Alienware x14 Review

Alienware x14 Review

Alienware x14

The smallest Alienware is an 'Alder Lake' powerhouse
PROS
The incredibly quick Core i7 “Alder Lake” processor combined with the RTX 3060 unit ensures a smooth gaming experience with more than 60 frames per second.
Compact design
Long-lasting battery
Wide variety of connectivity options, including three ports that are USB-C.
CONS
Expensive
Some serious gamers may find that a screen size of 14 inches is insufficient.

ALIENWARE X14 SPECS

Laptop ClassGaming
ProcessorIntel Core i7-12700H
Processor Speed2.7 GHz
RAM (as Tested)32 GB
Boot Drive TypeSSD
Boot Drive Capacity (as Tested)2 TB
Screen Size14 inches
Native Display Resolution1920 by 1080
Touch ScreenNo
Panel TechnologyIPS
Variable Refresh SupportNone
Screen Refresh Rate144 Hz
Graphics ProcessorNvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Laptop GPU
Graphics Memory6 GB
Wireless NetworkingBluetooth, Wi-Fi 6E
Dimensions (HWD)0.57 by 12.66 by 10.34 inches
Weight3.96 lbs
Operating SystemWindows 11
Tested Battery Life (Hours:Minutes)8:43

It is safe to say that gaming laptops with screens measuring 14 inches are currently very popular. Reduced versions of the most popular designs for 15-inch and 17-inch screens are now being made available by a number of different manufacturers. Among them is the brand-new Alienware x14, which is a new size for the X Series and takes its design cues from the larger Alienware x15 and x17 models. It has a starting price of $1,649.99 and a tested price of $2,299.99. However, the slim and compact design makes significantly more sense at a 14-inch screen size than it did at larger screen sizes. This results in a laptop that is truly portable and has good reason to be especially trim.

The internal power provides support for the idea: the brand-new Intel Core i7 “Alder Lake” processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 GPU in our model provide a full-fledged gaming experience that is on par with or even better than that provided by competing laptops. You can still get more power for your dollar in a larger laptop, but if you know that your gaming rig will be accompanying you on frequent trips, the Alienware x14 is an excellent choice to consider.

The X Series Design, in 14-Inch Size, Is a Natural Fit

To begin, a brief history lesson on the reasons behind the attractiveness of this downsize. Alienware’s X Series is an offshoot of the company’s M Series line of products. It is based on the Alienware m15 and m17 base designs, but it has a different appearance and is even thinner. The final products are the x15 and the x17. The x14 is a new size for both lines; the M Series did not previously offer a laptop with a 14-inch display; rather, they scaled down the design of the X Series laptops to fit the smaller form factor.

Although the x15 and x17 are marginally thinner than their respective counterparts, in practice, they are actually a bit heavier, which does not make them any more portable than their predecessors. Additionally, because there is less space available for cooling due to the thinner enclosure, the power output is slightly lower when compared to that of the M15 and M17. A slightly different style from the M Series (it’s really subjective whether the white or black keyboard deck looks better) was not enough of a reason, in our opinion, to justify the 15-inch and 17-inch X Series laptops given the other factors. This was the case due to the fact that the M Series laptops were smaller.

However, the x14 is the most successful application of this design to date. We were underwhelmed by the X Series redesign because it didn’t change the math on how portable those 15- and 17-inch laptops really are, but it makes a lot more sense here at 14 inches. A laptop with a smaller screen will always be more portable than its larger siblings, and when you apply the thinner design to this screen, you get a winning combination. The smaller screen and the thinner design both contribute to the portability of the laptop.

The smaller chassis appears sleek and lean, and this is not an illusion; the x14 measures only 0.57 inches in height, 12.7 inches in width, and 10.3 inches in depth (HWD). It also weighs 3.96 pounds, which is respectable for most laptops but especially nice for a gaming machine because it is so much lighter than other gaming computers. It is a genuine gaming laptop that you can easily conceal under your arm, toss in a bag, or pack away in a backpack without giving it a second thought. Additionally, the power adapter is on the smaller side, which is not always the case in this category. There are times when a slim design is wasted on a power brick that is twice as thick and the same amount of weight.

Alienware x14 Review

The Razer Blade 14 and the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 are two of the top 14-inch competitors, and this product’s design skills put it on par with those devices. The construction is more comparable to the latter than it is to the former; however, both of these are still sturdy and appear to be well worth the money. Razer’s all-metal offering stands out from the rest of the pack. To put it another way, the combination of a 14-inch chassis and the thin-and-light X Series concept results in a natural fit.

