After Hours

Alienware M14x Teardown: Wireless HDMI portends future without wires

Bill Detwiler cracks open the Alienware M14x for a look at the high-end gaming notebook's integrated wireless HDMI transmitter and other hardware.

http://www.techrepublic.com/photos/cracking-open-the-1800-alienware-m14x-gaming-notebook/6319699

The Alienware M14x isn't your average laptop. Th base model of this portable gaming powerhouse starts at $1,099 (US). Our test model (2.4GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 4GB Dual Channel DDR3 1600MHz RAM, and 1.5GB Nvidia GeForce GT 555M GPU) retails for around $1,800. The machine measures 1.49" (H) x 13.27" (W) x 10.17" (D). It weighs a hefty (by laptop standards) 6.45 pounds.

The M14x's stand-out-feature however, isn't any of this high-end hardware. What makes it truly interesting is Alienware's integration of a wireless HDMI transmitter. When paired with the included VIZIO Wireless HD receiver, the M14x offers a glimpse of the future. A world without video/audio cables, where devices (laptops, set-top boxes, game consoles, and the like) stream video/audio to any display.

Full teardown gallery: Cracking Open the $1,800 Alienware M14x gaming notebook

Cracking Open observations

  • Well-built, but heavy: The Alienware M14x is built around an extremely sturdy internal frame. This rigid chassis provides firm anchor points for the internal hardware and gives the notebook a solid feel. The lid hinges are large and secured with equally beefy screws. Unfortunately, the machine's heavy-duty build also makes it quite a bit heavier than your average laptop.
  • Standard Phillips screws: All the components on the M14x are secured with standard Phillips screws. You shouldn't need any special tools to work on this machine.
  • Easy-to-access components: With the exception of the motherboard, all the M14x's major hardware components are easily accessible once the bottom cover is removed. Replacing the hard drive and upgrading the RAM should be a snap for most IT pros and PC enthusiasts.
  • Integrated wireless HDMI transmitter: Although the M14x sports some nice hardware, it's Alienware's integration of a wireless HDMI transmitter that's most interesting. Systems like the VIZIO Universal Wireless HD XWH200 and ASUS WiCast EW2000 provide an external transmitter and receiver to use with existing devices. But, they are just an interim solution. Eventually wireless HDMI technology will be integrated into computers, tablets, game consoles, media players and displays. The M14x is a first step in this direction.

Internal hardware

Our Alienware M14x test machine had the following hardware:

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

20 comments
Al_nyc
Al_nyc

I can't wait for this to occur across the board. Even with outboard boxes and HDMI cables, this is better running cables from one device to another.

realvarezm
realvarezm

I owned an Alienware laptop long ago and last me 4 long and hardworked years (Pc gaming is an obsesive passion) In many ways they lead the way for gamers enthusiast and they will if Dell allows it lead that way for a long time. Now the problem with this brand is the price, Gygabite has a model that is better than this model except for the wireless HDMI and cost around $1,100.00 compared to the $1,800.00 posted in this article. Brands Like Asus, Acer and MSI have some gamig monsters too and the performance in some of this laptops is outstanding. Wich is good for gamers and users that need true power int their hands. So keep up the good products, the more the merrier!

andrew232006
andrew232006

After all the headaches I've had trying to use DLNA media servers and wireless I'm inclined to stay with wires. This way my movie doesn't restart whenever someone in the neighborhood turns on a cordless phone. I hope wireless hdmi works better.

sarai1313
sarai1313

now that you have taken it apart can i have it.

rsdance
rsdance

Alienware is the worst company I ever dealt with and I have owned and operated hundreds of computers. Their warranty and service is awful and they left me stranded for over a month during a large scale computer event I was working at. I had to go to Best Buy and buy a replacement (Sont Vaio) which turned out to be a much better latop. I had an Alienware M17x laptop and I would never buy anything from that company again.

mh2094
mh2094

I grabbed one of these 3 months ago and I am completely and utterly pleased with the build quality and performance. I am not big time gamer (just a little Civ 5 with the wife no and again), but wanted something solid for music production (Ableton Lve and such) and it is absolutely unstoppable! WIreless HDMI...eh...cool, but I opted out to reduce cost a little...but I can always add it later as I understand.

