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Alienware x14 R2 and x16 hands-on review: XPS gaming laptops?

Alienware and XPS are both premium brands in Dell’s lineup, but in the past, they couldn’t have been more aesthetically different. In 2023, however, Dell has introduced a redesign of the Alienware x14 and x16 that connect the two brands more than ever before.

The Alienware x14 R2 and brand new x16 now have a level of refinement and class not normally seen in the world of gaming laptops. After spending some time with these redesigned devices, I came way thinking that they may be as close to XPS gaming laptops as we’ll ever get.

Alienware x14 R2 and x16 specs

  Alienware x14 R2 Alienware x16
Dimensions (DxWxH) 10.25 x 12.64 x 0.57 inches 11.41 x 14.36 x 0.73 inches
Weight 4.6 pounds 6.0 pounds
CPU
  • Core i5-13420H
  • Core i7-13620H
  • Core i7-13620H
  • Core i7-13700H
  • Core i9-13900HK
GPU
  • RTX 3050 6GB (50W)
  • RTX 4050 6GB (85W)
  • RTX 4060 8GB (85W)
  • RTX 4050 6GB (140W)
  • RTX 4070 8GB (140W)
  • RTX 4080 12GB (175W)
  • RTX 4090 16GB (175W)
RAM
  • 16GB LP-DDR5 6200
  • 32GB LP-DDR5 6200
  • 16GB LP-DDR5-5200
  • 16GB LP-DDR5 6000
  • 32GB LP-DDR5 6000
Storage 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB or 4TB 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB or 4TB
Screen 14-inch, 2560 x 1600, 165Hz
  • 16-inch, 2560 x 1600, 165Hz
  • 16-inch, 1920 x 1200, 480Hz
  • 16-inch, 2560 x 1600, 240Hz
Additional screen details 3ms, G-Sync, Advanced Optimus, ComfortView Plus 3ms, G-Sync, Advanced Optimus, ComfortView Plus
Battery 80.5 watt-hour battery 90 watt-hour battery
Webcam 1080p webcam, Windows Hello IR camera 1080p webcam, Windows Hello IR camera
Wireless Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3
Ports 1x headset, 1x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2, 2x USB-C Thunderbolt 4, 1x USB-A 3.2 Gen 1, 1x HDMI 2.1, 1x MicroSD card slot 1x headset, 1x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2, 2x USB-C Thunderbolt 4, 2x USB-A 3.2 Gen 1, 1x HDMI 2.1, 1x MicroSD card slot, 1x mini-DisplayPort 1.4
Operating system Windows 11 Windows 11

Design

The right side of the keyboard of the Alienware x14 R2.

I love the looks of these new laptops. Both the Alienware x14 R2 and x16 come in a single color option, Lunar Silver. You might think silver is a boring color option, especially since it’s so common in the world of laptops. But for a gaming laptop, it’s pretty much unheard of. Razer is the only company of late to offer a silver gaming laptop, but the Mercury White Blade 15 was just a limited variant color. Alienware is going all-in on this new color scheme, and it comes across as really sharp and clean.

It’s more than just a new color, though. The edges curve in, and even the rubber stand on the bottom of the laptop looks cleaner. The whole thing has been classed up and simplified.

The company calls it Legend 3, and that feels appropriate, both building off the legacy of Alienware’s recent branding and taking it somewhere new. One of the neat touches is an embossed “X” logo on the lid, which replaces the racing stripe-inspired branding of other Alienware laptops. It feels tactile under your fingers, and it’s good example of subtle branding.

The Alienware x14 R2 remains the thinnest 14-inch gaming laptop you can buy.

Don’t get me wrong — these still look like gaming laptops, though. The white section on the back still houses all the ports, and plays nicely off the silver lid. Both laptops also features an upgraded Tron-like loop of light around the ports with 100 microLEDs. This amount of lighting zones makes for some very seamless lighting, all controlled by the AlienFX software system. It’s been a while since I’ve been impressed by RGB lighting, but this looks really slick.

Beyond appearances, the addition of the silver lid also means it now has a full metal enclosure, giving the whole chassis a much more rigid and premium feel.

The side profile of the Alienware x14 R2 on a table.

Of course, the main draw of the Alienware x14 R2, in particular, is just how compact it is. It remains the thinnest 14-inch gaming laptop you can buy, despite being virtually unchanged in size from last year’s model. That means it’s smaller than options like the Razer Blade 14, ROG Zephyrus G14, and Predator Triton 300 SE. It’s still rather remarkable to me that a gaming laptop with a discrete GPU can be just 0.57 inches thick.

