Top positive review
35 people found this helpful
If Portability and Power had a son, this would be it
on August 16, 2011
I am a Computer Science major in college and wanted a laptop with power for strenuous tasks like video/photo editing, graphics work, and playing games like Civilization V, Team Fortress 2, etc. At the same time, I wanted a computer light and small enough to toss in my backpack and take around to class all day without having to bring the charger. Power and Portability - madness? Think again.
After about 40 hours of research and reading countless reviews of over fifty different laptops (hey, for spending $1300+, I want to be well informed), I chose this one and am not disappointed in any way! The laptop blazes through my games at high frame rates while having the battery to last through hours of lectures. The seemingly indestructible solid build and fantastic keyboard just add icing to the cake. Search anywhere for something 14 inches with 6 hours of battery life and this amount of raw power - you won't find it. If you need performance in a small package, this little monster is just what you're looking for.
Size - Perfection of 14 Inches
This laptop has a 14 inch screen, which in my opinion is the perfect size. When you have a 14 inch laptop on your lap at the high resolution of 900P, you have plenty of space to do work, have two windows open at once for multitasking, and not feel cramped or limited. 14 inches is still large enough to watch movies and play games as well. At the same time, a 14 inch screen lest the laptop be small and fit into a backpack easily. Alienware has a reputation for making large computers, however it's not true in this case. The laptop is actually not as wide as most 14 inch laptops (width as in left to right side of laptop) by 0.5 inches, however it is a bit longer (front to back) by 1 inch and thicker (top to bottom) by 0.5 inches than most laptops. In my opinion the most important dimension is width (left to right) of a laptop, and this laptop is thin in that regard. One con, however, is that the laptop is about a 1.5 pounds heavier than other 14 inch laptops. The added heft actually makes this system really durable - as a college student, I've dropped it over a half-dozen times, stepped on it getting out of bed, and piled heavy books ontop of it in my backpack without causing any damage. This laptop is built like a rock and will withstand some rough use.
Here are the exact dimensions and comparison to some other products:
1.49 X 13.27 X 10.27 @ 6.35lbs -- M14X
1.13 X 13.45 X 9.64 @ 4.65 lbs -- Acer 4820TG
1.16 X 14.01 X 9.33 @ 5.57 lbs -- HP Envy 14
1.07 X 13.60 X 9.39 @ 5.20 lbs -- Sony EA series (as thick as 1.4 at the back)
1.20 X 13.90 X 9.70 @ 5.35 lbs -- Dell XPS 14
1.10 X 13.43 X 9.26 @ 5.20 lbs -- Sony C series (14 inches)
1.50 X 10.90 X 8.40 @ 5.20lbs -- One of my Textbooks
0.70 X 9.80 X 11.00 @ 1.50lbs -- 3 Subject Notebook by 5 Star (8.5 x 11 pages)
0.01 X 8.50 X 11.00 @ 0.01lbs? -- Piece of Paper (lol)
0.34 X 9.50 X 7.31 @ 1.34lbs -- iPad 2 (WiFi) held in landscape mode
0.95 X 12.78 X 8.94 @ 4.50lbs -- MacBook Pro 13
0.95 X 14.35 X 9.82 @ 5.60lbs -- MacBook Pro 15
1.29 X 11.25 X 9.19 @ 4.40lbs -- M11X R3
1.75 X 16.14 X 11.96 @ 9.39lbs -- M17X R3 (as thick as 1.77 at the back)
Battery Life really varies greatly - but you can guestimate it based on 4 settings: brightness, WiFi on/off, alien FX on/off (the glowing lights all over the computer), and battery mode (power saver, balanced, or high performance). The nice thing about this laptop is that it has Nvidia Optimus technology which allows the battery hungry powerful graphics card to only kick in when you're doing something that requires it (THIS SAVES A TON OF BATTERY!!).
I ran a few tests and here are my results:
Web Surfing from 100% to 5% battery with wifi on, powersaver mode, brightness 2 / 7, alien FX off: 5 hours and 45 mins
Web Surfing from 100% to 5% battery with wifi on, balanced mode, brightness 5/7, alien FX on: 3 hours 20 mins
By default, the computer's power options sets it up so that the full power of the graphics card will only activate when you plug the computer into an outlet (even in high performance mode). So to get max performance, either plug in the power cord or tweak the settings. The problem with tweaking the settings to allow full power of the Graphics card on battery mode is that sometimes the graphics card requires more power than what can be provided by the battery on its own and forces a computer shutdown. People on forums solved this problem by going into the BIOS and capping the CPU at 75% on battery high performance mode which fixes the power overdraw shut-off problem. In short, just bring your power cable if you need to full graphics and processing power.
Power - the internals
This specific model on Amazon features an 8GB DDR3 1333, sandy bridge i5 2.3Ghz, and GT 555M (you can order other specs via the Alienware site). The laptop is also offered with a quad core i7 (which I have). To be blunt, for a laptop this size, it's a freakin' powerhouse. From Folding to Rendering to Gaming, this laptop keeps surprising me. It blows by games like Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead 2 on near-max settings, and runs newer games like Civilization 5 and Dragon Age at high settings without any lag and high frame rates. If your main focus on this laptop is gaming, the i5 will be just fine as the limiting factor in this laptops gaming performance is the graphics card. If you are planning on rendering or doing graphics work, I would recommend upgrading to an i7 by buying directly though Alienware.