In spite of the fact that we refer to them as 15- and 17-inch laptops, their actual display sizes are slightly smaller than those round numbers, measuring 15.6 and 17.3 inches, respectively, when measured diagonally. When it comes to laptops with a screen size of 14 inches, the diagonal measurement of the screen is precisely 14 inches, and this one measures exactly that. It is impossible to deny that the display on the x14 is noticeably smaller than that of the x14’s predecessors; this is the trade-off for the increased portability that the x14 offers.

For some gamers, a screen size of 14 inches may be unplayable, but I find that it’s still plenty big enough to enjoy most games. It’s possible that titles with more user interface elements or that focus on details will be slightly more difficult to read, but that’s a reasonable trade-off for the increased portability. If you’re giving serious thought to purchasing a more portable laptop, you probably already have it in mind that portability is one of the most important considerations for you. It makes more sense to get a larger display for your gaming laptop if you plan to keep it on your desk or at your house for the most part.

In terms of the display technology, our device possesses a resolution of full HD (1,920 by 1,080) and a refresh rate of 144 hertz (Hz). For a laptop of this size, I believe this to be the optimal combination of features. Because the power output of smaller laptops is restricted, it will be extremely difficult for these laptops to ever make effective use of a QHD or 4K display that has a refresh rate of 240Hz or 300Hz for gaming. The full HD resolution and 144 hertz cap are much more reasonable goals for the components to strive for in this context. The picture has a clear and bright quality that more than lives up to (and, as our testing will show, even exceeds) its rating of 400 nits. Additionally, the panel is Dolby Vision-certified, which contributes to an improvement in both the color depth and quality.

In comparison to the design as a whole, the keyboard and touchpad don’t stand out as much, but they get the job done. There is not a lot of travel on the keys, with the space bar having the least amount of depth. This is a side effect of the thin build, although it doesn’t have to be this way; the keys on the G14 have a good amount of travel, and the Blade 14 is somewhere in between the two.

The smaller size of the keyboard takes some getting used to as well (at first, I accidentally put my fingers down in the wrong place quite a few times), but this is merely something that you’ll get used to after some time has passed. The keys are backlit as one zone with customizable RGB lighting, and the lighting can be adjusted using the software that is included with Alienware’s Command Center. The touchpad has very few buttons and may be on the smaller side, but it is very responsive to taps and full presses. Despite its simplicity, the touchpad may be a little on the smaller side.

Alienware x14 Review

In this particular build, all of the ports are situated on the back block. Even though the majority of the ports on the x15 and x17 are located on the back of the device, the power adapter and headphone jacks are still located on the left and right edges. That is not the case in this particular instance, which is a very rare example of a laptop that does not have a single port on either the left or the right side. This is most likely an effect of the extremely thin form.

On the other hand, you will discover a large number of connections back there. There are three USB-C ports; however, only two of them support Thunderbolt 4, which allows for power delivery and DisplayPort output; the third USB-C port does not support Thunderbolt. Although only the one on the left, which is labeled with an icon to indicate that it is the charging port, any of the ports can be used to charge the laptop. In addition, you will have access to one USB-A 3.2 port, an HDMI connection, a slot for a microSD card, and a headphone jack.

I have to admit that reaching around the display or rotating the laptop in order to see what you’re doing is a little inconvenient. However, after some time, you probably won’t even think twice about it, and it’s hard to say that this is a complaint that can be considered legitimate. The process of plugging in wired headphones is likely to be the most frustrating part of the experience. This is because headphone jacks are very rarely hidden from view, and more often than not, they need to be replugged. The I/O offering, taken as a whole, is quite impressive for a system of this size, and the laptop also supports Wi-Fi 6E, which enables cutting-edge wireless connections.

The webcam on the top of the screen supports Windows Hello, but its sensor does not have a full HD (1080p) resolution and is instead limited to a resolution of 1,280 by 720 pixels.

A Breakdown of the Components: Hello, Alder Lake

I mentioned earlier that the components are a good fit for the screen size, so it is time to take a look now at what this laptop has to offer in terms of its internals. The x14, in all of its configurations, from the most basic to the most advanced, has a more restrained level of equipment than its larger relatives. Let’s begin with the processor, seeing as how this is the primary selling point of this product (in addition to its 14-inch screen size).

Both of the Core i7 processor options available from Alienware come from Intel’s most recent 12th Generation lineup, which is also referred to as “Alder Lake.” The desktop version of this platform was very popular, and the mobile versions are just now becoming available—check out our preliminary testing run on a powerful Core i9 system. The x14 is the first laptop sold in retail outlets in the United States that we have evaluated using this new platform.

