Application and Futuremark Performance

At this point the Intel Core i7-2630QM at the center of the Alienware M14x is largely a known quantity, but in the 14" notebook class things are different, with quad-core processors being more rarefied. Most of our 14" notebook reviews are from the Arrandale era, but we do have a couple of Sandy Bridge notebooks thrown into the mix to give you an idea of how performance has changed, and we've also got the sample AMD Llano A8 system.

Where possible the SSD-equipped Compal PBL21 and Sandy Bridge quad-core reference system get a comfortable lead, proving that PCMark still skews heavily towards SSDs even in its most recent version. The storage benchmark is particularly brutal, suggesting the Samsung hard drive the M14x ships with may not be as fast as its counterparts from Seagate and Western Digital. Overall, though, the M14x hangs out in the middle of the pack, about where it ought to be.

For some reason, PCMark Vantage doesn't favor the SSD-equipped Compal PBL21 as heavily in our lineup, while Sandy Bridge continues to be a monster, both as a processor and as a reference platform.

The beauty of Cinebench is how repeatable and consistent its test results are, and the Alienware M14x falls in exactly where it ought to be. Our x264 encoding test tells much the same story, one you already knew: the i7-2630QM is mighty fast. Where things get interesting is when you look at how much of a performance boost the i7-2630QM brings for the M14x against competing 14" notebooks that are only able to leverage dual-core processors. While Arrandale and Clarksfield would often compete directly against each other, Sandy Bridge quad-cores produce a clear and consistent performance advantage over their dual-core counterparts.

Finally in 3DMark, the 144-shader NVIDIA GeForce GT 555M offers a substantial performance improvement over the 96-shader GT 540M and its kin, bested only by the more powerful GTX 460M. Keep in mind the form factor that the GT 555M is residing in, because this is pretty much the fastest chip you can conceivably fit in a 14" laptop.

Great Looks, But Some Things Shouldn't Be Universal The M14x Came to Play
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  • Hrel - Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - link

    yeah, he just hates Intel because they're succesful. I hate petty people.
    I do wish we could see some competition from AMD though, just to drive prices down. Intel's have been creeping steadily up since the release of the Core series of CPU's.

    For instance I think the 2500K should be about 185-195, not 215 or 230 or whatever it is. Not a huge deal, when I build a new desktop next fall (2012) I will use the newest Intel CPU equivalent to that one. Generally though 200 has always been my cap for CPU prices, I just wanna overclock so an extra 20 bucks is meh; still, not like it costs Intel anything extra to enable that.

    Unless Bulldozer makes Sandy Bridge look at least average??? Please! No? Ohhhh, ok.
  • Skott - Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - link

    If I was going to buy a gaming laptop I'd go with a Sager. They have the superior cooling system for gaming laptops. That heat over time can kill a laptop. It needs to be as cool as possible. Just my 2 cents.
  • scook9 - Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - link

    Not really that superior actually....they have nice beefy cooling on their x7200 and x8000 lines but their single GPU stuff is comparably cooled compare to the alienware lineup (And the M18x matches the x7200 cooling....)
  • Hrel - Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - link

    sager is just a brand built on Clevo or Compal or Asus or MSI or any other whitebox manufacturer; they don't actually make the laptops, they just put parts in them like the CPU/GPU/RAM and what not.
  • Gonemad - Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - link

    ...but right now can anybody answer me with a simple yes or no: Is this the fastest machine that can be crammed in a 14" notebook frame, heat be damned, noise be damned, battery life be damned?

    Apparently yes it is. Won't this note enter the category *hot-rod* as in "the largest engine on the smallest car"? Or is it a "Rolls-Royce jet engine in a Pinto", where the sum is worse than its parts?

    PS: You don't see anything beyond 1600 x 900 all the way to 17"...
  • Pylon757 - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    Sony has 1920x1080 across 13". 1080p isn't that hard to find on 15".

    This is about the same weight as a number of 15" laptops too.
  • bigboxes - Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - link

    Isn't it really a LED backlit LCD display? Just because the manufacturers are marketing them as LED displays doesn't make them so.
  • etamin - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    That is what LED display means. All LED displays are LED backlit LCDs whereas traditional LCDs are actually CCFL (Cold-Cathode Fluorescent Lamp) backlit displays. They are both types of LCDs.
  • etamin - Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - link

    I was not able to tell from the pictures but is the memory in the M14x self upgradable? Alienware is charging $200 for 2x4GB DIMMS (1600MHz) which can be had on Newegg for as low as $75.

    Also, do you at Anandtech notice any changes in quality since the pre-Dell days of Alienware? I believe the Area-51 m7700 I owned years ago was the last pre-Dell model built and have not given Alienware a second thought since both harddrives (yes, both at the same time) in RAID 0 permanently failed along with the motherboard. Over the life of the system, I had to replace a dead graphics card, deal with a battery that could not hold a charge, and replace a screen myself with one from a used Sager built on the same Clevo chassis. In total the system fell into the 4k range over 4 years of use and I cannot even dream about spending even 2.5k on a laptop ever again. My understanding is that Dell now uses even cheaper generic parts but I could be wrong.
  • Hrel - Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - link

    I wish you guys could get the "other" version of the GT555M in for testing; really just out of curiosity. I'd like to see what's different and where from 768p to 1080p.
    (I also wish you guys would test at 1080p NOT with max settings; but with "reasonable" texture settings. You can make games look better than a console and run at 1080p by tweaking things just a little.)
    Really THIS GPU with GDDR5 is the only GT555M that should exist. Hopefully Nividia will do that with the GT666M or whatever they wanna call it. I truly baffles me that someone somewhere thought it was a good idea to have two entirely different GPU's under the EXACT same name each with at LEAST 2 possible configurations totally 4+ GPU's with the same damn name!!! AHHHHH, frakkin marketing people; clearly their degrees mean nothing more than "yep, I drank a lot in college".

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