Alienware x14 laptop review: ideal for game designers and gamers alike

The Alienware x14 brings impressive power and eye-catching design to gaming and programming – although its battery life does suffer as a result.

Alienware x14 (21 by 9)_laptop open, front facing
(Image: © Future)

Live Science Verdict

Slim, sturdy, and powerful, the Alienware x14 is ideal if you need a compact machine for work and play – its screen, design, and connectivity certainly impress. That said, its battery life is beaten elsewhere, and you can save cash on alternatives too.

Pros

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    Fast performance from the CPU and graphics core

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    High-quality 1080p display

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    Good ports and connectivity

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    Slim, sturdy, and attractive design

Cons

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    Mediocre battery life

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    Not available with 32 GB of memory

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    Pricier than many rivals

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Key specs:

CPU: Intel Core i5-12500H or Core i7-12700H

GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050/3050 Ti/3060

RAM: 16 GB

Storage: 512 GB, 1 TB, 2 TB, 4 TB

Screen size: 14 in 1920 x 1080 IPS

Weight: 3.94 lbs (1.79 kg)

Dimensions: 12.6 x 10.35 x 0.57 in (322 x 263 x 14.5 mm)

Most people know Alienware for huge, imposing gaming laptops and PCs, but the Alienware x14 marks a change of direction for the Dell-based builder because it’s a compact laptop instead.

Don’t think that a smaller stature means a weaker notebook, though. The Alienware x14 is packed with top-notch components, and still includes the eye-catching design that Alienware is known for. It should be great for games, of course, but the processing power on offer should also make the Alienware x14 a great option for programmers and developers who need a capable, powerful, and compact work machine – it would certainly hold its own amongst our recommend list of best laptops for coding and programming.

The price might surprise you, too. The Alienware x14 isn’t exactly cheap, but entry-level models cost $1,499 in the US and £1,549 in the UK, so it’s not as expensive as you might think… although if you’re on a tighter budget then our best laptops for students will work just as well.

Alienware x14 review: Design & features

Alienware x14 laptop closed on wooden table

(Image credit: Future)
  • Sleek, eye-catching, and robust chassis
  • Good connectivity, although many larger laptops go further
  • Crisp, satisfying keyboard, albeit without a number pad

Alienware x14’s rig might be smaller than the firm’s other notebooks, but the x14 shares many design touches with its larger stablemates. That means you’ve got Alienware logos, honeycomb venting around the rig, and bold monochrome colors alongside RGB LEDs that can be customized or deactivated.

The x14 impresses beyond the visuals. Its build quality is superb, so you can sling it into your bag without concern – and the rig’s 0.57 inch (14.5 mm) thick body means that it won’t take up much room on your commute.

Its 3.94 lbs weight (1.79 kg) makes it heavier than many small laptops that can be used for programming, but that’s not ruinous and no surprise when you consider that many of those other notebooks don’t have proper graphics cores. You can certainly find slimmer and lighter programming laptops, like Apple’s machines and the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4, but you’ll have to sacrifice performance.

The Alienware’s ports sit along the back edge, which makes it easier to keep cables tidy. The x14 has two Thunderbolt 4 ports with power delivery and DisplayPort, a future-proofed HDMI 2.1 socket, and a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C socket alongside a full-size USB 3.2 Gen 1 port and microSD slot.

That’s fine for everyday use and it’s a better selection than productivity laptops from Apple and Microsoft, but this is one area where the smaller Alienware x14 falls behind other gaming laptops. Attach a USB mouse and you’ve already run out of full-size USB ports, and many creatives may prefer a full-size SD slot. There’s no wired internet either – connectivity comes from dual-band Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2.

Elsewhere you’ll find a webcam that supports Windows Hello, but the camera doesn’t have a privacy button and the rig has no fingerprint reader.

Alienware x14 laptop open, close up view of illuminated keyboard

(Image credit: Future)

The keyboard is fast and crisp – it’s satisfying and easy to use for all-day typing and gaming sessions. It’s got extra media keys, too. That said, it has no number pad, which may be a deal-breaker for some programmers. And while the trackpad is fine, it’s small and a USB mouse will provide a sharper and more satisfying experience.

