Do you identify yourself as a PC gamer? Or do you prefer consoles, perhaps? Truth be told, there's not a lot separating the two these days. With notable exceptions, today's top games are built for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, and unless you can't live without the likes of Mario, Solid Snake or Master Chief, you'll likely pick based on the controller you prefer, graphical fidelity, and the distance you sit from your screen. Inevitably, tradeoffs have to be made. There's a lot to be said for vegging out on the couch after work with a good game, but consoles don't often play nice with mouse and keyboard, and don't usually render games at true 1080p. Meanwhile, the gaming PCs that can are typically huge and bulky.

That's why Alienware's X51 is so intriguing. This black tower packs full-size gaming PC components into a chassis only marginally bigger than an original PlayStation 3 — theoretically slotting in alongside your home theatre components to let you play the latest PC games on your TV. The crazy part is that despite the X51's size, it isn't a boutique machine: Alienware claims it's easily upgradable with off-the-shelf components, and the basic model starts at just $699. The question is obvious: what's the catch? Let's dig in, and we'll tell you.