Alienware x14 Review | PCMag

It’s protected to say gaming laptops with 14-inch screens are in vogue. A number of producers are actually providing downsized variations of the preferred 15-inch and 17-inch designs. Amongst them is the brand new Alienware x14 (begins at $1,649.99; $2,299.99 as examined), a brand new measurement for the X Sequence that takes its design cues from the bigger Alienware x15 and x17. The slim and compact design makes rather more sense at 14 inches than it did at bigger display screen sizes, although, leading to a very moveable laptop computer that has motive to be particularly trim.

The inner energy backs up the idea: The brand-new Intel Core i7 “Alder Lake” processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 GPU in our mannequin ship a full-fledged gaming expertise, corresponding to or higher than competing laptops. You possibly can nonetheless get extra energy per greenback in a bigger laptop computer, but when you understand your gaming rig shall be a frequent journey companion, the Alienware x14 is a prime possibility.

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A Pure Match: X Sequence Design at 14 Inches

First, slightly background on why this downsize is interesting. Alienware’s X Sequence spun off from the M Sequence line, taking the Alienware m15 and m17 base design, tweaking the look, and making them even thinner. The result’s the x15 and x17. The x14 is a brand new measurement in each strains—there isn’t a pre-existing 14-inch M Sequence laptop computer, as an alternative simply making use of the X Sequence design to a smaller measurement.

In follow, regardless of the x15 and x17 being marginally thinner than their counterparts, they’re really a bit heavier, which does not make them any extra moveable. As well as, a thinner enclosure means much less room for cooling, so the facility output is lowered barely in contrast with the m15 and m17. A barely totally different type from the M Sequence (it’s actually subjective whether or not the white or black keyboard deck appears higher) was not motive sufficient, in our view, to justify the 15-inch and 17-inch X Sequence laptops given the opposite elements.

Alienware x14 back view

(Photograph: Molly Flores)

The x14, although, is the most effective deployment of this design but. The X Sequence redesign didn’t change the mathematics on how moveable these 15- and 17-inch laptops actually are, leaving us underwhelmed, however it makes rather more sense right here at 14 inches. A laptop computer with a smaller display screen will all the time be extra moveable than its bigger siblings, and while you apply the thinner design to this display screen, you get a successful mixture.

The smaller chassis additionally appears slim and slick, and it’s no phantasm: The x14 is available in at simply 0.57 by 12.7 by 10.3 inches (HWD). It additionally ideas the scales at 3.96 kilos, which is respectable for many laptops, however particularly good for a gaming machine. It’s actually a gaming laptop computer you may tuck beneath your arm or throw in a bag or backpack with no second thought. The facility adapter is compact, too—removed from a given on this class. Generally slim designs are wasted on an influence brick twice as thick and simply as heavy.

Alienware x14 angle view

(Photograph: Molly Flores)

These design chops put it proper in step with prime 14-inch rivals just like the Razer Blade 14 and the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14. The construct is extra on par with the latter than the previous—Razer’s all-metal providing stands out from the pack—however these two are nonetheless sturdy and really feel nicely definitely worth the cash. Merely put, the thin-and-light X Sequence idea plus a 14-inch chassis equals a pure match.

Though we name them 15- and 17-inch laptops, their precise show measurement (measured diagonally) is barely off these spherical numbers, at 15.6 and 17.3 inches, respectively. With 14-inch laptops, the display screen is strictly 14 inches diagonally, and in order that’s what we’ve right here. Whereas the x14 is simple to hold, there’s no getting round the truth that the show is noticeably smaller, a value you pay for the improved portability.

Alienware x14 screen

(Photograph: Molly Flores)

For some avid gamers, that measurement could also be a deal breaker, however I do discover video games loads playable at 14 inches. Extra UI-dense or detail-oriented titles could also be a contact tougher to learn, however it’s a good compromise for the mobility. For those who’re strongly contemplating a smaller laptop computer, you already know that with the ability to simply take your laptop computer on the go is a precedence for you. For those who primarily intend to depart your gaming laptop computer in your desk or your own home, a bigger show makes extra sense.

As for the show expertise, our unit encompasses a full HD (1,920 by 1,080) decision and a 144Hz refresh rate. This can be a no-brainer mixture for me in a laptop computer this measurement. Smaller laptops are restricted of their energy output, in order that they’ll have a a lot tougher time ever making good use of a QHD or 4K show with a 240Hz or 300Hz refresh price for gaming. The complete HD and 144Hz ceiling are rather more cheap targets for the elements right here. The image high quality is crisp and shiny, residing as much as (and as our testing will present, even past) its 400-nit ranking. The panel can be Dolby Imaginative and prescient-certified, which improves the colour depth and high quality additional.

