Alienware x14 review: A portable gaming laptop that doesn’t suck

For years, Alienware eschewed thin-and-light gaming laptops, opting as an alternative to make barely bulkier programs with extra inexpensive pricing. However all that modified final 12 months with the introduction of its X-series notebooks. And now, Alienware is pushing its quest for sleekness even additional with the brand new x14, the corporate’s thinnest and lightest gaming laptop computer but. So as to add much more rum to the punch, the x14 can be one of many first gaming laptops out there that includes Intel’s newest Twelfth-gen cell CPUs. And whereas the x14 is not with out its quirks, the result’s a machine that makes me want Alienware had gotten into transportable gaming rigs years in the past.

Design

Sporting Alienware’s Legend 2.0 design language, the x14 is no doubt a placing system, although in the end you may have to resolve how a lot you fancy its sci-fi aesthetics. What’s not in query is the laptop computer’s thinness, which stands at simply 0.57 inches thick whereas weighing barely greater than 4 kilos. That is even thinner and virtually a pound lighter than the x15 (0.63 inches and 5 kilos), whereas making Alienware’s extra mainstream M15 R7 appear virtually bloated (0.8 inches and 5.3 kilos).

Execs

  • Slick design
  • Vibrant display with Dolby Imaginative and prescient
  • Extremely transportable
  • USB-C energy brick
  • Good efficiency and worth for the scale

Cons

  • Considerably cramped keyboard structure
  • No side-mounted ports
  • Noisy followers
  • Mediocre 720p webcam
  • Quick battery life throughout gameplay

Unlike its larger siblings, the x14 lacks the extra light ring that normally wraps around the backside of the system.

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Now I am not usually the kind to lust after a couple of ounces or tenths of an inch getting shaved off a tool, however on the x14, each little discount issues. That is as a result of whereas most gaming laptops do not even come near becoming in my on a regular basis messenger bag that is not meant to stash something bigger than a 13-inch ultraportable, the x14 truly suits, if simply barely.

Meaning I am more likely to carry this factor with me on journeys, which is sort of the entire level of a thin-and-light gaming pocket book. Do not get me improper, I respect beastly 17-inch gaming rigs, however when my again begins to harm on the mere considered carrying one round, in apply these programs usually operate extra like cell desktops than any type of travel-friendly gaming machine.

Alienware's new dual-torque hinge for the X14 helps increase screen stability, white reducing excess size and weight.

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The primary innovation on the x14 is Alienware’s new dual-torque hinge which provides power and stability to the laptop computer’s show, whereas as soon as once more lowering weight and thickness in comparison with earlier X-series machines. And, as you’d count on from Alienware, the x14 comes with customizable RGB lighting on its lid and keyboard. That stated, in comparison with its bigger siblings you do lose the additional RGB gentle ring that will usually define the system’s rear ports. (Enjoyable truth: That pill-like form is definitely known as a stadium.) Inside, there is a pretty soft-touch end on x14’s wrist relaxation, which can really feel a bit cramped for individuals with bigger arms.

Show and sound

On the x14 there’s just one show possibility, and it is a good one. The 144Hz 1,920 x 1,080 display is a lot sharp, whereas assist for NVIDIA’s G-Sync helps forestall display tearing whereas gaming. However the factor that impressed me most is the way in which colours pop. At first, I virtually mistook the x14’s show for an OLED panel. And whereas its black ranges aren’t fairly deep sufficient for that, thanks partially to assist for Dolby Imaginative and prescient HDR, colours look wealthy and vibrant no matter whether or not you are gaming or watching a film. And with a examined brightness of slightly below 400 nits, the x14’s display appears good in each dim and sun-filled rooms (although making an attempt to recreation exterior in direct daylight continues to be a problem).

The x14 features a single display option: a 144Hz 1920 x 1080 non-touch screen with a matte finish.

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Dolby tech can be out there on the x14’s audio system because of assist for Dolby Atmos, which provides an additional dimension to audio by the usage of additional peak channels. Sadly, I felt just like the x14’s audio sounded a bit distant, regardless of its upward-firing audio system being positioned proper behind the laptop computer’s keyboard. And although the x14 had no points turning up the amount, it is virtually an excessive amount of of factor, as a result of in sure conditions you possibly can hear the x14’s chassis rattle when the audio system are set above 80 %.

Efficiency

Whereas the x14 is not fairly as highly effective as its bigger siblings and does not have the house to accommodate beefier GPUs, Alienware’s thinnest gaming laptop computer nonetheless punches effectively above its weight. I used to be capable of simply hit 60 fps on excessive settings in a lot of AAA video games like Halo Infinite, and you may push issues even larger for those who do not thoughts twiddling with a recreation’s graphics settings. And for individuals extra targeted on getting a aggressive benefit, maxing out the x14’s 144Hz show is a cinch in titles like CS:GO on decrease settings (which is what you’d most likely use anyway).

Alienware's Command Center app is used to tweak performance settings, adjust fan speeds, customize the laptop's RGB lighting and more.

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In Shadow of the Tomb Raider on the very best settings, the x14 averaged 102 frames per second, with comparable leads to Far Cry 5 of 96 fps on Extremely. And whereas the x14 posted a barely decrease common body fee of 55 fps in Metro Exodus on extremely, decreasing the sport’s texture settings a contact was greater than sufficient to spice up body charges firmly again above 60 fps.