The Core i7-12700H and the Core i7-12900H are the two processors that can be used, and both of them have a total of 14 cores and 20 threads. It is no longer as simple as counting the number of raw cores and threads; some cores are dedicated to pure high-power processing, and others are efficiency-minded ones meant to save energy for light tasks. You can read our coverage of Alder Lake mobile for more detail on how these cores operate in this new generation, but suffice it to say that it is no longer as simple as that.

In addition to these chips, Nvidia is releasing three different GPU options: the RTX 3050, the RTX 3050 Ti, and the RTX 3060. Again, even the highest choice falls short of the more robust options that are available for the x15 and x17, but the set is reasonable for this size, and you’ll find out how well our unit performed in the testing section that’s provided below.

As for the rest of the specifications, the maximum amount of memory that can be installed is 32 gigabytes (there are no expansion slots because the RAM is soldered down), and the storage capacity can range from 512 gigabytes to 2 terabytes. According to Alienware, a 256GB storage option is on the way in the near future.

A Core i7-12700H central processing unit, 16 gigabytes of memory, a 512 gigabyte solid state drive, and an RTX 3050 graphics processing unit are included in the current base model, which costs $1,649.99. Even though we are unable to test that specific loadout, we believe that price to be reasonable for those components. As this is an Alienware product, it leans toward the enthusiast side, and the pricing reflects this tilt toward the enthusiast market. Unfortunately, Alienware does not offer a lower-midrange or entry-level option.

Alienware x14 Review

Even though it leans more toward the higher-end options, our review unit has a combination that is appealing to a lot of people. Our model comes with a Core i7-12700H central processing unit, 32 gigabytes of memory, a 2 terabyte solid-state drive, and the RTX 3060 graphics processing unit for the price of $2,299. It is obvious that the price point is not as low as it could be; therefore, your choices are open for a configuration that is less expensive; however, this one ought to be able to demonstrate what the 14-inch machine is truly capable of. Keep in mind that the inclusion of an expensive 2TB SSD, which is not required, is contributing to the increase in the cost of the product.

There is a wide range of wattages available for the same GPU as a result of the fact that manufacturers have the ability to set the power delivery level of Nvidia’s 30-series GPUs to a level that is suitable for their design goals and thermal limitations. This means that there are situations in which a higher-wattage RTX 3070 could outperform (or hang surprisingly close to) an RTX 3080, or that the same RTX 3070 GPU installed in two separate laptops could have very different levels of performance. Shoppers may find it difficult to understand, but this only highlights how essential it is to look at the results of our benchmark tests broken down by system. The RTX 3060 found in the x14 has a maximum power configuration of 85 watts available to it.

Putting the Alienware x14 to the Test: It’s More than Holding Its Own

PROCESSORGRAPHICSRAMSTORAGE
Alienwarex14IntelCore i7-12700H (2.7GHz)NvidiaGeForce RTX 3060 (6GB)32GBRAM2TBSSD
Alienwarex15IntelCore i7-11800H (2.3GHz)NvidiaGeForce RTX 3070 (8GB)16GBRAM512GBSSD
AsusROG Zephyrus G14 (2021)AMDRyzen 9 5900HS (3.3GHz)NvidiaGeForce RTX 3060 (6GB)32GBRAM1TBSSD
MSIKatana GF66IntelCore i7-11800H (2.3GHz)NvidiaGeForce RTX 3060 (6GB)16GBRAM1TBSSD
RazerBlade 14AMDRyzen 9 5900HX (3.3GHz)NvidiaGeForce RTX 3070 (8GB)16GBRAM1TBSSD

It will be interesting to see what this system is capable of doing given its new X Series size as well as its Alder Lake chip. We’re going to put it through our standard battery of benchmark tests, and then we’re going to compare the results of that to the ones obtained by the following laptops:

This comparison features a helpful variety of systems, including two competing 14-inch laptops, the pertinent Alienware x15, and a cost-effective system in the form of the MSI Katana GF66. The latter is an interesting inclusion because it demonstrates what can be done with similar components if you prioritize performance over having the smallest possible form factor, and you want to reduce the cost of the product by having a build that is of lower quality and takes up more space.

Examinations of Productivity

The primary benchmark that is used in UL’s PCMark 10 simulates a wide variety of real-world productivity and content-creation workflows. This benchmark measures overall performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheet editing, web browsing, and video conferencing. In addition, we utilize PCMark 10’s Full System Drive test to determine how long it takes a laptop’s storage to load and its overall throughput.

