Gi­ga­byte Aero 15X v8

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Tech Advisor - - Contents - An­drew Williams

The Gi­ga­byte Aero 15X is the most pow­er­ful gam­ing lap­top we’ve tested. Sure, this is only be­cause it’s the first to use one of In­tel’s new 8th-gen­er­a­tion Core i7 lap­top pro­ces­sors, but it is rea­son for ex­cite­ment nev­er­the­less. It also fits in­cred­i­ble gam­ing per­for­mance into a frame slim and light enough to carry around.

The 15X doesn’t have the style of a Dell XPS 15 or MacBook Pro 15, or the key­board cus­tomiza­tion of a Razer. But the screen is fan­tas­tic, the hard­ware pow­er­ful and gam­ing per­for­mance ter­rific for the weight.

Price

As one of the first gam­ing lap­tops with an 8thgen­er­a­tion In­tel CPU, it’s tricky to gauge the Gi­ga­byte Aero 15X’s price in con­text. How­ever, we do know it’s not cheap, with the en­try-level model cost­ing £1,999.

We reviewed the top-end ver­sion of the lap­top, with a 4K/UHD screen and GeForce GTX 1070 Maxi-Q graph­ics card, which costs £2,399. Drop down to 1080p dis­play res­o­lu­tion and you pay £2,199.

With the 1080p, GTX 1060 CPU at £1,999, we ex­pect it to be some­what less ex­pen­sive than the com­pa­ra­ble lap­tops from top brands like Alien­ware. How­ever, as with any per­for­mance ma­chine like this, you have to swal­low the idea you could build a much more pow­er­ful desk­top for the same money.

De­sign

This is not the first Aero 15X we’ve tested. Last year Gi­ga­byte re­leased a ver­sion with a sim­i­lar graph­ics card, but an older pro­ces­sor and less im­pres­sive screen. The in­sides have changed,he cas­ing not so much.

It’s an an­gu­lar 15in lap­top that’s sig­nif­i­cantly thin­ner and lighter than most high-end gam­ing sys­tems. It weighs 2kg and is 20mm thick. Th­ese aren’t the sort of di­men­sions we look for in a com­puter to carry around, but it’s im­pres­sive con­sid­er­ing the gam­ing power in­side. It’s only around 200g heav­ier than a 15in MacBook Pro, and around 5mm thicker. It’s rad­i­cally more por­ta­ble than an Alien­ware 15, for ex­am­ple, which weighs 3.5kg and is 25mm thick.

If you’re just look­ing for a lap­top to use at home, we wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily sug­gest you look at the Gi­ga­byte

15X first. There are trade-offs to gam­ing lap­tops this slim, but if you want to take it out and about with you, this is a great choice.

The 15X is also less of a con­spic­u­ous gamer’s ma­chine than much of the com­pe­ti­tion. Its key­board let­ter­ing does look like it’s been in­spired by The Ma­trix, but there are no colour­ful slashes on the lid, no LEDs across its sides and no gi­ant ag­gres­sive-look­ing heat out­lets. It’s only the key­board font and the car­bon fi­bre fin­ish on part of the lid that add a lit­tle gamer flair.

We like this more sub­dued style, al­though we’re in the area of pure per­sonal pref­er­ence. And we do also like the smoother style of the Razer Blade a lit­tle more.

There are a lot of se­vere an­gles in the 15X. The edge of the key­board is rel­a­tively sharp, the sides of the lap­top are almost cor­ru­gated for a slight in­dus­trial look, and per­haps bet­ter strength.

The build is very good – the lid, the key­board sur­round and the lower panel are all alu­minium al­though it doesn’t feel overtly so. A lot of top-end gam­ing lap­tops use plas­tic for all sur­faces but the lid. Here you get closer to the feel of a pre­mium non-gamer model where parts flex sig­nif­i­cantly less un­der fin­ger pres­sure: al­ways a good sign.

Con­nec­tiv­ity and au­dio

Most lap­tops in the ‘thin and light’ class are shift­ing over to us­ing USB-C con­nec­tors. The 15X, thank­fully, has not. It has a wide ar­ray of con­nec­tors. There are three full-size USBs and one USB-C with Thun­der­bolt 3. For video there’s a Dis­playPort and full-size HDMI. You also get a full-size Eth­er­net RJ-45 and an SD slot.

That we used the term ‘full-size’ three times there tells you how lit­tle Gi­ga­byte has com­pro­mised to make the 15X slim­mer. This con­nec­tion ar­ray is ex­actly what we want in a por­ta­ble gam­ing lap­top. You don’t need a set of adap­tors, nor do you need a dock.

Other things to note in­clude the way the slim dis­play bezels push the we­b­cam un­der­neath by the hinge, mak­ing its an­gle some­what awk­ward.

The speak­ers are not par­tic­u­larly good ei­ther. Top vol­ume is con­ser­va­tive, there’s no bass and tre­ble is tame. They don’t sound ugly, but you wouldn’t want to use them reg­u­larly for gam­ing.

