Pros: Awesome graphics, good sound, nice features, doesn't lag, all around good laptop.
Cons: Battery life, fragile slot load optical drive.
Last year for Christmas we bought my teenage daughter a Dell Alienware M14x (AM14x6667SBK) PC Notebook. At the time it wasn’t cheap. We’d added a bit more memory to it just to make sure it would run several of the programs she uses. (Various graphic design programs, games like Sims 3, and graphically intense websites that I probably don’t want to know about.) Now, all I hear from her is when she’s informing everyone else about the speed, graphics, etc. and how slow or crappy our systems are. That, and how slow the internet it, but that’s a different issue all together.
You should have seen me choke when the final price popped up. Sixteen-hundred and some change is nothing to sneeze at. I mean, I could buy four or five good desktop systems for that, and still get myself lunch. We put it on our Dell credit account. I thought the price tag was far too much for a 14’’ laptop. Standard size is 15’’, but the next size up for the Alienware’s was 17’’ with an increase of four hundred in price. (Some of you are going to look up the price. Current prices do not reflect the original prices when this laptop first came out on the Dell Alienware website.)
I have to say that 14’’ monitor or not, the graphics are excellent. In some ways they’re better than our 42’’ LCD HDTV in the living room. The maximum screen resolution is 1600X900. Animations and games flow without any of the choppiness you’d get on a lesser system. The raw processing power of the video card means you’re not going to be waiting on the video.
The laptop has 1 RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet, 2 USB 3.0 Ports, 1 USB 2.0 Port, 1 Mini-Display Port, 1 HDMI 1.4 Audio and Video Output, 1 VGA Port, 1 9-in-1 Media Card Reader, 2 Audio Out 1/8" Ports, 1 Audio In / Microphone 1/8" Port (retaskable for 5.1 audio), and 1 Security Lock port. The base is thick enough that the ports are spread around. What this means for us users is that you don’t have to try and squeeze plugs into a tiny section. You can hook up a keyboard, mouse, Bamboo pad, large monitor, and a few other things to boot. Granted, my daughter doesn’t have all of that hooked up to it. She has a mouse, Bamboo pad, scanner, USB hub, and printer on her desk. I had to wire it so that the laptop itself could come out with the minimum of unhooking.
The keyboard is an interesting feature. It lights up under the keys. You can change the color of that light. You can even change it to several different colors at the same time, or set it to random which changes the colors on a continuing basis. Word of warning: Keep drinks away from this computer. A small spill might only result in a few sticky keys, but there is too great a chance of killing the keyboard all together – as well as the motherboard. The warrantee will not cover spills.
About two months after we bought this Alienware M14x the slot load optical drive just died. No warning signs, no strange noises, nothing. You could put a disk in it, but it wasn’t coming back out. The computer wasn’t even recognizing the drive. Dell sent out a local contractor within 3 days. He showed up, replaced the drive (told us that a large percentage of the optical drives that came with the M14x’s were faulty), and was done in less than fifteen minutes. He even showed me how to do it should I ever have to replace it after the warrantee runs out. The write/rewrite speed of the drive is only 8x so nothing special there. Be careful loading disks into the drive. Pushing too hard WILL eventually damage it just like it does with a Wii.
TheDDR3 memory, which operates t 1600MHz, is no slouch. Coupled with the 7200 RPM hard drive you will be able to read and write quickly, and programs are going to start fast. The only limiting factor is the motherboard. The CPU bus speed is listed as 100MHz. Programs like CPU-Z fluxuate between 99.7 and 99.9. Still, the computer is not slow. If you do plan to overclock this laptop, I’d recommend against it. To do so, and be able to actually tell the difference, you take the chance of burning out the CPU. The noise is also a factor. The M14X model with the quad-core i7 processor has a turbo setting.
Leaving the laptop alone with its factory settings is probably best. The system does run a little hot so I don’t recommend setting it on your lap for lengthy periods. I also recommend blowing out its vents every month or two. Other than that there are other products, like a laptop cooling tray/fan, which can help with temperature.
The battery claims that it’ll last 6 hours. Perhaps if you lower the screen resolution, dim the screen, and only use it as a word processor the claim would be true. If you’re playing a game, watching videos, or surfing websites with lots of graphics you’ll be lucky to get three hours. This laptop uses some power to operate at its peak levels.
Display: 14 in. HD WLED
Processor: Core i5 2.4GHz
Installed Memory: 6GB DDR3 SDRAM
Hard Drive: 1TB, 7200 RPM
DVD: Dual Layer DVD±RW Slot Load Optical Drive
Graphic Processor: NVIDIA GeForce GT 555M, 3072MB DDR3/GDDR5
Battery Run Time: 6 Hours vanilla usage
Even with the high price associated with the Alienware M14X I can recommend this product. It’s versatile, and certainly lives up to its reputation of a gaming computer. Keep it as clean as possible, and you’ll help to keep it from overheating and dying within a couple of years.