My advice: Don't get caught up in numbers and benchmark scores - this tech will be outdated in a year anyway. See if the computer can handle what you need it to do, which I'm sure it will.
*Note this is on max performance mode with the power adapter plugged in. Oh, by the way, the 150 watt power adapter required to power this beast is a beast itself. It's not thicker than normal power bricks, but is about twice as wide and the length of a pen.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Both are amazing! Alienware did an incredible job. They keys aren't chicklet (like Apple or Sony with "island" keys). Instead they are placed nicely together and require just the right amount of energy to be pushed and spring right back into place. I really don't know what else to say - it feels great and lets you type fast. Even though it's only a 14 inch laptop, the keyboard doesn't feel squished or small.
The touchpad has a smooth texture that still has some grip and feels comfortable for the finger. The left click and right click are the real winners here though. Rather than having the clicker on top of the laptop, you push them down into the laptop just like a keyboard key would be pressed down. This leaves you with a very satisfying click that just feels right.
I have trouble using other laptop keyboards and especially touchpads after being spoiled by the M14X's.
Screen, Sound, Ports and Connections
I'll start with the screen. 900P is amazing on this little guy - you get plenty of room to work with. The quality of the screen isn't as good as my external monitor, but it's still pretty good. I wouldn't get too caught up in the people trying to get perfect color replication, chose the setting and enjoy the screen. If your job depended on perfect color replication, you wouldn't be using a laptop monitor, you'd be using an expesnive, high end IPS screen. The screen looks great for movies and games and I am enjoying it. As with most laptop screens, the screen is reflective (though not as bad as many other laptops I've used). To reduce the reflections, you could avoid direct light shining onto the screen like lamps (or the sun) behind you and increase the screen brightness. Alienware actually sells a film you can put on the screen to reduce the reflectiveness, but I haven't bought it myself. In all honesty, a bit of reflectiveness in a laptop screen is good for privacy. It's awkward when the person across the isle on a flight can see everything you're doing perfectly.
Screen resolution? Great, anything higher would make text too small and hard to read.
Reflective? Yes, about the average in a laptop.
Screen Quality (contrast, color replication, etc): Above that of an average laptop, but not incredible.
Sound. This is where the laptop blew me away. THE LAPTOP HAS A DOWN-FIRING SUBWOOFER!! There is a 2.1 sound system built in and it can get very loud. I was extremely surprised how loud this laptop could get. Music sounds fantastic as does game and movie audio. The soundcard is awesome as well for plugging in headphones. I have a high end $150 pair of headphones (Audio Technica M50) and the laptop easily drives and provides great quality sound for even such highgrade 'phones.
Ports, Connections, and other stuff: I don't want to read off the spec-sheet, so I'll just talk about the cool features. USB 3.0 really is speedy and even tripled the transfer time of my USB 2.0 flashdrives and external hard drives. HDMI, Mini-display port and VGA ensure you can hook to just about any monitor or projector. The 2.0 powershare port lets me charge my phone even when my laptop is off which is pretty cool. I like the low profile slot loading DVD drive, but I still wish it was Bluray. Finally, the laptop's power cable is plugged in the back of the laptop as opposed to the side like most laptops. At first, I found this annoying and weird, but now I realized that it makes things much cleaner and easier to deal with plugged in devices with the power cord out of the way. Some popular ports NOT on this laptop are eSATA, DVI, FireWire, and Express Card.
For starters, the shape of this laptop is modeled after a race card and the front looks like the grill. It's a really cool and strong look. There are even indentations on the lid that add to this and look awesome. The case is coated in what Alienware calls a "soft touch finish" which is a smooth rubbery feeling. The computer feels very sturdy but also comfortable and silky smooth thanks to the coating. Finally, you have glowing lights (keyboard split into 4 parts, touch pad, front grill, alienhead power button, alienware logo below screen, caps lock / wifi light). These lights are fully customizable as you can chose their color and even change the colors on timed intervals to make cool effects. If flashy lights aren't your cup of tea, rest assured you can easily flip them off with one key stroke and save some battery life. Whether this is a positive or negative is up to you, but if you take your laptop into a public place with glowing multi-colored lights, you're bound to draw attention. You can reduce the attention by turning off the lights which leaves the computer looking like a regular laptop from a distance until someone notices the racecar style up close.
Alienware's warranty is top class. Although you have to call annoying Dell Tech Support to diagnose and create the warranty service order, Alienware handles it very professionally. They send parts to a nearby technician via next business day shipping and the technician comes to your house and fixes the problem for you. Best of all, Alienware is very liberal on replacing parts - they take your word for it and just send out a new part which many other companies are too stubborn and cheap to do. Most of the time you can get a problem fixed in about 3 days after you first call the tech support hotline.
There are no other laptops at this size with this much power and battery life. I recommend it to anyone who needs processing and graphics power in a small package. The M14X is much more than an Alienware gaming computer, it's a perfect hybrid of portability and power. If you don't need the power, there are plenty of cheaper and slimmer computers out there. If you need more power, there are plenty 17 inch laptops that can give you more power for the same price as this laptop. But, if you need power and portability, this computer lies in the perfect balance.
If I missed anything, or if you still have questions, add a comment! I check the comments on my reviews often and I'll answer any questions there.