Dell, the on-again-off-again friend of desktop Linux, has announced its first Ubuntu-powered gaming PC. The X51, Alienware’s console-lookalike, will soon ship with Ubuntu Linux and full graphics driver support, with gaming-ready specs, starting at $ 599.
The whole deal hinges on a company that is not partner to the release but will be one of primary beneficiaries: Valve. The company’s release of Steam for Linux opened the door for announcements like this by making parts of their gaming catalog available on desktop Linux. While their Linux-ready lineup is just a fraction of the overall Steam catalog, it is up to 210 games and includesmust-haves like Team Fortress 2 and Counter-Strike. There are also popular indies like FTL and SpaceChem, and games you should play but haven’t, like Frozen Synapse.
The Ubuntu X51 at $ 599 isn’t much to brag about, but it’ll be more than enough to play indie offerings and newer games at 720p. The system will ship with a dual-core Intel Core i3-3220 CPU, 6GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 645, and a 1TB hard drive.
The next two models up move to $ 749 and then $ 849, first with a CPU bump and then a jump to the GTX 660, a very respectable graphics option. The top-tier pre-configured model starts at $ 1049. It gets a Core i7-3770, but will feature the same 8GB of RAM, GTX 660, and 1TB hard drive of the lower model.
Alienware isn’t offering an SSD upgrade yet, but they do offer one in the $ 1049 Windows 8 X51. Dell’s pricey XPS 13 Developer Edition, which runs Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, also ships with a 256GB SSD. It’s not clear why the Ubuntu X51 is being left out, but maybe Dell is just limiting options while the get the product under way.
The X51′s version of Ubuntu was not specified in Dell or Alienware’s sites, but a sensible choice would be 12.04 LTS.
Dell announcing an Ubuntu gaming PC might not seem like a big deal to computer builders who already have gaming rigs and don’t need a computer manufacturer’s help to install Ubuntu, there are two details here that should not escape notice though. The first of these is support. When you buy a computer from Dell (or Lenovo or HP, etc.) you have someone to blame when things go wrong. Dell probably won’t help you setup SAMBA so you can share files between this machine and your Windows computers, but the company will get you through some basically issues. Dell will also ensure your graphics drivers will play nicely with Ubuntu today and in the immediate future.
The second important part of this release is the timing. Valve officially announced Steam of Linux and shortly thereafter Dell has a Linux gaming PC — it’s a clear testament to the influence Steam has in the PC gaming market. The Linux catalog is still sparse, but Valve’s commitment to non-Windows gaming will go a long way, as will programs like Humble Indie Bundle, which only features games which work cross-platform between Windows, Mac, and Linux.
The Ubuntu X51 is available for purchase today and should begin shipping on the 15th.
Now read: Is Dell good for Ubuntu?