Screen and Speakers
The M14x comes with your choice of either a 14.0" High Def (1366x768) display with WLED backlight or a 14.0" High Def+ (1600x900) display with WLED backlight. Both displays feature a highly reflective "edge to edge" glass covering which helps improve contrast and looks good in dark rooms but causes distracting reflections and glare under most indoor lighting or outside under sunlight. As you can see in the image to the right, a standard overhead light on the ceiling is enough to partially obscure what is on the screen thanks to the added glossy layer.
I suppose the designers at Dell think all Alienware customers live in their parents' basements with the lights turned off, and if that is the case then the reflective screen isn't a problem. Unfortunately, if you aren't a vampire and enjoy light then you'll probably be bothered by the reflective display at some point while gaming.
Our test configuration came with the 1600x900 resolution display. Color saturation appears somewhat weak at the default settings (looking ever so slightly pastel) but the colors can be adjusted. Viewing angles on this TN-type panel are fine side-to-side however the picture distorts when viewed off-angle vertically. Again, the glossy cover placed in front of that actual screen is even more reflective than a standard gloss-coated display; when shut off, it looks like a mirror.
The screen itself is not the problem with this 14-inch gaming rig: The problem is that damned glossy surface in front. Every single editor on our staff had problems with the reflections on the screen making it difficult to actually see what is on the screen at times if you have lights anywhere behind you or if you take the M14x outside. As a result, the screen is arguably the single WORST decision that Dell and Alienware made in the creation of this notebook.
On a much happier note, the M14x has some well-placed stereo speakers located on either side of the screen hinge just above the keyboard. Placing the speakers hear means that sound is pushed up and toward the user ... a massive improvement over downward-facing, lap-firing speakers on many modern laptops which suffer from muffled sound. Audio quality is generally good with some hint of bass coming from the speakers and no obvious distortion until you increase the volume to about 85-90 percent.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The M14x has a fairly traditionally-styled keyboard similar to the other Alienware notebooks. It has four-zone customizable LED backlighting via the AlienFX system lighting. The keys have a slight concave shape and a rubbery non-slip surface. Key travel is quite good and require only moderate actuation force (the amount of pressure it takes to depress a key); so resting hands won't push down the keys ... a good thing since gamers regularly rest their fingertips on the keys during game play.
There is some moderate flex towards the keyboard's center, however this does not affect typing feel. Overall the keyboard feels great and makes for a satisfying typing experience. As an added bonus, the keyboard is about as quiet as notebook keyboards come.
The large Synaptics touchpad is responsive and has an excellent matte non-slip surface. The edges are backlit - another part of the AlienFX lighting system. The two touchpad buttons have very good tactile feedback with soft, quite clicks when pressed. As usual, the team at Alienware did a fantastic job designing a keyboard and mouse that gamers can really use.
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