Alienware X51 gaming PC: We go hands-on at the London launch event

Alienware's latest PC is an attempt to fire a salvo right across the bows of Sony and Microsoft's gaming flagships. It looks like the (slightly overweight) lovechild of the pair; like an alternate universe console. The X51 borrows liberally from the design schools of both the Xbox (matte sides) and the PlayStation 3 (slot-loading optical drive, front panel gloss). The Alienware logo rotates to suit both vertical and horizontal setups. The device is around the size of the original PS3, but it looked pretty petite in comparison to the rest of Alienware's gaming hardware. There's a litany of holes on the back of the X51, including plenty of USB ports and audio options. Reacquaint yourself with some technical specifics after the break, alongside our hands-on impressions with Super Street Fighter IV.

Something you may have noted in the gallery; those light-up features on the device can be reassigned to different colors -- thus the two blue and green hues we saw at the launch event. Both a compatible mouse and keyboard can also be tied into these colored light shows. The device is still pretty weighty, presumably due to the fact that this desktop has a largely modular structure, with extra adjustments possible on whichever build you decide to invest in. The PC is available now in both the UK and the US -- this was Alienware's London launch, so there may be some minor differences to the hardware on either side of the Atlantic.

Connectivity-wise, we have the aforementioned USB ports, totaling six (2.0) and two (3.0), respectively, with space for HDMI, digital optical and coaxial audio out, space for surround sound systems, twin DVI outputs, and Gigabit Ethernet. The X51 looks equally comfortable in either orientation, and the ability to plug in control pads to the front of the device again echoes its console rivals. Alienware seemed eager to demonstrate this console experience, showcasing Super Street Fighter IV in a tournament for attendees

The rub? Gameplay was smooth, with the same vibrant graphics you'd expect for a PC kitted out to last beyond the current crop of Sony and Microsoft hardware. Our efforts were more hampered by the Razer Onza controllers, on which which we struggled to unleash our hadoukens. We also had a brief stint on Portal 2, which, although no graphics powerhouse, also ran untroubled. The Core i3 X51 will set you back $699, with a GeForce GT545 graphics card. Anyone willing to pony up more cash for the Core i5 and i7 models, you can expect to pay somewhere between $700 and $1000, with a grand netting the top-drawer model. The chance for a strong debut entry into PC gaming, minus the toying-with-internals rigmarole, could tempt some previously console-only gamers to get their wallets out.