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Author Topic: Alienware X51- I'm almost a console!!  (Read 1636 times)
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Dante Rising
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« on: January 18, 2013, 02:01:27 PM »

I'm in that strange gaming stage where I'm torn between the significantly better graphics of my desktop gaming PC, or the comfort of playing games on a console while relaxing on a couch in front of a large plasma TV, but with noticeably crappier graphics. And since I'm a graphics whore.....A friend introduced me to the Alienware X51, which is basically a Home Theater PC, dressed up in a chassis that is only slightly larger than the original Xbox.



I decided to grab one, and instantly fell in love. It fits in perfectly with all of my home theater components and consoles. Plus, I now can game in full 1080P with maximum quality textures, shadows, AA, etc. Couple this with a wireless Xbox 360 PC controller, and you basically have something akin to a next-gen Xbox (albeit without Xbox Live). I downloaded Crysis 2, Hitman Absolution, Dishonored, XCOM, and Far Cry 3 from Steam, and all of them play at over 60FPS with just about ever bell and whistle toggled on at full 1080P.

The difference between these games on the 360/PS3 and the X51 is stunning. In addition, most upcoming action/FPS/sports games have full controller support embedded in the game, so even though the X51 uses the PC version, they play exactly like the console release. (Or you can use a wireless mouse/keyboard if you desire) I've already changed my Devil May Cry and Bioshock Infinite pre-orders from the 360 to Steam.

I'm throwing all of this out here because Alienware (Dell) has made a great little system that looks perfect in the living room, and allows gamers to experience their favorite titles with a fidelity that the PS3 and Xbox simply can't match. Now the caveat is that this is a PC, so it is still more expensive that a console- significantly so. However, Dell runs deals on the X51 with some regularity. Systems start at $699 and move into a range over $1000 dollars. However, Dell has been offering $100-300 gift cards with these systems, cash back, rewards, etc. Refurbed systems at the Dell Outlet store can also be significantly less $$. You also, obviously, can't delve into the PS+ or Xbox live ecosystem, so if that is a huge part of your gaming experience, then the X51 should be avoided.

I've built my last 3 PCs, and I had a difficult time matching the X51 if I bought comparable components myself. Plus, building a system this small is....kinda a pain in the a$$. But its nice to see that PC components have become small enough, and powerful enough, where they can fit unobtrusively in the living room. Plus, the almost universal acceptance of the Xbox controller for the PC has made things so much nicer. I remember my early days of PC gaming with various controllers from Logitech, Belkin, etc. Most of the time they weren't supported, had buggy software, or the controller just plain sucked! What a difference between then and now!

Anyway, its tax season, so those of you getting a return....

Out of curiosity, do any of you already PC game on your big screen TVs?

« Last Edit: January 18, 2013, 02:13:59 PM by Dante Rising » Logged
Bullwinkle
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« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2013, 02:28:41 PM »

What's the upgrade story on these?

My biggest fear would be dropping all of that cash, seeing these amazing graphics and then finding everything new chugging to a crawl within 2 years.

Also, is it a full PC as well?  IOW, do I have to buy the games through Alienware or Dell or some licensed seller or can I choose Steam or someone else?

Finally, does it come with a keyboard/mouse as well?  This is my biggest problem with playing PC games in the living room.  I tried going through Crysis this way, but I found a keyboard/mouse to be painfully awkward in my lap and trying to use it on the coffee table is back-breaking.  But using a controller for shooters and such isn't as precise and defeats part of the purpose, IMO.
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Dante Rising
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« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2013, 08:57:51 PM »

Bullwinkle-

1:
The upgrade path is limited to the video card and RAM, but that is all most people upgrade anyway. In the Alienware forum, users have successfully been upgrading the video card all the way to a GTX670. The limiting factor is the power supply, which is NOT easily changed, as it is an external brick that looks almost exactly like the one from the 360.

One fairly awesome point is that even if you upgrade the video card, Dell still honors the full warranty, with the exception of that component.

I should also point out that if you buy the i5 version with the GTX660, it still has ALOT of headroom for future gaming based upon the frames per second it already pumps out. At 1080P I'm getting over 120 fps in Dishonored, and over 80 in Hitman and Crysis 2, both at High settings.Games in two years may drop those numbers into the 50s, or 60s, but it is still very acceptable. And then you could always upgrade the vid card. If you do buy an X51 IMMEDIATELY update the video card drivers. For some reason Alienware sends out new systems with the drivers a few versions behind what is on nvidias site. My FPS jumped by 50-200 percent after I made this one change.

2:
The X51 is a full blown windows PC. I use games from Steam, GOG, or from retail. I also installed MS Office, Firefox, etc. Another great point is that I've now starting modding Fallout and Skyrim with the latest PC mods.

3:
The system comes with a mouse and keyboard, but I haven't used it in any games. I only use it to launch Steam, and then I immediately start using the Xbox controller once I launch the game. And the Xbox controller is very precise, especially in comparison to older controllers. It is immediately recognized in every modern FPS and action game I've tried, simply by changing the control device to "game pad" in the game options. Then you can easily change the x and y axis response time, invert controls, etc.

