LAP­TOP GAM­ING JOY Y

Gi­ga­byte’s Cof­fee Lake ke thin-and-light re­fresh

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WHEN WE FIRST TESTED thin-and-light Max-Q gam­ing lap­tops last year, we had a clear fa­vorite: Gi­ga­byte’s Aero 15X-BK4. All the Max-Q lap­tops we’ve tested scored within a few per­cent­age points of each other, bench­marks-wise, but the Aero 15X stood apart thanks to its 5mm bezel, which al­lowed a 15.6-inch screen to fit in a 14-inch chas­sis. This made a world of dif­fer­ence when it came to the qual­ity that thin-an­d­light lap­tops value most: porta­bil­ity.

This year, Gi­ga­byte has up­dated and up­graded the Aero 15X, of­fi­cially called the Aero 15X v8-BK4, with sev­eral key fea­tures—most no­tably In­tel’s new mo­bile Cof­fee Lake CPU, the Core i7-8750H. This new CPU, which will be the back­bone of most gam­ing lap­tops this year, marks a huge CPU per­for­mance in­crease over the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion, mainly due to mov­ing from four to six cores, mak­ing it one of the best gam­ing lap­tops you can buy.

The i7-8750H’s ex­tra cores show front and cen­ter in CPU-in­ten­sive bench­marks such as Cinebench R15, re­turn­ing scores of 1,199 and 177 on the mul­ti­core and sin­glecore tests re­spec­tively, up from 750 and 164 on the i7-7700HQ in last year’s Aero 15X. PCMark 10 Ex­press and 3DMark: Fire Strike both ben­e­fited from the ad­di­tional com­put­ing power as well, in­creas­ing their scores by about 400 points each to 4,639 and 12,784 re­spec­tively.

De­spite the bet­ter per­for­mance in CPU-in­ten­sive tasks, in­ter­est­ingly the up­dated Aero 15X per­forms about 5–10 per­cent worse than its pre­de­ces­sor in gam­ing bench­marks. Riseof theTomb Raider’s three-part bench­mark av­er­age dropped from 94 to 80fps, while To­talWar: Warham­merII went from 57 to 54fps, and Ghost Re con: Wild lands fell from 45 to 41.

We’re not re­ally sure what to ac­count the per­for­mance dif­fer­ence to. It’s pos­si­ble the new sys­tem is held back slightly by the lower per-core clock speed of the i7-8750H. The other pos­si­bil­ity is the 2018 model has a sin­gle stick of 16GB RAM, whereas the 2017 model fea­tured dual-chan­nel 2x 8GB. Ei­ther way, while the per­for­mance drop is un­for­tu­nate, it’s rel­a­tively neg­li­gi­ble in the grand scheme of things—and can be re­cov­ered with a few set­tings tweaks— es­pe­cially when you con­sider the up­grades to the rest of the ma­chine.

Speak­ing of which, the 2018 Aero 15X fixes one of our big­gest gripes with last year’s sys­tem. The old model lacked antighost­ing on the key­board, which re­sulted in oc­ca­sional but ex­tremely frus­trat­ing dou­ble key­presses. The 2018 model fixes this. On another im­por­tant front, the 2018 model’s screen is up­graded from a 60Hz to a 144Hz dis­play—a ma­jor im­prove­ment.

De­sign-wise, the chas­sis re­mains largely un­changed. It still has the same 5mm-thin bezel that al­lows for a 15.6-inch screen in a 14-inch chas­sis, al­though that setup is slightly less ex­cit­ing now that most lap­tops of this gen­er­a­tion have fol­lowed suit. On that note, the Aero 15X’s pri­mary com­pe­ti­tion is MSI’s GS65 Stealth Thin and the new and up­dated Razer Blade. Com­pared to those two, the Aero 15X of­fers a slightly more pro­fes­sional look, though we pre­fer the GS65’s metal chas­sis to the plas­tic feel and sharp edges of the Aero 15X’s alu­minum shell.

It’s also slightly bet­ter suited for pro­fes­sional uses—that is, tot­ing to meet­ings. The GS65’s 82Wh bat­tery lasted about four and a half hours on our stream­ing video bat­tery test. The Aero 15X, on the other hand, sports a 94Wh bat­tery that lasted up­ward of six hours. One other key dif­fer­ence is that the Aero 15X of­fers a 4K panel op­tion—though we rec­om­mend stick­ing to the 1080p 144Hz panel if gam­ing is your pri­mary con­cern.

All told, this makes for a com­pelling al­ter­na­tive to the GS65, if you don’t mind the slightly more bru­tal­ist de­sign. The Aero 15X is a great lap­top, im­prov­ing in the most im­por­tant ways on our fa­vorite gam­ing lap­top of last year.

Gi­ga­byte Aero 15X V8-BK4

LEONIDAS Im­pres­sive form fac­tor; 144Hz screen; strong per­for­mance.

XERXES Price; slower than pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion in game.

$2,350, www.gi­ga­byte.com

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