Alienware M14x gaming notebook review: it’s all about pleasing our alien overlords
Logically speaking, a gaming laptop designed to handle the heat generated by powerful hardware cannot afford to cut any corners on size and good ventilation. That being said, just how will an OEM design a bulky notebook in such a way in order to ensure that it retains its visual appeal in spite of its heftiness? The answer: you 'bling it' like Dell.
First impressions of the Alienware M14x gaming notebook were good: there are no 'noob-ish' glossy surfaces to be found on the device. Instead, Dell has opted to coat the entire notebook with a thin layer of matte black synthetic rubber (at least, that is what it feels like) that has proven to be surprisingly resistant to the likes of stains from our grubby fingers. And we cannot stress how important this is in the looks factor: no self-respecting gamer will be taken seriously by his peers if he is going to walk into a room with a big, badass notebook covered with nothing but filthy fingerprints and oil stains.
Flipping the Alienware M14x over reveals a surprisingly clean and well-thought out rear cover design. While most OEMs tend to go a little overboard with the placement of heat vents at the rear, Dell has wisely opted to have only two such vents here, located directly under the system's cooling fan and memory cover. And yes, the rear also gets the same stain-resistant rubber coating found on the other parts of the M14x's exterior.
In addition, it appears that the M14x has also been designed to be easily upgradable by users who know their way around with a screwdriver, and it shows. Removing the M14x's rear plate reveals a neat and well-organized hardware layout, as shown in the image below. This is in stark contrast to how some some notebooks from other OEMs have hardware layouts that are essentially the PC equivalent of Indian Rojak.
Here is a close up of the cooling fan used in the Alienware M14x gaming notebook, as well as the battery pack used to provide the laptop with the juice needed to sustain it when disconnected from the wall socket.
Made by Samsung. Who'd have expected?
The Alienware M14x uses a half-height mini PCIe Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6025 WiFi card. This makes sense, considering how Intel's WiFi cards are generally believed by many to offer superior performance as opposed to cards making use of chipsets produced by other WiFi chipset vendors.
Seems like as far as Dell is concerned, it is Intel all the way for this notebook
Surprisingly, Dell has opted to make use of a slot-loading optical drive on the M14x despite the fact that size does not appear to be a factor in the notebook's overall design. That being said, this particular optical drive is made by Hitachi.
However, it turns out that Dell did have a reason to go with slot-loading optical drives as opposed to the typical tray-loading variants commonly found in most notebooks today. Hidden cleverly under the slot-loading optical drive is the M14x's mechanical hard disk, which happens to be a high-performance Seagate Momentus HDD that boasts a platter speed of 7200rpm.
Right, that may have been some impressive hardware hidden under the hood, but what about the more consumer-centric features of the M14x, such as its expansions and I/O ports? As it turns out, consumers will probably have little to fret about over such concerns, as the M14x is definitely well packed with enough ports to satisfy just about anybody who is willing to pump out the moolah Dell is asking for with the notebook. For starters, the notebook's left side contains not one, but three video output ports: VGA, HDMI-out and mini-DisplayPort. Also present here are a USB charging port, the standard audio I/O jacks, a 9-in-1 card reader and a SIM card slot.
Who needs three video output ports, you say? The answer is simple: hardcore gamers.
The right side of the M14x's chassis is home to the slot-loading DVD writer, as well as two USB3.0 ports, an integrated gigabit Ethernet port and the all-important security slot designed for use with Kensington-compatible locks.
USB3.0 ports are always coloured blue, right? Well, not on an Alienware they aren't.
The back houses the power jack as well as an additional heat vent to assist in the cooling of the M14x's hardware.
Last but not least, here are a couple of images of the M14x's 'bling bling' for you to feast your eyes on. Of course, the full effects of the M14x's little light show are at their best when viewed in dim or dark environments.