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Xbox 720 on Sale Early?

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Old 05-03-2012, 04:09 PM   #1
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Exclamation Xbox 720 on Sale Early?

Friend at Neogaf just posted this review. Thought it might be of some use to our more form factor concerned gamers.

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With the current gen consoles really showing their age, and no true next generation consoles in the horizon, I decided to make the jump to PC gaming this year. This was largely inspired by the imminent Diablo 3 launch and the introduction of Alienware X51, a PC that looks like a console and is easy for a total noob to upgrade.

I have been having my PC now for a few weeks, tweaking and testing it and thought I'd share my experiences with GAF.


Alienware X51




Alienware X51 is a box roughly the size of the original Xbox. The base setup comes in three varieties - i3, i5 or i7. It's advisable to pick the i5 version because it comes with the 330W power adapter and runs cooler than the i7, which doesn't add much to gaming anyway.

Alienware kit is often ridiculed here for being overpriced and underpowered, but I estimated I'm paying some $150 over the price of the components bought separately - which I think is acceptable for the good design, well laid out (i.e. easy to upgrade) internal parts as well as for just avoiding the risk of messing up something in a totally custom build.

So I got a device and upgraded it to something that seems comparable to most of the rumors of next generation consoles. I thought it'd be interesting to share these findings with GAF, as this gives us a good benchmark on what to expect from a next generation console.


System spec (customized graphics card)



  • Intel i5 2320K processor 3.0GHz
  • 8GB RAM
  • Sapphire HD 7850 2GB (2.56TFLOP, DirectX 11.1, Open GL 4.2)
  • 330W power supply unit
  • 7.1 surround sound
  • 1080P HDMI

Five hundred ninety nine US dollars

The cost of jumping to next generation early:

799 for the Alienware X51 i5
193 for Sapphire 7850

TOTAL 992

I could probably sell the extra GTX 555 to bring that down a bit.


Sapphire HD 7850




While the stock Alienware X51 comes with a GTX 555 (right), I decided that I would upgrade to a beefier HD 7850 (left). HD 7850 is a new, incredibly power efficient and cool running card from AMD based on the new GCN architecture.

At the time very little was known of whether it would fit in at all, not to speak of heat and power consumption. So I have been doing a ton of research and benchmarking (Prime95 and Furmark) and can confirm the following.
  • The Sapphire 7850 works just fine with the X51
  • Power consumption at torture test is max 203W, which is ok for a 330W adapter
  • Heat at torture test maxes at around 85C for both CPU and GPU
  • No mods required, but the card is a tight fit so better watch a video
  • Power cable to graphics card should be routed behind HDD to keep it away from fans
  • Card should be attached to tray with a cable clip to avoid it blocking the airflow
  • Alienware X02 BIOS has too high fan speed for Fan 2, so need to use Speedfan to cap it at 75%

I bought the non-OC version of the card, but for some reason it was clocked at the OC speed, 1Ghz


Screenshots

I took some screenshots of what gaming at 1080P looks like on this box. I like to play with V-Sync enabled to avoid tearing, so you can see the frame rates accordingly. Generally I found I can play the most taxing games at top settings (but with no AA) at a solid 45-60FPS.


Battlefield 3 - 1080P, all settings Ultra, no AA














Crysis - 1080P, all settings maxed out








Starcraft 2 - 1080P, all settings maxed out












Batman: Arkham City - 1080P, all settings maxed out










Power consumption




I have been measuring the power consumption of this box for a while, running benchmarks after benchmarks and noticed it peaks at 203W during Prime95 + Furmark being torture tested for 15 minutes, which leaves a lot of headroom in the 330W power adapter.

Prolonged gaming sessions with Battlefield 3 consumee 180W As a comparison, launch PS3 consumed 189W and launch Xbox 360 consumed 172W during gameplay.


Heat

With the HD 7850, in an ambient temperature of around 24C, the CPU and GPU temps maxed at around 85C in torture test (Prime95 + Furmark). During regular gameplay the temp for the CPU and GPU was between 65-73C. Idle temp for the CPU was 55C and GPU 35C.


Noise

I would say the Alienware X51 is roughly on par or a little quieter than the launch Xbox 360.

There is one important thing to note, though. Alienware has set Fan 2 too high in the X02 BIOS. By default it caps at 6000RPM, although it's specced at 4500RPM. It gets really noisy at speed above spec. I found that the system is quiet if Fan 2 is capped at 75% using Speedfan, and this has minimal effect on temperatures.

