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.
- 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.
Handbrake encoding (in seconds)
Alienware m14x (Core i7 3720QM, 8GB RAM, 1TB, GeForce GT 650M)
(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.
|Batman: Arkham Asylum|
|1600x900, 4x AA, Detail level: Very high, PhysX off.|
|1600x900, DirectX 10, MSAA 4x, Quality: Medium, PhysX: Off.|
|The Witcher 2|
|1366x768, low spec.|
|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 (time)
- Heavy battery test
- Light battery test
- 5h 1m
- HP Envy 15 (Core i7 2760QM, 8GB RAM, 1TB HDD, Radeon HD 7690M)
- 3h 30m
- Alienware m14x (Core i7 3720QM, 8GB RAM, 1TB, GeForce GT 650M)
- 2h 35m
- HP EliteBook 8560w (Core i7 2820QM, 8GB RAM, Quadro 2000M)
- 2h 4m
- Toshiba Satellite P750/0EM (Core i7 2670QM, 8GB RAM, 750GB, GeForce GT 540M)
(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.
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.