Alienware x14 (2022) review: A small but perfectly formed 14in gaming laptop – Expert Reviews

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The smallest model in the Alienware range is every bit as desirable as the biggest
Alienware and Razer have been duking it out in the compact gaming laptop market for a good few years, the x14 and Blade 14 locked in combat for the rights to claim to be the thinnest, the lightest, the most powerful, and the most visually arresting.
Now we have a new Alienware x14 built around Intel’s Alder Lake-series 12th Gen CPUs and it’s going for the throat of Razer’s AMD Ryzen-9 powered Blade 14.
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If you’ve read our review of the new Alienware x17 R2 and thought “hmmm, nice but I want something much smaller” then the new x14 could be the gaming laptop for you. The same basic Alienware “Legend 2.0” design philosophy has been carried over, so it not only looks like the larger 15.6 and 17.3in Alienware machines but it also feels like them, despite being much thinner and lighter.

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The Alienware x14 has properly grown-up internal components, including a 14-core Intel Alder Lake P-series CPU, Nvidia’s ever-impressive GeForce RTX 3060 GPU and a high-quality Full HD 144Hz display. Alienware has also done a good job keeping the cost under control with even the most highly specified model only costing £2,199. 
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The x14 is available with rather fewer options than the x15 or x 17 machines but you can still choose from either an Alder Lake Core i5 or Core i7 processor, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050, 3050 Ti or 3060 GPU, 16GB of either 4800Mz or 5200MHz dual-channel RAM and either 512GB, 1TB or 2TB of SSD storage. A 14in Full HD 144Hz display is the only display option.
Our test machine arrived with the Core i7-12700H chip, 16GB of RAM, an RTX 3060 GPU and 1TB SSD and will set you back £1,949. The cheapest model will only cost £1,549 but, if your primary requirement is hard core gaming, I’d advise against getting either the RTX 3050 or RTX 3050 Ti models because they only come with 4GB of video RAM and that isn’t enough for the latest AAA-games unless you want to be forever dialling the video quality down in pursuit of decent frame rates and game stability.
The Alienware x14’s natural enemy is the Razer Blade 14, although there’s not much overlap in terms of specification because, while the cheapest Blade 14 (£2,199) uses the same RTX 3060 GPU as our review Alienware  x14, the rest of the range uses either the RTX 3070 Ti or RTX 3080 Ti GPU and are considerably more expensive. All three versions of the Razer machine use the excellent AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX processor. 
Asus’ ROG Zephyrus G14 (2022) is less overtly gamey than either the Alienware x14 or the Blade 14 and includes an AMD rather than Nvidia GPU but it’s still capable of running Triple-A games at a decent rate and boasts a wide selection of ports and a superb 120Hz QHD+ screen.
If you’re not too worried about size then the Asus ROG Strix Scar 15 is one of the best 15in gaming laptops on the market at the moment. With a MUX switch, an Alder Lake Core i9 chip and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti, the Scar 15 is fully loaded for high-end gaming and come with a great LED light show. It’s good value too.
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I’ve already been quite laudatory about the design and build of the Alienware x17 R2 and the x14 is essentially a cut-down version. A few things are missing like the Stadium light ring that circles the back panel and the alien-head logo power button but, other than that, it’s much the same.

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It has the same excellent build quality – a combination of CNC-machined aluminium, magnesium-alloy and stainless-steel – the same unique and attractive design and the same Lunar Light colour scheme, although without the R17’s stain-resistant clear coat. The only small gripe I have with the aesthetics are the grilles that take up much of the keyboard deck. Lots of the “holes” are actually just patterned dimples.
If you’re in the market for a super-compact gaming laptop, however, then the weight and the size are more important than the looks and at 1.79kg the Alienware x14 is as light and compact as they come. Compared with the Razer Blade 14, there’s nothing in it: it’s essentially the wame weight at 1.79kg versus 1.78kg, slightly thinner at 14.5mm versus 16.8mm and a bit deeper at 263mm versus the Razer’s 220mm. At 322mm wide the x14 is 1.8mm up on the Blade. I’d call that a draw.

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Alienware’s habit of putting all the ports at the back has reached an apogee in the x14 with even the 3.5mm audio jack being located at the rear, which isn’t ideal. There’s a decent selection, however, with two Thunderbolt 4 ports, single USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 and USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports (the former supporting Power Delivery and DisplayPort 1.4), an HDMI 2.1 output and a microSD card reader. Surprisingly, there isn’t a dedicated DC power-input, so you’ll lose one of those USB-C connectors when hooked up to the mains.

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Getting the bottom off the chassis is not for the faint-hearted thanks to several plastic clips that have to be loosened after you’ve removed the six Philips screws; if I’d bought this machine I’d have given up. Once inside, all you can do is swap out the wireless card and the SSD so it’s a pretty pointless exercise, especially if you’ve paid the £100 premium for the 1TB SSD or £200 for the 2TB model.
While we’re talking about storage, the Western Digital M.2 NVMe PCI-e 4 1TB SSD recorded some good read and write scores of 5,380MB/sec and 2,225MB/sec respectively.  Wireless communications are managed by Intel’s new-ish AX211 card, which supports Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2.
This being a thin laptop you get a membrane keyboard with relatively shallow 1.2mm of travel.  The layout is pretty standard apart from the extra column on the right, which is home to volume, mute, and microphone mute keys. As with the x17, there’s a handy quick-toggle between “Full Speed” and “Balanced” power modes that you can activate by pressing Fn+F1.