Alienware x14 review: Specs & performance

Alienware x14 laptop open, back view

(Image credit: Future)
  • Intel processors are superb for programming and development
  • Nvidia’s graphics cores are ideal for mid-range gaming and creative work
  • Larger machines have more powerful internals and extra customization options

There’s an impressive amount of computing grunt available from the Alienware x14 considering its size.

The machine is available with Intel Core i5-12500H or Core i7-12700H processors depending on your budget. They’re both superb: the former is ideal for mainstream programming and everyday multi-tasking, while the latter will handle tougher programming and development software.

Those processors outpace their AMD equivalents, and the i7-12700H is also quicker than Apple’s M1 and M2 chips in certain scenarios. There’s no denying that the Intel parts are great for programming, development, and gaming, but we advise you to check whether Intel or Apple silicon is faster in applications that underpin your workloads. If you’d rather opt for a larger laptop, then you can deploy Core i9 chips that can do an even better job.

The Alienware x14 is available with three different graphics cores. They’re all from Nvidia, and the GeForce RTX 3050, RTX 3050 Ti, and RTX 3060 are all mid-range options – no surprise on this slim, light laptop.

Alienware x14 laptop open, close up view of brand name

(Image credit: Future)

The RTX 3050 and RTX 3050 Ti are only suitable for modest tasks, like running eSports titles and casual games. On the productivity side, they’ll tackle undemanding photo-editing and creative work and do a decent job with rendering. If you’re at all serious about gaming, content creation, or rendering though, you’ll want the RTX 3060 – that GPU is far faster.

As with processing, the Alienware’s small size does limit its graphical abilities. If you choose a larger laptop, you can pick something like the RTX 3070 Ti or RTX 3080 Ti that will turbo-charge your gaming and productivity.

Elsewhere the specs offers no surprises. It’s only available with 16 GB of memory, which is a bit disappointing – 32 GB is helpful for lots of creative and programming workloads. The situation is better when it comes to storage as you can choose SSDs that range in size between 512 GB and 4 TB.

If you need an illustration of the specifications available at larger sizes look no further than the Alienware x15 R2 (opens in new tab). That laptop comes with Core i9 processors, 32 GB of memory, larger SSDs, and more powerful graphics cards, although prices increase and that laptop weighs 5.18 lbs (2.35kg) – so you’ll have to accommodate a heftier notebook. Apple’s machines also have more customization.

Alienware x14 review: Screen & speakers

Alienware x14 laptop open, front facing

(Image credit: Future)
  • High-quality 1080p display easily handles work and gaming
  • Look elsewhere if you want a higher resolution
  • Speakers are middling – only suitable for mainstream media duties

The Alienware x14’s screen has a 1920 x 1080 resolution, which is fine for mainstream programming, work, and gaming, and its 144 Hz refresh rate uses Nvidia G-Sync to deliver smooth gameplay.

Quality levels are impressive, too. The panel’s peak brightness level soars beyond 450 nits, so it’s got the brightness to work indoors or outside, and its contrast level hits 1312:1 – high enough to deliver impressive depth and nuance in any situation.

The Alienware’s panel renders the entirety of the sRGB and DCI-P3 gamuts accurately, so you can be sure that’ll produce every shade needed by games and programming tools.

For gaming, development, and programming on the go, it’s a great panel. You’ll only want to look elsewhere if you need a screen with the breadth and accuracy required by Adobe apps or if you want a higher resolution to use more windows simultaneously – and, once again, you’ll need to look elsewhere for that.

The speakers, meanwhile, have plenty of volume but not much quality due to muddy mid-range output. If you need good music while you work, a Bluetooth speaker or a headset should be on your shopping list.