Alienware x14 keyboard

(Photograph: Molly Flores)

The keyboard and touchpad are much less outstanding than the design as an entire, however they do the job. The keys don’t have numerous journey, with the house bar particularly shallow. This can be a facet impact of the skinny construct, although it doesn’t need to be this fashion; the G14’s keys have a great quantity of journey, and the Blade 14 is someplace between.

The condensed keyboard measurement additionally takes some getting used to (I put my fingers down within the unsuitable place a number of occasions at first), however that is simply one thing you’ll adapt to after a while. The keys are backlit as one zone with customizable RGB lighting, all managed by Alienware’s Command Middle software program. The touchpad could be very easy, and maybe a bit on the small facet, however it tracks easily and responds nicely to faucets and full presses.

Alienware x14 edge view

(Photograph: Molly Flores)

This construct sees all of its ports positioned on its rear block. The x15 and x17 have most of their ports round again, too, however the energy adapter and headphone jacks stay on the left and proper edges. That’s not the case right here, a really uncommon occasion of a laptop computer not having a single left or proper facet port, little question an impact of the super-thin type.

You can see loads of connections again there, although. There are three USB-C ports: Two function Thunderbolt 4 assist, energy supply, and DisplayPort output, whereas the third lacks Thunderbolt assist. The latter, alone on the left, is designated because the charging port with an icon, however all of them can cost the laptop computer. You additionally get one USB-A 3.2 port, an HDMI connection, a microSD card slot, and the headphone jack.

Alienware x14 camera

(Photograph: Molly Flores)

Reaching across the show or spinning the laptop computer to see what you’re doing is slightly inconvenient, I have to admit, however you most likely gained’t suppose twice about it after some time, and it’s troublesome to name a reputable criticism. Plugging in wired headphones is more likely to be the most important irritant, as a result of these jacks are very hardly ever positioned out of sight and extra typically have to be plugged again in. All collectively, the I/O providing is robust for a smaller system, and the laptop computer additionally helps Wi-Fi 6E for cutting-edge wi-fi connections.

The webcam up prime options assist for Home windows Hey, however its sensor is not full HD (1080p), as an alternative restricted to a 1,280-by-720-pixel decision.

Element Rundown: Welcome, Alder Lake

I discussed the elements being a great match for the display screen measurement earlier, so now could be time to see what this laptop computer has beneath the hood. From the bottom mannequin to the utmost loadout, the x14 is extra modestly outfitted than its bigger siblings. Let’s begin with the processor, since (along with the 14-inch measurement), that is the massive attraction right here.

Alienware affords two Core i7 processor choices, each from Intel’s newest twelfth Era, often known as “Alder Lake.” This platform was successful on desktop, and the cellular variations are solely simply arriving—see our initial testing run of a beefy Core i9 system. The x14 is the primary U.S.-retail laptop computer we’re reviewing with this new platform.

Alienware x14 underneath

(Photograph: Molly Flores)

The 2 processor choices are the Core i7-12700H and the i7-12900H, each laden with 14 cores and 20 threads. You possibly can read our coverage of Alder Lake cellular for element on how these cores function on this new era, however suffice it to say it’s not so simple as uncooked core and thread rely; some cores are devoted to pure high-power processing, and others are efficiency-minded ones meant to save lots of power for gentle duties.

Becoming a member of these chips are three GPU choices: the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050, RTX 3050 Ti, and RTX 3060. Once more, even the very best selection stops wanting the x15 and x17’s beefier choices, however it’s a logical set for this measurement, and also you’ll see how our unit carried out within the testing part under.

As for the remainder, you may max out the reminiscence at 32GB (there aren’t any growth slots, because the RAM is soldered down), and storage ranges from a 512GB SSD to a 2TB SSD. Alienware tells me a 256GB possibility shall be coming down the street.

All of which means the present base mannequin is $1,649.99 for a Core i7-12700H CPU, 16GB of reminiscence, a 512GB SSD, and an RTX 3050 GPU. That value is honest for these elements, even when we’re unable to check that actual loadout. Alienware would not provide an entry-level or lower-midrange possibility, alas—as an Alienware product this tilts to the fanatic facet, and thus, fanatic pricing.

Alienware x14 edge view

(Photograph: Molly Flores)

Our evaluate unit is an interesting mixture, although one which leans towards the higher-end choices. For $2,299, our mannequin consists of the Core i7-12700H CPU, 32GB of reminiscence, a 2TB SSD, and the RTX 3060 GPU. Clearly the value level isn’t as little as it might be, so your choices are open for a inexpensive configuration, however this one ought to have the ability to present what the 14-inch machine can actually do. Keep in mind that the value is being pumped up by the expensive inclusion of a 2TB SSD, which isn’t a necessity.