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While I’ve no issue with how the keyboard works – it’s solid, silent and well-laid out – I was slightly disappointed to discover there’s no per-key RGB lighting. You can change the colour of the whole keyboard and the colour of the power button and Alienware logo on the lid but that’s it. If you want to set some personalised macros, the Fn2-6 keys are up for grabs. The trackpad has a pleasant-to-the-touch glass covering and a very clean click-action but at 106 x 55mm it’s a little on the small side and offset to the left by 10mm. 
The 720p webcam is a little drab and dim but it does support Windows Hello IR facial recognition, which is nice to see. All too many gaming laptops lack anything in the way of biometric security.
There’s only one display option on the x14 – a non-touch 1,920 x 1,080 resolution panel that runs at 144Hz – but for a 14in gaming laptop, that’s plenty. With a pixel density of 157dpi, everything looks sharp and crisp.
In fact, the panel doesn’t have a weak spot. It’s bright, maxing out at 450cd/m2 and the contrast ratio is good at 1,308:1. There are no issues with colours, either, with the panel capable of reproducing 102% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut.
Like the larger Alienware laptops, the x14 comes with Nvidia’s Advanced Optimus tech, which negates the need for a conventional MUX switch, and allows you set video output directly from the Nvidia GPU without needing to reboot Windows. Apart from boosting frame rates in games, this also lets you get the best from Nvidia’s G-Sync by synchronising display refresh rates and eliminating screen tearing and display stutter. It all makes for a satisfyingly smooth and colourful gaming experience.
The speaker system throws out plenty of volume, too. At a 1m distance, I recorded an average of 75dB from a pink noise source and peaks of 83dB from a music source which is identical to what I recorded from the much larger Alienware x17 R2. The difference is that the x14’s speakers just don’t generate the same level of bass.  On a more positive note, the speakers produce plenty of detail.
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Our multi-media benchmark returned an overall score of 393 points, which is the highest score so far by an RTX 3060-based laptop. This is the first time I’ve been able to make a direct comparison with an Intel 11th gen Core-i7 machine running the same RTX 3060 GPU (albeit with a higher TDP of 85W vs the x14’s 80W), in this case, my own MSI GF66 Katana which scored 301 with the same amount of system and video RAM.  Those extra 92 points highlight the huge advance Intel has made with its new Alder Lake chips.

The Alienware x14 may be small in stature but there’s nothing diminutive about its gaming ability. It scurried through the Hitman 2 benchtest at 47fps and with supersampling knocked back from 2 to 1 that jumped to 126fps, while Shadow of the Tomb Raider scored 64fps running on the highest video settings with Ray Tracing set to Ultra and DLSS off.

I ran the Metro Exodus benchmark on all three of its presets and got results of 30.6fps on Extreme, 47.8fps on Ultra and 55.3fps on High. The Wolfenstein: Youngblood benchmark scored 99fps at the highest detail settings with Ray Tracing on and DLSS off. Turn DLSS on to Balanced and those Tombraider, Wolfenstein and Metro scores all jump by between 20fps and 30fps.
The little Alienware is a dab hand at graphically intense productivity, too, with the SPECviewperf 3dsmax 3D-rendering test scoring a healthy 76.3fps. Again, this is good for a machine using an RTX 3060 GPU, especially one turned down a notch to 80W.
Like the Alienware x17 R2, the x14 runs impressively quiet and cool, even after prolonged and intensive gaming sessions. That’s all the more laudable because the x14 lacks the x17 R2’s trick Element 31 gallium-silicone thermal interface material, which generally gets the credit for keeping more expensive Alienware machines from overheating.
Battery life, on the other hand, is sadly typical for an Alienware machine, lasting only 5hrs 1min in our video rundown test despite the Nvidia GPU being turned off and only the Intel integrated graphics processor on duty. How Alienware gets so little from an 80Wh battery when Razer can get so much more from a 61.6Wh battery can’t just be down the efficiency of the Ryzen 9 CPU in the Blade 14. Of course, if you plan on gaming on battery power, neither machine will keep going for more than 90 minutes, which does put the whole idea of “mobile gaming” into context.
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Squeezing big-boy gaming performance into a compact laptop is always going to be a matter of managing compromises and, viewed from that perspective, the Alienware x14 does most things right.
The display is top quality, while the looks and build quality are a match for the rest of the Alienware range. The combination of an Alder Lake Core i7 CPU and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 GPU strikes a very happy balance between performance, thermals and cost of ownership and the sound system isn’t bad, either, considering it’s stuffed inside a laptop that’s less than 15mm thick.
The trouble is that, for similar money, Asus has a laptop – the ROG Zephyrus G14 (2022) – that’s just as good performance-wise, comes with more RAM and has better battery life. That makes it the best option in the compact Windows gaming laptop space, just ahead of the Alienware x14, although the difference is marginal.
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