Remarkably, regardless of restricted house inside for cooling, Alienware’s proprietary Aspect 31 thermal paste and vapor chamber (which solely come on programs with RTX 3060 graphics) did job of stopping throttling from turning into a serious concern. The draw back is that the x14’s followers are fairly aggressive, usually spinning up the moment you launch a recreation, whereas producing a considerably high-pitched whine that you would be able to’t actually escape except you placed on some headphones. Fortunately, Alienware’s Command Middle app helps a lot of thermal profiles together with a Quiet setting to assist scale back fan noise, although relying on the sport, which may trigger your body fee to dip a bit.

Keyboard, touchpad and ports

While its cramped layout and smaller keycaps might take some adjustment time, the x14's keyboard is still more than serviceable.

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Making an attempt to cram a full-size keyboard with media controls on a 14-inch laptop computer is all the time a little bit of a problem, and whereas the x14 typically makes good use of house, it ain’t excellent. The operate keys are half-sized, and even the x14’s keycaps are a contact smaller than what you’d get on Dell’s non-gaming programs like an XPS 15.

It is a comparable scenario for issues just like the Home windows key, the Operate button, and the Shift key, all of that are smaller than regular. And for individuals who use the Delete key so much, be careful, as a result of it is a little bit too near the laptop computer’s energy button for my liking. On the flip facet, I do respect the additional row of media management keys on the appropriate, which incorporates an all the time helpful mic mute button. In brief, I would not go as far to say the x14’s keyboard is a dealbreaker, it simply requires extra adjustment time than regular.

As for the touchpad, at 4.5 x 2.15 inches it is undoubtedly on the small facet. Although on gaming laptops, having a much less roomy touchpad is a little more forgivable because the overwhelming majority of avid gamers sometimes favor to make use of an exterior mouse, even after they’re utilizing the laptop computer’s built-in keyboard.

For a thin-and-light gaming notebook, the x14 has a solid selection of ports including three USB-C, HDMI 2.1, a combo headphone/mic jack, and even a microSD card slot.

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In the meantime, with regards to connectivity, Alienware undoubtedly did not skimp on ports. The x14 options three USB-C connections (two of which assist Thunderbolt 4), one USB 3.2 Sort-A socket, HDMI 2.1, a combo audio jack, and even a microSD card slot. Whereas I might have appreciated to see an Ethernet jack too, my solely actual gripe with the x14’s ports is that they’re positioned round again. Placing all of the ports within the rear of the system helps lower down on litter, however once you simply wish to rapidly insert one thing like a thumb drive, spinning the laptop computer round to take action feels clunky (particularly when you’ve got another peripherals plugged in) .

Notice: Simply do not count on a lot from the x14’s 720p webcam. It is wonderful in a pinch, however the pretty low decision mixed with mediocre picture high quality means you may seemingly wish to use an exterior digicam for those who plan to indicate your face whereas livestreaming.

Battery life and charging

Unlike a lot of larger gaming laptops, the x14 supports USB-C charging by default.

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The x14’s battery life varies a ton relying on how you utilize it. In the event you’re simply looking the online or streaming video, the x14’s battery life will not fairly final by a full workday, nevertheless it’s greater than serviceable. On our native video rundown take a look at, the x14 lasted simply wanting eight hours. The larger concern is that when you’ve got any goals of gaming with out plugging in, you may wish to squash these now. I discovered that whereas taking part in Teamfight Techniques (which is not a demanding recreation), the x14 conked out after about an hour and quarter-hour.

That stated, I do wish to credit score Alienware for equipping the x14 with a 130-watt USB-C energy cable as an alternative of a proprietary charger like so many gaming laptops. As a result of the x14’s energy cable is USB-C, you need to use it to cost different USB-C units like a cellphone or pill, doubtlessly lowering the variety of cords you have to carry round whereas touring, alternatively, you may use a common USB-C PD charger as an alternative, although you may wish to guarantee that charger has the required energy output and an applicable cable to correctly juice up the x14, as a lot of Dell’s programs may be choosy about USB-C charging for those who’re utilizing previous or out of spec equipment.

Configurations

The x14 begins at $1,650 for an Intel Core i7-12700 CPU, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of NVMe storage and an NVIDIA RTX 3050 GPU, with totally loaded programs like our evaluation unit topping out at round $2,300 with 32GB of RAM, 2TB of storage and an NVIDIA RTX 3060. For my part, the candy spot is round $1,800, which will get you 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage and an RTX 3060. Although I ought to point out that whilst you can improve storage post-purchase, you will not be capable of improve your RAM because it’s soldered onto the laptop computer’s motherboard.

Wrap-up

The x14 is available in lunar light gray with Alienware's signature light-up alien head logo.

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The x14 may not be fairly as highly effective as its larger siblings, however given its much more transportable dimensions, there’s so much to love. When in comparison with a $1,800 x14 with 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and an RTX 3060, a equally geared up x15 prices simply $50 much less. The primary trade-offs being rather less thermal headroom, a extra cramped keyboard and a barely slower 144Hz display (as an alternative of 165Hz on the x15). That is not so much to sacrifice for an much more travel-friendly thin-and-light design.

Nonetheless, for those who do not want a brand new gaming laptop computer proper now, the good transfer can be to attend a month or two for a few of Alienware’s rivals to launch up to date programs for 2022. Each Razer and ASUS are popping out with refreshed variations of their 14-inch gaming laptops later this spring, and as soon as these turn into out there, we’ll have a a lot better concept of ​​how the x14 fares towards its largest rivals. However for those who just like the x14’s mixture of fashion and sleekness, this can be a slick gaming laptop computer that is made to maneuver.

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