The good: Dell’s new Alienware 14 offers great performance, competitive prices, and quirky features such as a backlit touch pad.

The bad: The new design still feels dated, and it’s as thick as a few slim laptops stacked together. The fan is insanely loud.

The bottom line: Dell has revamped its gaming line, including the new Alienware 14. The design changes don’t go nearly far enough, but no complaints about the performance.

Some laptops have loud fans that kick in when performing high-end tasks that drive the CPU or GPU. Other laptops, such as the new Alienware 14, have fans so distractingly loud that you practically have to put on headphones (and crank them up) to escape it. That’s a shame, because this is an otherwise excellent semiportable gaming laptop, and probably the biggest shift in Alienware’s design direction in a few years.

Of course, this is Alienware. So even a significant shift, in this case, a new case design and a stripped-down name (the Alienware M14X, for example, becomes simply the Alienware 14), still looks and feels very Alienware-like, which is to say that it pretty much ignores any trends in laptop design over the past several years.

This is a thick, heavy laptop, with automotive-inspired grilles and all sorts of user-programmable hokey lights (although the backlit touch pad is cool). It’s literally as thick as two midsize laptops stacked on top of each other, and I can’t think of a 14-inch laptop this year (or last) that has come close to its size.

 

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

 

But the Alienware brand still has some magic left, and this may be the best system we’ve seen out of that shop since the late, lamented Alienware M11X. That’s partly because, despite first impressions, it is actually smaller and lighter than previous same-screen-size Alienware laptops, and the construction quality, with an emphasis on magnesium alloy and aluminum, feels great.