Gi­ga­byte P35X v5

Tech Advisor - - CONTENTS -

The ap­peal of Gi­ga­byte’s gam­ing lap­tops is that they get you the same sort of spec­i­fi­ca­tions as an Alien­ware ma­chine, but with much less bulk and none of the ju­ve­nile look. They’re gam­ing lap­tops for grown-ups. It’s the scal­ing down of di­men­sions that we re­ally value, but we’ll leave the style judge­ments to your own eyes.

The P35X v5 may not look as fancy as an Ul­tra­book, but it is still ex­pen­sive. Prices for the en­try-level model start at £1,399. Our re­view unit is the top-of-the-range op­tion, which will set you back £1,799.

De­sign

The P35X v5’s de­sign is not go­ing to get too many peo­ple ex­cited. It’s a bland all-black shell that doesn’t have the macro but­ton col­umn of the 17in P37X, the one give­away that this is a gam­ing lap­top. On the pos­i­tive side, this means you can take it any­where with­out at­tract­ing too much at­ten­tion.

From our images you could be­lieve the P35X v5 has an allplas­tic de­sign, but the lid and key­board sur­round are coated in metal to give that cool, ex­pen­sive feel alu­minium pro­vides so well. Let’s not over­state things, though. While the min­i­mal de­sign ap­proach of this lap­top has some ap­peal, it has none of the spe­cific style of the more bolder, brasher ma­chines. We par­tic­u­larly dis­like the thick bezels around the screen, which make it look dated rather than mod­ern.

A gam­ing lap­top with a gen­uinely nice, sober look is the Dell XPS 15 (re­viewed last month), although it can’t touch the P35X v5 for per­for­mance. As Dell owns Alien­ware, it can’t let the XPS se­ries get too pow­er­ful.

While the look only gets a vague grunt of ap­proval, the P35X v5’s di­men­sions are far more use­ful. At 2.26kg and 20mm thick, it’s a lot thin­ner and lighter than the ma­jor­ity of lap­tops with GPUs this ca­pa­ble.

We’ve been us­ing the P35X as a por­ta­ble work lap­top, and while it won’t do the job as an ev­ery­day rov­ing ma­chine (it’s just too heavy), for oc­ca­sional por­ta­ble work it’s among the best gam­ing ma­chines around. The real sur­prise is that bat­tery life sup­ports this, too.

Bat­tery life

The P35X v5 ap­pears to have the same-size bat­tery cell as Gi­ga­byte’s 17in ver­sion, and with very light ‘work’ use it will last for a se­ri­ously im­pres­sive six and a half to seven hours. This was a real-life test, though, us­ing the lap­top pri­mar­ily for writ­ing with the back­light at around 20 per­cent. This is all that’s needed in dingier pubs or cafes.

Stamina falls much closer to ex­pected lev­els when you ask the P35X v5 to do much more. In the PCMark 8 bat­tery bench­mark it lasted just three hours 31 min­utes, sug­gest­ing the GTX 980M GPU was kick­ing in at cer­tain points. Ul­tra­light use shows how scal­able the lat­est gen­er­a­tion of In­tel Sky­lake CPUs is, though. Im­pres­sive stuff.

Up­ping the bright­ness to 120cd/m2 and play­ing a video on loop, the P35X v5 lasted five hours 25 min­utes. This is a good re­sult for a gam­ing lap­top, although we’re see­ing gen­er­a­tional im­prove­ments across the board this year, thanks to the up­grade to In­tel Sky­lake CPUs.

While the min­i­mal de­sign ap­proach of this lap­top has some ap­peal, it has none of the spe­cific style of the more bolder, brasher ma­chines

Con­nec­tiv­ity

The bat­tery doesn’t take up much more space as the P35X v5 still

has space to fit in the se­ries-sta­ple hot swap drive bay. It comes with a multi-writer op­ti­cal drive as stan­dard, but us­ing a lit­tle slider on the ma­chine’s un­der­side you can pull out the whole bay to swap it for a 2.5in HDD or SSD. Or leave it empty to shave off 100g or so.

We don’t have much use for op­ti­cal drives th­ese days, but start­ing with this in­stead of an SSD prob­a­bly keeps the price down.

