Gigabyte P34G v2 review
14 in 1,920x1,080 display, 1.7kg, 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-4700HQ, 8.00GB RAM, 128GB disk, Windows 8.1
Most gaming laptops are hulking desktop replacement systems, convenient if you want to move from room to room, but too big and heavy to travel with. The Gigabyte P34G v2 breaks the mould. It weighs just 1.7kg, but is equipped with an Intel Core i7 processor and dedicated Nvidia GPU that'll play the latest 3D games without any fuss. It also has a dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi adaptor, so you can use it to achieve wireless speeds close to that of a wired 10/100 Ethernet connection if you have a compatible router. This is particularly important for those keen on their online games.
The P34 isn't very attractive, particularly when open. This is largely due to the laptop's awkwardly angular silver body. The matt lid and bottom improve matters when the laptop is shut, at least. While there's plenty of room on the wrist rest and the centrally positioned touchpad is pleasingly symmetrical, we weren't too keen on the loose and rattly feel of the flat, widely spaced keys. However, we were able to type rapidly and accurately once we'd spent a few minutes getting used to their positioning and feel.
The touchpad and its buttons are functional, if not astonishingly responsive, and it's a little too easy to accidentally brush the touchpad with the edge of your palm when typing or using the WASD keys for gaming. You'll most likely want to disable the pad and use a USB mouse, and probably an external keyboard as well, when playing games.
In our standard laptop gaming graphics test, which involves running Dirt Showdown at a resolution of 1,280x720 with 4x anti-aliasing and High quality settings, the laptop managed a blistering 92.2fps. Since that test wasn't stretching the laptop, we also ran our desktop PC gaming tests. In Dirt Showdown at Ultra quality and a resolution of 1,920x1,080, we saw a frame rate of 41.8fps. That's better than many desktop PCs manage. We were even more impressed when the laptop managed a fairly playable frame rate of 29fps in Crysis 3 at 1,920x1,080 and High quality settings. However, we'd recommend dropping the quality to Medium to ensure smoother gameplay, as the minimum frame rate at High settings dropped to a jerky 21fps at times.
When the graphics processor is working hard, the laptop is incredibly noisy, due to the high-pitched whirring of its fans. The area to the rear of the keyboard becomes very warm and the laptop draws a huge 92W of power under load. However, when you're just using normal desktop applications rather than gaming, the laptop remains cool, quiet and pulls an unremarkable 14W, aided by it switching automatically from dedicated to on-chip graphics when 3D power isn’t needed.
Although the laptop's graphics capabilities are its crowning glory, it's also highly specified elsewhere. The P34G has a quad-core 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-4710HQ processor and 8GB of RAM, which gives it plenty of raw power. There's room for a second RAM module, too, and the memory slots can be accessed by removing a single screw at the base of the laptop. In our application benchmarks, the laptop managed an overall score of 88 and performed particularly well in our challenging multitasking tests. All this power comes at the expense of battery life, however. In our light-use test, the laptop lasted for five hours and 25 minutes. This is fine if you'll mainly be using the P34G as a desktop replacement for occasional travel, but it's not ideal if you need to work on the move.
With our colour calibrator, we measured the laptop's matt 14in 1,920x1,080 display as having a fantastic contrast ratio of 1121:1 and a decent black level of 0.24cd/m2. In our colour accuracy tests, the screen's 88.3% coverage of the sRGB colour gamut is far better than that of most laptops. We were a little disappointed by the matt screen's dull, slightly gritty texture, but despite this it's one of the better laptop displays we've seen. The screen is a little small for 3D FPS games, particularly when the action becomes intense, so a good monitor is a worthwhile addition for long gaming sessions.
The integrated speakers are a little tinny and lack bass, which is par for the course for laptop speakers. They're not terribly loud, either, but the limited mid-range and treble frequencies they can reproduce are all clear and we didn't encounter any distortion at even full volume. You'll want to use headphones or speakers to give games the impact they deserve.
If you want to connect the laptop to a TV or add a second monitor to work on, the P34G has both an HDMI output and a VGA output. There's also a Gigabit Ethernet port, two USB ports, two USB3 ports and a memory card reader that supports SDXC cards. There's no optical drive, which is usual for a laptop this slim, but the 1TB hard disk gives you plenty of room for your downloads. While the hard disk isn't as easily accessible as the memory slots, getting at it is still a relatively simple matter of removing a few screws to lift away the laptop's bottom cover, so you'll be able to upgrade in the future easily enough.
The Gigabyte P34G v2 gives you a lot of power for under £1,000, and it's definitely one of the lightest gaming laptops we've ever seen. However, if you're not interested in gaming and would prefer instead to be able to use your laptop on the move all day, you'd be better off with the Best Buy-winning Asus Zenbook UX302 with its longer battery life and lighter chassis.