Alienware has made bigger, more affordable gaming laptops for years. The X-series notebooks changed that last year.
Alienware’s thinnest and lightest gaming laptop is the x14. The x14 is one of the first gaming laptops with Intel’s 12th-gen mobile CPUs.
The x14 isn’t perfect, but it makes me wish Alienware had made portable gaming systems earlier.
The x14 is a remarkable machine with Alienware’s Legend 2.0 design language, but you’ll need to decide if you like its sci-fi aesthetics. The laptop is 0.57 inches thin and weighs slightly over four pounds. That’s slimmer and lighter than the x15 (0.63 inches and 5 pounds), making Alienware’s M15 R7 seem fat (0.8 inches and 5.3 pounds).
On the x14, every ounce and millimetre counts. The x14 fits in my messenger bag built for a 13-inch ultraportable, but most gaming laptops don’t.
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That means I’m more inclined to bring it on trips, which is the objective of a thin-and-light gaming laptop.
In actuality, 17-inch gaming rigs perform more like mobile PCs than travel-friendly gaming machines.
Alienware’s innovative dual-torque hinge gives the x14’s display strength and stability while lowering weight and thickness.
Alienware’s x14 has a configurable RGB lid and keyboard illumination. Unlike its larger siblings, it lacks an RGB light ring around the backports.
The pill-shaped building is a stadium. The x14’s wrist rest has a soft-touch texture, but larger hands may feel cramped.
What About Display And Sound?
The x14 has one nice display choice. The 1,920 x 1,080, 144Hz screen is crisp, and NVIDIA’s G-Sync prevents screen tearing.
But the colours pop. I initially thought the x14’s display was OLED. Thanks to Dolby Vision HDR, colours seem vibrant whether you’re gaming or watching a movie.
With little under 400 nits, the x14’s screen looks fine in gloomy and sunny rooms (though trying to game outside in direct sunlight is still a challenge).
The x14’s speakers feature Dolby Atmos, which adds height channels to audio. Despite having upward-firing speakers placed behind the keyboard, the x14’s audio sounded distant.
The x14 has no trouble turning up the volume, but it’s almost too much of a good thing because the chassis rattles when the speakers are above 80%.
What About The Performance?
Alienware’s tiniest gaming laptop isn’t as powerful as its larger siblings, but it still packs a punch. I easily achieve 60 fps on high settings in AAA games like Halo Infinite, and you can go even higher if you tweak the visual settings.
Maximizing the x14’s 144Hz display is easy in games like CS: GO on lesser settings (which you’d use anyhow).
The x14 averaged 102 fps on Ultra in Shadow of the Tomb Raider and 96 fps in Far Cry 5. The x14 averaged 55 fps in Metro Exodus on extreme, although decreasing texture settings boosted frame rates above 60 fps.
Despite limited room for cooling, Alienware’s patented Element 31 thermal paste and vapour chamber prevented throttling.
The x14’s fans are aggressive, spinning up when you launch a game and emitting a high-pitched whine you can’t escape without headphones.
Alienware’s Command Center app supports several thermal settings, including a Quiet mode to reduce fan noise, however, it may lower the frame rate.
What About Ports, Keyboard, Touchpad?
Putting a full-size keyboard and media controls on a 14-inch laptop is tricky, and the x14 isn’t flawless. The function keys are half-sized, and the x14’s keycaps are smaller than an XPS 15.
Windows, Function, and Shift are all smaller than usual. Delete is too close to the laptop’s power button for my taste. I like the added row of media controls on the right, which includes a mic mute button.
The x14’s keyboard isn’t a dealbreaker; it just takes some getting used to.
The 4.5 x 2.15-inch touchpad is tiny. On gaming laptops, a smaller touchpad is more forgivable because most gamers utilise an external mouse, even when using the laptop’s keyboard.
Alienware’s ports are plenty. The x14 has three Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, one USB 3.2 Type-A port, HDMI 2.1, a combination audio jack, and a microSD card slot.
My only complaint with the x14’s ports is that they’re on the rear.
Putting all the ports in the back reduces clutter, but rotating the laptop around to attach a flash drive seems awkward (especially if you have any other peripherals plugged in).
x14’s 720p webcam isn’t great. Low resolution and terrible image quality imply you should use an external camera if you wish to Livestream your face.
What About Battery Life/Charging?
How you use the x14 affects battery life. If you’re merely browsing the web or streaming video, the x14’s battery life is fine.
The x14 survived eight hours in our local video rundown test.
If you want to game without a cord, forget it. The x14 conked out after an hour and 15 minutes of Teamfight Tactics play.
Alienware has a 130-watt USB-C power cable instead of a proprietary charger like many gaming laptops. Because the x14’s power cable is USB-C, you may use it to charge other USB-C devices, like a phone or tablet.
You might also use a universal USB-PD charger, but make sure it has the right power output and cord for the x14. Many of Dell’s systems can be finicky about USB-C charging if you use old or out-of-spec peripherals.
What About Configurations?
The x14 starts at $1,650 for an Intel Core i7-12700 CPU, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of NVMe storage, and an NVIDIA RTX 3050 GPU.
Fully equipped systems like our review unit max out at $2,300 with 32GB of RAM, 2TB of storage, and an NVIDIA RTX 3060. $1,800 gives you 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, and an RTX 3060.
You can upgrade storage after purchase, but not RAM because it’s soldered to the motherboard.
The x14 isn’t as powerful as its bigger siblings, but it’s more portable. A comparably equipped x15 costs $50 less than a $1,800 x14 with 16GB of RAM, 512GB SSD, and RTX 3060.
Less thermal headroom, a cramped keyboard, and a 144Hz screen are the trade-offs (instead of 165Hz on the x15). Not much to give up for a thinner, lighter design.
If you don’t need a new gaming laptop, wait a month or two for Alienware’s competitors to debut 2022 models.
Once Razer and ASUS update their 14-inch gaming laptops this spring, we’ll know how the x14 compares to its major rivals. If you appreciate the x14’s appearance and sleekness, it’s a mobile gaming laptop.