Along the sides you get a good ar­ray of con­nec­tions, with more video con­nec­tors than you’d get in a more style-driven lap­top. There are HDMI, VGA and Mini Dis­playPort con­nec­tors, and the HDMI is a 2.0 socket, en­abling 60 frames per sec­ond rates at 4K.

As well as th­ese you get three USB 3.0 ports, one USB-C socket, an SD card slot and Gi­ga­bit Eth­er­net. There are also sep­a­rate 3.5mm jacks for mic and head­phones. .

Key­board and track­pad

One of the first weaker points of the P35X v5 is the key­board/touch­pad combo. Each is fine, but noth­ing more. The key ac­tion is shal­low and ‘one note’, and was a very ob­vi­ous down­grade com­ing from us­ing the Dell XPS 15 re­cently.

With chunkier gam­ing ma­chines such as the Asus RoG G552 (re­viewed last month), you get much deeper, smoother key re­sponse. For such an ex­pen­sive ma­chine, the key­board feels a lit­tle flimsy, though you’ll soon get used to it.

The track­pad is well built, with a lovely smooth sur­face of the per­fect fric­tion level, the but­ton ac­tion ends on a stodgy note af­ter the click. And its po­si­tion means you need to bring your right hand up close to your left to com­fort­ably reach the left but­ton.

As the lap­top has a num­ber­pad, the ac­tual lay­out of the touch­pad rel­a­tive to the dis­play is much closer to that of a 13in lap­top, and nei­ther is cen­trally lo­cated rel­a­tive to the screen. That’s right, the num­ber­pad causes a com­fort is­sue.

This is a touch­pad that seems de­signed with the idea it won’t be used all the time – you’ll use a mouse for gam­ing, in other words. It’s a shame as the sur­face is large and the top tex­ture is spot on.

Per­for­mance

Max­i­mum per­for­mance in a small frame is the top pri­or­ity here, and sure enough the P35X v5 pro­vides it. Our re­view unit has an In­tel Core i7-6700HQ CPU, a quad-core chipset clocked at 2.6GHz, with a turbo boost up to 3.5GHz and 6MB cache.

This is the same chipset used in most of the Alien­ware 15 mod­els, and sev­eral other key ri­vals. As we saw with the sur­pris­ing low-de­mand bat­tery stamina, even in this more juice-happy end of the In­tel Core range, ef­fi­ciency is im­pres­sive. This is likely in part down to the move to a 14nm ar­chi­tec­ture. Its tran­sis­tors are smart­phone-grade tiny.

The CPU is matched with an nVidia GeForce GTX980M 8GB GPU, cur­rently the most pow­er­ful sin­gle lap­top card avail­able. As of early 2016 at least, this is the lap­top GPU to de­sire.

In the 3D Mark Fire Strike bench­mark, it scored 8249 points, which is sim­i­lar to the Alien­ware 17 we looked at last month, which has the same GPU and CPU. In PCMark 8 it scored 3230, while in Geek­bench 3 we recorded 10636. Other spec­i­fi­ca­tions in our

As we saw with the sur­pris­ing low-de­mand bat­tery stamina, even in this more juice-happy end of the In­tel Core range, ef­fi­ciency is im­pres­sive

re­view model in­clude 16GB of DDR4 RAM, a 1TB 7200rpm hard drive and 256GB SSD. This is a per­fect stor­age setup for many, let­ting you in­stall a few ‘pri­or­ity’ games and the op­er­at­ing sys­tem on the SSD, while leav­ing plenty of slower HDD per­for­mance for things that don’t need ul­tra-fast read/write speeds.

To give you an idea of the per­for­mance of th­ese two drives, us­ing Crys­talDiskMark we recorded max 2188MB/s read speed and max 1280MB/s write speed on the SSD. Th­ese are fan­tas­tic re­sults, show­ing Gi­ga­byte is us­ing a fast, re­cent drive.

The hard drive is, of course, a to­tally dif­fer­ent beast, read­ing up to 138MB/s and writ­ing at 129MB/s. It’s a bog-stan­dard 7200rpm HDD, not one with any sort of fast solid state cache to speed it up. As the sys­tem doesn’t re­ally rely on this drive, it doesn’t need one, though.

