Gigabyte P35X v5
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.