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

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For years, Alienware eschewed thin-and-light gaming laptops, opting as an alternative to make barely bulkier programs with extra reasonably priced pricing. But all that modified final year 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 company’s thinnest and lightest gaming laptop but. To add much more rum to the punch, the x14 can be one of many first gaming laptops accessible that includes Intel’s newest Twelfth-gen cell CPUs. And whereas the x14 isn’t with out its quirks, the result’s a machine that makes me want Alienware had gotten into portable gaming rigs years in the past.

Design

Sporting Alienware’s Legend 2.0 design language, the x14 is certainly a placing system, although in the end you will must resolve how a lot you fancy its sci-fi aesthetics. What’s not in question is the laptop’s thinness, which stands at simply 0.57 inches thick whereas weighing barely greater than 4 kilos. That’s 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).

Pros

  • Slick design
  • Vibrant display with Dolby Vision
  • Highly portable
  • USB-C energy brick
  • Good efficiency and worth for the scale

Cons

  • Somewhat cramped keyboard format
  • No side-mounted ports
  • Noisy followers
  • Mediocre 720p webcam
  • Short battery life throughout gameplay

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

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

That means I’m more likely to deliver this factor with me on journeys, which is form of the entire level of a thin-and-light gaming pocket book. Don’t get me unsuitable, I recognize beastly 17-inch gaming rigs, however when my again begins to harm on the mere considered carrying one round, in apply these programs usually perform extra like cell desktops than any kind of travel-friendly gaming machine.

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The important innovation on the x14 is Alienware’s new dual-torque which provides power and stability to the laptop’s show, whereas as soon as once more decreasing weight and thickness in comparison with earlier X-series machines. And, as you’d anticipate 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 would usually define the system’s rear ports. (Fun reality: That pill-like form is definitely known as a stadium.) Inside, there is a beautiful soft-touch end on x14’s wrist relaxation, which can really feel a bit cramped for individuals with bigger palms.

Display and sound

On the x14 there’s just one show choice, and it is a good one. The 144Hz 1,920 x 1,080 display is loads sharp, whereas assist for NVIDIA’s G-Sync helps forestall display tearing whereas gaming. But the factor that impressed me most is the best way 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 Vision 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 seems to be good in each dim and sun-filled rooms (although making an attempt to sport outdoors in direct daylight remains to be a problem).

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

Performance

While the x14 is not fairly as highly effective as its bigger siblings and doesn’t have the house to accommodate beefier GPUs, Alienware’s thinnest gaming laptop nonetheless punches nicely above its weight. I used to be in a position to simply hit 60 fps on excessive settings in a lot of AAA video games like Halo Infinite, and you may push issues even increased when you do not thoughts fidgeting with a sport’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 in all probability use anyway).

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In Shadow of the Tomb Raider on the very best settings, the x14 averaged 102 frames per second, with related ends in Far Cry 5 of 96 fps on Ultra. And whereas the x14 posted a barely decrease common body rate 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 Element 31 thermal paste and vapor chamber (which solely come on programs with RTX 3060 graphics) did a very good job of stopping throttling from turning into a significant challenge. The draw back is that the x14’s followers are fairly aggressive, usually spinning up the moment you launch a sport, whereas producing a considerably high-pitched whine that you may’t actually escape until you placed on some headphones. Thankfully, Alienware’s Command Center app helps a lot of thermal profiles together with a Quiet setting to assist scale back fan noise, although relying on the sport, that may trigger your body rate to dip a bit.

Keyboard, touchpad and ports

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Trying to cram a full-size keyboard with media controls on a 14-inch laptop is at all times a little bit of a problem, and whereas the x14 typically makes good use of house, it ain’t good. The perform 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’s the same scenario for issues just like the Windows key, the Function button, and the Shift key, all of that are smaller than regular. And for many who use the Delete key so much, be careful, as a result of it is a little bit too near the laptop’s energy button for my liking. On the flip aspect, I do recognize the additional row of media management keys on the appropriate, which incorporates an at all times 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 ordinary.

As for the touchpad, at 4.5 x 2.15 inches it is undoubtedly on the small aspect. Though on gaming laptops, having a much less roomy touchpad is a little more forgivable because the overwhelming majority of players usually want to make use of an exterior mouse, even once they’re utilizing the laptop’s built-in keyboard.

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Meanwhile, relating 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 Type-A socket, HDMI 2.1, a combo audio jack, and even a microSD card slot. While I might have favored to see an Ethernet jack too, my solely actual gripe with the x14’s ports is that they’re situated round again. Putting all of the ports within the rear of the system helps lower down on muddle, however if you simply need to rapidly insert one thing like a thumb drive, spinning the laptop round to take action feels clunky (particularly you probably have some other peripherals plugged in).

Note: Just do not anticipate a lot from the x14’s 720p webcam. It’s superb in a pinch, however the pretty low decision mixed with mediocre picture high quality means you will possible need to use an exterior digital camera when you plan to indicate your face whereas livestreaming.

Battery life and charging

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The x14’s battery life varies a ton relying on how you utilize it. If you are simply shopping the online or streaming video, the x14’s battery life will not fairly final by way of a full workday, but it surely’s greater than serviceable. On our native video rundown check, the x14 lasted simply in need of eight hours. The larger challenge is that you probably have any goals of gaming with out plugging in, you may need to squash these now. I discovered that whereas enjoying Teamfight Tactics (which is not a demanding sport), the x14 conked out after about an hour and quarter-hour.

That stated, I do need 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. Because the x14’s energy cable is USB-C, you should utilize it to cost different USB-C units like a cellphone or pill, doubtlessly decreasing the variety of cords it’s worthwhile to carry round whereas touring, Alternatively, you might use a common USB-PD charger as an alternative, although you will need to ensure that that charger has the required energy output and an applicable cable to correctly juice up the x14, as a lot of Dell’s programs might be choosy about USB-C charging when you’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 review unit topping out at round $2,300 with 32GB of RAM, 2TB of storage and an NVIDIA RTX 3060. In my opinion, the candy spot is round $1,800, which will get you 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage and an RTX 3060. Though I ought to point out that when you can improve storage post-purchase, you will not be capable of improve your RAM because it’s soldered onto the laptop’s motherboard.

Wrap-up

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The x14 won’t be fairly as highly effective as its larger siblings, however given its much more portable 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 outfitted x15 prices simply $50 much less. The important 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’s not so much to sacrifice for an much more travel-friendly thin-and-light design.

However, when you do not want a brand new gaming laptop proper now, the sensible transfer can be to attend a month or two for a few of Alienware’s opponents to launch up to date programs for 2022. Both Razer and ASUS are popping out with refreshed variations of their 14-inch gaming laptops later this spring, and as soon as these develop into accessible, we’ll have a significantly better thought of how the x14 fares in opposition to its largest rivals. But when you just like the x14’s mixture of fashion and sleekness, it is a slick gaming laptop that’s made to maneuver.

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