Great Looks, But Some Things Shouldn't Be Universal

Undoubtedly some of you may disagree as you did with my assessment of the M17x R3, but I'm still a big fan of Alienware's styling. It's the kind of thing that really has to be seen and felt in person to be appreciated. If you read that review, you're going to find the design of the M14x extremely familiar.

Alienware eschews glossy plastic everywhere except two places: the speaker trim and the screen frame. Everything else is a smooth rubberized plastic texture that's very pleasant to the touch. Where that glossy plastic is employed at least makes some sense: the speaker trim isn't liable to see a lot of action, and the screen is a single glossy surface from edge to edge with no bezel. Undoubtedly some will complain about the glossy screen itself, but gloss on consumer grade products is here to stay and next to impossible to avoid, and unlike dismally low screen resolutions it can at least make a case for itself.

The keyboard and touchpad have a very similar texture to the rest of the notebook, although there's a little too much flex in the keyboard for my liking. Those of you who aren't happy with the modern trend towards chiclet-style keyboards will be right at home here, as the M14x's keyboard is a more traditional style. The layout itself is a good one, too, bog standard for 14" notebooks. Some things don't need innovation.

Unfortunately, some of the design decisions that worked well for the M17x R3 make much less sense in a more portable notebook. Having the fan intakes on the bottom of the M17x was fine; that notebook is enormous and should be spending its life on flat surfaces. But the M14x is small enough to be used as a laptop proper, and putting the fan intake on the bottom of a notebook like this is unwise.

By the same token, while Alienware is undoubtedly proud of the personalized metal plate on the bottom of each notebook, that metal plate is a heat factory, and a lot of the heat the notebook generates is going to get absorbed into it. As a result, it gets incredibly hot to the touch when the M14x is running full bore.

Finally, the powerful hardware inside takes its toll in one other area: sheer uncompromising bulk. The M14x may be one of the fastest 14-inch notebooks ever made, but it's also one of the heaviest, tipping the scales at 6.45 pounds. This comes with the territory and you can't entirely fault Alienware for it, but it's worth mentioning.

The M14x is, at least in this reviewer's opinion, a very attractive notebook, but the powerful hardware comes at some cost in the design and the bottom intake potentially curtails the kind of laptop gaming something like this should be well suited for.

Alienware's Medium-Sized Monster Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • Hrel - Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - link

    yeah, he just hates Intel because they're succesful. I hate petty people.
    I do wish we could see some competition from AMD though, just to drive prices down. Intel's have been creeping steadily up since the release of the Core series of CPU's.

    For instance I think the 2500K should be about 185-195, not 215 or 230 or whatever it is. Not a huge deal, when I build a new desktop next fall (2012) I will use the newest Intel CPU equivalent to that one. Generally though 200 has always been my cap for CPU prices, I just wanna overclock so an extra 20 bucks is meh; still, not like it costs Intel anything extra to enable that.

    Unless Bulldozer makes Sandy Bridge look at least average??? Please! No? Ohhhh, ok.
  • Skott - Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - link

    If I was going to buy a gaming laptop I'd go with a Sager. They have the superior cooling system for gaming laptops. That heat over time can kill a laptop. It needs to be as cool as possible. Just my 2 cents.
  • scook9 - Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - link

    Not really that superior actually....they have nice beefy cooling on their x7200 and x8000 lines but their single GPU stuff is comparably cooled compare to the alienware lineup (And the M18x matches the x7200 cooling....)
  • Hrel - Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - link

    sager is just a brand built on Clevo or Compal or Asus or MSI or any other whitebox manufacturer; they don't actually make the laptops, they just put parts in them like the CPU/GPU/RAM and what not.
  • Gonemad - Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - link

    ...but right now can anybody answer me with a simple yes or no: Is this the fastest machine that can be crammed in a 14" notebook frame, heat be damned, noise be damned, battery life be damned?

    Apparently yes it is. Won't this note enter the category *hot-rod* as in "the largest engine on the smallest car"? Or is it a "Rolls-Royce jet engine in a Pinto", where the sum is worse than its parts?

    PS: You don't see anything beyond 1600 x 900 all the way to 17"...
  • Pylon757 - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    Sony has 1920x1080 across 13". 1080p isn't that hard to find on 15".

    This is about the same weight as a number of 15" laptops too.
  • bigboxes - Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - link

    Isn't it really a LED backlit LCD display? Just because the manufacturers are marketing them as LED displays doesn't make them so.
  • etamin - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    That is what LED display means. All LED displays are LED backlit LCDs whereas traditional LCDs are actually CCFL (Cold-Cathode Fluorescent Lamp) backlit displays. They are both types of LCDs.
  • etamin - Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - link

    I was not able to tell from the pictures but is the memory in the M14x self upgradable? Alienware is charging $200 for 2x4GB DIMMS (1600MHz) which can be had on Newegg for as low as $75.

    Also, do you at Anandtech notice any changes in quality since the pre-Dell days of Alienware? I believe the Area-51 m7700 I owned years ago was the last pre-Dell model built and have not given Alienware a second thought since both harddrives (yes, both at the same time) in RAID 0 permanently failed along with the motherboard. Over the life of the system, I had to replace a dead graphics card, deal with a battery that could not hold a charge, and replace a screen myself with one from a used Sager built on the same Clevo chassis. In total the system fell into the 4k range over 4 years of use and I cannot even dream about spending even 2.5k on a laptop ever again. My understanding is that Dell now uses even cheaper generic parts but I could be wrong.
  • Hrel - Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - link

    I wish you guys could get the "other" version of the GT555M in for testing; really just out of curiosity. I'd like to see what's different and where from 768p to 1080p.
    (I also wish you guys would test at 1080p NOT with max settings; but with "reasonable" texture settings. You can make games look better than a console and run at 1080p by tweaking things just a little.)
    Really THIS GPU with GDDR5 is the only GT555M that should exist. Hopefully Nividia will do that with the GT666M or whatever they wanna call it. I truly baffles me that someone somewhere thought it was a good idea to have two entirely different GPU's under the EXACT same name each with at LEAST 2 possible configurations totally 4+ GPU's with the same damn name!!! AHHHHH, frakkin marketing people; clearly their degrees mean nothing more than "yep, I drank a lot in college".

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