High-performance gaming laptops are getting smaller. The reason? Skinnier and, crucially, more power efficient chips. Even manufacturers such as Gigabyte, a firm whose gaming laptops have in the past been, to put it kindly, more hulking than svelte, have begun to slim things down a notch. The firm’s box-fresh Aero 15 laptop is one of the new breed, and it’s a superb performer.
It’s a radical departure from the last Gigabyte laptop I reviewed. Last year’s Gigabyte P55W v5 may well have been powerful, but it was unsightly and hefty. It impressed, sure, but its huge weight was a drag. This year’s Aero 15 is no such device, and I’m more than impressed.
Gigabyte Aero 15 review: Tl;dr
In short, the Aero 15 is a lightweight 15in Windows notebook and it packs one hell of a punch. It’s Gigabyte’s no holds barred approach to gaming laptops, and the de facto flagship of its 2017 range.
It isn’t cheap, but with top-of-the-line internals, a Full HD display and better than average battery life, the Aero 15 is a worthy contender for the best gaming laptop you can buy in 2017. That, and it should be a worthwhile investment for years to come, too.
Gigabyte Aero 15 review: Price and competition
The sticking point – as ever with these things – is the price. For just shy of £1,900, Gigabyte’s 2017 offering isn’t one for gamers on a budget. It may not come close to the absurdity of Acer’s $9,000 Predator 21X, with its dual GTX 1080 graphics chips and ludicrous 21in curved screen, but this is still a fair chunk of cash to splurge on any laptop.
The Aero 15’s biggest competition comes from Razer with its Blade flagship, and it’ll be hard for Gigabyte to make a decent impression here. It’s a firm well-known for gaming, and the entry-level Kaby Lake Blade with a GTX 1060 is almost £100 cheaper, so this may be a tricky sell. Oh, and there’s Scan’s own 3XS Carbon G-Sync to contend with too, with the fastest gaming performance we’ve seen thus far.
Gigabyte Aero 15 review: Performance and battery life
Regardless, the Aero 15’s internals are most impressive. Everything here is all up to snuff, with the latest seventh-generation Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor clocked at 2.8GHz running the show, backed up by 16GB of DDR4 RAM and a 512GB PCIe M.2 SSD. Oh, and the important bit? There’s a 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card buried within.
As you’d expect, performance is exemplary. In fact, the Aero 15 was all but unbeaten across all our tests and it’s down to a photo finish with our long-standing winner: Scan’s custom 3XS Carbon G-Sync. Scoring an imposing 128 in our demanding 4K benchmarks, the Gigabyte is the best we’ve seen on a device this slim. Razer’s Kaby Lake Blade refresh wasn’t too far behind at 127.
Gaming performance is no laughing matter, either. Metro: Last Light – a game notorious for its demanding test – ran at a silky smooth 86fps on the Ultra preset at Full HD resolution with SSAO turned off. That’s not bad at all and as you’d expect older, less-demanding games such as Dirt: Showdown, ran flawlessly.
For a device of this stature, battery life is usually the big downfall. Even the relatively slim Razer Blade struggled to breach the three-hour boundary when unplugged from the mains. The Aero 15 squeezed enough juice out of its battery to last 7hrs 17mins.
It’s worth noting this is a relatively undemanding test, and that gaming on the go will hit battery life hard, but with conservative use you’ll just about eke out a full workday without needing to recharge and it means you could conceivably use the Gigabyte as your everyday laptop as well as the one you use for entertainment.
Gigabyte Aero 15 review: Design
Design-wise, Gigabyte is a cracker. With an all-black finish aside from either green, black or orange lids, the Aero 15 is bit of a show-off. And you’ll be flaunting it often, too, as it only weighs 2.1Kg. It may not be ideal for the morning commute, but at least you won’t be tied to your desk.
And despite its 19.9mm frame, there’s a decent selection of ports. On the left edge, you’ll spot an Ethernet port, a solitary USB 3 port, a mini DisplayPort and HDMI 2 video output. On the right, there are two more USB 3 ports, one USB Type-C and a full-size SD card slot.
Oh, and Gigabyte has taken a leaf out of Dell’s book slimming the bezels around the edge of the display to a mere 5mm, which helps keep the overall dimensions down to a remarkably palatable degree. Essentially, you’re getting a big 15.6in screen crammed into a chassis the size of your typical 14in laptop and that’s a wonderful thing.
Gigabyte Aero 15 review: Display
Intriguingly, the Aero 15’s 15.6in Full HD display is X-Rite Pantone certified. Gigabyte is a touch quiet on what this means precisely, but we should get accurate colours straight out of the box with no calibration required. For the most part, it’s clear Gigabyte has given its display plenty of attention.
Now, colours did lack in a little vibrancy – with sRGB colour gamut levels sitting at 84.2%. That’s not quite to downplay how good this matte display is, though, producing some notably detail-rich images. An average Delta E of 2.18 isn’t too shabby either, with some reasonably accurate colours straight out of the box. That, and a contrast ratio of 1,248:1 makes for a display that’s very easy on the eyes.
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If you’re looking at venturing beyond Full HD, a UHD (3,840 x 2,160) configuration is expected to launch sometime later in the year, although official pricing is currently unknown. If Razer’s spec is anything to go by, expect a significant price bump; I’d also expect poorer battery life.
Gigabyte Aero 15 review: Keyboard and touchpad
The keyboard is spot on. It’s just what you want when you’re strafing left and right in your shooters: wonderfully tactile, with oodles of satisfying feedback. Another feature I wish more laptops had is the ability to cycle through different fan speeds by simply pressing Fn + Esc. Plus, as is the case with most notebooks these days, its RGB backlighting is fully customisable.
The touchpad, which sits just below and to the right of the spacebar, isn’t quite so noteworthy. Its matte black surface may feel nice on the finger, but it isn’t Microsoft certified and as such, can’t be used for multi-touch gestures. If you’re used to switching between windows with just a swipe of a few fingers, this’ll be a real pain.
Gigabyte Aero 15 review: Verdict
Gigabyte’s latest offering is a seriously impressive laptop. Everything’s top of the range here, with first-class performance and a superb display, plus a compact, lightweight chassis that means it can double as your day-to-day laptop as well as your go to gaming notebook.
The Aero 15 is a viable alternative to the Razer Blade and while it may not have the MacBook-like looks of that laptop, better battery life means the Gigabyte is a touch more practical. That’s why it takes over as our favourite gaming portable.