The X51 is basically a home theater PC, dressed up to look like a console. You could absolutely build the same system yourself, but it is difficult to find a chassis that looks as nice. and then there is the complication of actually building a system in such a small chassis. Building a large PC is an easy affair. Smaller chassis become much more difficult due to cable management, heat management, and just getting your hands in such a small chassis. As I mentioned, I build PC systems quite regularly, And I would have only saved about $150 dollars if I built it myself when compared to the sale Alienware was running. Wasn't worth my time.

Hope this helps.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2013, 09:04:12 PM by Dante Rising » Logged
ydejin
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« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2013, 11:00:19 PM »

That looks very nice!  The power supply seems pretty limiting though.  Does the 240 watt standard supply come with the regular Intel i5's and the 330 watt one come with the Intel i7's?  I couldn't figure out what determined which power supply it comes with.
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Dante Rising
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« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2013, 11:29:25 PM »

Quote from: ydejin on January 18, 2013, 11:00:19 PM

That looks very nice!  The power supply seems pretty limiting though.  Does the 240 watt standard supply come with the regular Intel i5's and the 330 watt one come with the Intel i7's?  I couldn't figure out what determined which power supply it comes with.

The PSU is definitely the limiting factor. The 330 watt PSU comes with the 660 graphics card upgrade. It isn't based upon the processor. Alienware will also verify which PSU option comes with the build you choose. If you desire to throw in an improved GPU later on, it is absolutely the way to go. Incidentally, that PSU limits the graphics card upgrade to a GTX670. Several people have tried a GTX680, but the system isn't stable due to the power draw. A few have also reported that a 400 watt PSU is available at NewEgg, but I couldn't confirm this, and no one has tried it.

For the record, I grabbed the i7 version, 8GB RAM, 660 GPU, and Win7. I'm debating moving to Windows 8 via the $15 MS upgrade option, but the system is so stable now that I really don't want to risk any headaches.

BTW, it is very hard to find online reviews since Alienware refreshed the graphics card. Until September they were using the 555 and 545 Nvidia cardsand most reviews are based on those cards. The new 660 is significantly faster. The only game that has made the system whimper is The Witcher 2 with every possible feature, including AA and Tessellation maxed out. I'm in the process of downloading my Steam library onto the X51.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2013, 11:33:28 PM by Dante Rising » Logged
Alefroth
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« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2013, 01:52:52 AM »

How did you handle the sound?

Ale
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Teggy
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« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2013, 02:31:05 AM »

Shame they didn't manage to work in a solid state boot drive.
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Dante Rising
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« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2013, 03:51:48 AM »

Quote from: Alefroth on January 19, 2013, 01:52:52 AM

How did you handle the sound?

Ale

Sound is handled via HDMI. You can set the system up in about 30 seconds, just like a console.

There is a solid state drive option, but if I recall it was a $200 option.
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SkyLander
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« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2013, 05:23:07 AM »

How noisy is it? I assume it has a fan of some sort.
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Dante Rising
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« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2013, 06:52:25 AM »

Quote from: SkyLander on January 19, 2013, 05:23:07 AM

How noisy is it? I assume it has a fan of some sort.

Yes, it has fans. it runs at about the same noise level as the xbox360 slim when playing games. When on the Internet the system is basically silent. You can also download various programs to control fan speed if you desire. Note that I download my games from Steam, so I haven't used the DVD drive very often.
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morlac
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« Reply #10 on: January 19, 2013, 02:02:14 PM »

Looks cool but $1000 for PC with limited GPU upgradeability means no sale for me.  I would not call going form a  GT660 to a GTX670 an upgrade path.  Sure it is slightly better but you are being locked into a single generation of GPU.  I don't see any chance of it running video cards in the next generation with the wimpy PSU.  I need my PC's to go 4+ years to justify the $, this won't do that.  Lastly, I would imagine that the next generation consoles rumored to be around the corner will match it performance wise and be half the cost.  However, it does look like a neat piece of hardware and you do get some solid components for the price in a nice little package.  In other words I want one smile
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Dante Rising
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« Reply #11 on: January 19, 2013, 07:07:40 PM »

Quote from: morlac on January 19, 2013, 02:02:14 PM

Looks cool but $1000 for PC with limited GPU upgradeability means no sale for me.  I would not call going form a  GT660 to a GTX670 an upgrade path.  Sure it is slightly better but you are being locked into a single generation of GPU.  I don't see any chance of it running video cards in the next generation with the wimpy PSU.  I need my PC's to go 4+ years to justify the $, this won't do that.  Lastly, I would imagine that the next generation consoles rumored to be around the corner will match it performance wise and be half the cost.  However, it does look like a neat piece of hardware and you do get some solid components for the price in a nice little package.  In other words I want one smile

Never pay full price for Dell/Alienware. They run deals somewhat regularly. I got the $1000 version for 25% off, plus a $100 Dell gift card.
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Alefroth
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« Reply #12 on: January 19, 2013, 09:22:27 PM »

Quote from: Dante Rising on January 19, 2013, 03:51:48 AM

Quote from: Alefroth on January 19, 2013, 01:52:52 AM

How did you handle the sound?

Ale

Sound is handled via HDMI. You can set the system up in about 30 seconds, just like a console.

There is a solid state drive option, but if I recall it was a $200 option.

Cool. I didn't realize graphic cards HDMI ports actually output audio.

Ale
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