The Bottom Line
May 2 2013 - Alienware's 14-inch gaming laptop is in need a redesign. While it still features things like the customizable lighting and is more compact that many other gaming laptops, it still is quite heavy. The biggest problem it though has to be the lower resolution displays. Most game laptops strive for 1080p panels but here you either are at 720 or 900 vertical lines. At least Dell still ships it with Windows 7 while most others have switched to Windows 8 and charge extra to get Windows 7.
- More Compact Than Most Gaming Laptop
- Customizable Lighting
- Windows 7 Operating System
- Lower Resolution Display
- Still Quite Heavy For Size
- Runs A Bit Hot
- Intel Core i7-3630QM Quad Core Mobile Processor
- 8GB PC3-12800 DDR3 Memory
- 500GB 7200rpm SATA Hard Drive With 32GB Solid State Drive Cache
- Dual Layer DVD+/-RW Burner
- 14-inch WXGA (1366x768) Display With 1.3 Megapixel Webcam
- NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M Graphics With 2GB Memory
- Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11a/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- Two USB 3.0, One USB 2.0, HDMI, VGA, 9-in-1 Card Reader
- 12.3" x 10.2" x 1.5" @ 6.5 lbs.
- Windows 7 Home Premium
Review - Alienware M14x
May 2 2013 - Alienware's M14x R2 revision takes the same basic design that was introduced several years ago and makes mainly internal changes to design. This is now the company's smallest game laptop since the discontinuation of the M11x laptop. It uses a soft touch exterior coating that makes it easy to carry and hold. The AlienFX custom lighting system for the keyboard, touchpad and grills are still there which give the system a much more unique feel compared to many other gaming system. The system is still a bit on the thick and heavy side but it certainly is smaller and lighter than many other gaming laptops.
Powering the Alienware M14x R2 is the Intel Core i7-3630QM quad core processor. This is one of the fastest of the current generation of Intel processors until the next Haswell designs are released sometime later in the year. The processor combined with the 8GB of DDR3 memory means that it has no problem with any game or other demanding tasks including desktop video editing. While it is possible to have more memory installed, very few people would need beyond 8GB at this point and time.
One of the biggest changes with the Alienware M14x R2 is in the storage system. It still uses a hard drive as its primary storage. In this case, it is a 500GB drive that provides a fair if a bit small amount of storage considering the cost of the system. What is different is the inclusion of a 32GB solid state drive that is used as a cache for the drive. This provides a significant boost in the speed of which the system boots up as well as loading frequently used applications. While a normal hard drive based system may take upwards of a full minute to boot, here it takes just under thirty seconds. Still not as fast as a dedicated solid state drive but definitely an improvement. If you do require additional storage space, there are two USB 3.0 ports use for external high speed storage drives. The system still features a dual-layer DVD burner for playback and recording of CD or DVD media even though it is becoming less relevant with digital distribution.
Now the display panel on the Alienware M14x R2 is available with two different versions. For this model laptop, it uses the lower 1366x768 panel. This resolution is typical of your low cost laptops which is a bit disappointing as the point of this is gaming and most gamers want higher resolutions. Color and viewing angles were good but the brightness seems to be a bit lower than your typical gaming laptop. The graphics are powered by the NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M graphics processor. This isn't a higher end model but it does well enough considering the lower resolution display panel. It can easily handle modern games just fine with high detail levels. It will only really struggle if users intend to use a higher resolution external display. In that case, detail levels will have to be turned down to keep frame rates up. Of course the graphics processor can also be used to accelerate non-3D applications as well.
The battery pack for the Alienware M14x R2 does use a slightly larger 63Whr capacity. In digital video playback tests, this results in just under five hours of running time before the system goes into standby mode. This is above average for a 14-inch laptop with these features but still not as high as some of the ultrabook class laptops or the Apple MacBook Pro 15 with Retina Display can achieve. Just be warned that computer gaming is much more taxing on power consumption and it will likely have around two hours of running time with gaming.
The Windows 8 operating system is not a big hit with consumers and it is reviled by many PC gamers due to its two different user interfaces. Thankfully, Dell still ships the Alienware M14x R2 with the Windows 7 operating system. This is a welcome change from most of the consumer laptops that have switched to the new OS. Of course, if you still want Windows 8, Dell will provide it at no charge.
Price around $1300, the Alienware M14x R2 is priced between the boutique gaming laptops and the more affordable general purpose laptops that are also capable of PC gaming. Now the 14-inch display panel does make this a bit more compact than most but you do trade off the resolution in particular. Some competing systems in terms of price would be the Cyberpower Xplorer X6-6000, Digital Storm xm15 and Maingear Vybe 15. Cyber Cyberpower system is more affordable at $1100 and features a full 1080p 15-inch display panel along with faster GTX 660M graphics but it is larger and slower in terms of storage performance. The Digital Storm system also features a larger hard drive and 1080p display panel but uses a less GT 635M graphics processor for lower gaming performance. Finally, the Maingear system once again features a 1080p display panel and larger hard drive but instead uses a dual core Intel processor instead of a quad core.