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Alienware x14 review

Style and substance in one ultra-thin package

Alienware x14 on a desk
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Future)

Tom's Guide Verdict

The ultra-thin Alienware x14 delivers style and performance in one of the most distinctive gaming laptops of the year.

Pros

  • +

    Great 14-inch display

  • +

    Slick, futuristic design

  • +

    Impressive performance for size

Cons

  • -

    1080p display can't be upgraded

  • -

    Middling performance vs bigger gaming laptops

Alienware x14: Specs

Price: $1,649 (starting), $2,069 (reviewed)
CPU: Intel Core i7-12900HK
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060
Display: 14-inch, 1920 x 1080 144Hz
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 2TB M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD
Weight: 4.1 pounds
Size: 12.7 x 10.3 x 0.6 inches

The Alienware x14 is a gaming laptop I’ve looked forward to reviewing ever since my brief hands-on time with it back in January. Gaming laptops have become thinner over the years, but this slick and futuristic device has to be the thinnest I’ve ever seen. In fact, if you ignore the Alienware logo, the laptop almost looks like a business notebook. Can such a thin machine actually deliver a satisfying gaming experience?

The short answer is yes. With its cutting-edge 12th gen Intel Alder Lake processor and Nvidia RTX 30 series GPU, the Alienware x14 is a proper gaming laptop capable of running modern titles. Thanks to a few cooling innovations like vapor chamber cooling and Smart Fan control technology, this laptop is capable of achieving high performance while remaining relatively cool. 

While the x14 isn’t as impressive as a big, beefy gaming laptop like the Razer Blade 17 in terms of screen size and performance, its comparatively lower price will make it accessible to more folks. And of course, its eye-catching design makes it more appealing than the typical monochrome laptops. As things stand, the Alienware x14 is a solid machine that has earned a spot in our best gaming laptops list.

Alienware x14 review: Price & configurations 

  • Priced between $1,649 and $2,299
  • Up to 32GB of RAM on high-end model

The base model of the Alienware x14 costs $1,649 (opens in new tab) and packs an Intel Core i7-12700H CPU, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of NVMe SSD storage and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 GPU. It has a 14-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) 144Hz display with a 3-millisecond response rate.

Alienware x14 on desk with lid open

(Image credit: Future)

The unit I reviewed is a beefier $2,149 configuration that features a 2TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 GPU. If you want the best x14 possible, the top-of-the-line model with 32GB of RAM costs $2,299.

That pricing puts the x14 in tight competition with the Razer Blade 14, another great 14-inch gaming laptop. While the Blade can get a little pricier, it can also be customized with up to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080.

Alienware x14 review: Design 

  • Out-of-this-world design
  • Ultra-thin and easy to carry — for a gaming laptop

The Alienware x14 is one of the thinnest gaming laptops out there, measuring 12.6 x 10.3 x 0.57 inches. Dell claims this is because of the x14's hinge, which sports a dual-torque element that slides back and forth when opening and closing the screen, freeing up more space inside the system itself. Without this sliding hinge, the x14 would either be thicker or less powerful, according to Dell.

The laptop has the slick, semi-futuristic design the Alienware X series is known for. Constructed with CNC aluminum and magnesium alloy parts, the laptop weighs just over 4 pounds. That’s not exactly light, but thanks to its thinness, the x14 is extremely portable and easy to carry in a backpack or around your home.

Alienware x14 on a desk with lid open, showing hinge

(Image credit: Future)

The Lunar Light chassis is both a strength and a weakness. Don’t get me wrong, the white coloring makes the laptop stand out in a world of grey and black devices. But that same lack of color makes dirt and scratches appear more noticeable. Even if you’re super careful, you’re going to leave marks all over the x14. This isn’t a deal-breaker, but random marks and dirt can mar this otherwise gorgeous gaming laptop.

Alienware x14 review: Display and audio 

  • Solid 14-inch FHD display, but lack of OLED is disappointing
  • Speakers deliver good but not great sound quality

The 14-inch Full HD display is good enough to immerse you in whatever game you’re playing. Sure, it’s not as spacious as the Razer Blade 17’s enormous 17-inch screen, but the display size is big enough to let you see even minute details. The 144Hz refresh rate and 3ms response time, along with Nvidia G-Sync, provide a silky-smooth visual experience.

Alienware x14Asus Zephyrus G14Maingear Vector ProRazer Blade 17
Brightness (nits)377323345349
DCI-P3 color gamut (%)77788080
sRGB Color Gamut (%)109.7110.3113.5112.9

When we put it to the test, we found the x14's screen is capable of achieving peak brightness levels of up to 377 nits. That's lower than the advertised 400 nits, but brighter than the screen on the Razer Blade 17 (349 nits), the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (323 nits) and Maingear Vector Pro (345 nits). When we pointed a colorimeter at it to see how much of the DCI-P3 color gamut it could display, the x14 reached 77%, which is less impressive than the Razer Blade 17 (80%), Zephyrus G14 (78%) and Vector Pro (80%).

