The Alienware X51 and Nvidia GTX 680: A Match Made in Heaven?

Can Nvidia's new power-efficient GTX 680 find a home in the tiny Alienware X51? We grabbed a screwdriver, some scissors, and several cups of coffee to find out.

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When Nvidia announced the GTX 680 and its accompanying Kepler architecture last month, it made a big fuss about power efficiency. Instead of raw clock speeds, Kepler focuses on performance per watt. That got us thinking. Just how power efficient is Kepler? How low could we go with the GTX 680's power supply, given its lower TDP of 195 watts?

Well, as luck would have it, our chums over at CNET UK just took delivery of a shiny new Alienware X51 desktop. As gaming machines go, it's tiny, being not much bigger than an original Xbox 360, and it has just a 330-watt PSU. Being the enterprising types we are, we just couldn't resist seeing if we could elevate the X51 to near god-like levels of GPU power by slotting a GTX 680 inside.

Disclaimer: The X51 is most certainly not designed to house a GTX 680, let alone power one. We just can't help tinkering.

Getting into the X51 is a tricky business. It's not locked down or anything, but the case certainly isn't a tool-free design, requiring the removal of screws to get the side panels off. Inside we were presented with another challenge. The GPU was held in place by a mean-looking steel bracket, the bottom of which housed a PCI-E adaptor to allow for a sideways mount of the GPU. This was not easy to disassemble.

After removing several screws, removing a plastic mounting bracket, and a lot of wiggling, the GPU cage was freed. That allowed us to get a good look inside the case and to see if the card would fit. Our X51 was fitted with an Nvidia GTX 555 GPU, a card that's significantly smaller than the GTX 680.

Undeterred we gingerly slotted the 680 into its new steel home and slid it into the chassis. It was an incredibly tight squeeze, with the rear of the card pushing right up against the front intake fan.

Still, it did fit! But the biggest problem actually came from something rather mundane. The GTX 680 requires two six-pin power connectors, which the X51 provides. However, the power sockets on the 680 are actually recessed thanks to Nvidia's new space-saving design, meaning the odd right-angled connectors of the X51 wouldn't fit.

It's not like we could easily replace the cable either, because it's a single lead coming from the motherboard that splits into two. We thought it was all over, but thanks to some hocus-pocus and a bit of determination, we were able to bend back part of the power connector, allowing it to fit the 680's recessed sockets.

With the card in place we put the cover back on and hoped we hadn't destroyed anything in the process. With a quick press of the power switch, the X51 sprang into life, and we were greeted with the Windows 7 desktop.

So far, so good, but the real test was seeing if it benchmarked. Did it work? Well, yes and no. We managed to run a few games including Batman Arkham City, Dirt 3, and Battlefield 3, all of which saw a significant (sometimes huge) boost in frame rates from the stock GTX 555.

Sadly, it didn't work well for long. The system was very unstable, and most games killed the system after around half an hour. We tried benchmarking in 3DMark Vantage too, but it simply wouldn't finish before the system caved in.

Our hopes of having a small, nonthreatening, uberpowerful PC tucked under the TV were sadly dashed. No, the GTX 680 and X51 were never meant to be together, but if Nvidia follows its usual product cycle, then there will be smaller, less-power-hungry Kepler cards to follow in the future. And those will be a shoo-in for a system like this.

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Discussion

39 comments
Goose1982
Goose1982

In saying this, adding a full 330w of power to this machine again plus taking into account the 150w that was allocated already to running the gtx 555 that was onboard, gives you around 480w of power for you gpu turning this machine into a beast if you really want it to.

Oh, and that is plenty enough power and there is enough room to place a GTX Titan in this beast. ;) I likes the sounds of that. When i finish my project I will post some screens.

ishaan11
ishaan11

Can any other psu like corsair cx 600 work with x51

Style11
Style11

GTX 670 is so close to GTX 680  and it's only use 170W PEAK!!!

