Alienware M14x review
It's not exactly portable, but the M14x offers enough raw power to gobble up even the most demanding games.
What is it?
Fast, powerful laptop for gung-ho gaming.
The latest i7 processor combined with two separate graphics chips gives you some serious bang for your buck.
Heavy, expensive, and battery life isn't great.
Plenty of raw power, but not particularly portable.
It may be expensive, but the M14x from Alienware is a top-notch gaming rig that can handle all the latest 3D action blockbusters.
Rather than the delicate curves that are currently in vogue with many laptops, the M14x has a harsher, more angular design, with two glowing grills on the front that beam out at you like demonic eyes in the dark.
It feels like a bit of a beast too, tipping the scales at just under 3kg even though it only has a relatively modest 14-inch screen (and that doesn't include the power brick, which is the size of a small coffee table). It's very solidly built, though, and there's no denying the M14x is a classy piece of kit.
The 14-inch screen is bright, sharp and colourful, and looks great when watching video, photos or 3D games. Even the keyboard stands out - the keys feel firm but responsive, and have an eye-catching embossed finish. The keyboard and trackpad are both backlit too, and you can even change the colour of the backlight to suit your mood.
There's similar attention to detail elsewhere. The M14x has a neat, slot-loading DVD drive, two separate headphone sockets so you can listen to music with a friend, and no less than three different video connectors for hooking it up to a flat-screen TV or various types of computer monitor.
Prices start at £999 for a model with an i5 processor, but for only another £50 you can step up to a top-of-the-range i7 processor like the one tested here. That price also includes 6GB RAM and 750GB hard disk, so you've got plenty of room to store all your games, music and videos.
The M14x also has two separate graphics processors built into it. There's a GeForce GT555M that comes into action when you need maximum power for your gaming sessions, but if you're just watching video or browsing the web then the M14x will automatically switch to its less powerful - and less power-hungry - Intel HD chip in order to preserve battery life.
We got about 75 frames per second when running Far Cry 2 on its highest quality graphics settings, which is more than enough to keep serious gamers happy. The downside of all that power is that battery life does suffer a bit. Even when using the machine's 'powersaver' settings we were only able to watch the BBC iPlayer for about two hours and 45 minutes. That's not disastrous, but it's not a patch on the 7-8 hours you can get from a similarly priced Ultrabook. Mind you, we haven't yet seen an Ultrabook that can kick gaming butt like the M14x.
That modest battery life, along with the sheer weight of the M14x, means that you probably won't be carrying it down to your local internet coffee shop on a regular basis. However, it's a great choice if you want a powerful gaming machine for use at home, or for carrying around to a friend's place at the weekend.
Price: £1,048 URL: Alienware M14x Screen: 14-inch, 1366x768 resolution Processor: Intel i7 at 2.2GHz Memory: 6GB Hard disk: 750GB Weight: 2.9Kg
Toshiba Qosmio X770-11C - even bigger, even faster and even heavier. Asus Zenbook - superslim Ultrabook with an i7 processor but less powerful gaming features.
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