Key­board and track­pad

The 15X has one of the smoothest track­pads of any lap­top. It feels sim­i­lar to those of Dell’s ex­cel­lent XPS mod­els. Its sur­face is tex­tured glass, and the smooth­ness comes from us­ing a much finer tex­ture. This is a good pad for gen­eral pro­duc­tiv­ity work, al­though we’re not huge fans of its but­ton zon­ing. For a while

you’ll prob­a­bly ac­ci­den­tally right-click when you mean to use the left but­ton. It’s not as good for gam­ing as it is for gen­eral jobs, as sep­a­rate but­tons work bet­ter.

How­ever, as with any se­ri­ous lap­top built for games, you will almost cer­tainly plug in a mouse for longer ses­sions. There are cur­rently a few is­sues with the pad driver too, as it has a habit of freez­ing mo­men­tar­ily ev­ery now and then.

The key­board is very good, with meatier key re­sis­tance and longer travel than most of this size. It’s a welcome up­grade from the shal­low and light feel of the av­er­age ul­tra­portable lap­top. It may take a few days to get used to the way the key­board is shifted slightly left of cen­tre to fit in the num­ber­pad, which is one rea­son the 15in MacBook Pro doesn’t have one. How­ever, if you’re a se­ri­ous gamer you‘ll want a num­ber­pad.

As you can see, the 15X’s key­board is back­lit, and able to dis­play 16.8 million colours: just about any tone

you like. All colours look ‘true’, where some mul­ti­colour back­light LEDs tend to strug­gle to make whites ac­tu­ally ap­pear white. Un­for­tu­nately, Gi­ga­byte’s key­board cus­tomiza­tion soft­ware is not the best. While there’s per-key light­ing, you can’t set it per key, or even use zones. You have a large choice of an­i­mated pre­sets, some of which will give you a headache, or a sin­gle colour across the key­board. This didn’t put us off as we like a one-colour back­light, but it may dis­ap­point those who like to go to town with the light­ing.

Dis­play

The Gi­ga­byte Aero 15X we reviewed last year had a very solid dis­play with good colour and con­trast. This 2018 model makes sig­nif­i­cant up­grades bring­ing it much closer to a pro-level screen.

It’s 15.6 inches across and uses an LCD panel, which is stan­dard stuff, but its colour and con­trast are ex­cel­lent. It cov­ers 99.8 per­cent of sRGB, 96.5 per­cent of Adobe RGB and 86.4 per­cent of DCI P3.

When we also in­clude the tones ren­dered out­side of th­ese gamuts, those fig­ures rise to 143.3 per­cent (sRGB), 98.8 per­cent (Adobe RGB) and 101.6 per­cent (DCI P3). Th­ese are ex­cep­tional scores. The 15X’s colour depth is far bet­ter than the vast ma­jor­ity of lap­tops at any price. Colour ac­cu­racy is also much higher than av­er­age among ul­tra-pre­mium lap­tops.

We’re glad that Gi­ga­byte has also reined this in, though. Win­dows 10 run­ning at this full colour depth can look sickly. As stan­dard, the 15X uses a Pan­tone colour mode that has the warm look you get with a pro­fes­sion­ally cal­i­brated dis­play, and prop­erly

con­trolled colour. Con­trast is ex­cel­lent too at 1524:1. You won’t find much bet­ter than this in a lap­top with an LCD screen.

Max­i­mum bright­ness is 387cd/m2, which is great and far more than you’ll need in­doors. As the lap­top has a matte screen, it’ll even hold up well out­side. The screen’s sur­faces dif­fuses re­flec­tions.

The area around the screen is worth not­ing, too. Like Dell’s XPS 15, there’s barely any screen bor­der, apart from be­low it. It’s not a touch­screen, but that’s not ex­pected for a gam­ing lap­top.

As we men­tioned at the start of this re­view, we’re re­view­ing the top-end 4K ver­sion of the 15X, so you likely won’t get this stan­dard-set­ting per­for­mance from the 1080p ver­sion. It is also worth re­mem­ber­ing that while this is a very pow­er­ful lap­top, it doesn’t have

enough power to play the most de­mand­ing games at 4K res­o­lu­tion.

As for crit­i­cisms, the only an­noy­ance we’ve no­ticed is that the 15X switches briefly, and awk­wardly, be­tween its na­tive colour mode and the cal­i­brated Pan­tone one on boot-up. Much like the key­board, it’s the Gi­ga­byte soft­ware that lets the 15X down, if only in a small way.

Per­for­mance

This is the first gam­ing lap­top we’ve reviewed to have one of In­tel’s Core i7-8750H CPUs. This is part of the Cof­fee Lake-gen­er­a­tion of pro­ces­sors. It has six cores, where un­til now most top-end gam­ing lap­tops used the last-gen­er­a­tion quad-core In­tel Core i7-7700HQ CPU.