I have seen many success stories of upgrading to 670GTX ...


In fact this machine "X51" is now more powerful than N.G.Consoles ,, but software optimization will make consoles somehow faster a little bit...


but in upcoming GPUs the 770GTX should have significant boost over 670GTX ,, and may be at the same power usage level ,,

by that ,, Next Generation Consoles will be smoked out ,, even software optimization can NOT beat that level of performance  ,, for a simple reason  they both are PCs ...

I mean using of  Low Level Language will not help PS4 and the next XBOX like what is happening in current generation ..

AMD,nVIDIA now they do more focus to their drivers for performance enhancing more than what we have seen before ,,

And that will be more effective with NGconsoles because the chances of crappy ports will be less , due to that consoles are become PCs now ...

For most chances the next intel platform HASWELL CPUs may work on Dell H61 motherboards ,,,, which will expand the abilities of ALIENWARE X51

meankilleR
meankilleR

The 680 works great with an extra external pus and the 680 but just put a 670 as you can oc it a ton to over 680 stock. Just ordered mine with a 660 1.5 gb . The new 660 oem in the Alienware x51 is good tho, it can run everyting on max t 1080p. It also can run 3 screens off one dual slot 660. This is next gen boys as the unreal 4 demo was demoed on a single gtx680.

Elann2008
Elann2008

I can't stop looking at that coffee.  One arm swing away from spillage and tears.

Ray2kay6
Ray2kay6

its simple why it didnt work for the reviewer, he didnt add the extra power. This is the greatest mod for the x51 fellas....

CwlHeddwyn
CwlHeddwyn

Apparently the new GTX 670 which is almost as powerful as the 680 will work inside the X51.

shafe-man
shafe-man

@andrebetoche That only works when speaking about the Kepler line as a whole (I'm talking about the 680 specifically). The 680 is already too power-heavy for the x51, and AMD's top-of-the-line isn't any better. However, AMD's other lines are even more power-efficient, while the only NVIDIA graphics card that beats AMD (on the same power-level) is the 680. In other words, unless you want to get a crappier graphics card than the one built into the x51, your only option is AMD (for now). Wait until 2013, however, and you've got an entirely different situation on your hands.

Yulaw2000
Yulaw2000

@kraken2109 Yeah, you may be right. After giving the case design a closer look, airflow doesn't appear to be as big of an issue as I first thought.

PcGamingRig
PcGamingRig

Have you tried powering it with an orange? :P

kraken2109
kraken2109

@yulaw2000 Almost certainly PSU, but i'd expect heat to create issues too.

cheetahdakaros
cheetahdakaros

alien X-51 + GTX 680? are you insane? thats a really bad idea!!!! check the specs before tying to mod anything, nvidia says on its website : "Minimum System Power Requirement 550 W" and if you take you time to read what the AC adapter form your aien says its 240W (standard version of the X51) or 330W.... good luck ruining your computer and waiving the warranty, hope you have money for a new comp, and don't yell at the alien guys for not fixing it cause its your fault : (

Yulaw2000
Yulaw2000

Cool feature Mark. Was the PSU the issue or was it a overheating problem?

NoodleFighter
NoodleFighter

@y3vian 600watts is not the TDP of GTX 680 the TDP of the GTX 680 is 195watts

daveg1
daveg1

shame it didnt work would have been cool..but you can get smaller towers that will hide away behind your hdtv.. ive got a full size tower behind my hdtv. that i use for everything running at 1080p, the tv hides the toer nicely.

y3ivan
y3ivan

gtx680 minimum PSU requirement of at lease 600watts. i wonder those 330watts could even last without blowing up

Frosty192
Frosty192

What are you trying to say? My Cooler Master Advanced HAF full tower case cant fit under a tv? Well I guess you're right.... lol

markypants
markypants moderator

@Genchild yeah, I know. Comes with the territory :-)

