The latest addition to the Alienware family of gaming desktops, the X51-R2 is actually an upgrade to last year's innovative Alienware X51($499.90 at Newegg). It uses the same space-saving small-form-factor (SFF) chassis and features the same cool lighting effects. Upgrades come by way of a newer Haswell processor in place of last year's Sandy Bridge CPU, and it has an updated Nvidia graphics card. At a list price of $699 (as tested), it's a great deal for gamers on a budget, but it lacks expansion options and doesn't come with a keyboard or a mouse.

Design and FeaturesMeasuring 13.5 by 3.7 by 12.5 inches (HWD), the X15-R2($499.90 at Newegg) is ideal for gamers who don't have the space for a full-size rig. The matte-black case has a glossy-black front panel, and each side panel sports a triangular multicolor lighting assembly. A backlit Alienware logo adorns the front panel and is joined by a slot-loading DVD multidrive, two USB 3.0 ports, two audio jacks (headphone and microphone), and a power switch. Rear-facing ports include four USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports, a LAN port, six audio jacks that support 7.1 HD audio, an optical S/P DIF audio output, and a coaxial S/P DIF audio output. The dedicated Nvidia GeForce GTX 745 graphics card provides HDMI, DVI, and VGA video outputs. As with the original Alienware X51, the X51-R2 offers embedded Wi-Fi b/g/n networking and is powered by an external power brick.

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To access the X51-R2's cramped interior you have to remove one screw and push the side panel backwards, but be careful not to rip out the lighting cable while doing so. There are no open slots for adding expansion cards, nor are there any vacant drive bays. However, there is room to replace the single-slot graphics card with a double-slot GPU, but the 180-watt power brick may limit your choices.

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Alienware X51-R2 Review

The 1TB, 7,200rpm hard drive comes with Windows 8.1, Steam, Cyberlink's Media Suite Essentials, and a trial version of Microsoft Office 365. It also has the Alienware Command Center software, which includes the AlienFX utility for assigning colors and event themes for the side panel and alien head lights, the AlienFusion power management utility, and AlienAdrenaline, which allows you to create desktop shortcuts that will launch custom game profiles for specific games, as well as monitor CPU and GPU performance. Dell covers the X51-R2 with a one-year warranty which includes in-house repairs, if necessary, pending the results of a remote diagnostic session.

PerformanceThe X51-R2's 3.5GHz Intel Core i3-4150 processor and 6GB of DDR3 RAM provide plenty of horsepower for running productivity tasks. Its score of 3,076 on the PCMark 8 Work Conventional benchmark test beat the AMD-A10-powered Lenovo Erazer X315($499.90 at Newegg) (2,500), but trailed the AMD-A8-powered Maingear Spark($499.90 at Newegg) (3,293). The Asus Republic of Gamers G20 (G20AJ-US009S)($499.90 at Newegg) led the pack with a score of 3,527, thanks to its more powerful Intel Core i7 CPU. The X51-R2 did quite well on our multimedia tests, completing the Handbrake video encoding test in 1 minute 27 seconds, and the Photoshop image manipulation test in 3:25. That's not quite as fast as the Asus M70AD-US003S($499.90 at Newegg) (1:05 and 2:55, respectively), but quicker than the Lenovo X315 (3:08 and 6:35, respectively).

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The 4GB Nvidia GTX 745 GPU gives the X51-R2 impressive gaming chops. It delivered a very playable score of 40 frames per second (fps) on the Heaven benchmark test and 50fps on Valley, both at medium quality. As we saw with the Lenovo X315, frame rates took a hit when both tests were run in ultra-quality mode. Results from the Cloud Gate and Fire Strike Extreme 3DMark tests were good, but not quite as good as the Lenovo X315's scores.

The Alienware X51-R2 is a neat little gaming system that won't break the bank. Its Nvidia GPU and Haswell CPU provide solid entry-level gaming performance, and you get the usual Alienware bling, including cool lighting effects and a glowing alien head, in a compact SFF chassis. The large 1TB hard drive provides ample storage, and there are plenty of I/O ports for connecting peripherals, but there's no room for internal expansion. For $100 more, our Editors' Choice budget gaming desktop, the Lenovo Erazer X315, offers a larger, expansion-friendly case, a 2TB hard drive, and better all-around gaming performance.

Alienware X51-R2

4.0See It$499.90 at NeweggMSRP $699.00ProsConsThe Bottom Line

The Alienware X51-R2 small-form-factor gaming desktop offers respectable gaming performance at a reasonable price.

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