Alienware's Medium-Sized Monster

Understanding that many users would just as soon want to be able to game on the go without having to lug a ten pound land monster with them, Alienware offers the M14x, a notebook that offers portable performance without breaking your back in the process. Featuring support for quad-core Sandy Bridge mobile processors and a reasonably fast GeForce GT 555M, the M14x promises an awful lot of power in a reasonably small package. But at what cost?

This review continues our coverage of Alienware's current mobile lineup, coverage that began with the M17x R3. We also have the M11x R3 in-house and that review is forthcoming, and the M18x is due for review soon. The M14x is basically Alienware's "mainstream" offering for users who don't want a giant gaming machine but aren't interested in going with their pint-sized M11x R3. On paper at least, there's an awful lot to recommend it.

Alienware M14x Gaming Notebook
Processor Intel Core i7-2630QM
(4x2.0GHz + HTT, 2.9GHz Turbo, 32nm, 6MB L3, 45W)
Chipset Intel HM67
Memory 2x2GB Hynix DDR3-1600 (Max 2x4GB)
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GT 555M 3GB DDR3
(144 CUDA cores, 590MHz/1180MHz/1.8GHz core/shader/memory clocks, 192-bit memory bus)
Display 14" LED Glossy 16:9 900p (1600x900)
Hard Drive(s) Samsung SpinPoint MP4 500GB 7200-RPM HDD
Optical Drive Slot-loading DVD+/-RW Combo (HL-DT-ST GS30N)
Networking Atheros AR8151 PCIe Gigabit Ethernet
Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 3.0
Internal WirelessHD
Audio Realtek ALC665 HD Audio
Klipsch 2.1 speakers
Mic and two headphone jacks
Battery 8-Cell, 14.8V, 63Wh
Front Side N/A (Speaker grilles)
Right Side Slot-loading optical drive
2x USB 3.0
Kensington lock
Left Side VGA
USB 2.0 charging port
Mic and two headphone jacks
MMC/SD/MS reader
Back Side AC jack
2x exhaust vents
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 13.27" x 10.17" x 1.49" (WxDxH)
Weight 6.45 lbs
Extras 2MP Webcam
82-key backlit keyboard
Flash reader (MMC, SD/Mini SD, MS/Duo/Pro/Pro Duo)
Internal WirelessHD
Configurable lighting
Klipsch audio with subwoofer
Warranty 1-year standard warranty
2-year, 3-year, and 4-year extended warranties available
Pricing Starting at $1,099
Price as configured: $1,543

Just by looking at the specs it should be reasonably clear the M14x is potentially one of the fastest, if not the fastest, 14-inch notebooks available. It weighs an extra pound for the privilege, but Alienware has specced it with performance in mind, period. The Intel Core i7-2630QM in our review unit is actually the second-slowest processor you can order the M14x with, and there's only one dual-core option: the i5-2410M. Strapped to the integrated memory controller is 4GB of DDR3-1600, configurable up to 8GB.

On the GPU side we have NVIDIA's mobile branding nightmare, the GeForce GT 555M. In our recent mobile graphics guide we cited two completely different GPUs shipped as the GT 555M, but in the case of the M14x we seem to have the more desirable version. This one comes with 144 of NVIDIA's CUDA cores and a frankly excessive 3GB of DDR3 strapped to a 192-bit memory bus. That extra 1.5GB of DDR3 is a $100 upgrade and isn't liable to bring any real improvement in performance, so when custom ordering you'll probably want to just stick with the stock 1.5GB. The GT 555M comes clocked at 590MHz on the core and 1180MHz on the shaders, and the DDR3 runs at an effective 1.8GHz for 43.2GB/s of bandwidth. (For the record, the GDDR5 version offers slightly more bandwidth and slightly less compute, but the deal breaker is that it only has 4 ROPs.) As part of NVIDIA's 500M series, the GT 555M also supports Optimus graphics-switching technology, which Alienware puts to good use.

The rest of the M14x is delightfully modern, sporting two USB 3.0 ports, a slot-loading DVD+/-RW drive, and a keyboard with color-configurable backlighting. Probably the biggest perk you can get from the M14x may not even be the powerful underlying hardware, but the 1600x900 resolution on a 14" screen. Having spent some time with this notebook, the biggest shame is that this is the exception and not the rule.

Great Looks, But Some Things Shouldn't Be Universal
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  • etamin - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    just curious, where can I find out more about this 4 GPUs with the same name business?
  • Hrel - Saturday, July 23, 2011 - link
  • lunarx3dfx - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    The m14x isn't available with the other GT555M. I have a feeling that it would be significantly slower though.
  • AlexKitch - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    My friend has one of these and struggles to even play Minecraft without the machine becoming so unbelievably hot that it has to de-clock itself, turning his games into more of a slideshow than a game. This happens in my (fairly cool) apartment, on a solid desk with no obstructions to any of the fan intakes/exhausts.

    Personally, I don't like the styling of Alienware machines either. It's all a little over the top and immature.
  • kevith - Thursday, July 21, 2011 - link

    is NOT a lot! It´s terrible to keep on reading, that notebooks that weighs like this one, are heavy!

    I´m 50 years, and I´m working in the woods, and the chainsaw I use weighs around 22 lbs. And not only shall I carry it around for 8 hours every day, I have to toss it arond all the time to obtain access to sawing area.

    I´ve read reviews, where the reviewer has used words like "chiropractor", "immoblie", "desktop only" etc.

    Come on man, I don´t know what kind of workout You do - if any - but I will recommend You to spend more time doing it or find a more effective system.
  • Hrel - Saturday, July 23, 2011 - link

    Yeah, that always annoys me too. Basically as long as the things under 10lbs I'm fine with it. And that's only because of all the other stuff I keep in my notebook bag. But then again, if you're talking about burly men that's totally different than if you're talking about 5'4" women.
  • solracd - Monday, August 8, 2011 - link

    Can someone explain why the 1.5 upgrade to 3Gb video memory is not useful? Is is not helpful 'today' but possible useful in a year or two? The same applies to the CPU option. I would think getting the most is the best (although clearly not the most cost effective).

    I buy laptops and keep for a while so I'm puzzled how more is not better.

    Thanks in advance!
  • Habshockeygrl - Tuesday, January 3, 2012 - link

    I love my M14x, I don't mind the louder rapid cooling although my husband when sitting near me sometimes complains about the loudness of it. My problem as been the sound system. I paid extra for the premium sound package and have had multitudes of problems with it. They tried to have tech support remotely reset drivers, which made the surround sound stop working. They sent a tech to my house, upon taking it apart he somehow destroyed the motherboard and the mouse track pad. So he had to come back with the new parts. Second trip, he brought brand new speakers because he could see a visible problem, replaced the motherboard and the tracker section. Now only either front or back speakers will work separately but not together. Nobody has been able to figure out this problem and I continue to feel I was ripped off in the sound department. Good luck to anyone purchasing the upgrade!

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