Alienware m14x (early 2012)

The m14x is now the smallest Alienware laptop you can get. It's a mid-range gaming device both in spec and performance, although, at the price involved, it will come up against stiff competition with Asus' G55VW.


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Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.


And, so, the great wheel of time turns. At least, a smidgen in this case.

If you've seen Alienware's last generation m14x, you won't be surprised by this new generation: it's the same thing, with different insides. Same goes for the bigger m17x and m18x models. The only real thing of note is that our favourite pint-sized gaming machine, the m11x, is now an ex-parrot. It's rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible.

Connectivity

  • USB 3.0: 2
  • USB 2.0: 1
  • Optical: Blu-ray/DVD±RW
  • Video: VGA, HDMI, DisplayPort
  • Ethernet: gigabit
  • Wireless: 2.4GHz 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Audio: 5.1, Sound Blaster Recon3Di

The unchanging aesthetic could be an issue for Alienware; in the face of increasingly thin and sharp-looking laptops, the gaming company has pretty much kept its look the same — thus, making the company appear stationary for years now.

There are limitations that other vendors don't face, of course — a full powered gaming machine usually requires a certain chunkiness, for one. As a brand that's meant to be pushing the envelope, on the laptop side, Alienware seems to have been content with replacing the letter inside, yet, leaving the envelope where it is.

Take the screen; it's still glossy and deeply set, the colours still slightly washed out. The Australian model does have an advantage though, of running at 1600x900, even at the base level — a huge improvement over the standard 1366x768. Although, ports haven't changed and the old standby of different lighting zones that change colour, gets yet another run. Sound is passable, with the included Creative software helping to raise it up from standard laptop-fare. Still, you'll be better off with headphones or dedicated speakers, and the Alienware's three 3.5mm ports can be repurposed to 5.1 audio, if you're so equipped. Beneath the SD card reader is a SIM slot, but don't get your hopes up: there's no 3G module in Alienware Australia laptops, so, for now, it's just an extra hole for dust to get in.

So, what is different with the new m14x? Ivy Bridge CPUs and Kepler-based GPUs. Specifically, the Core i7 3720QM and GeForce GT 650M in our review unit, a custom configuration that'll set you back AU$2143.30, at the time of writing.

Application performance

Choose a benchmark: Handbrake | iTunes | Photoshop | Multimedia

Handbrake encoding (in seconds)

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)


The new Core i7 streaks ahead of the old guard, except in the Photoshop tests, where we suspect the EliteBook's SSD to be playing its part.

Gaming performance

Batman: Arkham Asylum
Playable on:
VERY HIGH
settings
FPS
Max Avg Min
117 88 35
1600x900, 4x AA, Detail level: Very high, PhysX off.
Metro 2033
Playable on:
MEDIUM
settings
FPS
Max Avg Min
90 31 9.35
1600x900, DirectX 10, MSAA 4x, Quality: Medium, PhysX: Off.
The Witcher 2
NOT
PLAYABLE
FPS
Max Avg Min
38 32 19
1366x768, low spec.
Skyrim
Playable on:
MEDIUM
settings
FPS
Max Avg Min
78 49 33
1600x900, medium detail

The GT 650 is more powerful than the previous GT 555, by a good margin. For a gaming machine though, this is still a mid-range laptop, with medium level detail being the overriding trend. While we usually require our game tests to hit a minimum of 30FPS to deem them playable, but Metro is an outsider — the benchmark will crash to around 10FPS at certain points no matter how powerful your graphics card is, so we tend to refer to the average frame rate there.

Battery Life

Battery life (time)

  • Heavy battery test
  • Light battery test

(Longer bars indicate better performance)


While it doesn't quite hit the heights of the Envy 15, the Alienware puts in a decent showing, considering the hardware involved.

Conclusion

The m14x is now the smallest Alienware laptop you can get. It's a mid-range gaming device both in specs and performance, although, at the price involved, it will come up against stiff competition with Asus' higher specced G55VW. We hope to pass our eyes over that one soon; until then, the m14x does the job just fine.



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Zig Zag Wanderer
8
Rating
 

"Very good for the size and weight if specced up well"

Zig Zag Wanderer posted a review   
Australia

The Good:silent (when not gaming), fast

The Bad:that same old glossy screen (later ones are matt now)

I had the M15x a few years back, and it was OK for its size, but the i7x4 seems to underperform against similar i7x2 chips IMO. I find the same with the M14x. The advantages are that you can do more at the same time, however.

Overall it is much lighter and smaller than the M15x. The screen bevel is much thinner, (and the screen is smaller) so the overall dimensions are much smaller. The weight is definitely down too at 2.9Kg against the 4Kg.

I have a 2GB video cars 16GB RAM and a 512 GB SSD (hence the silent operation when not gaming). It flies. I had a similar Dell XPS a few years back, and in almost all normal use it is 2x the speed. In gaming it is much better as the GPU can handle what the XPS could not.

I really bought it for work (software development), as it was the only laptop I could get at the price with the spec I wanted and with W7. Gaming ability was a plus that I do appreciate.

Alienware seem to have shelved this model now, so I am pleased to have one of the last. I am not sure how the 'new' 14 shapes up, but it appears dearer and I found the advertised processor to be not a well rated (although a higher #).

Overall very pleased, but am moving away from Dell as they will no longer let me configure my specs. I happened to get lucky with this one.




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User Reviews / Comments  Alienware m14x (early 2012)

  • Zig Zag Wanderer

    Zig Zag Wanderer

    Rating8

    "I had the M15x a few years back, and it was OK for its size, but the i7x4 seems to underperform against similar i7x2 chips IMO. I find the same with the M14x. The advantages are that you can do mor..."

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