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Alienware unveils its first small and cheap gaming PC, the X51

"This is something that has never been done before."

Alienware enters the small and (relatively) cheap PC market today with a new computer, the X51.

It costs £699, is slightly bigger than an Xbox 360 and is designed to work upright or laid on its side.

The bottom range X51 can power Battlefield 3 in 1080p at an average of 32 frames-per-second, with high resolution textures, 4x aniostropic filtering and medium anti-aliasing turned on.

The top-end X51 can power Battlefield 3 running the same settings at an average of 54 frames-per-second.

Phwoar. And it's sleek and black, with an acceptable amount of Alienware-lighting bling.

"It's taking enthusiast-class PC gaming and putting it in a small form factor. This is something that has never been done before; there's no other small form factor PCs out there that offer any sort of a significant gaming experience," Alienware senior product manager Eoin Leyden informed Eurogamer.

"We're constantly pushing it; pushing the boundaries. We're certainly exploring new avenues all the time. I certainly wouldn't say innovation has stopped or anything like that."

The declining desktop market and rise of "more consumer friendly" small form factor PCs forced Alienware's hand, although the ultra high-end business has also been "growing" and doing "very well".

"Somebody going into a store today looking for a PC basically has to make a choice," said Leyden.

"You either have a nice-looking small form factor PC, or you get a gaming PC. And you can't have both because it doesn't exist - there is no small form factor PC that offers any sort of good gaming experience.

"And that, basically, is where X51 came from."

Inside the X51 can be either an Intel Core i3, i5 or i7 processor. That can be complemented by either an Nvidia GeForce GT 545 or an Nvidia GeForce GTX 555.

RAM varies from 4GB, 6GB or 8GB DDR3, and there's plenty of digital storage space thanks to the 1TB 7200 RPM hard-drive.

Blah blah 24x dual-layer DVD-RW; internal 7.1 audio and integrated 802.11 a/b/g/n wireless LAN.

Also, these ports and connections: on-board HDMI 1.4 out; RJ-45 GB Ethernet; 4x USB 2.0; 2x USB 3.0; surround sound speaker-out ports and TOSLINK and Coax digital outs.

"To get smaller you have to start compromising ... And the core thing for Alienware is we're not willing to trade on performance."

Eoin Leyden

"It's really knocking on some pretty serious limitations at this point," said Leyder of the X51's size. "To get smaller you have to start compromising ... And the core thing for Alienware is we're not willing to trade on performance.

"The Alienware name carries a reputation for gaming performance. Compromise to a half-height graphics card, and those minimum frame-rates might drop to below-20s. That is not playable in our view. That would not be an acceptable trade-off."

Yes, yes, yes - but is the X51 loud?

"Depends on what you're doing," answered Leyden.

"In general computing terms, if you're just messing around the internet it's pretty silent. As you continue to stress the hardware, some of the active cooling systems come on, the fans come on, the graphics card fan comes on.

"If you play Battlefield 3 you'll have some noise," he said. "But if you're gaming, you're either going to have it running through your speaker or headphones; not usually an issue."

Alienware will now offer high-end gaming PCs from £1500; small form factor gaming PCs from £700; and gaming laptops from £650.

And judging by Leyden's comments, it sounds like the X51 will be the start of a long line of small form factor PCs from Alienware.

"Our laptop line is probably our best indication; we wouldn't invest the time and effort and R&D and engineering efforts into a market if we weren't pretty convinced there was a sizeable opportunity there," Leyden told us.