Alienware x14 review: Battery life

  • Expect half a day of use if you don’t push internals too hard
  • Want to play games or really stretch the hardware? You’ll see two hours at most

The Alienware might be smaller than most other gaming laptops, but don’t assume that its compact size means that it’s long-lasting. In an everyday work benchmark the Alienware x14 lasted for just over five hours, and that lifespan extended to six hours during video playback.

If you want to play games or push the internals in tough programming and development software, then expect the x14 to run out of juice after two hours. Virtually every other notebook on our best laptops for coding and programming list will have better battery life.

Alienware x14 review: Price

The cheapest Alienware x14 costs $1,499 in the U.S (opens in new tab). and £1,549 in the U.K. (opens in new tab), but that rig includes the Core i5-12500H and RTX 3050 graphics. The most affordable Core i7-12700H model uses the RTX 3050 Ti and costs $1,599/£1,699. The RTX 3060 is a bargain right now in the U.K.: it only costs £1,599. In the U.S., it’s up at $1,899.

This is reasonable value. The Dell XPS 15, for instance, costs $1,949/£1,809 if you pair a Core i7-12700H with the RTX 3050 Ti. It has more specification options, but its prices rise if you opt for a Core i9-12900HK processor, extra memory, or a higher-resolution display.

It’s possible to customize the storage in the x14, but those improvements are not particularly affordable in some markets. If you want to double the size of the original 512 GB SSD it costs a whopping £350, and prices rise further if you fit 2 TB or 4 TB drives. In the U.S., the situation is better: you can double the 512 GB SSD for $150.

The x14 has comparable pricing to the Apple MacBook Pro 13 if you spec that laptop with 16 GB of memory. It’s usually cheaper than the MacBook Pro 16 – although Apple’s machines benefit from sleeker design, Retina displays, SD card slots, and extra Thunderbolt connectivity alongside longer battery life.

The Alienware x14 offers good value when compared to other top-end programming machines, but it’s still more expensive than some of our other favorite coding laptops. The Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 and HP Envy x360 13 are both usually cheaper than the Alienware, but those slim, light rigs have weaker processors and poorer graphics capabilities.

Should you buy the Alienware x14?

The Alienware x14 is one of the smallest laptops on the market to include a top-tier Intel processor alongside modern and capable Nvidia graphics cores, and those attributes make it a great option for anyone who wants a portable notebook for programming, development, and gaming.

Beyond its compact, powerful frame, the Alienware also offers a top-quality 1080p screen, a robust chassis, reasonable connectivity, and a responsive keyboard.

Although at this size and with these components you’ll always find compromise. Battery life is middling, and you’ll find higher-resolution displays and more powerful components on larger laptops. And while the x14 does deliver reasonable value, a cheaper laptop will suffice if you don’t need the x14’s powerful processors or discrete graphics.

However, if you do need a small, compact, and robust laptop that can tackle tough programming, development, and gaming tasks on the road, there’s nothing better than the Alienware x14. Plus, it looks pretty swanky too.

If this laptop isn’t for you?

Happily, there are plenty of alternatives around if you don’t feel like the Alienware x14 will quite meet your needs.

If you prefer to work in Mac OS then Apple’s MacBook Pro range is a superb option for programming and development, especially if you pay more to beef up the internals. And if you want a more understated and sleek design with a faster processor within a Windows environment, then the Dell XPS 15 is a top-notch option.

There’s no denying that the Alienware is larger than many of its small-screen rivals, too. The Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 is a good alternative if you want a slimmer and lighter laptop, while the HP Envy x360 13 is suitable for anyone who wants a hybrid for tent and tablet use too.

If you’d prefer to stay on the gaming side of the market, step up to the Alienware x15 R2 (opens in new tab) – it’s available with more powerful components and a wider variety of parts than the x14 and it’s still not overwhelmingly large.

Mike is a freelance technology journalist and consultant who is fascinated with gaming, futuristic technology and motorsport. Previously, Mike has worked as a writer for PC Pro magazine writing and published articles on technology for many other media outlets, including TechRadar, Wired, PC Advisor, Stuff, The Inquirer and Red Bull Gaming.