Alienware M14x and M18x laptop review
- Incredible performance
- Comfortable gaming experience
- Stunning keyboard
- We can't afford one
- Chunky and quirky design
- No Blu-ray drives as standard
We've rounded up these bad boys in to a mega Alienware gaming laptop review to as we tried to crush 'em, bend 'em and choke 'em before reporting to you how well they took it, which was very well indeed. Read on...
Alienware laptops aren't exactly known for their subtlety. These insanely powerful gaming portables look like extraterrestrial vessels, complete with blue LEDs, curvy edges and glowing headlights. If a redneck saw this thing, he'd probably soil himself on the spot. However, we were thrilled when these hulking beasts touched down in our office, as we're huge fans of PC gaming.
For a few precious hours you can be the greatest F1 racer the world has seen, or a firmly-pecced barbarian with a massive axe and a furry loincloth, instead of some fat-arsed bloke from Putney, sat in his pants and an old Buck Rogers T-shirt. We spent a few days checking out these two new Alienwares, the 14-inch M14x and the 18.4-inch M18x. Finally, with bloodshot eyes and knackered wrists, we've taken a break from gunning down commies to tell you what we think.
Alienware M14x and M18x: Design
Both laptops feature Alienware's usual futuristic design, which fits the gaming theme well. From the alien logo on the lid to the pointless headlights, these machines certainly look unique, although plenty of gamers will likely be put off by the quirky appearance. You can go for a sleek silver or bright red finish to the lid. The M18x is typically massive, with a chunky body that crushes the scales at almost 5.5kg.
Once this beast lands on your desk, we're sure it won't be shifting too often. Even the power adapter is enormous, probably larger than most house bricks. On the flip side you have the M14x, which is a lot more compact. It's still a chunky monkey but weighs just 3kg, which means your shoulder won't be dislocated when you lug it to a friend's house. If you plan on traveling regularly with your new gaming laptop, the M14x is the only one worth considering.
The M18x makes good use of its spacious chassis, filling it with an excellent bevelled keyboard. Not only are the keys well-sized, including the arrow keys and all-important Shift key, but they're also perfectly laid out. We never floundered around, desperately searching for a button as a zombie chewed on our abdomen. You have a full numeric keypad, which is perfect for controlling more complex titles, as well as a column of five shortcut buttons down the left edge. These shortcuts are separated from the main board by a strip of plastic, so you don't bash them by accident when you're aiming for the Shift or Ctrl keys. Our only complaint is that the board is a little spongy in places, but it isn't a major issue. It's still comfortable to use and responsive at all times.
The wide rubbersied palmrests help to support your arms, so even the spindliest of wrists shouldn't cramp up from an extended gaming session. Despite having less room to work with, the M14x also has a great keyboard. The numeric keypad and row of shortcut buttons are missing, but the rest of the board is perfectly sized and comfortable to work on. It's also less spongy. Both models feature a subtle blue or red backlighting, which is perfect if you like to spend your evenings in a darkened room. This backlighting also marks the circumference of the touchpad, although of course you'll be using a proper mouse instead.
Alienware M14x and M18x: Feature
Along the edges of the Alienwares you'll find plenty of ports, with the M18x packing in a few more than the M14x. Both machines feature VGA, HDMI and Mini-DisplayPort connections for hooking up external televisions or monitors (or even projectors if you fancy it). You also get multi-card readers, an Ethernet port and a slot-loading DVD drive. The M14x has three USB ports while the M18x has four, plus an eSATA port and ExpressCard slot.
We're disappointed that the Alienwares don't come fitted with a Blu-ray drive as standard, considering the steep cost. This is an upgrade option on the M18x (currently £80) but for some reason isn't offered on the M14x. We were also surprised to find a measly 320GB hard drive in the M18x, and only 250GB of storage in the M14x. Considering the huge installs of modern games, this space will fill up in no time at all, especially if you copy over any movies or music. It's another option you can upgrade at a cost, but considering the already hefty expense, we expected more.
Alienware M14x and M18x: Screen
Thankfully we had no complaints over the excellent screens. The M14x and M18x both feature bright, vibrant displays that are sharp enough to really show off the excellent graphics in games like Crysis 2. The M18x has a Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution, while the M14x has a similarly sharp 1600 x 900 resolution. We couldn't see any difference in picture quality between the two, whether we were blowing up alien mutants or kicking back with an HD movie. Viewing angles are decent, which helps if you've got friends leaning in for a look.
The glossy surface is rather reflective, but the high brightness levels help to counter this. We wondered if a 14-inch screen would be too small for playing First Person Shooters and other graphics-heavy games, but didn't notice any kind of disadvantage over the M18x's 18.4-inch display. You always have the option of connecting a TV if you get tired of the smaller screen. Of course, the experience is about sound as well as vision, and thankfully the Alienwares come with decent built-in speakers. They're no match for a good pair of external speakers, as you don't get a true stereo output, but they'll do the job in a pinch. However, even the sound of gunfire and explosions barely covered the noise from the M14x's internal fans, which buzz at a worrying volume.
Alienware M14x and M18x: Performance
And so we come to performance, the heart of any gaming machine. Both the M14x and M18x come fitted with Intel's latest Core i7 processors, backed up by 4GB of DDR3 RAM, and the results are outstanding. With more power than any other laptop we've seen to date, you can run anything on these bad boys and won't see a single second of slowdown. You also have the option to upgrade to an even faster processor if you've got cash to burn, or downgrade to a Core i5 on the M14x if you're trying to save some cash.
Both laptops come fitted with an nVidia GeForce graphics card - the GTX 460M for the M18x, and a GT 555M for the M14x. Again, both laptops produced stunning scores in our benchmarking tests, far better than anything else we've seen. You can run any game out there regardless of which model you choose, although the M18x will be out of date later than the M14x. Still, considering the gulf in price between the M14x and the M18x, the smaller model definitely provides much better value for money. Compared to the likes of the Dell XPS 15z, the M18x seems rather overpriced. Battery life seems almost a moot point, as we can't imagine anyone pulling these machines out on the tube. However, the M14x once again proved to be the portable champion, with almost three hours of battery life compared to the M18x's measly one and a half hours.
Alienware M14x and M18x: Verdict
If you have cash to burn and need a high-performance gaming portable, these new Alienwares won't disappoint. We prefer the M14x as it offers greater portability and value for money.