Aorus X3 Plus review
Processor: Quad core 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-4860HQ, RAM: 16GB, Size: 330x263.5x22.9mm, Weight: 1.8kg, Screen size: 14in, Screen resolution: 3,200x1,800, Graphics adaptor: Nvidia GeForce GTX 870M, Total storage: 512GB (2x 256GB SSD)
The Aorus X3 Plus is a light and thin 14-inch laptop with powerful components that should make it suitable for both for gamers and those who just want a portable computing powerhouse. It follows on from the brand's first foray into the world of high-end notebooks, the X7 v2, a technical marvel with dual graphics cards and three mSATA SSDs that was let down slightly by atrocious battery life and loud fans. The Aorus X3 Plus uses a single Nvidia GeForce GTX 870M graphics chip, but it does have high-performance mSATA storage and a powerful processor.
The chassis looks and feels like a quality piece of engineering, with the signature spaceship-style vents at the rear of the laptop and the slightly curved matt black metal lid giving it an understated but overwhelmingly stylish feel. It's portable, too. The X3 weighs just 1.8kg and is 22.9mm tall, amking it compact for a gaming laptop. It doesn't have the conspicuous flashing lights of other gaming machines, but that suits the X3 and ideal for those who want to concentrate on their gaming.
The X3’s backlit keyboard is pleasant to use, although it rattles more than we’d like. Like the X7, the X3 Plus has a column of five macro keys down the left side of the keyboard, with a sixth G button right at the top. The G button lets you switch between five banks of Macros, giving you access to a total of 25 macros. Conveniently, the G button’s backlight changes colour when you switch banks so that you have a visual indicator of the bank you’re using. The touchpad, meanwhile, has a glossy finish that gives it an unusual feel when you move your finger around it. The touchpad has integrated buttons, but only the very bottom of it clicks and it may take some users a while to get used to this. Unfortunately, important gestures such as two-fingered scrolling are hobbled by the fact that they don't work once your fingers move to the bottom quarter of the touchpad, where the physical mouse buttons are placed.
The X3 Plus’s built-in Wi-Fi adaptor is compatible with the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, so you’ll benefit from higher Wi-Fi connection speeds if you’re connected to an 802.11ac router. It will, of course, work with 802.11n routers.
There's 512GB of SSD storage in the X3 Plus, provided by two 256GB mSATA SSDs configured in RAID 0. 512GB should be enough storage for many users, but you’ll soon fill it up if you have lots of games, music, video and so on, so it’s worth keeping an external disk handy, or streaming music and video from a NAS device.
Aorus X3 Plus Processing Power
The X3 Plus’s quad-core 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-4860HQ processor is a powerful chip that’s ideally suited to the most strenuous multimedia challenges. It uses hyper threading technology to split each physical core into two virtual cores, improving multitasking performance. When demand calls for it, the chip will also overclock to 3.6GHz, as long as core temperatures are low enough. In order to keep the processor temperature low enough, however, the laptop needs to suck in and expel air at a rapid rate, and the X3 Plus’s rear-facing exhaust fans become particularly loud whenever the machine is under moderate load.
They're not as loud as the X7’s fans, but that laptop’s fans are in a league for their own when it comes to noise. When running in High Performance mode, the X3 Plus is consistently warm, even when idling. It's not uncomfortably hot, though, and when running non-intensive programs such as a web browser or word processor the fans remain very quiet.
In our PC benchmark tests the X3 Plus achieved a great score, managing 98 overall, which is just two points off our desktop Core i5-3570K-based reference PC. It performed particularly well in the multitasking test, where it scored 106. This means it'll handle moderately challenging multimedia tasks with relative ease.
Aorus X3 Plus Display
Gaming is an area in which the X3 Plus excels, but so does its IPS screen, which has a massive 3,200x1,800 resolution. It's gorgeous, and this qualitative view is backed up by our quantitative calibration tests. Our calibrator showed that the screen was displaying 94.1 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut, and the screen displays even the most vibrant of colours with a high degree of accuracy. This, combined with the 1429:1 contrast level we measured let us see a high level of detail in even the most challenging images, games and videos. It's also bright at 404cd/m2, so you may want to reduce the brightness a little.
As always with high-resolution displays on small devices, some Windows 8 applications struggle to scale correctly. However, the scaling is gradually becoming less of an issue as app developers update their software to handle it. Popular applications such as Origin still appear tiny, but at least Google Chrome now properly handles high-dpi displays. It’s worth checking to see if any software you use regularly has been updated to handle high-dpi displays.
Aorus X3 Plus Gaming
Of course, the main benefit of the X3 Plus’s top resolution is the ability to run games beyond Full HD. However, running games at this high-resolution is a big challenge for the Nvidia GeForce GTX 870M, and your results will be mixed depending on which games you play. Dirt Showdown, for example, ran at a smooth 50.1fps with Ultra detail in Full-HD. With the same settings but a resolution of 3,200x1,800, it dropped to a jerky 25.8fps. Reducing the graphics quality to High at the same 3,200x1,800 resolution hugely improved the frame rate, raising it to an excellent 62fps. However, because of the screen's small size, the difference between Full-HD and 3,200x1,800 pixels was almost undetectable, so we'd opt for the performance boost of running at a lower resolution, given the choice.
The same was true of Crysis 3. At Full-HD it ran at a playable average of 35.9fps, which dropped to an unplayable 13fps at native resolution. This leaves us feeling that while the screen is technically impressive, it's superfluous on a laptop of this size with this sort of hardware, at least for gaming purposes.
Battery life was impressive for a gaming machine, and the X3 Plus managed 4 hours and 45 minutes in our new, tougher tests.
Aorus X3 Plus Conclusion
The Aorus X3 Plus is a technically brilliant laptop with a great screen and superb performance. It's one of the most desirable laptops we've seen in 2014. If you don't have the money to spend on the X3 Plus, you should look at the £899 Chillblast Defiant 2 Mini (Reviews, Shopper 320). It has good mid-range gaming performance and a relatively attractive chassis, and is much cheaper.
|Processor||Quad core 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-4860HQ|
|Memory slots (free)||2(0)|
|Sound||Realtek HD Audio (2x 3.5mm input/output)|
|Graphics adaptor||Nvidia GeForce GTX 870M|
|Graphics outputs||HDMI, Mini DisplayPort|
|Total storage||512GB (2x 256GB SSD)|
|Optical drive type||None|
|Ports and expansion|
|USB ports||1x USB2. 2xUSB3|
|Networking||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac Wi-Fi|
|Memory card reader||SD, MMC, SDHC|
|Operating system||Windows 8.1|
|Operating system restore option||Restore partition|
|Parts and labour warranty||Two-years RTB|
|Price inc VAT||£1548|