Dell Alienware M14X Review Summary: It features an aesthetically pleasing 14-inch glossy WLED-backlit screen with a native resolution of 1600 by 900 pixels. The bright screen offers amazing color accuracy, depth, and contrast, and is more than perfect for gaming.
Off-axis viewing angles are okay, though you do lose some contrast as you move from side to side.
Audio quality is good
Excellent gaming performance
Lacks solid-state drive
Earlier this year, Dell’s lineup of Alienware gaming laptops were refreshed, it discontinued the weakest in the gang, the 11-inch Alienware M11x. That resulted in the Alienware M14x rising to the entry-level Alienware laptop, which Dell then refreshed with an IvyBridge processor and a new graphics card.
Like many more-typical ultraportable laptops, the M14x has a 14-inch screen, but it’s chunkier and more powerful than the other computers in its category.
Dell Alienware M14X Gaming Laptop Review
For this review, our unit cost $1000, as configured, features a third-generation intel core i7-3610QM processor, 8GB of RAM, a 750GB hard drive, and a discrete Nvidia GeForce GT 650M graphics card. The M14x also sports a Killer Wireless-N a/g/n Wi-Fi card with a DVD-RW drive, Bluetooth 4.0, and Alienware’s Command Center suite of software (including AlienFX, that allows you to change the lighting scheme).
The M14x runs the 64-bitversion of Windows 7 Home Premium.
The M14x earned an excellent mark of 143 in PCWorld’s WorldBench 7 benchmark tests, meaning that the M14x was 43% faster than our reference model, that carries a second-generation Intel i5-2500k processor, 8GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 Ti graphics card.
Today, competing ultraportables are faster and better performing than ever, despite being light and slim. For example, the Acer Aspire S5, a sleek 13.3-inch Ultrabook with a Core i7-3517U processor, rolled up a WorldBench 7 score of 195. But, the Aspire S5, like all Ultrabooks comes with a quick solid-state drive that helps it boot faster. In other words, the Aspire S5 Ultra loads up and resumes from sleep speedier than the M14x does (the S5’s startup time in our tests was 12.3 seconds, versus 24.2 seconds for the M14x), but that doesn’t mean the Aspire S5 is more powerful overall.
The best part – While assessing the M14x’s computing strength, it performed like a true gaming machine, sustaining frame rates of between 82.8 frames per second (at high quality settings, and 1920-by-1080-pixel resolution) and 186.5 fps (at low quality settings, and 800-by-600-pixel resolution). The Aspire S5, in contrast, topped out at 19.1 fps and 44.5 fps, respectively, at the same settings. These numbers indicate that the M14x is a powerhouse.
The M14x also boasts of a very good battery life, considering that it’s a gaming machine at heart. In our tests the laptop managed 5 hours, 3 minutes of battery life – not far behind the Aspire S5’s 5 hours, 28 minutes.
Design: Chassis, Keyboard, and Trackpad
At first, you might feel like the Specs the Alienware M14x carry an all-purpose laptop and an ultraportable laptop but it’s much thicker and larger than an average ultraportable today. The M14x is 1.5 inches thick (whereas most ultraportables are about 0.5 inch thick) and it weighs 6.5 pounds, not counting a 1.3-pound power block. By way of perspective, the 0.7-inch thick Acer Aspire S5 weighs just 3.3 pounds including the power block.
The unique grille on the front of the machine with a soft, rubbery black lid, rubbery black lid, and a sturdy chassis gives it a retro-styling. The laptop makes the experience even better with tons of changeable lights on the keyboard, through the grille, around the trackpad, and on the logo beneath the screen.
By default, the lighting color is set to blue.
The M14x comes with a backlit, full-size keyboard with regular-style keys. The key’s beveled sides and minimally indented tops make typing on them comfortable and easy, The keyboard of the Dell Alienware M13X gaming laptop blends a couple of gamer-friendly features: the S key has four raised dots for quick tactile recognition, and the arrow keys are positioned slightly apart from the rest of the keyboard.
A simple, medium-size trackpad with dual discretely below the keyboard. The trackpad is accurate and smooth, and the soft-touch mouse buttons are simple to press. The trackpad lacks fancy extras such as multitouch support, but true gamers will want to use an external mouse with this laptop in any event.
The M14x has got many ports to pick from: The left side of the machine has VGA-, HDMI-, and DisplayPort-out ports; a USB 2.0 port; jacks for headphone, microphone, and microphone/headphone (for a headset); and a nine-in-one card reader. On the right side of the computer are two USB 3.0 ports, an ethernet port, a Kensington lock slot, and the slot-loading DVD-RW drive.
It features an aesthetically pleasing 14-inch glossy WLED-backlit screen with a native resolution of 1600 by 900 pixels. The bright screen offers amazing color accuracy, depth, and contrast, and is more than perfect for gaming.
Off-axis viewing angles are okay too, though you do lose some contrast as you move from side to side. The glossy screen looks great in dark and low lighting, but it can throw back some pretty severe reflections in bright light (especially sunlight).
The sounds and video looks good on the Dell Alienware M14x gaming laptop. HD video plays withput lagging, with little to no noise or artifacting even in intense, action-packed scenes. Audio sounds come out pretty good through the M14x’s Klipsch 2.1 speaker system. The speakers, which are located above the keyboard, produce full, rich sound at an acceptably loud volume.
The Bottom Line
Do not be discouraged by the Alienware M14x’s benchmark specs – WolrdBench 7 puts a lot of weight on small, speedy SSDs, which this laptop lacls. However, the M14x outperforms any Ultrabook we’ve seen in graphic and screen quality.
And because the Dell Alienware M14X is built with gamers in mind, it has a relatively user-friendly design. Ultrabooks often sacrifice quality components in an effort to attain the lightest, thinnest, and sexists profile it can.
In comparison, the M14x is bnulky and heavy, but it’s also sturdy, with a trackpad and keyboard that will stand the test of time, as well as excellent port selection. The M14x also comes at a great price for a gaming-oriented laptop, though upgrade prices are expensive: Doubling the RAM from 8GB to 16GB costs $150, and adding a Blu-ray reader costs $200.
DELL ALIENWRE M14X GAMING LAPTOP REVIEW AT A GLANCE
It may weigh twice as ultraportable laptops of similar size, but its gaming performance is twice as awesome as it’s weight.