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Alienware M14x Review: Giving Portable Gaming Another Go

Author: Matt Smith
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Alienware

Performance - Competitors, Processor, General, Hard Drive

Overview and Competition

Our review unit is a well-equipped version of the M14x with a Core i7-2630QM processor, but the Nvidia GT 555M GPU is the only available option. You do have a choice between versions with 1.5GB and 3GB of RAM (our versions came with 3GB). The 3GB version seems like overkill considering the capabilities of the GPU and the resolution of the display. 

Though this is our first experience with the M14x, we’ve tested a laptop similar to this before. Last year we reviewed an ASUS N55 that was equipped with a Core i7-2630QM processor and (drumroll please) a GT 555M with 2GB of RAM. Including the N55 as a competition in the performance section is an obvious choice.

We’ll also include the ASUS U36S, which was equipped with the Nvidia 520M, and the ASUS K53T, a desktop replacement with surprisingly competent graphics performance thanks to an AMD Fusion APU. Finally, we’ll include the M17x. Though it’s no longer available, it’s the last high-end gaming laptop we reviewed. Its performance can serve as an example of the gap between the M14x and a larger, less portable model.

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Let’s get to it.

Processor Benchmarks

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SiSoft Sandra’s well optimized processor benchmarks allow the quad-cores to run away with the show. They all perform almost identically, which is what we’d expect – they all have identical processors. The ASUS K53T is way behind and the U36S is also far behind the quads. 

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7-Zip once again shows the quad-core Intel processors creaming everything else. Peacekeeper, which is less well optimized for multiple cores, shows a more modest advantage – though the AMD A6 in the ASUS K53T still gets its lunch money stolen. We don’t have results for the ASUS N55 in the most recent version of Peacekeeper.

General Benchmarks

Our general benchmarks aim to round out our reviews with some data from real-world programs. Let’s start with Windows Live Movie Maker. We so far have limited data on these benchmarks, which are new to our reviews. As such, we’ll be using the Lenovo ThinkPad T420 for comparison instead of the laptops used in the rest of the performance section. Here are the specifications of the ThinkPad T420.

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Now let’s have a look at the benchmarks.

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It appears that the quad-core processor was an obvious advantage in Movie Maker, providing the Alienware M14x with a significant advantage. This may be a gaming machine, but it’ll handle productivity nicely as well.

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Here we see the opposite result – the T420 easily outruns the M14x. Why? Our experience with BatchBlitz so far shows that the program tends to prefer two quick cores to four slower ones, and it doesn’t allow Turbo Boost to kick as aggressively as you’d expect. 

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There’s not much to comment on here except that the 7200RPM drive doesn’t give the M14x any advantage when it comes to boot times. Not that it’s a major issue. 

Hard Drive Benchmarks

Once again, we have fairly limited data. We’ve been recording ATTO benchmark results, but aren’t able to present them yet because of limited data for comparison. So we will rely only on HD Tune for this portion of the performance results.

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The Alienware M14x offers good performance compared to the drive in the K53T, but that’s not much of a sample size. Generally, these results are better than average for a laptop with a mechanical hard drive. That’s most likely because the drive included in the M14x is a 7200RPM model.

 

February 29, 2012 | 01:28 PM - Posted by Wolvenmoon (not verified)

My M11x performs just fine in games, Skyrim will run on medium at 1080P on TV, and having a 6 and 1/2 hour battery life in class makes it epic for taking notes. It's also light and quiet (mine has an SSD). So I don't hurt my back carrying it around.

It's not quite a fair comparison. The M11x is a netbook (no optical drive), not a laptop.

February 29, 2012 | 02:34 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Did you use the latest Verde drivers???

March 1, 2012 | 01:01 AM - Posted by Matt Smith

Yes, drivers were updated before testing.

March 1, 2012 | 04:27 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

What's the M14x's performance at its native resolution of 1600x900?
There's no point in getting a higher resolution screen just to run games at the 1366x768 scaled up to full resolution.

March 2, 2012 | 02:08 PM - Posted by Matt Smith

You bring up a decent point. However, since we don't have a database of benchmarks running at 1600x900 (most laptops don't support that resolution) anything we could provide would not have much context.

Still, I think I will begin to catalog 1600x900 results on laptops that support it. We have seen several laptops with that resolution lately - it does seem to be more popular than it used to.

March 1, 2012 | 09:47 PM - Posted by amythompson (not verified)

Alienware seems to have gotten all the "little things" right with this laptop. The form factor is large enough to game or do "real work," yet it is small enough to be portable. The strange-looking beveled keyboard is actually very pleasant to type on - fewer errant keystrokes and better speed. The trackpad has discrete buttons with nice tactile feedback. There is no annoying bloatware (trial AV, toolbars, etc) like you might find on an HP. I was worried that the styling would be garish and distracting/embarassing, but it really isn't that bad.

The components, are, of course, top notch. You could probably get them in other computers as well, though.

March 1, 2012 | 10:06 PM - Posted by @Haze2K1 (not verified)

Laptops are NOT for gaming.

I repeat, laptops are not for gaming.

March 2, 2012 | 02:09 PM - Posted by Matt Smith

Why?

September 21, 2012 | 08:58 PM - Posted by Richy (not verified)

That's crap! Some people need the portability of a laptop and enjoy gaming hence the market for gaming laptops. I own a gaming PC and a gaming laptop as I work away from home.My laptop can play the latest games at high- ultra settings and is built specifically for gaming. Don't listen to this tool.

March 4, 2012 | 05:34 PM - Posted by Cheef (not verified)

How do you guys say this preforms with the other pcs in the 1200 dollar range?

March 9, 2012 | 10:21 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Not as good just like the review concluded. Value speaking you might be better off with ASUS' G53 or G7. However they are also quite a bit larger than the others of same screen sizes, because of the extra cooling performance. If you are not planning to move around much, ASUS might be a smarter choice.

April 24, 2012 | 10:07 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

i heard something about the heat will make it breake down

July 17, 2012 | 10:36 AM - Posted by osama (not verified)

Dears,

i need to ask one question, i think that since this machine is for games then it comes with very high performance processing, and i am planning to own this machine for a bussiness usage because i have some huge system to run on my laptop and need more processing and rams at least 8g Ram, so could you please advice me is it good for me or not, since i will not use it for gaming just for my huge applications.

thanks in advance

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