After Hours

Geek Gifts 2011: Alienware m14x gaming notebook

The Alienware m14x qualifies as one of the few gaming notebooks that can actually replace your gaming desktop.

We have reviewed a notebook from Alienware for the Geek Gift Guide every year and we didn't want to break the streak for 2011. With that said, with the m14x, we may have actually found the sweet spot in gaming computers that lies between portability and power.

Specifications

  • Product: Alienware m14x notebook
  • Company: Alienware
  • Processor: Intel Core i7 2760QM 2.4GHz (3.5GHz w/Turbo Boost, 6MB Cache)
  • Wireless: Killer Wireless-N 1103 a/g/n 2x2 MIMO for Gaming & Video
  • Memory: 8GB Dual Channel DDR3 at 1600MHz
  • Video Card: 3.0GB DDR3 NVIDIA GeForce GT 555M using NVIDIA Optimus technology
  • Hard Drive: 750GB 7200RPM SATA 3Gb/s
  • Display: 14.0 inch HD (900p/1600x900) with WLED backlight
  • WirelessHD & Mobile Broadband: Internal 60GHz WirelessHD Transmitter and VIZIO XWH200 Universal Wireless HD Video and Audio Kit
  • Optical Drive: 8x SuperMulti DVD±R/RW Slot Load Optical Drive
  • Audio: Internal High-Definition 5.1 Surround Sound Audio
  • Weight: 6.45 pounds
  • Operating system: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium
  • Cost: Reviewed unit, $1899 (base model $1099)
  • Photos: TechRepublic's Alienware m14x cracking open gallery

What I like

  • Power: Take a look at the specifications above - that is some serious power packaged in a 14-inch notebook. There is currently no game that the m14x cannot handle, especially with the 3GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 555M. By comparison, my gaming desktop has two GeForce 480 video cards that together don't have 3GB of DDR3 memory.
  • WirelessHD: The future for top-end notebooks is going to be all about built-in wireless HD transmitters. The ability to send a full HD signal, video and sound, wirelessly to a big screen television connected to a surround sound system is nirvana for a computer gaming geek. This concept is so great I can't imagine why it hasn't happened before now - this is so much more useful than 3D.
  • LED Keyboard: I enjoy the LED-keyboard, which allows you to game in a darkened room and thereby increase the immersive experience. After all, Zombies are scarier in the dark.
  • Portable: The Alienware m14x is portable, which means you can carry it from room to room or place to place with ease. However, it does way over 6 lbs., so I don't think you'd want to use it as your traveling notebook.

What I don't like

  • Battery life: This more a complaint against all gaming notebooks and battery manufacturers. You cannot do any serious gaming on the m14x unless you have an outlet to plug it into. Some day we will have better battery systems so that this is a non-issue, but not anytime soon unfortunately.
  • LCD resolution: With a 14-inch screen, the resolution of the LCD display is limited to 1600X900. While that is a very good resolution, I would like to see a true 1080p native resolution. However, the m14x is capable of pushing higher resolutions via HDMI outputs.

Bottom line for geeks

The Alienware m14x is a fine gaming notebook that fits squarely in that sweet spot between portability and power. When the time comes to replace my gaming desktop computer, I will strongly consider a gaming notebook that has this kind of power. For the money, such power in such a small package is hard to beat. (Yes, for a hardcore computer gamer, $1899 is not unreasonable for a computer with this power.)

Geek Gift Score

  • Fun factor: ****
  • Geek factor: *****
  • Value: ***
  • Overall: ****

Courtesy of Alienware

For more reviews of tech gadgets, gizmos, games, and books, download the PDF of TechRepublic's Geek Gift Guide 2011.

About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

12 comments
mckinnej
mckinnej

I guess I want too much. I want the performance, but I want 4+ hours of battery life and want it to tip the scales at 4 pounds. I'm liking the "ultrabook" idea Intel is pushing, but the products I've seen appear so far are not impressive. Anyone got any firsthand experience with something from this category?

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I used it for a few weeks and had no trouble, so I think it is pretty good. However, if I were in the market I would spend a few extra dollars to upgrade as you suggest. I have a m11x, so that is my portable - a notebook desktop replacement would likely be in the 17-inch range where upgrades are more readily available.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Am I crazy to be willing to pay $1899 for a gaming notebook?

Slayer_
Slayer_

It lasted about 7 years, always ran nice and cool, was super fast and got very good frame rates. The hardware was super stable, when it was new, at full graphics power it got 1.5 hours of battery, at medium it got 2.5 hours, and low it got 3 hours. If you were just watching a DVD movie, it was about 4.5 hours. Its specs were: Intel P4 1.7 duel 1 gig of RAM nVidia 7600m 256mb dedicated memory 120gb SATA HDD (5200 RPM) 17 inch screen, max res 2xxx by 1200 (can't remember the exact width, but it was wide screen...) Full keyboard with number pad. The built in speakers were very good, and you could output 4.1 audio on it. Sadly no HDMI plug, just VGA and S-Video. BUt it allows you to have 3 different video streams if you wanted. It was a really solid machine. I bought it refurbished for 1000 bucks (It had some scratches on the top). It had enough power to play dragon age origins at medium graphics smoothly. Graphic power on medium was enough to play need for speed most wanted on max graphics w/o anti aliasing and get about 30fps. http://trevorsarchives.selfip.net/funpics/MoreImages/NFSMWFly.jpg Low power was enough to play Flat Out on max graphics w/o anti aliasing. http://screenshot.xfire.com/s/2329608-4.jpg

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I can't see where it is possible to buy a Blade yet. I'll see if they have a review unit for me.

Slayer_
Slayer_

My 10 year old laptop exceeded 1080, my current desktop CRT can exceed 1080. My mother bought a used LCD from work for 5 bucks, and it easily exceeds 1080. 1080 is pathetic. Why have monitor technologies stepped so far back?

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

Unless you're going to take it appart for a photo shoot. Other than that, it's real easy to justifiy, especially if you think of the short battery life as a built-in UPS.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

If one needs the preimium power or other resources, a desktop is still the powerhouse. I wouldn't normally compare a notebook and desktop unless that was the specific choice. here are we talking 1080x??? because yeah, that's a huge step back from even my humble intel cpu and 1280x800 display. Good question, why is the resolution so low. Second question may be, does the reduced pixel depth make a difference based on the size of the screen? Versus the alienware though.. I'm still liking Razer's staff spec'd rig.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

For notebooks, the resolutions stop at 1080, I presume, because of the Blue-ray standard. In the manufacturer's minds that has become all we need. The more pixels I can push the better as far as I'm concerned.

3v
3v

I'll concede that the WirelessHD is a nice feature, but I would rather keep using my wireless keyboard/mouse combo considering the price tag. The hardware specifications are quite underwhelming in comparison with what I would consider a current contender in gaming desktops. "Pretty" blue lights though...