The larger Alienware x16, which replaces the x17, has a smaller screen, but a similar footprint. It’s slightly smaller in each dimension, including thickness, and comes in over a full pound lighter. Making it smaller and thinner feels like a smart move for a gaming laptop that’s supposed to emphasize portability over raw power.

Display

Once you’ve got them open, both the Alienware x14 R2 and x16 resemble their predecessors more closely. Black palm rests, a similar-looking keyboard, and the tall hinge featured on both laptops. That hinge does mean these laptops appear to have a larger chin than your average modern gaming laptop. Fortunately, this time around they’ve swapped out the 16:9 aspect ratio display for a 16:10 one. That’s definitely a positive change, especially on the smaller Alienware x14.

Speaking of the Alienware x14, it gets a significant bump to its display this time around. The R1 Alienware x14 had just a 1080p 144Hz display. While I thought that was suitable for the amount of performance the laptop could muster, that’s a low spec for a laptop of this price. Now at 2560 x 1600, it’s the exact same resolution as a MacBook Pro — and even if you likely won’t be playing most games at native resolution (especially not if you hope to max out the 165Hz refresh rate), the sharper screen sure is handy for other activities.

And that’s important because Alienware intends both of these laptops to be hybrid machines that work as well for work as for play. However, I do wish Alienware still offered a 1200p model, since the R2 Alienware x14 starts at $300 more than the R1.

The Alienware x16 offers similar display options to the x17, now ranging up to a 1200p 480Hz screen. The 2560 x 1600 options in either 165Hz or 240Hz, though, are probably the configurations most gamers will be choosing between.

All display configurations include both Nvidia G-Sync and Advanced Optimus, which allows the system to automatically switch between the discrete and integrated GPUs.

The webcam on both models has been upgraded to 1080p, which is great to see. Both models also now include an IR camera for secured Windows Hello facial authentication, which was missing in the original models.

Keyboard and touchpad

The keyboard of the Alienware x14 R2.

The R2 Alienware x14 and x16 both feature larger touchpads than their predecessors. The palm rests are still a bit small on these, to leave more space above the keyboard for venting. They do have a new party trick, though. The touchpads now glows with RGB, which, of course, can be customized to glow in whatever pattern your heart desires.

On the Alienware x14, you’re still getting just 1.2mm of key travel, though this year, Alienware says it’s using its new “X-series thin keyboard,” which has both N-Key rollover and anti-ghosting. The x14 also gets per-key RGB backlighting compared to the single-zone backlighting of the R1 Alienware x14. It otherwise feels similar to last year’s R1 model when typing on it.

The Alienware x16 has a more comfortable keyboard with 1.8mm of key travel and the same new X-Series thin keyboard features. On this model, you also get the option of the CherryMX ultra-low profile mechanical keyboard for a more tactile feel.

Ports and performance

The ports haven’t changed with the Alienware x14 R2 or x16. They’re all located in back, including the headphone jack, which remains an awkward situation. It also means that, yes, the Alienware x14 is still powered entirely by USB-C Thunderbolt 4, and is therefore limited to the same 85 watts of maximum graphics power than the R1 was. With Nvidia’s RTX 40-series GPUs, that means you have the options of either the RTX 4050 6GB or the RTX 4060 8GB. Alienware will apparently also be selling an RTX 3050 model as well.

In terms of cooling, the Alienware x14 R2 continues to use the same Thermal 31 thermal compound, but now applies it to both the CPU and GPU. In addition to the vapor chamber, the Alienware x14 R2 uses Smart Fan, a new Dell-exclusive technology that allows each fan to spin up or down independently of one another. The Alienware x16 applies Thermal 31 to both the CPU and GPU as well, but only a few select configurations that have not yet been specified.

The Alienware x16 can be configured up to an RTX 4090, with a max of 175 watts of graphics power.

The Alienware x16, meanwhile, has a much larger envelope for graphics power. It can be configured up to the new RTX 4090, with a max of 175 watts of graphics power. You can also configure it with the RTX 4050, 4060, 4070 or 4080.

The Alienware x16 makes some changes of location for the ports compared to the 17-inch model. The headphone jack and power adapter are now placed in the rear, just like the x14. It also removes the Ethernet jack.

Of course, I won’t know exactly how well these systems perform until I’ve tested them out myself closer to the release date.

Price and availability

The lid of the Alienware x14 R2 on a wooden table.

Both the Alienware x14 and x16 will be available to purchase some time in the first quarter of 2023. The Alienware x14 will first launch with entry-level configurations starting at $1,800, with higher-end options coming later.

The Alienware x16, on the other hand, will launch first with the high-end configurations, starting at $3,100. The entry-level models will arrive later in the year, starting at $2,150.

Lastly, Dell says AMD-powered versions of the Alienware x16 are in the works, but won’t be available until the second quarter of 2023.

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