- Beautiful design in red or black
- Individually controllable light zones
- Lovely soft-touch finish and excellent build
- Good screen, impressive speakers
- Lots of configuration flexibility
- Noisy under load
- Relatively underpowered graphics
- No Blu-ray drive option
Review Price £1,438.67
Who said gaming laptops couldn't come in small(er) packages? Since taking over the Alienware brand, Dell has given us beauties like the M11x, which managed to stuff enough power to play most games (albeit with some compromises) in an 11.6in chassis. Today we're looking at a somewhat larger machine, the Alienware M14x.
Being a bigger machine it can really pack in the goodies, so here are the highlights. Our review sample has the HD version of its 14.1in screen, giving it a very nice resolution of 1,600 x 900 pixels (higher than the usual 1,366 x 768 that's common even on far larger screens). There's a fully backlit keyboard and more connections than you can shake a stick at on the outside, while beneath the hood we have a quad-core Core i7 processor, 256GB SSD, 8GB of RAM and GeForce GT 550M graphics.
So a decent little setup, then. However, one of the things that has always stood out most about Alienware's laptops is their design, and the M14x is no different. Though at 38mm tall and weighing 2.9kg, it's a noticeably chunky machine, it nevertheless manages to look sleek and luxurious. The stealth bomber-esque sharp angles give it a desirable aggressive stance while the soft-touch black is as cool as a winter's night. If, on the other hand, you want more of a flashy Ferrari vibe, there's a "Nebula" red version as well. And neither of those comparisons are as far-fetched as for many laptops, with the grills at the M14x's front especially giving the impression that there's an engine in there waiting to fire up.
The second element to Alienware's pleasingly different designs is lighting. For gamers who like to get their LED bling on, there is no better range of mobile machines. The chromed alien heads on both the lid and above the keyboard light up, as does the keyboard, the touchpad's border, the Alienware logo in the screen's lower bezel, and those engine grills at the front. Better yet, if that's a little too flash for you, you can disable all the light zones (except the one outlining the touchpad). But really, when you can make them any colour of the rainbow at the click of a mouse, why would you want to?
Alienware's light control is one of the most refined and versatile systems on any bit of PC kit. Using the AlienFX software, which can be accessed through a handy keyboard shortcut, you can easily adjust individual light settings for each of the aforementioned zones – and that includes four individual zones on the keyboard alone! Not only can you change the colours on the fly between 19 different choices, but you can set them to pulse or morph between two different colours too, which can make for a really nice effect if you pick neighbouring shades.
So yes, this laptop can do double duty as a disco ball, and you can make it look as garish or elegant as you like. You can even set different light profiles for various games or apps, or switch between them whenever you like. It's a really awesome way to let you customize your machine without needing to get paint or modding tools out, and helps to set Alienware's gaming laptops above the competition.
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