With the new Fan 2 profile the system is really pleasantly quiet. I have still a little trouble understanding how Speedfan works and how to get it stick, though.


Accessories

There is a bunch of essential accessories a gamer should get for the Alienware X51.


  • Apple bluetooth keyboard. Very light with great, tactile keys. Great for gaming on sofa.
  • Logitech G700 gaming mouse. Superb wireless mouse with keys for grenades, prone etc.
  • Bluetooth stick. Required for the keyboard
  • Xbox 360 controller wireless adapter. Turns the X51 to what feels like a 1080P 60FPS console.


Beta box

Clearly the X51 is still a beta product and the consumer is the beta tester. My first box didn't boot, the motherboard was busted. Dell has great service though, an engineer was with me the next day. Also, there is currently an issue of the CPU fan making a very high pitch noise - Dell has promised a replacement fan to everyone.

These are the annoyances of completely new hardware. However, even a complete PC newbie like myself managed to survive with the help of Google, YouTube and Dell forums.


Conclusions




Alienware X51 got pretty good reviews from CNET, Anandtech and other websites. After my first few weeks, I would mostly agree with them. I have found the Alienware X51 an absolutely spectacular gaming machine. It has decent looks, runs silent enough, and best of all - it has crazy good performance when coming from the consoles. The upgradeability seems sufficient for the time being, and is super easy.

Comfy couch gaming is indeed comfortable, with a lightweight Apple bluetooth keyboard and the Logitech G700 mouse that I tend to use against my jeans. Or, with the Xbox 360 controller for some games.

Given that this is my first PC, I found the tweaking and testing part incredibly fun and addictive. I even replaced the CPU thermal paste. The X51 is an easy introduction to tinkering with PCs, I think that should a nice case be available when I need to do a new PC, I'm now more confident of building one myself.

Which brings me to case design. The X51 case should be a real opportunity for case manufacturers - designing a console style box this well will certainly find a target audience.

Using Alienware X51 as a yard stick for next generation consoles is pretty interesting. The system is entirely unoptimized, yet manages to pack 2.5TFLOPs into a console size box that is well within the power budget of the launch PS3. Given the huge amount of cost optimizations, efficiencies of a light OS and economies of scale, I now believe that 1080P games matching BF3 Ultra at 60FPS are a realistic possibility as a minimum ballpark of graphics we'll see at next generation console launch.

Finally, the alien eyes on the console turn red when in danger zone in Battlefield 3, which is pretty cool.
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Old 05-03-2012, 05:33 PM   #2
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Nice article. I always thought that x51 looked slick. I wouldnt buy one but it is very nice.
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Old 05-03-2012, 05:34 PM   #3
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Also isnt 900 euros like 1700 dollars?
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Old 05-03-2012, 06:08 PM   #4
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Also isnt 900 euros like 1700 dollars?
Yup. Thankfully Alienware screws their European customers and it comes to around $900.

That's after the add on GPU the guy bought. It comes with a 555 gtx for $799 with an i5. Not bad! Especially for the form factor and power sipping design. You could throw a 660ti when it comes out probably.

It's not for me either, but people who want the console form factor might want to take note.

Last edited by kamspy; 05-03-2012 at 06:13 PM.
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Old 05-03-2012, 06:51 PM   #5
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If it has tweaking options, I'd downgrade the CPU to an i3 and upgrade the stock GPU to a GTX 560 ti (CPU swap should cover the price.)

i5 on that machine is pointless.

If his card came clocked at 1ghz, that's a decent OC for the HD 7850 and if his temps are accurate, it's holding strong in that cramp place.
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Old 05-04-2012, 12:21 AM   #6
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I think the i3 is a dual core. Not sure how those stack up, I pretty much skipped all the i3 benchmarks.

Apparently the air flow in the case is really amazing from what a lot of people who own one were saying in that thread. You have to tweak the exhaust fan to not be so loud, but even at 4000RPM a lot of people report is expels heat like crazy and the actual casing rarely even get's as hot as a console (to the touch, anecdotal).

The form factor is awesome for all you can cram in there though. I've seen a lot of people moving to mATX builds just to get a better form factor. It's certainly something I'll be looking into next time I upgrade my mobo. I've seen a lot of great, shocking high powered mATX builds lately on GAF, OCN and Guru3D.
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Old 05-04-2012, 07:52 AM   #7
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I guess the thing I'm wondering is how the GPU sits in it. Both my GPUs are taller than a 360.

