Best Mini Gaming Towers for Running Steam Big Picture

If you don’t have a PC connected to your living TV then you may want to consider doing so now that Steam Big Picture is available.  Big Picture is a new beta feature designed to run the Steam interface on your TV.

The thought behind Big Picture is to allow gamers to play their favorite PC games in the living room.

The new interface mode is optimized specifically for large sized screens.  The UI is also designed to work well with game controllers so you don’t have to use a keyboard / mouse anymore.

The problem with most gaming computers is size, they are simply too large to fit into a living room without adding clutter.  Manufactures are starting the see the need for small yet powerful PCs though.

Currently there two machines that stand out from the competition in the small form factor gaming market.

1.  Alienware X51

The X51 is small in size but doesn’t compromise on performance.  The chassis is 13.5″high, 12.5″ deep, and 3.7″ wide making it very close in size to the xbox.  The box can be oriented upright as a tower or placed on its side depending on your preference.
For about $1000 you get the following specs.

  • 3Ghz Intel Core i5 Processor
  • nVidia GeForce GT 545 Video Card
  • 8GB DDR3 Memory
  • 1TB 7200 RPM Hard Drive
  • Wireless N Card
  • Integrated 7.1 Sound Card
  • Windows 7 Home Premium x64
 The X51 also includes the AlienFX lighting system which lets you customize the color of the LEDs.  This is definetly a big plus since a system in the living room needs to look good.
If you want more power you can bump up the processor to an i7-3770, increase the memory up to 16GB, and max out the video card with an Nvidia GTX 660.

2.  Falcon Northwest Tiki

Falcon Northwest has a long standing reputation of building very high quality gaming computers.

The Tiki is built using very high quality materials.  The chassis is all metal with a sand blasted aluminum front.

It also includes a solid granite stone base to prevent the system from being knocked over which is pretty cool!  Although this type of base doesn’t allow the system to sit on its side like the X51.

Liquid cooling is a standard option on the Tiki.  You can purchase the system overclocked from the factory as well.

3 Ghz Intel Core i5 ProcessorThe base price on a Tiki with similar specs to the X51 is about $1650.

  • 3 Ghz Intel Core i5 Processor
  • nVidia GeForce GTX 560 Video Card
  • 8GB DDR3 Memory
  • 2TB WD Caviar Green Hard Drive
  • Onboard Ethernet (No Built-In Wifi)
  • Integrated Creative Labs EAX Sound Card
  • Windows 7 or 8

The Tiki offers a lot more options for customization than most manufactures allow.  These options do come at a price though!

The main issue I have with the Tiki is the lack of built-in WiFi, it’s not even offered as an addon.  Instead customers are forced to supply their own USB wireless adapter if they lack hard wired ethernet access.

3.  Digital Storm Bolt

Digital Storm isn’t as well known as Alienware and Falcon Northwest but they make some nice gaming hardware.  The Bolt is only 3.6″ wide making it very slim and easy to fit into small spaces.

Digital Storm doesn’t offer quite as many customization options as Falcon Northwest does but the price isn’t quite as high either.

For $1,249.00 you get..

  • 3.4 Ghz Intel Core i5 Processor
  • nVidia GeForce GTX 660
  • 8GB DDR3 Memory
  • 1TB 7200 Hard Drive
  • Onboard Ethernet (No Built-In Wifi)
  • Onboard Audio
  • Windows 7

DS does offer pretty good support on the system, it comes with a 3 year warranty and lifetime tech support.

Similar to the Tiki the Bolt’s chassis configuration won’t work well laying on it’s side but this probably isn’t an issue for most users.

The Bolt’s lighting system isn’t as impressive as the X51 but overall the system looks very sharp.  The angular design is very appealing to look at and some people might prefer it vs the more rounded design used by Alienware.

Bottom Line

All three units offer several customization options but overall the Alienware X51 offers the best performance for the price.  The X51 also includes built-in WiFi which is very nice to have for a living room PC.

Falcon Northwest’s Tiki offers some high end options you won’t see in the X51 though.  If price isn’t really a concern then let these guys built you a very awesome PC.

The Storm Bolt doesn’t really offer any unique features to differentiate itself from competitors.  Three years of warranty coverage is great but for about $300 you could add the same coverage to the X51 and be at a similar price point to the Bolt.  If you’re not a Dell / Alienware fan it’s worth considering.


Sam Kear

Sam graduated from the University of Missouri - Kansas City with a bachelors degree in Information Technology. Currently he works as a network analyst for an algorithmic trading firm. Sam enjoys the challenge of troubleshooting complex problems and is constantly experimenting with new technologies.

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