When you want to take your game on the road but don't want to lug around a 17-inch, 10-pound-plus behemoth, experts say the Alienware M14x is the best option available. The latest version can't quite keep up with the most powerful gaming systems, but it doesn't fall that far short and it's cheap for a gaming notebook.
Gets the job done. While it trades out some power for its portability, the current version of the Alienware M14x -- informally called Revision 2, or just R2 -- can still play modern titles at low to moderate graphics settings and lasts more than five hours on a charge, something few gaming laptops can claim. The notebook also breezes through standard computing tasks and even some more intensive ones like basic media encoding.
The base version includes a third-generation Ivy Bridge i5-3230M CPU, 6 GB of RAM, a 500 GB SATA drive and an Nvidia GT 650M GPU. Several reviewers test a beefier configuration with 8 GB RAM, a 32 GB solid-state cache drive and a Core i7 CPU, all of which add a bit to the final price tag.
Highly portable. Most gaming notebooks are massive, 17-inch-plus beasts weighing 10 pounds or more, the svelte Razer Blade (Est. $1,800 and up) excluded. At 6.45 pounds and 1.49 inches thick, the Alienware M14x R2 won't trick anyone into thinking it's an Ultrabook, but it's very portable for a gaming-focused laptop. The keyboard and trackpad also win praise for their sturdy comfort. Alienware is known for stuffing its portable PCs with ports, but the M14x R2 has fewer than its bigger brother due to its relatively slight frame. There are still plenty, however, including HDMI and a pair of USB 3.0 connections.
One of the nicer-looking options around. As far as gaming notebooks go, experts say the Alienware series is the belle of the ball with its customizable backlighting and distinctive lid. However, it's nowhere near as attractive as the glass or aluminum designs being tried out by Apple nor the Ultrabooks offered by the likes of Asus and HP. The 1,366-by-768-pixel display resolution might sound low, but experts say it fits the 14-inch screen well, and a 1,600-by-900-pixel LED option is available if you want more pixels per inch. Reviewers say colors pop onscreen and the audio sounds great with 7.1 surround sound output available.
Good customer service, but could be more reliable. The M14x's one-year warranty is nothing special. Alienware is known for its excellent customer service, but it fails to win a Readers' Choice award at PCMag.com this year. Although the line has slightly above-average defect rates, that's fairly common with high-end gaming notebooks.
A great budget option for on-the-go gamers. When you consider the entire package -- strong graphics, small footprint and excellent ergonomics -- it's tough to find a more capable gaming notebook priced as low as the M14x's base configuration. However, serious gamers may want to step things up a bit. Even-smaller 11-inch gaming notebooks from other brands are available, but they don't enjoy the Alienware M14x R2's sterling reputation with reviewers and tend to run hot.
Review Credibility: Excellent PCMag.com gives the Alienware M14x an "Excellent" rating, but a few small drawbacks -- namely the default low-resolution display and less than top-of-the-line gaming prowess -- hold the laptop back from an Editors' Choice award.
Review: Alienware M14x R2, Matthew Murray, Aug. 30, 2012
2. Laptop Magazine
Review Credibility: Excellent Just like its bigger brother the M17x, the Alienware M14x earns an Editors' Choice award at Laptop Magazine. "The Alienware M14x R2 offers excellent performance in a stylish, fairly portable system," Smith writes. She tests a configuration with a Core i7.
Review: Alienware M14x R2 Review, Sherri L. Smith, July 20, 2012
3. Notebook Check.net
Review Credibility: Excellent Germany's NotebookCheck.net gives the M14x a high rating, but Schönborn says you pay a price for the excellence. "Alienware's M14x certainly is not a bargain, but the buyer receives an excellent gaming notebook with few weaknesses," he writes. The base configuration is addressed, but a step-up version is tested.
Review: Alienware M14x R2 Review, Till Schönborn, May 31, 2012
Review Credibility: Excellent HardwareHeaven.com is a hard-core enthusiast site whose extensive review of the Alienware M14x is full of pictures, technical jargon and benchmark tests. Davidson gives the laptop a Gold Award, saying "The M14x R2 offers performance improvements across the board when compared to the last model and runs the latest games well, backed up by decent battery life and an attractive design."
Review: Alienware M14x R2 Ivy Bridge Laptop Review, Stuart Davidson, May 30, 2012
5. Computer Shopper
Review Credibility: Excellent While Safford gives the notebook a Good for Gaming award, its loud exhaust fans, reflective display and fairly pedestrian gaming frame rates lead him to drop his rating to 3.5 out of 5 stars. As with most reviewers, he examines a step-up version with a Core i7 CPU.
Review: Alienware M14x R2 Review and Ratings, Matt Safford , July 23, 2012
6. PC World
Review Credibility: Very Good The Alienware M14x gets 4 stars out of 5 from PC World, where it's called a great portable gaming option. Compared to an Ultrabook, "the M14x is heavy and bulky, but it's also sturdy, with a keyboard and a trackpad that will stand the test of time, as well as excellent port selection," Purewal says.
Review: Alienware M14x Review: An Ultraportable Gaming Powerhouse, Sarah Jacobsson Purewal, Aug. 22, 2012
7. PC World (Australia)
Review Credibility: Very Good In this syndicated review, Chris Martin gives the Alienware M14x 4.5 stars out of 5. The only major negative? It uses the exact same case as last year's model.
Review: Alienware M14x Gaming Notebook, Chris Martin, May 28, 2012
8. Notebook Review.com
Review Credibility: Very Good Although he admits the Alienware M14x isn't a powerhouse, Jerry Jackson still gives the laptop 4 out of 5 stars, saying its graphics performance is definitely "good enough" for on-the-run gamers.
Review: Alienware M14x R2 Review: Better Than the Original, Jerry Jackson, July 23, 2012