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Alienware x14 hands-on review: A new standard for thin gaming

Alienware has been following the trend of gaming laptops have gotten smaller, thinner, and less ornate — albeit in its own way. That continues with the new extremely thin Alienware x14, which has been announced at CES 2022.

Having spent some hands-on time with this 14-inch gaming laptop, I’m both excited by the premise and concerned about the practicality. Can the Alienware x14 take on mainstays like the ROG Zephyrus G14 and Razer Blade 14, while also keeping alive the unique aspects of the Alienware brand?

Specs

  Alienware x14
Dimensions 12.66 inches x 10.35 inches x 0.57 inches
Weight 3.96 pounds (up to 4.06)
Processor Intel Core i7-12700H
Intel Core i7-12900H
Graphics Nvidia RTX 3050 4GB
Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti 4GB
Nvidia RTX 3060 6GB
RAM 16GB 4800MHz
16GB or 4800MHz, 5200MHz (with RTX 3060)32GB 5200MHz (with RTX 3060)
Display 14.0-inch FHD (1920 x 1080), 144Hz 7ms, G-Sync, Advanced Optimus
Storage 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB
Wireless Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2
Webcam 720p, Windows Hello IR webcam
Operating system Windows 11 Home or Pro
Battery 80 watt-hour
Price $1,199+

Design

14-inch gaming laptops are a growing segment. They’re smaller and more portable than your average 15-inch laptop, meant for the gamer who might travel or use their gaming PC for school or work. Your options are the Razer Blade 14, the ROG Zephyrus G14, or the Acer Predator Triton 300 SE — and now, the Alienware x14.

But of these, the Alienware option is the attention-grabber. It’s loud and audacious in the way that all Alienware products are, which doesn’t make for the best work or school laptop.

Alienware even shrunk down the power bank to reduce the overall weight of toting it around.

However, the Alienware x14 does take inspiration from laptops like these in terms of size — even taking things a step further. The Alienware x14 is just 0.57 inches thick — making it the thinnest of the bunch — and 3.96 pounds. Alienware even shrunk down the power bank to reduce the overall weight of toting it around.

Alienware says the key to achieving a gaming laptop this thin is what it calls a “dual-torque element hinge.” The result here is a laptop even thinner than the new Dell XPS 13 Plus, which Alienware says wouldn’t have been possible with the space-saving features of this new hinge.

A side-by-side comparison of the Alienware x14 and the x15.

It all makes for a surprisingly portable laptop, not unlike the Alienware x15, which was already just 0.63 inches thick. You might be surprised by just how much smaller the x14 is than the x15, as seen in the image above.

The design still features a noticeably large bottom chin and hinge, though. This type of hinge used to be common in gaming laptops, but it’s become increasingly rare in favor of slimmer, sleeker designs. It does look a tad outdated here, but it maintains more space for the Alienware x14’s larger keyboard, touchpad, and cooling vents.

The honeycomb-cut vents above the keyboard have been toned-down in favor of a simpler pattern. The light-up Alienware power button is also gone, replaced by a standard power button in the top right of the keyboard.

Port selection

The Alienware x14 is too thin to include ports like HDMI (2.1) and USB-A along its profile. Instead, those ports are found on the rear, leaving only USB-C on the sides. Two of the USB-C ports are Thunderbolt 4 and the other is the older USB 3.2 Gen 2. These USB-C ports, though, are how the Alienware x14 gets power. Gone is the large, proprietary barrel plug.

You’ll also find a micro-SD card slot on the back. Connectivity is provided by either a Killer or Intel Wi-Fi 6E card, along with Bluetooth 5.2.

Display

The Alienware x14 uses a 16:9 1080p display, a slightly old-school choice for gaming laptops. It’s a shame Alienware isn’t offering a faster or higher resolution panel, especially given the performance potential of the device.

Fortunately, the system does offer both G-Sync and Advanced Optimus support. The combination of G-Sync and Advanced Optimus should allow the Alienware x14 to avoid screen tearing without suffering from awful battery life.

I don’t expect it to be a battery life champ, but Optimus at least allows the laptop to switch to integrated graphics while not gaming. The large 80 watt-hour battery should help too, which is more juice than the Razer Blade 14’s 62 watt-hour battery.

Keyboard and touchpad

The Alienware x14 keeps the same 1.5mm keyboard as the x15, which features full-size arrow keys and quick access to settings like volume and mic mute on the right. The keys are backlit by a single-zone light, powered by AlienFX software. If you have a love for RGB, you may want to find something with per-key backlighting for more colorful customization, like the Alienware x15 or Razer Blade 14.

The touchpad below the keyboard makes the most of the space available in the palm rests. Admittedly, it’s not quite enough to feel comfortable. Unless you have small hands, the edge of the palm rests will likely dig into your palms while typing, which isn’t true of other 14-inch gaming laptops.

The good news? Both the keyboard and touchpad felt high quality and precise, though I’m not surprised given the premium nature of Alienware’s laptops.

Performance

As much as the compact size is the Alienware x14’s calling card, this is a gaming laptop after all. Performance is paramount. The Alienware x14 uses the latest 12th-gen Intel Core i7 processors, either the 12700H or 12900H. Both options are 45-watt processors with 14 cores and 20 threads.

More importantly, you have graphics options of the RTX 3050, 3050 Ti, or 3060. The RTX 3060 is the one you want, which has maximum graphics power of 85 watts.

That’s similar to the options offered by the ROG Zephryus G14 or Triton 300 SE. The Razer Blade 14 is the only 14-inch gaming laptop to offer the RTX 3070 or 3080.

The thermal solution of the Alienware x14 features some tricks up its sleeve. The laptop uses the same “thermal interface material” found in the other X-series Alienware laptops, as well as vapor chamber cooling. Unfortunately, the material is only available on the RTX 3060 configuration of the Alienware x14.

The newer thermal technology present, though, is the patent-pending “Smart Fan” control. This gives the system control of each individual fan’s speed and allows it to adjust based on “various sensors within the system.”

Memory is soldered on, so it can’t be easily replaced or upgraded.

Corresponding with tighter control of the fans, Alienware now has five power states over the standard three. In addition to a max power and quiet mode, it also has a graphics priority mode and balanced mode.

The starting configuration comes with dual-channel 16GB memory at 4800MHz. The RTX 3060 configuration can come with faster 5200MHz RAM at either 16GB or 32GB capacity. Memory is soldered on, so it can’t be easily replaced or upgraded.

Storage, meanwhile, starts at 256GB. That’s a sadly small amount of storage for a gaming laptop. The Razer Blade 14 starts with 1TB of SSD storage. Even the affordable ROG Zephyrus G14 starts with 512GB. You can, however, configure the Alienware x14 all the way up to 2TB.

Webcam and speakers

The Alienware x14 has a 720p resolution webcam, located in the bezel above its display. While I wasn’t able to test the webcam myself, that’s a lower resolution of some of this laptop’s competitors, even including the updated Razer Blade 14 this year, which was upgraded to 1080p.

Fortunately, the Alienware x14 does include a built-in IR camera for Windows Hello facial authentication. It’s a feature some gaming laptops ignore, despite being supremely convenient and secure.

The audio solution in the Alienware x14 is a fairly standard pair of stereo speakers, though the addition of Dolby Atmos across the entire lineup of Alienware laptops does improve the stereo image of the audio.

Price and availability

Dell did not provide a price for the Alienware x14. The Alienware x15 starts at $2,100 for an RTX 3060 model. As the Alienware x14 is smaller and less powerful, I’d expect its starting price to come underneath $2,000.

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