In order to evaluate how well a personal computer can handle tasks that require a lot of processing power, three benchmarks concentrate on the CPU and make use of all of the cores and threads it has. Maxon’s Cinebench R23 simulates popular applications such as PDF rendering, speech recognition, and machine learning using the company’s Cinema 4D engine. Primate Labs’ Geekbench 5.4 Pro, on the other hand, renders a complex scene using the company’s Geekbench 5.4 Pro software. In the end, we convert a video clip that is 12 minutes long from a 4K resolution to a 1080p resolution using the open-source video transcoder HandBrake 1.4. (lower times are better).

Our final productivity test is workstation manufacturer Puget Systems’ PugetBench for Photoshop. This test uses the Creative Cloud version 22 of Adobe’s well-known image editor to evaluate a personal computer’s performance for content creation and multimedia application use. It is an automated extension that executes a variety of general and GPU-accelerated Photoshop tasks such as opening, rotating, resizing, and saving an image as well as applying masks, gradient fills, and filters. These tasks can be carried out in a variety of ways depending on the user’s preferences.

Alienware x14 Review

The new Alder Lake chip was put to the test right here, and it succeeded with flying colors. The x14 achieved the best results across all of these benchmarks, outperforming both the larger machines and their corresponding AMD-based counterparts. Since AMD is releasing its new Ryzen 6000 series for laptops this month, the Ryzen chips being discussed here will technically be of the previous generation very soon, but they are still relevant for the time being. This is great news for Intel, especially in light of the fact that AMD has been in the driver’s seat when it comes to performance in recent times, but we’ll revisit this head-to-head comparison once Ryzen 6000 laptops are on the market.

To make a long story short, both the x14 and the i7 Alder Lake are exceptionally well-suited for the performance of media and productivity tasks. These options have gradually evolved from being “good enough when needed” to being legitimately useful for editing and the creation of content. Although dedicated professional machines and workstations will continue to have an advantage as the primary system on which you perform your work, the x14 appears to be a promising option for those who need a portable device that can handle both gaming and professional work.

Examinations of Graphics and Gaming

Two DirectX 12 gaming simulations from UL’s 3DMark are used to test the graphics capabilities of Windows personal computers. These simulations are Night Raid (a more modest game that is suitable for laptops with integrated graphics) and Time Spy (more demanding, suitable for gaming rigs with discrete GPUs).

In addition, we put the game F1 2021, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and Rainbow Six Siege through their paces in three different real-world gaming tests using their respective games’ in-game benchmarks. These are examples of three different types of video games: simulations, open-world action-adventure games, and competitive online shooter games. F1 2021 is run twice at maximum settings, once without Nvidia’s performance-boosting DLSS anti-aliasing turned on and once with it turned on. Both Valhalla and Siege are also run twice, with Valhalla using both the Medium and Ultra quality presets and Siege using both the Low and Ultra quality presets.

These results are the meat and potatoes for the x14, even though the newly released Alder Lake CPU is deserving of a lot of attention. First, let’s take a look at the findings without taking into account the other laptops. Both the scores and the frame rates are satisfactory; even for an RTX 3060, they are better than average. When concentrating on Valhalla as the most demanding game, we can see that it is capable of reaching an average of 80 frames per second when playing on the (still fantastic-looking) Medium preset, and it can hover just under 60 frames per second when playing on the highest detail setting. This will result in some dips that will have a choppy appearance; however, lowering a few settings will allow you to enjoy the game more smoothly overall.

On the x14, you’ll have a wonderful time playing games with lower difficulty levels. You shouldn’t let the fact that there are several GPUs in Nvidia’s hierarchy that are more powerful than the RTX 3060 discourage you: It’s a very capable offering all things considered. Even without DLSS, it is possible to get a race-ready 60 frames per second on F1 2021 when using the maximum settings. You can also make excellent use of the 144Hz display when playing Rainbow Six Siege.

Alienware x14 Review

When weighed against the other systems available, the x14 performs admirably. It was always going to be less powerful than the x15, and the Blade 14 has an advantage thanks to its RTX 3070, but the x14 held its own against the competition. On Valhalla, it was even better than the Blade 14, while also being noticeably better than the Zephyrus G14 and just a hair better than the MSI Katana. It also posted the best results when playing Rainbow Six Siege on the lowest settings, which was likely helped on by the processor in this instance.

As was discussed earlier with regard to the pricey 2TB SSD, there are a lot of variables that go into the pricing of these exact configurations; consequently, making an accurate comparison of price to performance can be difficult. In general, however, this demonstrates that higher configurations of the x14 are worthwhile, both in terms of the device’s thermal efficiency and the performance ceiling it can achieve. The performance of these components meets or exceeds expectations in this compact chassis, and there is reason to believe that the lower configurations will be adequate for consumers who are more concerned about their spending budgets.