Alienware x14 on a desk with a game being played

(Image credit: Future)

For my own testing, I fired up Doom Eternal and Cyberpunk 2077 (the most optimized and least optimized games, respectively). Both titles looked incredible on the large 14-inch screen. I was especially impressed by how well the laptop presented Cyberpunk 2077’s ray-traced reflections and bright neon-lit streets and alleys. Despite its grim setting, Doom Eternal’s vibrant and lush colors popped off the screen.

My only complaint in this area is that there isn’t a configuration with an OLED display. Yes, the FHD screen looks gorgeous, but when compared to the Razer Blade 17’s beautiful 4K OLED display, the Alienware x14’s 1080p screen comes up lacking. However, since this laptop is ostensibly an entry-level portable gaming rig with a lower price point, the lack of an OLED display is understandable. Still, it might be nice to have some options to upgrade the display if you want better than 1080p 144Hz. The Razer Blade 14, for example, comes with either a either a 1080p 144Hz screen or an improved 1440p 165Hz screen.

If you're an audiophile, you may be pleased to learn the x14 also supports Dolby Atmos, and its bottom-mounted speakers produce loud and clear sounds at moderate volume. In all honestly, I found the audio quality to be passable at best. It was good, but not great. However, since I wear a headset while gaming, the x14’s relatively basic audio capabilities aren't a problem.

Alienware X14 review: Gaming performance 

  • Impressive performance at medium settings
  • Can't compete with bigger, more expensive gaming laptops

An Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 GPU gives the Alienware x14 enough power to competently run most modern titles at medium settings. However, it falls behind when compared to other gaming laptops.

Alienware x14 on a desk showing a game being played

(Image credit: Future)

Alienware x14Razer Blade 17Vector Pro
Assassin's Creed Valhalla578074
Red Dead Redemption 2486872
Grand Theft Auto V70110123
Far Cry New Dawn948893

The x14 failed to deliver a solid 60 frames per second running modern games like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Borderlands 3, Dirt 5, Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition and Red Dead Redemption 2. Beefier machines like the Razer Blade 17 and Maingear Vector Pro had no trouble running those games in 1080p at a solid 60 fps or higher. However, the x14 didn't underperform in every game; for some reason it managed to run Ubisoft's 2019 game Far Cry New Dawn better than the Blade 17 we reviewed last year, achieving an impressive 94 frames per second.

Alienware x14 on a desk showing screen in use

(Image credit: Future)

During my own testing, I was stunned to see Doom Eternal running at an almost consistent 144 fps on the x14. Conversely, Cyberpunk 2077’s frame rates hovered in the mid to upper 30s. For the latter title, tweaking some of the in-game graphical settings would have produced better overall performance, but I wanted to run it at default settings as a baseline.

Overall, the Alienware x14 is a great gaming laptop. It doesn’t destroy the competition, but it isn’t left in the dust either -- and it's a lot more portable than more powerful gaming laptops.

Alienware X14 review: Productivity performance 

  • Cutting-edge Intel CPU delivers outstanding performance
  • This Alienware can effectively double as a work laptop

Since the x14 handles gaming so well, it’s no surprise that the laptop also serves as an excellent productivity machine. And with its remarkably thin design, it might not look as out of place in a coffee shop as your average gaming laptop.

Alienware x14Razer Blade 17Vector ProZephyrus G14
Geekbench 5.413,3537,0108,7867509
Copying 25 GB from flash drive (MBps)1,1561,2461,843881
Handbrake video encoding (minutes:seconds)5:048:596:277:10

The x14 scored an astonishing 13,353 on the Geekbench 5.4 performance benchmark test. Laptops like the Razer Blade 17 (7,010), Vector Pro (8,786) and Zephyrus G14 (7,509) don’t even come close, which is perhaps due to the x14's cutting-edge Alder Lake Intel CPU. These 12th Gen Intel chips only just came out this year, and they're the first Intel CPUs to rival Apple's M1 Max chips in terms of power and efficiency.

Alienware x14 on a desk showing a game being played

(Image credit: Future)

Anecdotally, I used the Alienware x14 for work and everyday use and found it every bit as performant as any business laptop I’ve ever used. It didn’t buckle or stutter once, not even when I had multiple open tabs while watching videos on YouTube. While gaming laptops are primarily valued for their capacity to run PC games well, it’s always nice when these machines can double as everyday computing devices.

