Alienware M14X review
- Incredible gaming
- Huge multi-tasking power
- Classic Alienware looks
- Very pricey
If Alienware products have two defining features, it's high-performance components and neon lights and the M14X R2 is no exception.
So... neon lights? Check. Thanks to Alienware's built-in 'Alienware FX' software, you can choose from a photoshop-esque palette of colours, and set timings for different hues depending on your mood. You can even customize different shades for individual parts of your machine (for example, you can have a red backlight on the keyboard, and blue lights on the base).
The big question is, does the Ivy Bridge chipset and new Nvidia GeForce 650M deliver new levels of high-performance? Lets find out...
Alienware M14X: Features
The only updates over the original Alienware M14X are the addition of a newer Nvidia graphics card, namely the GeForce 650M, and the all important inclusion of Intel's brand new 'Ivy Bridge' processors. Ivy Bridge, by the way, is simply a codename for the 3rd generation of Intel's Core processors.
The previous generation, Sandy Bridge, has been in production since 2005, so this new microarchitecture is a big deal and a lot is expected after Intel's demos at CES earlier this year.
Ivy Bridge is also a small town in Devon, but we expect this has nothing to do with Intel chipsets. Shout outs to Devon though.
As a matter of comparison, the top of the range processor in the old M14X was an impressive 2.5GHz Intel Sandy Bridge i7 with an 8MB cache. The top of the range M14X R2 packs an Intel Ivy Bridge i7, which can reach up to 3.7GHz. This is thanks to Intel's new built-in Turbo Boost 2.0 software, which optimises the overclocking of the processor to get more power out of the chipset.
Bear in mind though, that the bottom of the range M14X R2 comes with a 2nd generation Sandy Bridge i5, rather than a new Ivy Bridge processor.
Also, for an extra £140 you can now upgrade the M14X with a Blu-Ray drive. Before this was only possible (for reasons unknown to us) with the larger M18X, thankfully now you can enjoy eye-searing films on the smaller 14-inch screen.
Alienware M14X: Screen
Speaking of the screen, the Alienware M14X comes with a 14.1-inch screen, as you'd expect from the name. The image quality is excellent, there's no noticeable posterization and it never struggled with any of the media we threw at it, from games to movies.
If we have one gripe, it's the reflective surface of the screen which looks pretty enough, but has a nasty habit of picking up other light sources and obscuring your view.
Alienware M14X: Connectivity
The M14X R2 has the exact same ports as the older model, including an Ethernet connection, two SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, an HDMI connection and all your usual audio ports. This is a fairly standard set-up, although a couple more USB 2.0 ports might have been useful.
The advanced WiFi card available as an option in the old M14X now comes as standard, with Bluetooth 4.0 built-in as well. Throughout our testing of the M14X R2 had no problems with the WiFi card, it picked up the network from good distances and maintained a good connection the whole time.
Alienware M14X: Performance
There's no question that the performance of the new Alienware M14X is absolutely top notch. The laptop boots up in well under a minute, and handled everything we through at it media-wise. We were able to play The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim, Crysis 2 and Diablo 3 on full specs, and all three ran at a comfortable frame rate, almost always over 30FPS.
Increased performance with Ivy Bridge does result in a considerably hotter machine. We noticed that this Alienware could get very warm with prolonged usage, not unusual with high power laptops, but significantly warmer than the old M14X.
Intel has confirmed that overclocking the Ivy Bridge processors will make them significantly hotter, and the Ivy Bridge processors achieve their phenomenal power via Turbo Boost 2.0, which automatically overclocks the CPU cores to optimise performance. The heat isn't uncomfortable if you have the laptop on your lap, and it doesn't get to a level where you'll be damaging any components.
That said, we would recommend that you try to keep it on something flat whenever possible.
Alienware M14X: Battery
The battery is the same 63W lithium-ion unit as was in the older M14X, but it seems to handle the new components just as well as the old. We ran Diablo 3 on full specs for just over 3 hours before we had to come to the rescue with the mains.
Alienware M14X: Verdict
The Alienware M14X is a phenomenal laptop. As usual with Alienware, there's a lot of bling on the surface that grabs your attention. But thankfully, it's not just about the customizable neon and go-faster stripes. Under the bonnet there's an absolute monster of an engine and high-quality parts throughout.
The only potential stumbling block is the price. If you want an M14X R2 with an Ivy Bridge processor, you're looking at a minimum of £1,400 and if you want to drive the top of the range powerhouse off the lot, you'll have to shell out a whopping £1,700.
Clever automotive quips aside, the difference in power between this model and the older M14X can't be understated - Intel's new Ivy Bridge architecture just powers through everything. In terms of gaming, it'll take something really special to get the R2 to break a sweat. Pricing aside, this is a stunning piece of engineering, and it's as pretty on the inside as it is on the outside.