We’ve heard from potential Alienware customers like acelin in his idea on IdeaStorm that you wanted to buy an Alienware with Ubuntu. Linux gaming just took a big step forward with the release of the Alienware X51 gaming desktop with Ubuntu OS for customers in the United States. This means Alienware X51 customers can choose either Windows or Ubuntu to when buying a new X51. Here’s my personal experience with the Ubuntu operating system on an Alienware and the gaming experience that it provides.
The unique interface provides a clean and stylish approach that is easy to learn. As a first time Ubuntu user, I found it easy to find my way around. After a couple of days, and with the help of the online Ubuntu community, I felt like a seasoned user.
Some of the features that stood out to me were the performance/multitasking and how easy it was to load 3rd party apps like Steam. First off, you have the overall performance of the Alienware, which has the same hardware components and performance that you would expect from the brand. The operating system loads quickly and can handle multiple programs at the same time. The Workspace Switcher is an example of multitasking done well. It gives you the option to split the screen into multiple work areas. It helps keep things in order and is easy to switch between (see image below). The OS also comes with a software center to download free open source apps, which is a great feature, as you will not be able to install your Windows-based software on the OS.
Now onto the gaming. This is the area that many Alienware users are eager to hear about. There are two key call outs that will help you make the determination whether this system is right for you.
1) Driver support: The system comes with supported drivers from NVIDIA. You are able to game right out of the box. That said, the drivers are not always updated regularly, so it's a good idea to look periodically for updates.
Update from Lionel: As many gamers know, having updated graphics drivers ensure an cutting-edge gaming experience. The NVIDIA team works hard to keep these Linux drivers optimized. Depending on when you purchase a system from Dell or via retail, you may not have the latest NVIDIA GPU drivers installed… that's why Mark recommended checking periodically for the latest NVIDIA drivers.
2) Steam: You can easily install Steam onto the machine. Though many games are not yet supported, including most of the AAA releases, the list is continuing to grow and now includes classics such as Team Fortress 2 and Serious Sam. You can check out the list of Steam games here. The highlight for the Steam integration is that it supports Big Picture Mode. The versatility and small size of the X51 made it easy to disconnect the system from the monitor in my office and connect it to my TV.
Once I launched Steam, it was easy to click the “Big Picture” button to enjoy gaming in full screen when I connected the X51 to my TV. Steam gaming on my big screen TV via Steam’s Big Picture was a very cool experience.
Overall, it’s a pretty solid experience from my perspective. I would like to see more games supported with Steam, but as I mentioned, they will be adding to the list. It’s important for customers to know that this is a completely different operating system, so it doesn’t have the familiar Windows interface. However, it’s easy to use and this set up would be ideal for individuals who require an Open Source OS and want productivity and great gaming.