In Alienware's online configurator, we had a choice of Intel's Centrino Wireless-N 2230 (as in our test model) or the Qualcomm / Bigfoot Killer Wireless-N 1202. Both adapters are MIMO capable (2x2) and allow overall data rates of up to 300 MBit/s. In addition, the latest version of Bluetooth (Bluetooth 4.0) is on board. Arguments to spend an extra 20 Euro ($25 USD) for the Qualcomm adapter consist of the support of 802.11a for 5 GHz networks, as well as firmware optimizations to provide online gamers with faster pings to reduce lag. An integrated 3G or 4G radio is not available for the M14x.
The notebook's webcam has the usual 1.3 Megapixel resolution and accordingly delivers middling picture quality. Sharpness and noise of this sensor could be better. On the other hand, video playback shines with high contrast, little delay, and perfectly fluid playback. The microphone arrayinstalled to the left and right of the webcam is of surprisingly high quality and its recordings sound very natural and maintain good dynamic range.
With an average brightness of 266 cd/m2, the display is exactly equal to the predecessor's display and should suffice for most purposes. Regrettably the illumination is disappointing, with a noticeable dark area at the bottom edge which could be just an issue of our particular unit.
Distribution of brightness
While only a few customers are likely to use the VGA interface, whoever does need this interface can enjoy a sharp and flicker free picture.
System information Alienware M14x R2
The test model starts into our round of benchmarks with an excellent score of 6.85 points in Cinebench R11.5 (64-bit). This puts the M14x a few numbers above all notebooks tested so far with the same CPU, a result that speaks of an optimally exploited TurboBoost. We also set new records in the x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 with 150.05 and 37.67 fps in passes 1 and 2. Cinebench R10's single thread test (64-bit) missed a new best score only narrowly with 6154 points. The Core i7-2630QM from last year's test was left in the dust.
Particularly interesting is the comparison with the smaller quad-core processors from the two Schenker notebooks XMG A102 and A502. While the advantage over the 35 Watt model i7-3612QMis a comfortable 20 percent, this shrinks in comparison to the i7-3610QM to just over 10 percent. In view of the not-so-small triple digit price difference between the 3720QM and the 3610QM, it would be welcome if Dell would also offer the lower cost model in their configurator.
Transfer Rate Minimum: 263.6 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 367 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 331.9 MB/s
Access Time: 0.1 ms
Burst Rate: 237.2 MB/s
CPU Usage: 1 %
Such strong components produce inspiring application performance as demonstrated in our benchmarks. In PCMark Vantage, the XMG A502, with 20151 points, still manages to stay in front of the M14x which scored only 18158 points. The M14x retaliates in PCMark 7 and puts up a new record in the multimedia class with 4444 points compared to the XMG A502’s 3750 points.
Here it becomes obvious that synthetic benchmarks like the PCMark series are not suited to rate system performance on their own. In real world use, the tiny SSD of the M14x leads to only the operating system benefiting from its high performance. As a result, we wish Alienware would offer larger mSATA options as the market currently offers drives up to 128 GB in size.
After merely a few short weeks since its release, the Nvidia GeForce GT 650M has already become a regular visitor to our testing facility. This is unsurprising as it combines acceptable energy consumption and price with performance that almost reaches the level of previous high-end accelerators into a nearly unbeatable mixture.
Without trouble, we instantly reached 2358 points in 3DMark 11, establishing the M14x on the same level as other notebooks sporting the GT 650M GPU. Once more, it is notable that the Schenker XMG A102's DDR3 version of this card is slightly ahead. The card used in the XMG A102 is clocked 13% higher than stock with a 835 MHz base and a 950 MHz turbo mode but has less than half of the memory bandwidth with its 900 MHz DDR3 VRAM compared to 1000 MHz GDDR5. We take this as an indication that the Kepler architecture has a particularly efficient memory bus.
|Dirt 3 (2011)||211||114.8||83.8||26.2||fps|
|Deus Ex Human Revolution (2011)||174.1||78.5||29.6||fps|
|F1 2011 (2011)||154||107||78||31.1||fps|
|Fifa 12 (2011)||424.2||237||208.9||136.9||fps|
|Anno 2070 (2011)||152||65||40.4||19.9||fps|
|Diablo III (2012)||165.5||93.4||62||45.4||fps|
|Dirt Showdown (2012)||107.9||88.8||56.2||18||fps|
With up to 50 dB(A) in games, the first version of the M14x was extremely loud, even by gaming notebook standards. This was one of the greatest criticisms in that test.
For this reason, we wanted to check the noise levels under load which regrettably have barely improved at all. Just seconds after the start of a more demanding 3D game, the fan starts to speed up to levels that break the 50dB(A) threshold in a matter of minutes. The average noise during a 3DMark 06 run was 45.2 dB(A), which while below the 2011 model, cannot be called quiet by any reasonable measure. We measured similar values for the XMG A102, but there the subjective experience appeared lower and more pleasant.
During idle, the fan turns off completely most of the time, reducing noise to the faint hiss of the hard drive (31.4 dB(A)). Depending on the surrounding temperature, a certain system load is required for the fans to spring into action at low speed. We did not observe the fans coming on for simple Office or Internet use.
|Idle|| 31.1 / 31.4 / 34.6 dB|
|HDD|| 31.4 dB|
|DVD|| 37.8 / dB|
|Load|| 45.2 / 50.6 dB|
min: , med: , max: Voltcraft SL-320 (15 cm distance)
|Maximum: 36.3 °C|
Average: 34.7 °C
|Maximum: 35.6 °C|
Average: 34.7 °C
Is this supposed to be a sub woofer? The truly tiny driver hiding behind the service hatch of the notebook does not look very promising at first, but this impression is misleading. As a 2.1 audio system, the three small speakers produce an impressive sound for a notebook. The bass, which is barely perceptible for most competitors, turned out surprisingly strong and makes it possible to enjoy movies or music with good quality audio without external speakers. When needed, a notablemaximum volume is possible without distortion.
For connection of external audio equipment, two 3.5mm connectors are present and able to drive even high quality high fidelity headphones like an AKG K701 without trouble.
With a minimum power draw of just 10.1 Watts, our test unit turned out to be frugal when compared to competing gaming notebooks of similar speed. Depending on display brightness and activated radios, idle consumption rises to 25.6 Watts which we would still call appropriate.
In games, the M14x allows itself an average of 82.1 Watts which is similar to the larger but nearly identically equipped One M73. The two Schenker models XMG A102 and A502 use almost 20 Watts less but their results look better due to their inactive CPU turbo modes.
The maximum draw we could finesse out of the notebook in the first seconds of running Prime95 and Furmark was 138.6 Watts. Shortly after, the aforementioned GPU throttling caused the power draw to drop to about 100 Watts. The beefy 150 Watt power supply has no problems with that, but does get pretty hot.
|Off / Standby||0.1 / 0.2 Watt|
|Idle|| 10.1 / 14.4 / 25.6 Watt|
|Load|| 82.1 / 138.6 Watt|
|Key: min: , med: , max: Voltcraft VC 940|
|Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)||5h 57min|
|Surfing with WLAN||4h 9min|
|Load (maximum brightness)||1h 06min|