The Alienware AW251HF is actually the first monitor specifically designed for gaming that I have personally used so I was quite eager to compare it with my current monitor (HP 2511x). At 240 Hz and a 1 millisecond response time, this monitor is sure to grab the attention of most gamers looking for high specifications. With the addition of Free Sync, the monitor should be free from any ghosting or tearing that would otherwise distract during gaming sessions. From a design perspective, I was actually quite surprised at how heavy and sturdy the stand was. The style of the stand was actually quite innovative, with two legs branching out and seemed secure and sturdy. On the back, the silver had a nice brushed finished and, while plastic, it did not feel cheap. In addition, there was a stylish alien logo in the back. Once the stand is installed, the monitor can be rotated to the left or right, as well as up or down depending on how high you want it. Lastly, the monitor can pivot around in 90-degree increments to fit your needs. At eye level, the monitor looked amazing and was actually more comfortable than the current viewing angle on my monitor. In the back of the monitor, you will note two HDMI 2.0 ports and a Display port connection; only an HDMI cable is included along with a bracket to cover up the cables once they are rerouted through the hole in the stand. There are two USB 3.0 ports and a audio jack directly underneath the Alienware logo. A USB 3.0 cable is included as well.
On the monitor, there are several modes that are worth mentioning. First, there are several presets based on which type of game you are playing such as FPS, RPG, and RTS. Additionally, there are 3 different game settings for your own personal customization. Standard is default and implies both 75% brightness and contrast. On max contrast, the colors are actually quite vibrant especially for an anti-glare monitor. Additionally, max brightness was actually fairly bright especially at its rated 400 nits. Another feature that is worth noting is the dark mode, which improves viewing on dark images. However, I noticed it almost sharpens the image too much if your game is not extremely dark or your game's brightness is too high. In addition to those presets above, you will also find warm, cool, comfort view and custom presets. Custom allows you to adjust the standard red, blue, and green colors with an additional yellow, magenta, and cyan setting.
As for image quality, overall I think most will be pleased with the image, provided that you know what to expect from an anti-glare monitor. For me personally, as my last 3 monitors have all had a glossy screen finish, the color reproduction can be somewhat of an adjustment. Thus, I was actually surprised that on standard preset, the color is crisp and was not as dull as I was expecting. Whites were a bit muddy at first but after adjusting the settings, it improved. In addition, with a screen size of 25'', it was perfect for viewing 1080p content. At this resolution, I typically avoid anything higher than 25'' as it tends to look washed out to me. Additionally, the pixel pitch is listed at 0.2832mm by 0.2802mm. Usually, pixel pitch is listed with one number but I would assume the first number would be for the horizontal portion of the display (1920) though I could be wrong. In addition, I viewed and set several different wallpapers as backgrounds to view the color. The blacks were actually handled fairly decent, though understand they aren't the deepest or as rich as some of the IPS panels. Greens looked fairly deep as well. I also looked at some backgrounds with more orange and red and the color seemed fairly accurate. Dell also lists this as 90 pixels per inch. With these specs, text and color seemed perfectly adequate and everything was sharp and concise.
As for game performance, all of the games played fluid and smooth and obviously, there was no evidence of ghosting. One feature I would like to mention is that the monitor has a built in frame rate display so while playing games I had that enabled as well as fraps. When you have the monitor's frame rate overlay enabled, it would seem that it only works while Free Sync is enabled. There was one instance while playing Rise of the Tomb Raider where when I would set the graphic settings high enough, the monitor's frame rate counter was higher than what fraps showed. Thus, I assume that the monitor's frame rate counter was only showing the monitor's Free sync rate instead of the game's FPS once it gets low enough. Once the settings were lowered, both the fraps and monitor counter matched. Conversely, when you have the Free Sync disabled, it would just display the monitor's 240 Hz refresh rate and never moved. Overall, every time I played normally though, the monitor and the game play remained fluid and smooth. As for Free Sync itself, I tested several games to see if I could feel a difference or see any when I had it enabled versus with it turned off. For the most part, I could not detect a noticeable difference even when it was disabled. However, when Free Sync was enabled, game play on this monitor, even in the 40-55 FPS range, was smooth just like it was when it was off. The feature, nonetheless, is great to have as it does seem to work while it was on, as evident by the monitor's frame rate overlay.
In conclusion, I would recommend this monitor for those who are looking for a high performance gaming monitor that are not afraid of the price tag. Personally, while I have had always preferred monitors with glossy screens, this monitor surprised me more than I thought it would. Its image isn't as washed out as some others tend to be and the brightness is actually better than my current monitor. With that said, you will need adjust the image to your liking and I caution those especially who are coming from either gloss finish monitors or even IPS ones that it may take some time to get used to it. Perhaps the best feature for me was that ability to adjust and pivot the monitor to my needs. Playing at eye level is actually comfortable rather than having to look down at a monitor. At 240 Hz and a 1 millisecond response time, it offers everything that those who play games would require of such a monitor. Games were smooth and pictures looked as they should. As such, I think it would fulfill the needs of gamers at a price that most are willing to pay. Recommended.