Did Dell figure out a way to turn the mobo on its side so they could plug it in horizontally in parallel with the top and bottom of the case?
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Old 05-04-2012, 08:02 AM   #8
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Thanks for posting this kam. This is the kind of PC I can get into. I just checked out the thread at GAF and am going to do more research when I get back to Chicago. Do you know if I bought an X51 from microcenter or ordered it from Dell if the warranty would be void if I replace the GPU? What are your thoughts on the standard specs of the X51? And when Chittagong said beta testing with the X51, was he talking about for a hardware revision for the X51 or a future Alienware model?
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Old 05-04-2012, 08:48 AM   #9
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That is a sexy ass case, it could be what some of my buddies need to get started. It takes the stigma away from gaming on a nerdy PC.

Although my rig has turned into a dedicated BF3 machine, once you get that COD smoothness in BF awesomeness @1080p........ Its fucking brilliant.
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Old 05-04-2012, 08:50 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GLOW View Post
Thanks for posting this kam. This is the kind of PC I can get into. I just checked out the thread at GAF and am going to do more research when I get back to Chicago. Do you know if I bought an X51 from microcenter or ordered it from Dell if the warranty would be void if I replace the GPU? What are your thoughts on the standard specs of the X51? And when Chittagong said beta testing with the X51, was he talking about for a hardware revision for the X51 or a future Alienware model?
On the beta testing, I would imagine it was just from the perspective that this is a new product for them, and it's bound to have some hiccups.

What I found odd, is you actually can't swap parts when you go to "customize" your build. The only thing you can customize is your add ons (KB/M, monitor etc.).

I was hoping for a chance to see what costs would be like if I swapped the CPU for a lower end but upped the GPU. But you actually can't make any of those choices.
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Old 05-04-2012, 09:07 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kamspy View Post
I think the i3 is a dual core. Not sure how those stack up, I pretty much skipped all the i3 benchmarks.
This particular i3 is a dual core model but it has hyper threading (handles 4 threads) and is roughly 30% slower than an i5. That is with computing specific tasks and not gaming, the gaming differnence is actually not much........

Gaming Benchmark

As you can see there is no difference in BF3, in games where its CPU intensive like SCII, there is a 13 FPS difference between a i5 2500k (60 vs 47) and a 10 FPS difference in Metro (60 vs 50). Now the test system used a 7970, which the i3 would bottleneck at some point but using a a good mid tier card like a 7850 or 660 Ti, an i3 is more than enough for 1080p gaming. Only reason you would want an i5 is if you were using this machine as more than a NextBox gaming machine.
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Old 05-04-2012, 09:09 AM   #12
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normally i'd be dead set against any form of buying an alienware vehemently... but this doesn't seem to be THAT bad of a deal at all.
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Old 05-04-2012, 09:10 AM   #13
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On the beta testing, I would imagine it was just from the perspective that this is a new product for them, and it's bound to have some hiccups.

What I found odd, is you actually can't swap parts when you go to "customize" your build. The only thing you can customize is your add ons (KB/M, monitor etc.).

I was hoping for a chance to see what costs would be like if I swapped the CPU for a lower end but upped the GPU. But you actually can't make any of those choices.
I would imagine these are not Dells usual CTO (configure to order) builds, they probably get to maximize their profits by selling pre configured units. I found it odd as well, but I think I would go with the i3 model and just swap out the GPU on my own adding more RAM or just replacing it with 2- 4GB sticks. The one thing I dont see is MOBO specs, like how many dimm slots they have what type of RAM it can take if I dont want 1333mhz RAM, ect ect...

Still the form factor is pretty awesome.
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Old 05-04-2012, 09:12 AM   #14
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IF the XBOX 720 is not a much better version of this, then consoles are pretty much dead to me.

As far as I'm concerned, this thing is the XBOX 720 atm.
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Old 05-04-2012, 09:17 AM   #15
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IF the XBOX 720 is not a much better version of this, then consoles are pretty much dead to me.

As far as I'm concerned, this thing is the XBOX 720 atm.


So you want consoles to cost $700 (i3 model with 555 GPU)?

That worked out really well for Sony when they tried charging $600..

I get what youre saying though, it would be nice to have powerful machines that can at least do what our PCs can do at medium settings but the cost would be too high and I dont think anyone is going to sell at a loss this gen.
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