Sequels are difficult to make, especially when the original is so good. You’re always going to have people compare the follow-up to the first one and they may feel disappointed when expectations aren’t met. Often the audience expects the successor to be bigger and better.
That’s pretty much how I feel about the Alienware x14 R2, a direct follow-up to 2022’s Alienware x14. The new model is nearly identical to the old, albeit with notable hardware upgrades. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a good computer that’s sure to make anyone, especially gamers, happy. And it’s a lightweight machine sporting some impressive specs that you easily stuff into a backpack and take anywhere with you.
Alienware x14 RS Gaming Laptop
Talk about being at the right place at the right time. Dell’s Alienware x14 R2 gaming laptop melds optimal gaming performance and a slim form factor while maintaining a decent price.
Let’s start by going over what I really liked about the Alienware x14 R2. First off, the laptop performs exceptionally well. The review unit came equipped with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 graphics bolstered by 32GB of LPDDR5 RAM and a 13th Gen Intel i7-13620H processor. These hardware choices are on the higher end.
Customers do have the option to opt for a GeForce RTX 3050 or 4050 GPU as well as an Intel Core I5 CPU, 16GB of RAM is the other option.
As you can see, the Alienware x14 R2 can sport some serious muscle. Granted, the RTX 4060 isn’t a top-of-the-line graphics card, but it does get pretty close. All this power will absolutely shine through in graphics-intensive tasks like video editing and, of course, playing games.
For testing, I ran Final Fantasy 14, which looked phenomenal. Particle effects, character details, and lighting — everything looked great at their highest settings. Not once did I experience any drop in performance. It’s not the most intensive game out there for computers, but there is a reason why I’m mentioning it. I’ll get into that later.
Moving on, the Alienware x14 R2 is just as razor-thin as its predecessor. Measuring 0.57 inches tall when closed and weighing 4.22 lbs, this computer is one of the most lightweight, compact machines that I’ve ever used. Gaming laptops tend to be fairly bulky given all the hardware they come with, especially those heat sinks.
However, Dell has managed to find a way to incorporate it while still keeping a lightweight form factor. This design feat makes the x14 R2 just as applicable for non-gaming functions as it is for gaming.
Aside from these few upgrades, the Alienware x14 R2 is nearly identical to the older model. The keyboard still feels rather cramped since it has to make room for the mouse pad and the extra set of fans above the keys.
Speaking of which, even though the machine has two heat sinks, it still gets uncomfortably hot. I understand a laptop this thin sporting high-end hardware will naturally get toasty. I just wish the cooling fans it comes with did more.
Similar to the original computer, you get the same amount of ports: one USB-C for charging and DisplayPort output, two Thunderbolt 4 ports, a single USB-A input, HDMI input, plus a 3.5mm audio jack. The problem is that they’re still in the back.
This isn’t a big deal if you use wireless headphones. However, if you use wired headphones or earbuds with a short cord, you won’t be able to fully sit back. I’m someone who prefers using wired headphones and I had to sit pretty close to the screen.
The display is strangely one of the controversial aspects for me. It sports a 14-inch Quad HD Plus screen (2560 x 1600 pixels) outputting a refresh rate of 165Hz alongside a response time of 3ms. Not bad at all.
The problem lies in its size. At 14 inches diagonally, it’s quite small and because of that, it can make certain games more difficult to play like Final Fantasy 14. Games like it heavily utilize its user interface to house gameplay actions. On a bigger screen, you have plenty of room. On a 14-inch screen, you just don’t. So I would recommend playing titles that have relatively simple UIs.
ZDNET’s buying advice
Despite the complaints, I would still recommend getting the Alienware x14 R2 as a gaming laptop for one reason. From what I could find online, this machine is one of the few 14-inch laptops with an RTX 40-series GPU out there that isn’t ludicrously expensive.
Prices start at $1,499; the review unit I had cost $1,649. That is certainly a high price tag, but if you compare the x14 R2 to contemporaries like the 2023 version of Razer Blade 14, you’ll learn it’s shockingly one of the more affordable options.
Dell has managed to carve out an interesting niche for the Alienware x14 R2 by existing during a time when compact, yet powerful gaming laptops are far and few in between. Although it may face some fierce competition soon as Lenovo recently announced its 14-inch Legion Slim 5 gaming laptop. Spoiler alert: it also runs an RTX 4060.
If you don’t mind paying a little extra for performance, Alienware x14R2 is a good choice. Everything that made the original beloved by users, from the paper-thin form factor to multiple ports, is present. Although I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to wait for a price drop.