The Bottom Line
Dec 6 2013 - Dell sticks with their design from the past few years with their redesigned Alienware 14 laptop but the internals have all been updated to give it a solid gaming experience at a reasonable price tag. Features such as the keyboard and the custom lighting are well appreciated by users but it could use with some improvements to make it even better. For instance, the system is quite hot when used heavily and the display could be brighter. Still, it is a good choice for those that want a powerful gaming system that is a bit more compact that traditional offerings.
- Solid Gaming Performance
- Unique Design With Custom Lighting
- Nice Keyboard Design For Gaming
- Display Is Not Very Bright
- System Gets Hot and Loud Under Heavy Load
- Design Still Quite Large Compared To Some Others On The Market
- Intel Core i7-4700MQ Quad Core Mobile Processor
- 8GB PC3-12800 DDR3 Memory
- 750GB 7200rpm SATA Hard Drive
- Dual-Layer DVD Burner
- 14" WUXGA (1920x1080) Display With 2.0 Megapixel Webcam
- NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M 1GB Graphics Processor
- Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11a/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- Three USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, HDMI, 7-in-1 Card Reader
- 13.3" x 10.2" x 1.6" @ 6.2 lbs.
- Windows 7 Home Premium
Review - Alienware 14
Dec 6 2013 - The Alienware 14 might be Dells smallest gaming specific laptop but it is still on the large side with a thick 1.6-inch profile and hefty 6.2 pound weight. When compared to traditional 14-inch laptops, this is very thick and heavy but it isn't uncommon for a gaming laptop that needs high performance components and the space for the fans to cool them. After all, the system is quite portable when compared against the Alienware 17 and 18 models. It keeps the same angular style of the Alienware systems and is a mix of aluminum and magnesium alloy construction that gives it a nice solid feel. For those looking to have some extra style, it also features the AlienFX lighting that allows for custom color effects behind various spots such as the keyboard, trackpad, rear panel and surrounding trim.
For the latest 14-inch laptop, Alienware has gone with the new 4th generation Core i7-4700MQ quad core processor. This provides the system with a solid amount of performance that should handle PC gaming or demanding computing tasks such as digital video editing without a problem. The processor is matched up with 8GB of DDR3 memory that provides Windows with a smooth overall feel. It should be noted that even with the systems overall size and the available cooling, the system can get very warm and even uncomfortable at times when it is put under heavy loads such as gaming for extended periods of time.
The base storage for the Alienware 14 comes in the form of a traditional 750GB hard drive that provides a lot of space for storing various games. Performance of course lags behind systems that rely on solid state drives but it is good against most hard drive based systems thanks to the 7200rpm spin rate of the drive. Those wanting extra performance may want to consider spending another $100 for a mSATA 80GB solid state drive option that is used for caching. This gives near SSD performance in many cases but provides the storage capacity of a traditional drive. If you need to add additional storage to the system, there are three USB 3.0 ports for use with external hard drives. Unlike most laptops, the Alienware still retains a dual layer DVD burner for playback and recording of CD and DVD media.
As the Alienware 14 is designed for gaming, the display and graphics are fairly important features. The 14-inch display panel offers a decent 1920x1080 native resolution for full 1080p high definition video. The color and contrast on the display are actually quite good but ther display brightness can be an issue especially if attempting to use the laptop outdoors or in very bright lighting situations. I guess the company figure most gamers like to play at night or in dark rooms. The graphics are driven by the NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M graphics processor. This is a mid range graphics solution from NVIDIA which means that it will be able to play many games at the full 1920x1080 resolution but detail levels or resolutions will need to be turned down for more demanding games. There is an option to upgrade to a GeForce GTX 765M graphics for $150 and should be considered if you really want the best gaming experience.
Unlike most other keyboards that use the isolated key styles, the Alienware 14 uses a more traditional design that keeps the keys closer together. The layout itself does not feature a numeric keypad due to the limited space but it does provide larger sized shift and control keys which are useful for the standard WASD control scheme for many games. The soft touch material helps keep typing accuracy up even witht he closer key design. The trackpad is a nice large size and offered accurate single and multitouch gesture support. Of course, most gamers don't care much about the trackpad and elect to use an external mouse instead.
Gaming laptops are not know for their long running times and the Alienware 14 is certainly keeping with that tradition. The system features a relatively small 69WHr capacity battery pack even though it has many high power components. In digital video playback testing, this resulted in just five and a quarter hours before going into standby mode. Of course, gaming is much more demanding on the power consumption and one can expect something between one and one and a half hours before needing a power port. This is decent for a gaming specific laptop but it falls well short of the over eight hours that the Apple MacBook Pro 15 with Retina Display can achieve for digital video playback.
The starting price for the Alienware 14 is just $1099 but the configuration here that you really want as the base is $1249 as it comes with the 1080p capable display. In terms of pricing, this is quite good when compared to say the Razer Blade 14 that starts at $1999 for its compact design. Most of its competition is going to be instead from larger 15-inch gaming laptops. There are options from companies such as Cyberpower and iBUYPOWER that are slightly more affordable that offer a comparable level of performance but they don't offer the same level of style.