Producers are capable of set Nvidia’s 30-series GPUs to an influence supply stage that fits their design objectives and thermal limitations, leading to a variety of differing wattages, even for a similar GPU. In some instances, which means a higher-wattage RTX 3070 might outperform (or dangle surprisingly near) an RTX 3080, or that two RTX 3070 GPUs in two totally different laptops can carry out very in another way. It’s a bit complicated for customers, however implies that it’s extra essential than ever to test our per-system benchmark take a look at outcomes. The RTX 3060 within the x14 is configured with a most energy of 85 watts.

Testing the Alienware x14: Punching Above Its Weight

Between the brand new X Sequence measurement and the Alder Lake chip, it’s engaging to see what this technique can do. We’ll be working it by our typical suite of benchmark exams, and evaluating the outcomes in opposition to these of the next laptops…

There’s a helpful mixture of programs right here representing two competing 14-inch laptops, the related Alienware x15, and a finances system within the MSI Katana GF66. The latter is an attention-grabbing inclusion because it reveals what related elements can do if you wish to spend totally on efficiency over the trimmest doable type issue, reducing its price with a decrease high quality, much less compact construct.

Productiveness Assessments

The primary benchmark of UL’s PCMark 10 simulates a wide range of real-world productiveness and content-creation workflows, measuring total efficiency for office-centric duties comparable to phrase processing, spreadsheeting, internet looking, and videoconferencing. We additionally run PCMark 10’s Full System Drive take a look at to evaluate the load time and throughput of a laptop computer’s storage.

Three benchmarks give attention to the CPU, utilizing all out there cores and threads, to price a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads. Maxon’s Cinebench R23 makes use of that firm’s Cinema 4D engine to render a posh scene, whereas Primate Labs’ Geekbench 5.4 Professional simulates well-liked apps starting from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine studying. Lastly, we use the open-source video transcoder HandBrake 1.4 to transform a 12-minute video clip from 4K to 1080p decision (decrease occasions are higher).

Our remaining productiveness take a look at is workstation maker Puget Techniques’ PugetBench for Photoshop, which makes use of the Inventive Cloud model 22 of Adobe’s well-known picture editor to price a PC’s efficiency for content material creation and multimedia purposes. It is an automatic extension that executes a wide range of common and GPU-accelerated Photoshop duties starting from opening, rotating, resizing, and saving a picture to making use of masks, gradient fills, and filters.

That is the place we put the brand new Alder Lake chip to the take a look at, and it handed with flying colours. The x14 was the most effective performer on each benchmark right here, topping the bigger machines and the AMD-based counterparts. AMD’s new Ryzen 6000 sequence is coming to laptops this month, so the Ryzen chips right here will technically be last-generation quickly, however are related for now. We’ll circle again on that head-to-head as soon as Ryzen 6000 laptops can be found, however contemplating the efficiency lead AMD has had within the latest previous, this enchancment is nice information for Intel.

Lengthy story brief, the x14 and i7 Alder Lake are impressively well-suited for productiveness and media duties. These choices have crept up from “ok when wanted” to legitimately helpful for enhancing and content material creation. Devoted skilled machines and workstations will nonetheless maintain a bonus as the primary system you’re employed on, however for a compact laptop computer you may simply take with you for gaming {and professional} work, the x14’s outlook is rosy.

Graphics and Gaming Assessments

We take a look at Home windows PCs’ graphics with two DirectX 12 gaming simulations from UL’s 3DMark: Evening Raid (extra modest, appropriate for laptops with built-in graphics) and Time Spy (extra demanding, appropriate for gaming rigs with discrete GPUs).

As well as, we run three real-world sport exams utilizing the built-in benchmarks of F1 2021, Murderer’s Creed Valhalla, and Rainbow Six Siege. These symbolize simulation, open-world action-adventure, and aggressive esports shooter video games respectively. Valhalla and Siege are run twice (Valhalla on the Medium and Extremely high quality presets, Siege at Low and Extremely high quality), whereas F1 2021 is run twice at most settings, as soon as with Nvidia’s performance-boosting DLSS anti-aliasing turned off and as soon as with it on.

The brand new Alder Lake CPU is worthy of loads of consideration, however these outcomes are the meat and potatoes for the x14. First, let’s have a look at the outcomes remoted from the opposite laptops. The scores and body charges are good, higher than common even for an RTX 3060. Focusing in on Valhalla as probably the most strenuous title, it may clear a median of 80fps by enjoying on the (nonetheless great-looking) Medium preset, and hover just below 60fps on the highest element preset. That can embrace some dips which can look uneven, however reducing a couple of settings will allow you to benefit from the title extra easily.

The less-demanding video games are an ideal expertise on the x14. Don’t let the truth that there are a number of GPUs above the RTX 3060 in Nvidia’s hierarchy dissuade you: It’s a really succesful providing. You possibly can obtain a race-ready 60fps on F1 2021 at most settings even with out DLSS, and make nice use of the 144Hz show in Rainbow Six Siege.

