Alienware 14 review

Alienware 14 review

The Alienware brand dominates gaming laptops, but the latest addition to Dell's range isn't the huge, brash notebook you'd expect – it's got a 14in screen, and it looks fantastic. See: The 7 best gaming laptops of 2013.

Dell has done sterling work to temper the immature excesses of older models – the flamboyant styling has been calmed down, and the Alienware 14 looks like it's grown up. The matt aluminium throughout is fantastic, and the slanted lines and angles are subtly stylish. Logos still light up, the keyboard is modestly backlit, and there's a thin band of light around the 14's base, but it doesn't feel ostentatious. See also: Alienware M14x review.

Build quality is great: there's no weakness across the wrist-rest, and minimal flex in the screen. The sturdy design comes at a price, and that's size: at 42mm thick and 2.8kg, the Alienware is as bulky as three Ultrabooks – and not far off some 17in-screened rivals.

The quad-core i7-4700MQ runs at 2.4GHz and is bolstered by a 3.4GHz Turbo pace. It returned a PCMark 7 score of 6,044 points, which places it among the fastest laptops: the 17in MSI GS70 scored 6060 points, and the Alienware 17 – which has a Core i7-4800MQ processor – managed 6332 points.

The nVidia GTX 765M with 2GB VRAM ran through our 1280 x 720 Medium-quality Crysis benchmark at an average of 121fps: excellent, even if it's ten frames slower than the Alienware 17.

At full-HD and Stalker's Ultra settings the smaller Alienware averaged a good 77fps. It can handle other games too – it averaged 30fps at Crysis and Battlefield 3's toughest settings and full-HD. Once again, though, the larger Alienware proved better: in that Stalker test it averaged 120fps.

The storage star is the 256GB LiteOn mSATA SSD. Its sequential read and write times of 467MB/s and 399MB/s are good, and the machine booted in less than 10 seconds.

Heat and noise are issues. The processor's top temperature of 100°C is the chip's thermal limit, and the fans inside whirred loudly when the machine was stress-tested – and the fans even spun up occasionally when the Alienware idled. You'll need to use the 14's audio kit to drown the noise out.

Thankfully, the speakers are more than capable. They're loud, with decent bass levels and a chunky mid-range – attributes that make games suitably explosive. There's little to shout about in the high-end, though, which is a little tinny.

Battery life was reasonable. The Alienware lasted for 4 hours and 29 minutes in our test – a quarter of an hour more than the larger Alienware, and an hour longer than the MSI.

There's plenty to like about the IPS panel. The matte finish banishes reflections that hamper gaming, and it's matched with a high resolution – our model has been upgraded with a full-HD screen. Quality is high: the measured brightness level of 325cd/m2 ensures punchy images, and a reasonable black level of 0.29cd/m2 lends games and movies real depth. The contrast ratio and viewing angles are both good, although the matte layer adds more grain than we'd like.

Dell eschews chiclet keys for a traditional keyboard, which works well: plenty of travel, a solid base, and snappy typing. The trackpad is grippy and large, and lights up when touched – but, as with most gaming laptops, we'd prefer a mouse.

The final touch comes from Alienware's bespoke software. The most interesting app allows the colours of ten different lights across the machine to be changed, with different options for different power states. Elsewhere, there are tools to update the machine, alter touchpad functionality and establish application routines for different games, and monitor performance.

Got to the next page to see our original hands-on review of Dell's Alienware 14 laptop, written by Chris Martin.

Alienware M14 lighting and keyboard

Alienware is back with this year's range of gaming laptops with Haswell and we've taken a look at the 14in model. Read our Alienware 14 hands-on review.

The launch coincides with Intel's new range of fourth-generation processors, also known as Haswell. But we'll come to the hardware specifications in a bit because we want to talk about design first. 

We're pleased to report that the new line-up of Alienware laptops have a new chassis, something we we're a little disappointed with last year. The design ethos runs through the Alienware 14, 17 and 18. If you're wondering, no, the M11 hasn't made a sudden return.  

The Alienware 14 does look similar to previous models and looks distinctly like an Alienware laptop. It's been built from the ground-up to house the components rather than making a shell and squeezing in whatever you can.

It's still a bit on the chunky side and although the Alienware 14 isn't as svelte as the Razr Blade, it offers a good combination of portability and performance. We really like the new one-piece aluminium lid with angled corners and added lighting.

Alienware M14 lid

Talking of lighting, things look a bit different compared to the last generation. The keyboard and Alienware logo still light up but instead of two air intake looking sections at the front there is a pin stripe style light running around the edge and the trackpad is now backlit.

There's a new keyboard which we're yet to give a proper test but felt nice during our time with the Alienware 14. It's also pleasing that the screen has had a nice upgrade from 1600x900 to Full HD 1920x1080 although there is a 1366x768 option.

Since Alienware is owned by Dell, the laptops are highly customisable which can only be a good thing.  Pricing starts at £1,099 for the Alienware 14 which is £100 more than the M14x. With customisations you can go much higher than this.

Alienware M14 gaming laptop

Interestingly you can choose Windows 7 (Home Premium) or Windows 8, both 64bit editions.

With a Haswell Core i7 processor up to 16GB of RAM and the latest nVidia graphics cards (up to GeForce GTX 765M with 2GB GDDR5), performance is the Alienware 14's speciality. You can have different combinations of hard drive setup too with four slots inside.

See also: Intel launches 4th-gen 'Haswell' Core processors.

Things were silky smooth during our hands-on but we'll expand more on this once we've had the Alienware 14 in out lab for some proper benchmark tests. We'll also test out the battery life so keep an eye out for the full review soon. 

Verdict:

Even though the Alienware 14 hasn't gone on much of a diet compared to last year's model, we like the stylish new design. Specs are unsurprisingly impressive so check back soon for a full review with benchmarks.

Follow Chris Martin and @PCAdvisor on Twitter.   

Alienware 14: Specs

  • 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-4700MQ (3.4GHz Turbo Boost)
  • Windows 8 (64-bit)
  • 8GB DDR3 memory
  • 256GB SSD
  • 1TB hard drive (7200rpm)
  • 14in IPS display with 1920x1080 resolution
  • nVidia GeForce GTX 765M graphics
  • DVD writer
  • 802.11b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • HDMI/mini DisplayPort
  • 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0
  • Headphone and microphone sockets
  • SD card reader (SD/SDHC/SDXC/MS)
  • 69Wh removable battery
  • Dimensions – 334.8 x261.2 x 42mm
  • 2.8kg
  • 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-4700MQ (3.4GHz Turbo Boost)
  • Windows 8 (64-bit)
  • 8GB DDR3 memory
  • 256GB SSD
  • 1TB hard drive (7200rpm)
  • 14in IPS display with 1920x1080 resolution
  • nVidia GeForce GTX 765M graphics
  • DVD writer
  • 802.11b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • HDMI/mini DisplayPort
  • 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0
  • Headphone and microphone sockets
  • SD card reader (SD/SDHC/SDXC/MS)
  • 69Wh removable battery
  • Dimensions – 334.8 x261.2 x 42mm
  • 2.8kg

OUR VERDICT

Alienware's designers have done a great job tempering the excesses of traditional gaming laptops with good looks and matte aluminium, and the Alienware 14 doesn't just look great – it shifts, too. The quad-core processors puts paid to applications, and the GTX 765M graphics core handles modern games at high settings. It's not thin, light or quiet, but it's a more portable proposition than most of its 17in rivals.

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