Alienware X51 - a PC for the masses

Posted by Rob Enderle

A few years ago, a number of PC vendors were insisting they would never sell a system for under $1,000. Today, the average price point for desktop and laptop PCs is below $700.  

Yes, Alienware was one of the last holdouts of old school-priced rigs, but last night the company released the very affordable X51 which starts at $699 and weighs in at under $1,250 with every bell and whistle you can put in the box.

Alienware X51 - a PC for the massesThe range? A core I3 with NVIDIA GT graphics to Core I7 with NVIDIA GTX graphics. Of course, let us not forget that this is alltightly packed into a tiny case that reminded me a lot of the old HP Firebird - though this product is even smaller, and far more affordable.   

Just RIght

For some reason, I’m also reminded of the fabled Goldie Locks and the Three Bears when I look at Dell’s on-line model. For this product, they feature 4 configurations starting with entry, which would be fine for a TV attached box, and ending with the Core I7 configuration which I think is overkill. Personally, I think the most balanced configuration is the Core i5 with the GTX GPU. Without the Blu-ray drive, it weighs in at $949 which is a sweet price indeed for a tiny box with plenty of gaming and productivity power.   

The really nice thing about a small box is that you can put it on top of your desk and have better access to the optical drive (for those of us still using optical drives), along with the physical on/off and reset buttons.   

In addition, given you pay a bit extra for a gaming box because it looks so cool, having it on the desk allows you to show off your Alienware system.

If it is under the desk, like the more typical mini or full tower configuration, it might as well be built in cardboard box because few folks can actually see it in a cubical, tight office or room.   

In addition, machines resting on a desk attract less dust, meaning, the system interior is less likely to look like the underside of a bed in a seedy hotel that hasn't been swept in months.

As you probably already know, dust build-up tends to form a wrapper on components, block fans, and leads to overheated machines. Because the systems rest on top of a desk, vendors (and Dell is no exception), put greater effort into making them quieter.  

Versus All-In-One

The advantages of an All-In-One desktop are several: it has far fewer cables, takes up less desk space and allows owners to move an entire system as a unit. However, they are also limited by one major disadvanatge: monitors and PCs aren’t on the same evolutionary path.  

For example, a PC you bought 5 years ago is probably on life support, whereas a 5-year-old flat panel monitor has at least 2 more years of expected life in it. The big advances in monitors are 3D, which few folks buy, and a rapid drop in price. But if your existing monitor is fine, buying a cheap new one won't really help you all that much in the way of savings.   

Given that Microsoft Windows 8 will be heavily touch focused, I expect touch-screen monitors to come down in price like a rock after it ships. I also expect to see monitors with integrated Gaze or Kinect capabilities, which should make current displays quite obsolete. 

To me, all this means that in the months before Windows 8 ships, you are probably better off not going the all-in-one route. Rather, you may want to consider picking up a tiny box like the X51 which boasts many size and desktop advantages - without the risk of becoming prematurely obsolete.

Wrapping Up

The one really cool thing about technology is that it is one of the few areas where things get better, faster, and cheaper - all at the same time. The X51 is a perfect example of this trend, as it is a well-priced, sweet looking and balanced product.  I expect to see more like this system over the next year as we continue to ramp towards Windows 8.