Temperature, Sound Levels, and Nvidia’s Optimus Technology

In addition, playing video games on the x14 did not cause it to become unbearably warm, particularly on the keyboard. It was hot all the way in the back of the underside (how could it not be, really?) , but in contrast to other laptops, the heat was kept well away from the area where your hands rest, and the deck didn’t have any particularly hot spots anywhere on it. Alienware’s proprietary “Element 31” thermal material, which is a Gallium-Silicone solution that has been used in previous iterations of this system, is working in conjunction with a vapor cooling chamber to manage both the performance and the heat generated by the system.

In addition, the Command Center software gives users the ability to select from a variety of power modes and their associated settings. When we tested the system, it was set to Performance mode, and the fan speeds were within a suitable range both when the system was idle and when it was being used for gaming. When I bumped everything up to Full Speed, it became significantly louder, and I wouldn’t say that it’s worth the additional noise because this mode only pushed three or four additional frames per second on these games, even when combined with the preset overclock option. In addition to these modes, there are also the options of Balanced, Cool, and Quiet.

Finally, the x14 does have Nvidia Advanced Optimus, which activates the dedicated GPU (the RTX 3060) whenever you launch a program that requires graphics or 3D rendering. If you want, you can make Optimus always keep the GPU active, but by default, it will do it automatically for you. You have the option to force the GPU to be active at all times. When you use the integrated graphics chip for simple tasks, you save power, which is especially beneficial if you are running on battery, and you also reduce the amount of noise produced by the fan. Although there are some hiccups here and there with minimizing and the Optimus pop-up notification when it first kicks in, the implementation is generally effective. The inclusion of Optimus almost certainly adds to the cost of the system, but it also helps to provide an experience that is more akin to a premium product.

Tests on the Display and the Battery

Playing a locally stored 720p video file with the display brightness set to 50 percent and the audio volume set to 100 percent is how we test the battery life of laptops. This continues until the system shuts down. Before beginning the test, we check that the battery has a full charge and turn off Wi-Fi as well as the backlighting on the keyboard.

Alienware x14 Review

The battery life of this physically portable machine is quite long, which is excellent news. On our rundown test, nearly nine hours is a great result, and as you can see, the others fall well short of that mark. During our test, the battery life of the other two 14-inch systems lasted longer; however, all three systems had enough power to last an entire workday. In this case, the portability would have been severely compromised if the battery only lasted for four or five hours, but you don’t need to worry about that because you can confidently pack it.

The display has a slightly fuller color coverage than the others, and the brightness tests confirmed what I observe anecdotally and in person regarding the display’s brightness. This screen has more nits than any other system in this room, making it one of the brightest and most colorful displays in this room.

X Series Has Landed

The Alienware x14 is the best effort made so far within the X Series, and it is an excellent gaming notebook with a 14-inch screen that is also an all-around reliable laptop. It keeps the streamlined appearance while matching or outperforming its competitors in terms of performance. This prevents the power dropoff that is seen in the x15 and x17. At this size, going super-compact really adds value, resulting in a gaming laptop that is truly ready to be taken on the road.

Although the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is also a fantastic machine, the Razer Blade 14 is the one that can most effectively compete with the Alienware machine. The Blade 14 has a more premium metal build than what we reviewed here; its RTX 3070 configuration is less expensive; and its display is more advanced with 1440p resolution and 165Hz refresh rate. Since the Blade 14 and the G14 will both be getting AMD’s Ryzen 6000 processors early this year, the current processor advantage that the x14 has is not inherent to the x14 and will not continue to exist indefinitely.

On the other hand, if the x14 had a smaller solid-state drive (SSD), it would regain its price advantage; its ready-now Alder Lake CPU is blisteringly quick; and its RTX 3060 is comparable to the RTX 3070 found in the Blade. The choice between these two top machines comes down primarily to personal preference regarding the design, with some differences in features also being a factor. If you want to use the Alder Lake juice right now and like the style of this machine, the x14 is a top choice for mobile gamers who are looking for a device to use.

Alienware x14 Review

Alienware x14

The smallest Alienware is an 'Alder Lake' powerhouse
PROS
The incredibly quick Core i7 “Alder Lake” processor combined with the RTX 3060 unit ensures a smooth gaming experience with more than 60 frames per second.
Compact design
Long-lasting battery
Wide variety of connectivity options, including three ports that are USB-C.
CONS
Expensive
Some serious gamers may find that a screen size of 14 inches is insufficient.

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