Alienware X14 review: Ports 

  • Enough ports to plug in your favorite devices
  • Putting all the ports on the back keeps things interesting

All of the Alienware x14’s ports are located on the back of the machine between the two rear air vents. This includes a USB-C port for charging purposes, a headphone jack, an HDMI out, a microSD card reader, one USB-A port and two USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports.

Alienware x14 on desk with rear showing ports

(Image credit: Future)

It's a solid port assortment, albeit located on the rear in a potentially frustrating arrangement. And while the x14 lacks the Ethernet port you'll find on bigger gaming laptops like the Maingear Vector Pro, which is handy for hooking up wired Internet so you have the best online gaming experience possible, it does have enough ports to let you hook up pretty much whatever you need -- and you can always plug in a USB hub or dongle if you need more than what's on offer.

Alienware X14 review: Keyboard and touchpad 

  • Decent keyboard that's comfortable to use
  • Touchpad is smooth and responsive

The keyboard has a 1.5mm key travel distance, which makes it easy to type on even if you have large hands like me. I’m not the biggest fan of laptop keyboards since they feel fragile compared to the mechanical keyboards I typically pound on. The keys on the x14 aren't as satisfying to type on, but they're no better or worse than those found on other laptops I've tested. Considering this is a gaming laptop, I don’t look for an astounding keyboard experience. I’m using a controller to play games anyway.

Alienware x14 on desk showing keyboard layout

(Image credit: Future)

As with the keyboard, the touchpad is serviceable but not mind-blowing. The fact it doesn’t call attention to itself can be seen as a positive since it functions as intended. If you’re playing an RTS with mouse and keyboard controls, you’re more than likely going to use a proper mouse.

Alienware X14 review: Webcam

  • 720p webcam is serviceable but not great

The x14 features a basic 720p webcam located just above the screen. It's serviceable for video chatting, so long as you're in a well-lit room. If you want to take selfies, however, this camera won't be flattering. 

In all honesty, you're better off plugging in something like the Logitech C920s Pro HD Webcam if you want to look good during video calls or while streaming on Twitch.

Alienware X14 review: Battery life and heat 

  • Average battery life for a gaming laptop
  • Stays cool at work, but still gets hot when gaming

Gaming laptops don’t exactly have a reputation for having stellar battery life. Though portable, the devices are best left plugged in during use, and the Alienware x14 is no different.

The x14 lasted 5 hours and 32 minutes on the Tom’s Guide battery life test, which tasks the laptop with endlessly surfing the web over Wi-Fi with the screen set to 150 nits of brightness. The x14's 5:32 runtime falls short of the Zephyrus G14’s impressive 11 hours, but surpassed the Razer Blade 17’s 3 hours and 52 minutes.

Keep in mind that's just when browsing the web. When it comes to running games, the x14 lasted 1 hour and 23 minutes on battery power. That's low, but also about average for gaming laptops.

Alienware x14 close-up shot showing detail of keyboard deck

(Image credit: Future)

The Alienware x14 remains surprisingly cool while gaming, which may have something to do with its proprietary vapor chamber cooling, smart fan control tech, and other heat management features. 

In our standard heat test, which involves running a heat gun over the laptop after streaming 15 minutes of full HD video on it, we found the hottest point to be on the underside of the x14, which peaked at 95 degrees Fahrenheit. That's awfully warm, and we generally consider temps of 95 or above to be uncomfortable for most people to have in their laps for extended periods. 

Of course, that's just from watching videos. When playing demanding games, the x14 gets quite a bit hotter. To see exactly how hot, we tasked it with running the Metro: Exodus benchmark on Extreme settings six times in a row, then scanned the laptop with our heat gun on the sixth run to see how hot it can get. The answer is pretty hot — as high as 121 degrees on the underside near the vents, according to our measurements. 

That's roughly as hot as a big, beastly gaming machine like the Razer Blade 17 gets while gaming (122 degrees, in the Blade's case), but in our non-gaming heat test the x14 remains as cool as the average ultraportable.

Alienware X14 review: Verdict 

The Alienware x14 is easily one of the most distinctive-looking gaming laptops of 2022. Its all-white ultra-thin chassis and dual-torque hinge set it apart from other devices. 

Alienware x14 closed on a desk

(Image credit: Future)

On the inside, it’s a more-than-competent portable gaming rig that delivers solid performance thanks to its RTX 30 series GPU and advanced cooling features. And though its $1,649 starting price isn’t exactly cheap, it’s more affordable than thicker gaming laptops like the Razer Blade 17 ($2,400) or Maingear Vector Pro ($1,999).

My only gripe with the laptop is its lack of an OLED model. The FHD display is great, but it doesn’t present games at their very best. Because of this, you may want to opt for a rig like the 4K OLED-equipped Razer Blade 17 if you care deeply about display quality in your gaming laptops. But if you're all about gaming on the go and prize portability over power, the Alienware x14 is a great choice.

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.