Price: $1,349 (My configuration)
Weight: 12 lbs
The Good: Fantastic case design, stays cool and quiet, compact design with a lot of power, more ports than you can use
The Bad: AlienFX is a bit limited for this desktop, hard drive light is on back
It’s been 3 long years since my review on the Alienware M17x-R2 laptop. I love the thing and it can still play the latest games, but it is starting to show its age. I wasn’t too fond of Alienware laptops because they used to be so expensive. Since their redoing of their entire lineup they have become much cheaper over the years. With the new 14, 17, and 18 laptops and The Area-51 desktop being dropped for the X51, they have come a long way. They still offer the monster Aurora desktop and maxing it out won’t cost you $6,000 anymore. The X51 is a console sized compact small form factor desktop that is very affordable yet still offers a lot of power for gaming.
My specs for this setup are as follows:
Motherboard: Intel H87
CPU: 4th-Generation Intel i7 4770 @3.9Ghz
GPU: Nvidia 2GB GTX 670
RAM: 8GB DDR3-1600Mhz
HDD: 2TB @7200RPM
That’s a pretty powerful rig for something the size of an Xbox 360. The chassis itself looks amazing. It’s all about the custom design, what sets gaming rigs apart from others is the chassis, the more unique the better. The AlienFX slits on each side give it a sleek look. The beveled top and front plate make it look sleek. The rotatable alien head on the front gives it that extra little bit of uniqueness to set it apart from other rigs. There are plenty of ports here as well. 2 DVI and 1 HDMI, 8 USB 3.0 ports, surround sound hookups, headphone and mic jack in the front, another HDMI port in the onboard chip and a projector port. That’s a lot of ports in one small tower. While looks are important, the performance is even more important, so let’s see how it stacked up to the most graphically demanding games today.
Metro: Last Light
Advanced PhysX: On
Quality: Very High
Tessellation: Very High
Texture Filtering: 16x
The game hovered around 15-20 FPS on these settings. That’s pretty much unplayable. You’re probably wondering why the GTX 670 can’t handle these settings, and it was from one simple setting: SSAA. At 4x the scene is aliased quite heavily and you need 2 cards to be able to handle the load. Once you drop it down to 2x the frame rate shoots up to 35. On FXAA the frame rate is even higher but looks a bit blurry. That’s pretty impressive as Last Light is one of the most graphically demanding games out there right next to Crysis 3. The 670 was obviously designed to handle stressful loads in DirectX 11.
Anti-aliasing: 4x SSAA
Depth of Field: Ultra
Exclusive Fullscreen: On
Hair Quaity: TressFX
High Precision Lighting: On
Level of Detail: Ultra
Shadow Resolution: High
Texture Filter: 16x
Texture Quality: Ultra
That’s everything at the absolute max. I was getting the same frame rate as Metro at 10-15 FPS. Once again, it was the 4x SSAA. That is really for 2 cards to handle, but once I dropped it to 2 it went to 40 FPS. The game looks amazing and the frame rate stayed pretty steady and didn’t jump around too much. If you turn off tessellation the frame rate goes up to around 50 because tessellation is pretty demanding. Surprisingly, the TressFX will give you a 5-10 frame hit just for Lara’s hair.
Batman: Arkham City
Ambient Occlusion: Yes
Anti-aliasing: 32x CSAA
Detail Level: Extreme
DirectX 11Features: MVSS and HBAO
DX11 Tessellation: High
Dynamic Shadows: Yes
Hardware Accelerated PhysX: Yes
Lens Flares: Yes
Light Shafts: Yes
Here’s another GPU demanding game. Arkham City is one of the most tessellation heavy games out there and the 670 runs it like a charm. Here’s a game where you can run everything higher than GeForce Experience tells you. It says to put the anti-aliasing at FXAA yet I can run it on 32X just fine with 60 FPS. This just goes to show the true power of the 670 and the 4770 working in tandem.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
Blur Effects: Enabled
Cinematic Depth of Field: Enabled
Dangling Objects Limit: Disabled
Decals: High Spec
Depth of Field – Cutscenes: Enabled
Depth of Field: Gameplay: Enabled
Light Shafts: Enabled
LOD Distance: Far
Motion Blur: Enabled
Number of Shadowed Lights: Ultra
Shadow Quality: Ultra
Texture Downscaling: None
Texture Memory Size (MB): Very Large
Wet Surfaces Rain Effect: Enabled
This is a game where when it came out you needed 2 GPUs to turn on Ubersampling. My 5870 on my laptop has a hard time running the game maxed out even without Ubersampling. The game has a smooth 60 FPS with all above settings, not a single hitch was seen even during huge open areas.
Anisotropic Filtering: 16x
Anti-aliasing: 4x TXAA High
Game Effects: Very High
Object: Very High
Particles: Very High
Post-Processing: Very High
Shading: Very High
Shadows: Very High
Texture Resolution: Very High
Water: Very High
Another game where the anti-aliasing stressed the 670 a bit too much. Using Tessellation anti-aliasing drops the FPS by about 10, in fact, any high version of the AA drops the FPS by 10. Medium is by 5 and there’s almost no drop on low on any of the three AA options. You really need two cards or a 680/690/Titan or 7xx series card to gets high FPS with those AA options. Everything panned out well especially since the water tessellation kicks most cards butts. – is very tessellation heavy and the shadows can really bog down most cards. The 670 was able to run all this at around 40 FPS. That’s damn good for just one card.
During all this testing the X51 stayed nice and quiet, I barely heard it. After 3 hours of steady gaming I felt the back of the tower and it was barely warm, that’s some damn good cooling in such a small space. This means you don’t have to worry about games crashing or shutting down from GPUs getting too hot or the CPU overloading with heat.
Alienware computers always come with their awesome suite of software, the Alienware Command Center. Command Center 3.0 was launched in February and features AlienAdrenaline. Say you like drawing a lot and you listen to music or listen to your favorite YouTube playlist in the background. You can create a shortcut that will launch Photoshop, your playlist web link, your media player, and even change the AlienFX to match the mood, with a single click. That’s really awesome. Adrenaline also has system monitoring in real time and allows you to record it. Of course, AlienFX allows you to change the colors on your tower, but I was disappointed here. You can’t morph or allows pulsing like with the laptops and the alien head marquee on the front isn’t a hard drive light. The light is on the back of the PC and I like to know when my computer is active. You can change each side of the tower and the head marquee individually, but I would have liked more options available. On top of that, there’s AlienFusion which allows you to change all your power settings which are great.
In the end the X51-R2 is the perfect balance between power and compactability as well as price. The 670 is a very powerful card and the 4770 is an awesome CPU. The 8 threads makes a huge difference over the 4 thread quad-cores out there. If you want a pre-built desktop at an affordable price the X51 is the way to go.