not the kind of person who wants to open up the system and tinker with it if something should fail, or you just want the peace of mind that the warranty and extra support can give you you're covered for up to four years.
Legit Bottom Line: If you're in the market for a small form factor PC the Alienware X51 R2 is a great choice. It offers the speed and performance that your looking for in a gaming system, with a foot print of an office PC.