With Alienware it's a given that you're paying a premium for the brand, build and lights - and arguably, these elements are worth it. Yet with the graphical limitations imposed upon the M14x by its size, those who demand the best visual experience should look elsewhere. If, on the other hand, you want to game on the go and are willing to accept a few compromises, you will find much to like.
There is, for example, its impressive battery life. In our relatively light test (with the screen at 40 percent brightness, using Intel's integrated graphics rather than the Nvidia card, and with wireless radios disabled), this little beast managed a solid four hours and 47 minutes from its eight-cell/63Wh battery. And though it's not replaceable so you can't carry a spare, it does charge to 50 percent of full capacity in around an hour.
Really, aside from its somewhat underpowered graphics, our only physical complaint with the M14x is that it gets noisy under load. We were expecting some noise due to the laptop's small chassis, but were hoping its chunkiness would help alleviate this issue. However, when the GPU and CPU are both under load you'd better be gaming with headphones, because you won't be able to hear yourself think over this Alienware's fans. The Asus G73Jh still holds the crown of quietest gaming laptop we've reviewed, though that was a 17.3in machine.
When it comes to value, there are certainly cheaper - if larger - alternatives out there than this Alienware. And while they won't look or feel as nice, while their keyboards might not be as good nor their lights as bling, they will be able to play Crysis and other demanding games. Both MSI and Asus offer several configurations around the £1,000 mark, with a choice of AMD Radeon 5870 or Nvidia GeForce GTX 460M graphics – either one of which is noticeably faster than the M14x's GT 555M. There is even a version of the MSI GT680 with a 120GB SSD and 500GB hard drive combo, also including 6GB of RAM instead of this M14x's 4GB and a Full HD 15.6in screen to boot, all for £1450 (around the same price as the Alienware with just a hard drive).
There's no denying that Alienware's 14.1in laptop is a beautiful piece of tech. It looks great, with its sleek 'stealth-bomber' lines, red or black matte finish and, most impressive of all, individually controllable light zones. It feels just as good, with solid build, soft-touch plastics and a superb keyboard and touchpad. There's plenty of connectivity, decent battery life and all the specifications you could wish for too. However, it's let down by arguably its key component; its graphics card. It's plenty fast enough to play all games but just not when looking their best, and for a gaming oriented machine that's crucial. Combined with its noisiness under load and premium price this prevents the M14x from receiving our coveted recommendation despite its many strengths.
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