Being a user of desktops since the early days of computers, I have always found laptops lack the raw power needed for serious work or any major gaming titles. However, when looking at the Alienware 14, I went in with an open mind. On paper the 14 had all the raw power anyone would need, although it was hard to imagine it could stand against some of the powerful gaming and editing machines we use at the CGM office. This in mind, the Alienware was used as my primary work machine for a week and despite its small size it held up well.
It must be said that although it is smaller than many of the laptops in the 2013 Alienware lineup, it does not skimp on raw power. It was built to handle today’s biggest AAA games. Without question it should be able to take on much of the software we use in a production environment. This is why we started by loading all the tools needed for work making the Alienware 14 a mobile production studio. We started with the Adobe suite including Premiere, After Effects and Audition. With all files loaded, it was time to tackle the job of covering a conference with just the Alienware 14 in tow.
Editing on location is something that is always hard, taking in layers of video without needing a massive edit is not easy. Even harder is turning out useable professional quality work in the field, yet the Alienware 14 seemed to take it all on with little issue. It was a pleasure to work with and could be a marvelous computer for someone just getting into video editing. Letting the user take on big editing jobs and having the horse power to render while you work is invaluable. It is amazing to see Alienware packing that into a portable unit.
“Semi”-portable might actually be a more accurate term; it was not fun to lug around a convention floor. It’s a hefty piece of tech that will put a strain on your back over a long trip. Alienware have packed in a remarkably powerful graphics card with the Nvidia Gforce GTX 765M. Coming loaded with a Core i7 and a possible 16GB of RAM this laptop will give the competition a run for its money. The aesthetic design could have been taken straight from the minds that brought you the Fast and the Furious franchise. Covered in lights, it feels more like a car tricked out ready for the show floor rather than a laptop. It is clear attention was put into the design, it all seems built to look powerful, with grills and heat exhausts all around the unit. Although, many of these aspects could have been done in a more discreet way allowing the 14 to be a bit more versatile beyond the strictly a gamer demographic.
The flashy nature of the 14 is something that does rub me the wrong way. Although it is nice to have something that can illuminate for ease of use, the fact so much emphasis is put on the light show nature of the unit is disappointing. The notion that a gaming laptop must look the part is ridiculous. Someone who games also may want something that can be subtle, since even gamers may want the laptop to play double duty for work and play. The lights are a great novelty although I found myself setting it to the least obtrusive setting about a day after testing the unit. It would have been nice to see a model skipping the lights with that energy being put into slightly more powerful components.
Aesthetics aside, the 14 is a pleasure on the component front. The screen was vibrant and crisp. The keyboard was a responsive and comfortable, even after long sessions of work or gaming. The track pad, something I personally hate using on most laptops, was easy to use and get accustomed to for work. It was pleasant and responsive. Although the use of LED lighting on it was unnecessary, it did not hinder the remarkable usability of it and did help when working in a dark environment. Alienware put effort into the way the laptop works and it shows in quality and design.
But the real reason to pick this laptop up is if you love games, and want to play them how they were meant to be played. Throwing all the latest titles at it such as Battlefield, Amnesia, Assassin’s Creed and even Saints Row, it held its own without skipping a beat. Raising the visuals and jumping into the games was a treat. Everything ran smoothly showing what these games could look like. Even when comparing it to the new generation of consoles such as the PS4 or the XBOX One, the Alienware held its own displaying noticeably better frame rates and visual clarity.
Sitting down for a few hours on Battlefield was a pleasure, although it being a 14 inch, the keyboard felt fantastic even for a long play session. I even had the pleasure to hook the laptop up to a larger TV and jump into things using a controller without skipping a beat. It could honestly replace a console for someone if they wanted to drop the cash on it. Easily outpacing in visuals what Sony or Microsoft have shown their machines doing. Seeing full 1080 gaming from such a small device was refreshing. Combine the fact it maintained a quiet noise level makes this a remarkable machine that could easily fit into anyone’s gaming lifestyle.
Looking past all the fancy design and hype, the Alienware 14 is a fantastic piece of tech. It fits well into the workflow that normally was reserved for massive editing rigs and handled the gauntlet of games thrown at it without an issue. Starting at $1199 the Alienware 14 is one of the least expensive laptops we have reviewed so far. Lacking many of the bells and whistles of the bigger laptops on the market such as the ability to act as a second monitor or the power of a duel graphics cards. But all the features do come at sizable price and mobility tradeoff. The 14 is easily the smallest and most portable of the options. It really comes down to if you want a portable desktop or a laptop you can use as a workhorse. Even though this is on the lower end of the Alienware lineup, the 14 is easy to recommend packing more than enough power for the average user. It will not come cheap but if you are in the market for a powerful laptop and size is an issue, the Alienware 14 is a wise investment.