This is a pretty ter­rific lap­top for per­for­mance. It’ll let you play any game at 1080p with all the set­tings maxed-out and still get you good frame rates. With The Witcher 3, for ex­am­ple, you can hap­pily use the ridicu­lously GPU-sap­ping nVidia Hair­works, which pro­vides you with ad­vanced hair physics.

The one slight sour note is that the Gi­ga­byte P35X v5’s amaz­ing GPU is not new. It was used in the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion of P35Xs, though the price hasn’t come down. One con­ces­sion is that it is the 8GB ver­sion, although it’s pop­ping up reg­u­larly in top-end gam­ing lap­tops this year.

One of the is­sues with us­ing a rel­a­tively pe­tite frame is that the fans have to work harder to keep the tem­per­a­ture down. Vir­tu­ally all lap­tops us­ing this class of CPU need to keep their fans run­ning all the time dur­ing op­er­a­tion, but here they’re ob­vi­ous. In a quiet room you may find them dis­tract­ing, although they’ll be drowned out by am­bi­ent noise if you’re out and about.

The noise scales up, once again louder than most ri­vals, as the sys­tem is put un­der in­creas­ing strain. Next to the Alien­ware 17 we re­viewed re­cently, it’s pretty noisy. This is cer­tainly one of the main rea­sons not to con­sider the Gi­ga­byte P35X. Not car­ing about a bit of fan noise is per­fectly fine too, though.

From noise to au­dio, sit­ting the Gi­ga­byte P35X next to our usual MacBook Pro 13 work­horse, its speak­ers are louder. In­deed, they are louder than av­er­age. There’s a good bit of bulk to the sound too, with­out re­sult­ing in a muddy or clouded sound sig­na­ture.

There is a slight lack of re­straint, though. At full vol­ume, you can hear some mid-range dis­tor­tion in fuller tracks. To be clear, we don’t mean out­right speaker crackle, the sound just be­comes a lit­tle ugly.

Dis­play

The Gi­ga­byte P35X v5 comes with a 4K IPS dis­play op­tion, and that’s whether you go for the W (GTX 970M GPU) or ‘X’ se­ries (GTX 980M GPU). Our re­view unit, how­ever, came with the stan­dard 1080p edi­tion. It’s a good dis­play, of­fer­ing full sRGB colour gamut cov­er­age, re­spectable 300cd/m2 max­i­mum bright­ness, fair con­trast and a prac­ti­cal matt fin­ish.

For a bit more de­tail, it of­fers 100 per­cent sRGB cov­er­age and 69 per­cent Adobe RGB. You can ex­pect the 4K ver­sion to cover sig­nif­i­cantly more of Adobe RGB. It seems to be the case for most of th­ese 1080p/4K splits, and Gi­ga­byte even boasts about the 4K edi­tion’s ‘wide gamut’ cov­er­age.

Still, the 1080p’s colours look good, with very tight cal­i­bra­tion re­sult­ing in an av­er­age Delta E of just 0.15 (0.86 max). For a pure gam­ing ma­chine, 1080p is a per­fectly good res­o­lu­tion to stick with, of­fer­ing the best bal­ance of graph­i­cal fidelity and frame rate, though a 4K screen will make Win­dows 10 look nice and sharp.

Ver­dict

This is a pretty lap­top for per­for­mance. It’ll let you play any game at 1080p with all the set­tings maxed-out and still get you good frame rates

As In­tel’s CPUs let even gam­ing beasts such as the Gi­ga­byte P35X v5 creep into bat­tery life ter­ri­tory that al­most makes them vi­able as rov­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity ma­chines, ev­ery bit of ex­tra porta­bil­ity be­comes more valu­able. Sure enough, this is one of the most por­ta­ble ma­chines to fea­ture a GTX 980M graph­ics card. The prob­lem is that if be­ing able to lug the P35X v5 around con­ve­niently isn’t a ma­jor con­cern, this still wouldn’t be our top pick. Per­for­mance is great, the screen is fine and there are plenty of con­nec­tions. But noisy fans and bet­ter touch­pad/key­board com­bos avail­able from Alien­ware and Asus make it drop down our most-wanted list a lit­tle way. Still, if porta­bil­ity and sober looks ap­peal, it de­serves a place on your short­list.

An­drew Wil­liams

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