Genchild
Genchild

Cheers for trying something interesting, but you had to know that the ubernerds of the interwebs were going to cry fail and tell you how you did it wrong.

y3ivan
y3ivan

seriously GTX 680 cost a fortune

ajhu_2003
ajhu_2003

Now go review Rage again. Coz Nvidia has 0 problems with the game. Its the ATi hardware that is broken

markypants
markypants moderator

@mainmachine the X51 has an external PSU, like the ones you get with laptops. Makes it a bit trickier to find one that'll work.

winshot
winshot

Send me the Nvidia GTX 680 card if you are not using it anymore and you can keep the X51...:)

NoodleFighter
NoodleFighter

Dell/Alien\Ware should allow higher wattage PSUs.

shansss123
shansss123

Nvidia should cut down their card prices in order to challenge the consoles prices.

berdcrap
berdcrap

Nice try, but what a waste of money to fail, if nvidia wanted to make the card more mobile then they would of already. New technology always requires more money. Mobile + power consumption + extreme gaming = reliability and battery life!!!! I hope i live to those days when it comes!

mainmachine
mainmachine

Why not just upgrade the PSU? looks like an open frame design... could probably fit two of them in there...

coldscooter
coldscooter

Is the X51 taking off at all? To all the people eagerly waiting for the next gen consoles, please investigate this product. After all, all a console is is a build of cpu, ram, gpu, hard drive, etc. The X51 will most likely out-spec the new consoles which won't hit for maybe over a year, by which time there'll probably be a X52... Other than a handful of console-exclusive games that you'd miss out on, I don't see the difference between this and the yet-to-be-announced xbox or ps4. I love the concept of these 'console' style gaming rigs. If popular consoles like the xbox and PS3 are taking 7 years to make hardware advancements then that is just holding back the entire industry from pushing the limits of gaming engines and graphics. Is it just a brand that people want, because you can play all but a few of your favourite games on this system and make them look and run beautifully?

markypants
markypants moderator

@Voice_of_Wisdom for us it was as much about seeing if it would fit physically (without significant modding) as much as getting it powered. And it does fit, but really only just. A 580 wouldn't have stood a chance.

Voice_of_Wisdom
Voice_of_Wisdom

silly article. It's clear that a 330 W PSU wouldn't handle a 195 W GPU

godfather830
godfather830

Nice try, but way too ambitious :) I'd like to see if one could squeeze in a Radeon HD 7870, though. That would be awesome.

andrebetoche
andrebetoche

@shafe-man "Or you could just get an AMD, seeing how power efficient they are already." In reviews you can see that 680 consumes less than a 7970 under load, and is also faster. Kepler seems to be more power efficient than radeon 7000. Still, both 7970 and 680, even 7950, are too much for that PSU. Perhaps a 7870 or 7850.

shafe-man
shafe-man

I'm not surprised. Hardware space can always be managed (even if you have to cut out a port or two) but the PSU has to be replaced to handle something like this. I'm sure in a couple months we'll see all the lines, including the 500 line (which the x51 uses), get a Kepler upgrade. Or you could just get an AMD, seeing how power efficient they are already. But personally I'd stay with NVidia, seeing how that's what the x51 was built for.

meankilleR
meankilleR

@Ray2kay6 Hey ray I love ur vids on the x51' I wish you took video of entire build. Think you can field strip it and show us step by step? I'm thinking of starting an Alienware pro gaming team you think you would be interested. Plus start making more vids man. And post at alienwarearena.com.

msfan1289
msfan1289

 @Ray2kay6 whats the point of that? yeah you have a small PC with a GTX 680 but look you have to keep it open and always carry the PC and the PSU with you. might as well get a build using the new Coolermaster Eilte 120 Mini ITX motherboard which will fit everything in it with out having to do a messy mod like that.

tweet7
tweet7

 @berdcrap Would HAVE    would HAVE

 

^^ kids these days