Is there a huge dif­fer­ence? Here’s where it gets a bit com­pli­cated. Since we reviewed the 2017 15X there has been a hit to lap­top pro­ces­sors caused by up­dates de­signed to com­bat the Spec­tre and Melt­down in­se­cu­ri­ties. That said, we’ve not seen a huge change in the bench­marks re­sults of our re­views.

The new 15X scores 16,976 points (4814 sin­gle-core) in Geek­bench 4, com­pared to the 14,502 (4353) of last year’s Aero. That’s a healthy up­grade, if not a 50 per­cent im­prove­ment.

In PCMark 10, the lap­top scores 4,274 points, which is ac­tu­ally lower than we saw in last year’s ver­sion. How­ever, that lap­top’s score was a some­what anoma­lous re­sult. More re­cently we reviewed the Asus RoG Strix GL703VM (with Core i7-7700HQ) lap­top, which scores a closer 4,390 points.

We don’t see the kind of rad­i­cal gains of In­tel’s U-se­ries pro­ces­sors in this lat­est gen­er­a­tional up­grade.

Those chips are de­signed for slim and light lap­tops. How­ever, Geek­bench 4 sug­gests there is a real up­grade in raw per­for­mance.

There is no big change in gam­ing per­for­mance, how­ever, as the 15X uses the Nvidia Max-Q GTX 1070 we’ve seen be­fore.

This is a ver­sion of the GTX 1070 card de­signed for slim­mer lap­tops that don’t have room to fit in large, advanced cool­ing sys­tems. Un­like the ‘full’ lap­top ver­sion of the GTX 1070, the Max-Q ver­sion doesn’t get that close to the per­for­mance of the desk­top 1070, but it is still ter­rific for such a com­pact ma­chine.

Deux Ex: Mankind Di­vided runs at an av­er­age 53.4fps at 1080p, Ul­tra set­tings, and 109fps at 720p, low set­tings. You can’t max ev­ery­thing out in a high-end game like this and still get rock-solid 60fps, but you can get close. At 4K res­o­lu­tion, Ul­tra set­tings, the 19.7fps av­er­age is far too slow for our lik­ing. You could fid­dle around at res­o­lu­tions be­tween 1080p and 4K, though.

Some games do run fine at 4K. Alien: Iso­la­tion, for ex­am­ple, av­er­ages a very good 56fps at this res­o­lu­tion. At 1080p, it av­er­ages 175fps and a ridicu­lous 213fps at 720p, low set­tings.

The 15X is a great gam­ing lap­top, al­though we did see very sim­i­lar re­sults from last year’s model, which had the same GPU.

Even with the Max-Q GPU, quite a lot of heat is cre­ated when gam­ing. To get rid of this the 15X uses a combo of wider and nar­row di­am­e­ter fans. You can hear this duo tone as they rev up, the smaller fans cre­at­ing a higher-pitch noise. You can let the lap­top judge the fan speed it­self, or max it out us­ing a key­board

short­cut, which might work well if you wear a head­set or head­phones. When gam­ing the 15X is rea­son­ably loud, but does not have the an­noy­ing whine of some thin­ner lap­tops that use smaller fans.

Heat bleed­ing into the key­board is the is­sue you can’t get rid of com­pletely. How­ever, the parts you touch never get hot, just warm. And we’ve seen some key­board heat up in all the Max-Q lap­tops we’ve tried.

The fans run no mat­ter what you’re do­ing, even writ­ing a doc­u­ment. How­ever, they’re very quiet when run­ning low and we didn’t no­tice any an­noy­ing coil whine noise.

Bat­tery life

A sticker on the Gi­ga­byte Aero 15X claims it has an “all-day bat­tery”, and we hoped this would prove true. The previous model trucked on for an ex­cel­lent nine hours, 55 min­utes.

This model doesn’t last any­where near as long. Play­ing a looped video at 120cd/m2 bright­ness, the Gi­ga­byte Aero 15X only lasts three hours, 55 min­utes. That’s six hours less than the old model.

It makes us won­der whether our re­view model doesn’t have the 94Wh bat­tery Gi­ga­byte ad­ver­tises for this new range. Even the GTX 1070 and a bump to 4K screen res­o­lu­tion shouldn’t drain the bat­tery this much.

Ver­dict

The Gi­ga­byte Aero 15X is a tremen­dous gam­ing lap­top for those who want some­thing they can carry around the house eas­ily or take around to use as a day-to-day lap­top. Its 4K screen is fan­tas­tic, while the build qual­ity is good as it has per­fect per­for­mance for 1080p gam­ing. It’ll even han­dle some ti­tles at 4K res­o­lu­tion. Our one sig­nif­i­cant dis­ap­point­ment is that

its bat­tery life is nowhere near as long as last year’s model ac­cord­ing to our tests.

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