pete_w_flynn
pete_w_flynn

I'd expect some extra heft from sturdy, high-quality parts. Not just cheap plastic and nylon. If you pay this much coin it had better be super-duty. You want light? Go buy a Mac Air . . . .

aprakhar
aprakhar

Intel WiDi (Intel Wireless Display) has been included in multiple laptops from various manufacturers, which allows to do the same type of Wireless HDMI.

fwsouth
fwsouth

Do your research BEFORE you publish your article -- then you won't need question marks on your article's content -- or was this article not proof read before publication ???

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

I'm tired of drilling holes, pulling carpet, and strategically placing furniture to hide cables. I'm ready for a world where you unpack your device (laptop, desktop, game console, media player, set-top-box, whatever), power it on, and after a quick sync watch the image appear on your display. And when you can "throw" images from any device onto multiple displays, all will be right in the audio/video world. (That's probably a bit much, but at least we'll have fewer wires to hide). Although systems like the VIZIO Universal Wireless HD XWH200 and ASUS WiCast EW2000 provide an external transmitter and receiver to use with existing devices, these are just interim solutions. You still have to connect each device to the transmitter and receiver with HDMI cables. What we need is integrated wireless HDMI. And, Alienware's M14x notebook has it. Although you'll still need to use a wireless HDMI receiver with your display or TV, this gaming laptop is at least a step in the right direction. Check out my cracking open gallery of the Alienware M14x and let me know if you're ready for wireless HDMI. http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/itdojo/alienware-m14x-teardown-wireless-hdmi-portends-future-without-wires/3012

nwallette
nwallette

Simple is good. HDMI is already overly complicated. We already had Component, which is dead simple and just works. Technically it's just as capable as far as resolution goes, and superior for distance runs, but has been handicapped to make HDMI more desirable. We also had DVI, if you prefer digital interconnection. HDMI is just DVI with side-by-side audio and copy protection to make sure no one is copying movies with a digital capture device -- you know, because that's the most desirable method these days... So, let's see. We'll take a perfectly good digital interface (well, for short distances anyway) and add a bunch of complex negotiation schemes for authentication and encryption, then fail to engineer it correctly and completely the first time so there will be "versions" that consumers get to deal with down the road. On top of this, we'll continue to use a physical medium (UTP) that has barely sufficient bandwidth for high-frequency digital (square-wave) signalling despite the fact that consumers will -- absolutey WILL -- want to run them long distances (this is already evident by the amount of coax, composite, and component cable running through homes and businesses.) And now, it's wireless! A medium that has always restricted bandwidth and had performance and compatibility issues compared to equivalent wired technologies. (Does this miraculous technology compress the video to compensate? I would imagine it has to.) So yeah, I'm not holding my breath that this is going to work particularly well.

KNOWLEDGE464
KNOWLEDGE464

They just voided the warranty... I wouldn't take it LOL. Anyway this was something I have been waiting for you guys to do for a while something worth cracking open. Thanks Bill this made my day

doug.lewis
doug.lewis

Alienware as a company ceased to exist some time ago when Dell bought them out. My son bought an Alienware desktop last year and is very pleased with it and the support that Dell provides.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

I never indicated that the M14x was "too heavy" for anything. I said it was "quite a bit heavier than your average laptop". As most of the "average laptops" I see are in the 3 to 4 pound range these days, the M14x's 2.5 extra pounds make it heavier. It's not a ding against the M14x, just something to be aware of.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

The M14x actually contains the Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 WLAN card, which can transmit wireless HD video and audio via Intel's WiDi technology. It also has the SiBEAM technology used for the VIZIO receiver.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

Afraid I'm at a loss as to which question marks you're referring to. If you're referring to the question marks after the links to the ENE Technology KB930QF A1 and Eon Silicon Solution cFeon F8075HCP chips, I did research on both chips. But not all IC manufacturers post detailed information about their chips online. Furthermore, some chips serve different purposes. For example the cFeon F8075HCP is just a memory chip. I found various references that indicate this chip holds the M14x's BIOS, but I can't be sure--thus the question mark.