Hands on: Alienware X14 review

The X-series makes sense now

What is a hands on review?
Alienware X14 on a table next to a cactus or something
(Image: © Future)

Early Verdict

The Alienware X14 is the most portable gaming laptop that the luxury brand has ever put out. From what it looks like, it won't lose much on performance but the limited spec options means you really have to be into the portability aspect.

Pros

  • +

    Extremely thin and light

  • +

    Stylish

  • +

    Comfortable keyboard

  • +

    85W RTX 3060 in a light chassis

Cons

  • -

    Odd form factor limits bag options

  • -

    Limited to RTX 3060

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The Alienware X14 follows both the X15 and X17, revealed at CES 2021. The idea behind both of these gaming laptops was to provide extraordinary performance in a chassis that wasn’t so thick. In practice, however, both of the laptops ended up being not much thinner than the M15 and M17, just with a more advanced cooling solution. 

However at CES 2022, the Alienware X14 is the first time that Dell’s mission to make a high-end and portable gaming laptop has started to come to fruition. 

To be clear, you’re not going to be able to buy this thing with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080, busting out high framerates at 4K with ray tracing enabled. This is a laptop that’s limited to the RTX 3060, but that’s still a powerful graphics processor, especially for 1080p PC games. If you’ve been waiting for a more portable gaming laptop from Alienware – this might be the one for you. 

Alienware X14 on a table next to a cactus or something

(Image credit: Future)

Price and availability 

We’re not quite sure when the Alienware X14 will be available, but it’s likely to show up on store shelves sometime within the next few months. We also don’t quite know how much this thing will cost, but given that it peaks with an RTX 3060, it’s unlikely that it will be that expensive. 

Then again, because the sales pitch is that it’s a premium gaming device that you can carry around like it’s a smaller laptop, we could see Dell putting a price premium on it. Either way, we’ll only know when Dell lifts the veil on this information. We’ll update this article as soon as we get an update from the company. 

Alienware X14 on a table next to a cactus or something

(Image credit: Future)

Design 

If you’ve seen any of Alienware’s recent gaming laptops, you’re probably going to recognize the Alienware X14. In essence, it looks like the Alienware X15, but a little smaller and a lot thinner. This laptop measures in at just 0.57 inches thick, and weighs just 4.06 lb for the fully kitted out version. 

This thin and light design is a godsend for anyone looking for a gaming laptop they can carry around in their backpack without needing back surgery within a couple of years, but it does come with a bit of a drawback – you can only get it with up to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060. This is entirely due to cooling, as a more powerful GPU would burn up in this chassis, or would have to run at such a low wattage that it wouldn’t be worth it anyways. 

The cut-down cooler design also has a lot to do with this GPU limitation. Rather than the quad-fan design that differentiates the Alienware X15 and X17 from the M15 and M17, the design is cut down to a dual-fan configuration. We will have to get the laptop into our labs to see how much of a difference this makes, but on the surface it makes sense why Dell had to limit the silicon put in the Alienware X14.

That will be plenty of juice to power the display anyway though. This laptop will come equipped with a 14-inch FHD panel, clocked at 144Hz. That may be far from cutting edge, but it’s the perfect pairing for the GPU. You’re going to be able to play pretty much anything, and the display looks pretty great – at least in the controlled environment Dell showed it to us in. 

If we were to nitpick on the size at all, it would likely have to do with the back vent. There’s a bit of the deck that extends behind the display when the laptop is open, which means the laptop is a little longer than it needs to be. It stopped us from fitting the laptop into our small laptop bag – we promise we weren’t trying to steal it – so you’re still going to need a backpack designed for at least a 15-inch laptop, even though it is a 14-inch device. 

That’s something that’s not true for the Razer Blade 14 that came out last year, and it’s a bit disappointing here, especially since the Alienware X14 is a laptop that is being pitched on the virtue of easy portability. 

There is a slight benefit to that extra space in the back of the chassis though – ports. Even for a laptop this small, there’s a wide array of ports on offer, with two Thunderbolt 4 ports, one USB-C port, also used for charging, a USB-A, an SD card reader, HDMI a headphone jack – something Dell cut out for another portable laptop at CES 2022. 

It’s nice to have all of this in the rear of the laptop, because it means you  won’t have to deal with any cables getting in the way while playing your favorite PC games. 

And of course, because it’s a premium Alienware device, it’s kitted out with all the gaming eccentricities we all love. Plenty of RGB lighting, including an RGB trackpad, and one of the most comfortable gaming keyboards found in a laptop of this size. 

Alienware X14 on a table next to a cactus or something

(Image credit: Future)

Performance 

Because the Alienware X14 only has up to an RTX 3060, you probably shouldn’t expect it to run Cyberpunk 2077 at 4K or anything. However, it is packed with the latest H-series processors from Intel, which should at least have it keeping up with the best gaming laptops when it comes to CPU performance. 

The RTX 3060 configuration is specced out for a max graphics power of 85W, which is pretty high for such a thin laptop, so you shouldn’t lose out on too much performance here compared to other devices with the same GPU. However, that will entirely depend on how efficient the cooling is – and that’s where the Alienware X14 is really going to sink or float. 

We won’t know how well any of this works until we get it into our labs for a full review, but needless to say we’re intrigued. We’ve started to see thinner gaming laptops over the last year with devices like the Asus TUF Dash F15, but those devices have always come with handicapped performance. Maybe Dell has found the secret formula here. Only time will tell.  

Alienware X14 on a table next to a cactus or something

(Image credit: Future)

Early verdict 

The Alienware X14 is just a smaller version of a winning design from Alienware, so it looks promising. What’s really going to make or break this laptop is how well performance and thermals will scale with this chassis. 

We are also not huge fans of the extra bit on the back of the laptop that stops it from fitting in smaller bags, but we’re sure that’s a problem that will only apply to a minority of this laptop’s potential audience anyway. 

But from what it looks like, this is going to be an excellent gaming laptop for on-the-go use, and we can’t wait to carry it around for a while to see if Alienware’s vision has been executed. 

Jackie Thomas

Jackie Thomas is Deputy Editor at Decisionary. Previously, she was TechRadar's US computing editor. She is fat, queer and extremely online. Computers are the devil, but she just happens to be a satanist. If you need to know anything about computing components, PC gaming or the best laptop on the market, don't be afraid to drop her a line on Twitter or through email.

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.