Evaluating it now to the opposite programs, the x14 holds up nicely. It was by no means going to be extra highly effective than the x15, and the Blade 14 has an edge with its RTX 3070, however the x14 hung shut. It was even superior to the Blade 14 on Valhalla, whereas additionally markedly higher than the Zephyrus G14 and a contact forward of the MSI Katana. It posted the most effective low-settings Rainbow Six Siege outcomes as nicely, doubtless helped on by the processor on this case.

As talked about earlier with the expensive 2TB SSD, numerous variables go into the value of those actual configurations, so evaluating price-to-performance isn’t completely reduce and dry. Typically, although, this reveals that greater configurations of the x14 are price it, so far as thermal effectivity and its efficiency ceiling. These elements carry out at or above expectations on this compact chassis, and there’s motive to suppose the decrease configurations shall be sound for extra budget-conscious customers.

Warmth, Noise, and Nvidia Superior Optimus

The x14 additionally did not get uncomfortably scorching whereas gaming, significantly on the keyboard. The very again of the underside was scorching (how might it not be, actually?), however in contrast to another laptops, the warmth was largely avoided the place your fingers relaxation, and there wasn’t an particularly scorching spot anyplace on the deck. Between the efficiency and the warmth, Alienware’s unique “Ingredient 31” thermal materials (a Gallium-Silicone resolution which isn’t new to this technique) is doing its half together with a vapor cooling chamber.

Moreover, the Command Middle software program additionally opens up choices for a couple of totally different energy modes. We examined this technique on Efficiency mode, the place the fan speeds weren’t loud whereas idle and inside a suitable vary whereas gaming. Bumping as much as Full Velocity made issues a lot louder, and I would not say it is price the additional noise—this mode solely pushed three or 4 additional frames per second on these video games, even when mixed with the preset overclock possibility. Beneath these modes are Balanced, Cool, and Quiet choices, as nicely.

Lastly, the x14 does function Nvidia Superior Optimus, which kicks the devoted GPU (the RTX 3060) into motion while you launch a 3D or graphics-dependent program. You possibly can pressure the GPU to be energetic always, if you want, however by default Optimus will robotically do it for you. Working the built-in graphics chip for easy duties saves energy, particularly if you happen to’re on battery, and can scale back fan noise. The implementation is essentially efficient, with some occasional hiccups with minimizing and the Optimus pop-up notification when it first kicks in. The inclusion of Optimus doubtless contributes to the system’s price, however it additionally helps provide a extra premium-feeling expertise.

Battery and Show Assessments

We take a look at laptops’ battery life by enjoying a regionally saved 720p video file with show brightness at 50% and audio quantity at 100% till the system quits. We make certain the battery is totally charged earlier than the take a look at, with Wi-Fi and keyboard backlighting turned off.

Excellent news for this bodily moveable machine—the battery life is lengthy! Almost 9 hours on our rundown take a look at is a superb outcome, and you may see the others fall nicely wanting that mark. The opposite two 14-inch programs did last more on our take a look at, however all three clear a workday’s price of battery life. If the battery solely lasted 4 or 5 hours right here, it might have significantly undermined the portability, however you may pack it with confidence.

The show’s shade protection is a contact fuller than the others, and the brightness exams confirmed what I see, anecdotally, in particular person. This can be a vibrant and brighter-than-average show, pushing extra nits than another system right here.

X Sequence Has Landed

The Alienware x14 is a wonderful 14-inch gaming pocket book, an all-around stable laptop computer, and the most effective effort throughout the X Sequence so far. It retains the smooth look whereas matching or besting its competitors on efficiency, avoiding the facility dropoff we see within the x15 and x17. Going super-compact actually provides worth at this measurement, making for a genuinely road-ready gaming laptop computer.

Alienware x14 laptop

(Photograph: Molly Flores)

The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 can be nice, however it’s the Razer Blade 14 that basically trades blows with Alienware’s machine. The Blade 14 encompasses a extra premium steel construct; its RTX 3070 configuration is inexpensive than what we reviewed right here; and its show is extra superior at 1440p and 165Hz. The Blade 14 (and the G14) shall be receiving AMD’s Ryzen 6000 processors early this yr, too, so the present processor benefit isn’t intrinsic to the x14, and gained’t maintain perpetually.

However, a smaller SSD would put the value benefit again to the x14; its ready-now Alder Lake CPU is blazing quick; and its RTX 3060 stacks as much as the Blade’s RTX 3070. It’s nearly a wash between these two prime machines, down largely to choice on the design and a few function variations. If you wish to make use of the Alder Lake juice now and just like the type of this machine, the x14 is a prime possibility for cellular avid gamers.

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