Alienware M14x Gaming Laptop Review

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Battery Life

The Alienware M14x is a smaller-sized full-featured notebook and gaming machine that has a surprisingly tall order to fill.  With its quad-core Intel processor and 144 CUDA-core NVIDIA GeForce GT 555M GPU, the M14x packs a bunch of horsepower in a relatively small footprint., which means thermal and battery capacity challenges of course as well.  We fired up our usual run of BatteryEater Pro to stress test the system under a graphics and CPU workload but also added a much lower-powered test condition as well.

Battery Life Test
Heavy and Light Workloads

At the risk of looking like we're favoring the M14x here with a special test setup, we decided to give you an additional datapoint to consider in terms of battery life performance.  First, if you look at the results from our lower uptime recorded in the BatteryEater stress test, you'll note that the M14x falls about mid-pack with these similarly configured machines -- about in line with the midrange machines and slightly ahead of the high-end configured systems (though MainGear's larger, heavier battery configuration allowed it to excel).  Then, looking at the Reader and Web browsing test, where we run a script that scrolls through a text document while simultaneously hitting a web page in the background and refreshing every three minutes, you'll see that the variance is dramatic.  Alienware claims the 8-cell battery on board the M14x will last up to 6 hrs and that's right about what we saw under this non-graphics intensive test condition.

Update - 7/18/11 - A Note on NVIDIA Optimus Technology:
We should also point out that the Alienware M14x employs NVIDIA's Optimus switchable
graphics technology.  At this point, NVIDIA and Dell, in this case, have the software so dialed in with Optimus and the GeForce GT 555M GPU on board the M14x, that users don't have to consider settings much, if at all.  The technology just works.  If a game or 3D rendering application requires graphics horsepower, NVIDIA's discrete GPU will kick into gear.  If the application doesn't require it, NVIDIA's driver will intelligently shut down the GPU and allow Intel's integrated graphics core in the Core i7-2630QM to handle the workload for extended battery life.  Users can also manually set programs and applications to run in specific IGP or GPU-enabled modes, by selecting and option in NVIDIA's driver control panel.

So, in short, under moderate gaming workloads, you'll see about an hour of battery life untethered. While browsing the web and checking email, you'll realize Alienware's "up to 6 hr" claim.  And finally, we'd venture to say that watching HD video or a DVD on the machine will afford you untethered time somewhere in between, easily enough to watch a full-length movie.

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